“Stūra māja. Lieta Nr. 1914 | 2014” / “The Corner House. Case No. 1914 | 2014” On the corner of Brīvības iela and Stabu iela, Riga Until October 19, 2014
The building that used to house the KGB headquarters, aka “the Corner House” – on the corner of Brīvības iela and Stabu iela, was opened to the public on May 1. During the fifty years of the soviet occupation of Latvia, it was the most blatant symbol of the totalitarian regime, and today, in 21st-century Latvia, it is still serves as a reliquary of that century of war, mass repressions and genocide. In this year of Riga's reign as European Capital of Culture, Latvia's leading thinkers have come together to change the building's fate: their wish is to open its doors and allow the people to come into contact with the experiences and fates that have been forever entwined with the building – to see them, recognize them, and comprehend them.
In order to not get lost among the five exhibitions, several projects and the guided historical tour that are all spread out among the many floors and numerous rooms of the Corner House, Arterritory.com presents the following guide containing comments from the projects' curators and advice on how to best experience the building. The person responsible for the unified visual image of the project is the artist Kristaps Ģelzis, whereas its execution was undertaken by Martins Vizbulis.
“Par spīti visam” / “In Spite of Everything” Curator – Dzintars Zilgalvis Organized by the culture and art project “NOASS”, and the Latvian Museum of Naïve Art
While working on a long-term research project being done in cooperation with various regional history museums and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, the Latvian Museum of Naïve Art discovered saved diaries, letters and drawings from the tragic deportations of 1941, 1945, 1949 and 1959; hobby photography was a rarity back then, which makes the importance of these artifacts on display just as valuable as that of photographic documentation. Even though they had an uncanny ability to accurately observe and record their immediate impressions, most of the creators of the drawings thought very modestly of their talent. An important aspect of the drawings is the fact that they were made in real time – at the moment when what was depicted in the drawing was actually occurring, and not weeks or years later; this fact imbues the images with fine nuances and great emotional experience.
As Dzintars Zilgalvis, the curator of the exhibition, points out, one must understand that this is an art exhibition, not a historical documentary exhibition; it is not an interpretation of the time in question, but rather a personal vision of it. The drawings reach out to the viewer without text, but this does not mean that there is no accompanying text at all. Although there are separate informative descriptions of each artist, more emphasis has been placed on eliciting a similar experience in the viewer – because each drawing is unique, not to mention being put on public view for the first time ever. The drawings cover a long time span, and most of the artists drew them as they were either being deported in cattle cars, or during their time of imprisonment in concentration camps, prisoner of war camps, forced-labor camps, or in the Salaspils death camp. But surprisingly, what has been depicted are not only somber images of people going about their daily lives, but also periods of joy.
An especially emotional punch is packed by the drawings done by children – they look at the horror from a point of displacement; they don't have the characteristic shielding cover of logic. “In the children's works, everything is depicted as it precisely was. From their point of view, the deportation train cars, camp barracks, and even daily life in the gulag was like a big adventure for everyone involved. There's a special drawing depicting the deportation of a homestead in 1949 – in the picture one sees that while the train is within the borders of Latvia, none of the captured people are allowed to leave the cattle car – people must relieve themselves where they are: inside. But once the train has entered Russian territory, the train makes occasional stops; people are allowed to get out, and there are guards with guns on either side of the train. The women are on the left, the men on the right – and everyone is doing their business in the bushes or grass. In another drawing, a child has drawn his home during the winter: the people, a cow, a sheep and a dog are all standing around a wood-stove in one room – to stay warm,” says Zilgalvis as he describes the exhibition.
The exhibition has some excellent portraits of the artists' fellow prisoners, as well as many Siberian landscapes and pictures of everyday life. Also featured are caricature series by the well-known artist Gunārs Bērziņš. At age 18, Bērziņš was taken prisoner and, after the end of the war, spent time in filtration camps in Germany, Poland and Lithuania, and at the very end, in a camp right here in Riga. Drawn as comics, Bērziņš's works portray such camp scenes as daily chores, the celebration of Christmas, and the experiences of his fellow prisoners.
