Soul Laboratory. Letter from Ghent 0

Anna Iltnere

In 2009, twenty-nine-year-old Miks Mitrēvics represented Latvia at the Venice Biennale together with Evelīna Deičmane. Afterwards, he understand that he had to leave Latvia for a while. “When you take part in the Venice Biennale, you are immediately put on a certain shelf. You can no longer simply be an artist. I decided to emigrate for a while.” Miks found the postgraduate educational institute HISK (Higher Institute for Fine Arts Flanders) in the small Belgian city of Ghent, which he had never heard of before, and submitted an application. He was accepted as one of the first representatives of the Baltics. For startup capital he used funds from the International Swedbank Art Award, which he had just received. Since he hadn’t heard much about HISK, Miks was convinced that he wouldn’t spend more than three months there. But now he is in his second year at HISK. “After the first few months, everything got turned upside down. Nothing was as I had expected. And I didn’t want to go back anymore. I’m really studying for the first time.”

Miks admits that he is living a real student life for the first time, because he has minimal funds for getting by. His school doesn’t pay for room and board, though there is no time to take on extra jobs. “I’m surprised that I’m still here, because sometimes it seems like I’ll have to pack my bags at the end of the month and head back home, because I’ve run out of money. But then something comes through, and I can stay for a bit longer. Luck.” Miks recommends this technique for a student who wants to study abroad: save some startup capital, buy a ticket, and just go. If you try to save up the entire sum for your studies as well as for room and board, then you might not get any further than your savings bank.

HISK is an international postgraduate educational institute in audiovisual and visual art, which accepts twelve students every year. There are no lessons or exams in the classic sense. Each artist is given a studio, lectures are organized, and students can meet with guest lecturers. Students take advantage of these opportunities however they see fit. Miks gathers up as much as he can. “I sign up with absolutely everybody who comes here.” Guest lecturers include artists, curators, critics, and writers.

I asked Miks to name the meetings that have been the most significant for him. Miks admits that the list would be very long, though he points out four particular individuals.