“One of the situations depicted in the pocket-sized diary of Juris Barkāns is difficult to describe – it's his first day behind barbed wire, and Svaržinskis is performing! In 1945, in the Žagarė prisoner of war camp in Lithuania, this imprisoned Latvian legionary was showing off his exotic dancing skills... It's hard to imagine a performance like this – a young man fooling around – in the presence of guards. Descriptions of only some of the works have survived, so most of what is on view has to be interpreted. In any case, everyone who comes will find something that they can relate to themselves or their family,” says Zilgalvis. He points out that the organizers wished to show the strong will that people carried within themselves in their struggles against soviet repressions and other horrific events – the fact that these people had found the will to survive in the moments portrayed in the drawings.
Boots of Mērija Grīnberga
“10 lietu stāsti par cilvēku un varu” / “10 Objects With a Story to Tell About Man and Power” Organized by the Riga History and Shipping Museum
Ten authentic objects have been put on display in this exhibition: the boots of a German soldier, an accordion, the medical file of a critically injured person, a typewriter, a man's suit, a cigarette case, a book, a candy tin, a radio, and a lost object. These special objects reveal emotional stories, pivotal moments and dramatic historical events from the 20th century. “This is not a traditional exhibition in which everything has been hung from light-colored walls. Every story has its own room in which a separate and compelling scene has been set – we've allowed the wall color, lighting and modern technologies to combine. But we're museum people at heart, so visitors are also able to read and learn about the people mentioned – we are presenting information that has never before been published or shown. The quantity of new things is so large, in fact, that it actually is more like ten separate exhibitions,” reveals Ilona Celmiņa, a historian at the Riga History and Shipping Museum.
“The objects themselves will show how diverse, branching and surprising is the information that they hold. By using one individual object as a starting point, we reveal the story of not only one specific person, but also the fates of his/her family, surrounding people, city and nation during the changes of power that took place in the 20th century. For example, the accordion: seemingly just a simple musical instrument, it played a major role in the Revolution of 1905 – a man played the accordion to cover up the secret meetings of the revolutionaries. This man has not been labeled as a hero in these fateful events, he did not inherit historical importance, but nevertheless, this critical moment took place with his help. It was difficult to untangle his personal story, but we did it, and it later developed into a broader plot-line that encompassed this whole historical moment.”
Celmiņa especially highlights the story of the boots. “At the close of 1944 there was a member of staff of the State History Museum, a woman named Mērija Grīnberga. At that time the soviet army was approaching, and the German Nazi regime in Latvia ordered that all of the cultural-historic content of the museum be taken to Germany. It was Mērija who accompanied this important cargo containing materials from the Riga History and Shipping Museum, the National Art Museum, and the Latvian History Museum and its archives. The process was lengthy, lasting from October 1944 to February 1946, which is when Mērija finally returned home. Of course, not everything made it back – Mērija's scant writings contain stories of looting and her struggles to hide and save the valuable materials. And the boots were eyewitness to this moment in time. Coming from a German soldier, they were on her feet when she returned home.
“The story is wide in scope, and the documents reveal her travails across Europe, but then things took an unexpected turn. In Riga she is received by the occupying Soviet regime, which does not understand this young woman's actions. Why would she return from the West? Instead of being thanked for what she has undertaken, Mērija's actions are taken into question – she must write endless descriptions of where she has been and what she has being doing. The resulting stress and anxiety affects her health, she is fired from her job at the museum, and she ends up as a line-worker in a factory because she is not allowed to do anything else; her life is over. And then the story of the boots branches off – how was it that this person was able to make such courageous and patriotic decisions at such a critical moment? It turns out that Mērija comes from a famous line of 19th-century intellectuals – the Grīnbergs-Grosvalds Family – who injected her with this way of thinking,” explains Celmiņa. She encourages everyone to learn about the other objects and their stories, all of which came into contact with an occupying power.
Daniel and Geo Fuchs (Germany)
“Draudzības (re)konstrukcija” / “The (Re)construction of Friendship” Curated by Inese Baranovska, Aesa Sigurjonsdottir, Inga Lāce, Kārlis Vērpe and Kitija Vasiļjeva Organized by the association “Mākslas telpa”
As Inese Baranovska, one the curators of this exhibition explains: “This is the only project in the Corner House in which modern-day artists are participating. Works for this exhibition have been created by artists from Germany, Ukraine, Kosovo, Estonia, Iceland, Sweden, Lithuania and Latvia. Through the use of artistic techniques, we show the relevance of situations in which representatives from world powers have agreed to “a friendship” with smaller countries and societal groups – as it happened in, for example, the USSR-wide “friendship of nations”, or in the US Army's presence in Iceland. History has various truths; everything is relative. The actions of the Stalin regime were supposedly done “in good faith”, but in truth, they were pure oppression, and are still seen as such. We've presented constructs of recent collective history in both group and solo works.”
Being an art theorist, Baranovska has noticed that there is much more historical information about the 19th century than about the second half of the 20th century – the more recent memories are the ones that disappear the quickest: “When we regained independence in the 1990s, we wanted to quickly forget our most recent experiences – to not think about them. Our assignment was to study the collective past through the prism of art. What is interesting is that even with a restricted budget, these internationally renown artists agreed to take part – this place, the grim “Corner House”, carried enough importance in itself. Even though we requested already existing pieces, they all wanted to create something new, and to adapt to this specific place. The artists really immersed themselves.”
Baranovska's favorite work is “Stasi – Secret Rooms”, an installation featuring slide projections and sound, created by the German artists Daniel and Geo Fuchs. In the Corner House, this photographic documentary of the East German Ministry of Security building becomes a mirror, or even a portal, and soon enough, associations begin to appear – the most popular ones being the Foucault panopticon and Kafka's “The Castle”. French philosopher Michel Foucault wrote about the prison model invented at the end of the 18th century by the English social theoretician Jeremy Bentham; Bentham's architectural design makes the prisoner feel as if he is constantly being watched, thereby making the prisoner become an ideal guard for himself. All of the same can be seen in the convoluted labyrinths of the bureaucratic machine about which Kafka wrote. Both cases symbolize modern society and the role of the individual in it.
The artists themselves point out that the padded doors and flowery wallpaper hid behind them the unsanctioned degradation and oppression of those who had been incarcerated here. The goal of the state agencies was to discover and destroy – already at the roots – any opposition to the reigning government and its views. 16 million people lived in the GDR, and around 300,000 of them had worked for the Stasi at some time; about a million separate cases were found in the archives. The shelves containing all of this material stretch 180 kilometers in length, and about 1800 specialists continue to work on compiling and analyzing all of this documentation of the Stasi's activities – they provide help to people seeking information on their own personal cases, and to those who wish to recover confiscated documents that the Stasi shredded and stuffed into bags.
Through narrative, interaction, humor and curiosity, the exhibition involves visitors by encouraging them to think about such things as the complicated situations in today's geopolitics, national borders, and the meaning of friendship.
“Latvieša koferis” / “The Latvian's Suitcase” Organized by the association “Latvieši pasaulē” / “Latvians Abroad”
“There have been very many times when Latvians have either been forced to leave Latvia or have left of their own volition. These waves of emigration over the last 200 years have been quite different in their nature – there were those who went to Siberia in search of farmland, WWI refugees, WWII refugees, and then the Baltic Germans who emigrated in 1939; also, during the soviet era, anyone who could leave, did so. And let's not forget that in the 1920s, Latvian Baptists went to Brazil; it's not a well-known fact, but it is dramatic and emotional, nonetheless. This story is not about the deportations. In this exhibition we show visitors objects that, in various times and situations, people deemed important enough to take with them when they left Latvia,” explains historian Juris Zalāns, adding that the exhibition's main symbol is the suitcase – the filling of which required the emigrant to decide what was valuable and what wasn't, what was to be taken along, and what was to be left.
Some people had months to prepare for their leaving while others – only a couple of hours. Very often that which the Latvians didn't include in their suitcases was left behind and lost forever. What are the essentials that one will need for an unknown future in a strange land? And not only in terms of physical survival, but also for spiritual, intellectual and emotional needs? On display are more than 200 objects that have found their way back to Latvia. The variety of objects is impressive – practical things, documents, and even emotional mementos and simply beautiful things: books, photographs of previous lives, tableware, christening gifts, folk costumes, textiles, blankets, dresses, jewelry, symbolic pieces of bread, and a packet of Latvian soil.
Children are said to be one of the most emotional groups who leave. Adults may sometimes have options, but children never do. This makes that moment when parents allow their child to take along one of his of her toys more important than ever. This is how the association came into the possession of the teddy bear “Tedis” – Tedis was taken along when his owner fled Latvia, and returned only after having spent two generations in exile.
“Then there's the story of the family that became refugees at the end of the Second World War. The mother took along some bread from Latvia. They eventually ate all of the bread while in displaced persons camps in Germany, but the mother had cut off and saved the crusts. After several years, the family immigrated to America. Working at a physically demanding job, the father complained of weariness and said that he needed bread; but not the local, fluffy white bread – Latvians need wholegrain, sourdough rye bread. The wife found a place that sold rye flour, and set to soaking the old bread crusts to make a sourdough starter with which to make the bread rise. And so she baked her first rye bread in America.
When we found out that the daughter of this woman was still baking bread from this original sourdough starter, a piece of which is saved from one baking to the next, we were excited. She sent us from America not only a loaf of her bread made from the original starter chain, but also a bit of the starter itself. This is a unique object in the sense that it has kept alive a connection to the homeland through a daily domestic activity. What makes it especially touching is that the sourdough starter is a live organism that has been kept alive for decades, but to do so, it must be regularly used. Sourdough rye bread has always been a symbolic and very important thing to Latvians,” says Zalāns, adding that the exhibition has many more interesting things that will reveal their stories through the aid of their owners' memories, old photographs, video and audio materials, as well as computer-generated graphics and animation.
“Liktens lietu muzejs” / “The Objects of Fate Museum” Curated by Ilona Brūvere Organized by the communications workshop and film studio “Kinolats”
This exhibition is a museum containing more than 500 personal objects and things belonging to Rigans, along with the life story that goes along with each object. The stories are diverse – joyful, sad, celebratory, domestic; some are even fateful. “We have created a very personal and humanistic look into both the distant and recent past. The exhibition encourages people to communicate, but without highlighting the soviet repressions. People were once forced by the KGB to talk about others, but today, after many years, we have encouraged Rigans to talk about themselves – so that visitors can get to know history through people's personal experiences, and see in them not only the protest against events that took place in the past, but also the celebration of life,” is how film director and journalist Ilona Brūvere describes the project.
The connections between specific events and physical things reveal the owners' personalities and their values, and in this way the exhibition creates a unified whole – a historical narrative about a time that we, together, have created and filled in. The Objects of Fate Museum is spread out among fifteen exhibition rooms, and reveals an impressive amount of information about the different times and lives in which we live. There's a great story behind a a pair of shoes that were kept for 70 years so that they, and the unwitting curves that life throws, would not be forgotten; an earing that allowed lovers to meet; and a wedding bowl that the women in the family have handed down for generations. A seashell that a boy stole from his school's biology class so that he could impress a girl. The last poem written by the Latvian poet, Aleksandrs Čaks. A sculpture of the Latvian poet Imants Ziedonis. Money from tsarist Russia, a yellow tuxedo, a brooch, an actor's shoes, and boxing gloves handed down from a father to his son.
Brūvere brings special attention to the story of Terēze Glušenkova-Teivāne and the wedding dress that she never wore. Riga City records indicate that on June 23, 1941, at Riga's St. Albert's Church, Ādolfs Teivāns married Leokādija Kokina; Leokādija took on her husband's last name. But things weren't as simple as they appear on paper. Although all of the wedding preparations were arranged – from the bride's dress to the the reception and meal – everything was put on hold because war had just been declared on the previous day. The ceremony took place simply and quietly, but the bride did not wear her white wedding dress. For years the dress hung in a closet until, as we can now see in photographs from the summer of 1951, their daughter donned the dress (albeit a bit altered) for her first communion.
The spectrum of objects on display is very broad – about 500 individual exhibits, with their provenance ranging from one hundred years ago and the start of Latvia's first battle for freedom, up to the current day. Also part of the exhibition is a video screen showing interesting clips on the history behind 50 of the exhibition's pieces; a book featuring 100 selected objects will be published in the autumn.
“The Cellars of the KGB Headquarters” guided tour Organized by the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia
Guided tours of the Corner House by staff of the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia allow viewers to see both the elegant original interior design details of the building and the adaptations installed by the most horrifying of the oppressive soviet institutions: the prisoner registration room, the interrogation room with one-way mirrors and, of course, the KGB “cellars”: the prisoner cells on both the first floor and in the basement – with heavy metal doors, beds nailed to the floor, and a wood-stove on which the prisoners' meals were cooked. Open for viewing are the exercise yards and the narrow room for the temporary holding of people awaiting interrogation. On the fifth floor is a presentation on the former head of the Latvian Border Guard, General Ludvigs Bolšteins, who, in protest of the Soviet occupation of Latvia, shot himself in his office.
“Our tour has been designed so that visitors see with their own eyes what it was like when people were taken to see the KGB by force,” says historian Rihards Pētersons. “Taken into custody on the street or in their places of work, they were already frightened, and then they were brought here. They were put into a holding cell, a small broom-closet of a room, so that they would become even more intimidated and frightened. Their possessions were taken away, and eventually they were put in a prisoner's cell. There they sat while the inspectors worked on their case; later there would be a trial, at which they would either be sentenced for a certain number of years, or receive the death penalty. Just being imprisoned is a traumatic event in itself. Highly developed methods of psychological torture were used to extract what they wanted from the prisoner. Physical torture was the most primitive of methods. For example, we have a letter personally describing how one person was taken to the KGB, placed in a cell and stripped. He sees how the person in the cell next to his is beaten and interrogated, but he is left alone. Nothing is done with him for a week, a month, then two months. He's beginning to lose his mind, and begs to be questioned. He seems to know a lot, but actually knows nothing – because he has made it all up. He is ready to sign anything, say anything, just so something happens – he cannot take this state of “not knowing”. One would think he could just calmly sit and wait it out, but no – in a situation like this, a person falls apart completely. And the people in charge don't even have to use any force,” explains Pētersons.
Staff from the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia sourced all of this detailed information from the Latvian National Guard, which was quartered in the Corner House during the Nazi occupation and had documented everything that had happened here during the first soviet occupation. Although the files had been taken to Germany, historians gained access to them in 1996. Another powerful part of the tour is videotaped eyewitness accounts; of the approximately 500 accounts, six have been included in the Corner House tour program, covering various periods of the KGB's reign of terror – from the 1940s to the last dissidents of the 1980s.
“The line separating good and evil, life and death, is so narrow and fragile. We are attempting to show that the building is beautiful, but behind its walls, just a few meters away, lies horror. And in the very center of Riga, on Brīvības iela! There was even a special shooting range built in – insulated, so that nothing could be heard on the outside. Next to it there was a garage, where the executed would be loaded into a car and taken to the woods. To be on the safe side, they used to turn on the cars' engines during the executions. But that happened only during the first occupation, in 1941. They didn't shoot people here later on – just maimed and tortured them. But they didn't shoot them. On an interesting side note, those who were imprisoned here could well remember the ringing of the bells of St. Gertrude's Church – to the imprisoned, this sound seemed to be coming from another world. Everything that seems like nothing to us, actually is something. In our daily lives, not seeing how bad things could be, we don't notice how lucky we actually are,” says Pētersons on this difficult subject.
He offers to end the tour on a “positive” note, in a place that visitors shouldn't miss. A very emotional experience is had when viewing the prisoners' exercise yard. This day that the prisoners eagerly awaited – the thing that gave them the will to live – happened only three times a month. Prisoners were released into a few square meters of enclosed concrete walls that resembled a cage with an iron grate overhead. An armed guard was visible, while several stories up, a small piece of sky could be seen. For the people who spent their days in four-person rooms filled with about twenty people – and all of the accompanying heat and lack of air – this was paradise. A simply fantastic place.
Note: Guided tours of “The Cellars of the KGB” must be reserved by telephone in advance (workdays, 9:00 – 18:00): 20258881 (tours can be requested in Latvian, English or Russian) – 5 EUR.
Jonas Mekas, “Lithuania and the Fall of the USSR” Organized by the cultural project agency “Indie”
On view on the first floor of the Corner House is the video installation “Lithuania and the Fall of the USSR”, by Jonas Mekas (1922), the world-renown Lithuanian-American artist, director, writer, poet, critic and musician. The work was created in 1990/1991 and has a total running-time of 286 minutes. Having placed a video camera in front of his TV, Mekas recorded news reports, interviews with heads of state and round-table discussions with experts, all focused on one thing – the long-awaited regaining of Lithuanian independence and the fall of the Soviet Union.
In the context of the current geopolitical situation, this story now has a renewed sense of topicality and symbolism. From being a chapter in a history textbook, it has transformed into a salient commentary on today's current events.
The Lithuanian-born Mekas has been called “the godfather” of American avant garde film. His creative career began in 1950s New York where he arrived, at age 27, as a displaced person. He spent the first savings that he acquired from working various odd-jobs on a Bolex film camera. With it he filmed everything that was going on around him, including the life of immigrants in Brooklyn. Later he would use the same camera to put onto celluloid his friends and other artists from New York's Lower East Side: the pop art king, Andy Warhol; Fluxus founder George Maciunas; poet and beatnik Allen Ginsberg; musician John Lennon; the artist Yoko Ono; the voice of the Velvet Underground – Niko; the surrealist Salvador Dali, and many others. These characters are alive and well in his diary-styled films. Mekas became a zealous defender of avant garde cinema, organizing film screenings, writing controversial articles on film in The Village Voice, and participating in the founding of the Film-Makers' Cooperative. Over his long career, Mekas made dozens of films that gained international recognition; he wrote numerous articles, authored several books on film theory, and published several volumes of verse. He also worked in art, creating installations and taking photographs. Mekas often referenced his origins (he was born in Biržai, Lithuania, not far from the Latvian border), and he liked to remind Western society of the fate of the Baltic States.
Mekas has taken part in such prestigious art expos as Documenta 11 and the 51st Venice Art Biennale (at Lithuania's pavilion), has received numerous exemplary awards – including the Grand Prix at the Venice Film Festival for his film, “Brig” (1964), and his works have been shown at all of the world's biggest art institutions – such as the Centre Pompidou, the Paris Museum of Modern Art, Galerie National du Jeu de Paume in Paris, the Serpentine Gallery in London, MoMA/PS1 in New York, BOZAR in Brussels, the KIASMA contemporary art museum in Helsinki, and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, among others.
“Stories From the Corner House” audio recordings Organized by the cultural project agency “Indie”
The courtyard of the Corner House will be filled with the sound of stories being told – the memories of people who, for various reasons, have spent time in this building. Combined, these subjective narratives make up a very emotional micro-history. The people recounting their stories were propositioned to serve as informers, interrogated, asked to come “for a chat”, or accused of fabricated crimes that, to the modern-day person, sound absurd. Also heard speaking are people who were never actually in the Corner House, but who, nevertheless, were recipients of its merciless and caustic activities. For every one of them, this connection would, in different ways, impact the rest of their lives. That is why today, these stories serve as a stark testament to the era when the house on the corner of Stabu and Brīvības Streets was one of Latvia's most pronounced features. In there, people were not segregated by nationality; in the audio recordings you will hear Latvian, Russian and English being spoken.
People telling their stories include: Harijs Astra, journalist and brother of Gunārs Astra; Dainis Īvāns, the first head of Latvia's first independence movement, “Tautas fronte”; Ieva Lešinska-Geibere, journalist and translator; Marina Kosteņecka, writer, publicist and radio journalist; Valdis Atāls, poet and composer; Knuts Skujenieks, poet and translator; and Jurģis Skulme, artist.
“Stories From the Corner House” also contains radio recordings featuring translator and “French group” member, Ieva Lāse; Mirdza Rošonoka, MD and politically repressed person; and the historian Boriss Ravdins, who speaks about Jurijs Abizovs, writer, translator and bibliographer. Also included is a recording on loan from the museum “Jews in Latvia”, featuring the actor Mihails Rapoports, head of the literary-dramatic group “Mila” in 1980s Riga. Another story is told by the artist and writer Helēna Celmiņa, which was originally recorded for the international project “The Period of the Cold War”, and supported by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. “Stories From the Corner House” was created by Ingvilda Strautmane, a radio journalist for Latvian Radio.
Ģirts Bišs and Eduards Liniņš, “Skaņas izolācija” / “Soundproofing”, an audio-installation Organized by the cultural project agency “Indie”
How did people speak behind these doors – loudly, or quietly? How often and for how long a time was it quiet? What could be heard on this side of the thick, insulated doors? How many of these past voices have been committed to paper and people's memories? And what about radio transmissions, which will travel the cosmos for eternity? The doors to the past are closed, and we are separated from these voices by the “soundproofing” of perception and interpretation.
The corridor and rooms on the fifth floor of the Corner House have not seen much change since the days when the soviet regime's most oppressive and internationally influential instrument of precision – the KGB – was headquartered here. The environment here provokes one to imaginative improvisations on the theme of aural signals in the totalitarian past; it tempts the resonance of the blank walls and the entropy of the insulated doors to fulfill their functions once again. The voices that were once heard here have not been recorded and saved. With the help of the imagination, they have been “restored” from bureaucratically dry criminal case files and memories which have, over the years, been subjected to emotional rumination. What has been recorded and saved, however, are the broadcasts of the so-called “number stations” – before the digital era, secret government agencies used shortwave radio frequencies to communicate with their agents; to the average listener, they sounded like random sound signals and recitations of numbers.
Opening hours for “The Corner House. Case No. 1914/2014” from May 1 – October 19: