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Mark Dion. A Tour of The Dark Museum, 2018 (detail). Photo: Andrejs Strokins

Ready, steady, biennial! 0

A few highlights of the RIBOCA1 biennial that you shouldn’t miss

It was about a year ago that Katerina Gregos, the chief curator of the 1st Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA1), said in an interview with that the biennial’s concept is linked to the most direct and natural feelings of anxiety that everyone on this earth experiences. At these times, the most important thing is to find a balance between stress and peace, which also happens to be an oft-examined subject in contemporary art. The objective of RIBOCA1 is to create an equally political and emotional portrait of the world in which an internationally diverse group of artists can reflect on ‘sensitive issues’ of both local and broader importance. Borrowing the phrase ‘Everything was forever until it was no more,’ from American anthropologist Alexei Yurchak’s book of the same name, Gregos has made the 1st Riga Biennial into a space in which both known and as-yet-unknown artworks and their creators can study the symbiosis that exists between the past, the present, and the future. provides the following look at the some of the more interesting works and events that we can expect from the Baltic and international artists participating in RIBOCA1.

A wide array of Baltic art will be seen at the 1st Riga Biennial, made by a diverse group of artists who have chosen to live in various parts of the globe. This is the first time that such a large number of both recognised and promising artists from the Baltics will be exhibiting alongside professionals renown on an international scale. Through photography, installation, video art, and painting, Baltic artists will reveal their historical and personal experiences dealing with socially meaningful and deeply emotional life moments.


‘For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully.’ This quote from Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (13:12) has been chosen to accompany Jevgeni Zolotko’s installation The Sacrifice. This new work is composed of a train car that used to transport cattle but now stands empty. With a special mechanism, Zolotko creates a stressful situation that produces a feeling of emotional despondency and isolation.

Jevgeni Zolotko is an Estonian artist who makes installations with the aim of bringing attention to long-forgotten emotions. In combining his works with complex, even coded, texts, he induces the viewer to better understand what is going on around them. Zolotko has received several prestigious Estonian art awards, including the Köler Prize (2011); his works can be found in the collections of the Art Museum of Estonia and the Tartu Art Museum.

Location: Andrejsalā
Andrejostas iela 29, Riga


Lithuanian artist Žilvinas Landzbergas’ site-specific sculptural installation Sun Conservatory will be exhibited as part of RIBOCA1. At the centre of the work is a light box which viewers are invited to ‘enter’ and look at the dynamic figures and sculptural miniatures within. Landzbergas’ work is a reflection on the emotional and factual circumstances of the soviet and post-soviet eras which he has transformed into a cosmos seemingly made from musical instruments. Taking into account the architectural history of the Baltics, it is possible to perceive Sun Conservatory as a ‘Fun’ or ‘Shadow’ pavilion – a reference to the summer cottages of the soviet era and the architecture of the Baltic coastline in general. The artist himself underscores that this work is ‘a poetic gesture made like a drawing in space.’

Landzbergis’ works are based on the artist’s study of contemporary culture and its connection to the consequences and habits of customary modernity. Using elements of the visual arts and architecture, he creates installations in which light, sound and material all interplay equally. In 2017 Landzbergis represented Lithuania at the 57th Venice Biennale; in addition to his artistic practice he also works as a curator and lecturer.

Location: The former textile mill Boļševička
Ganību dambis 30, Riga


The new installation You Can’t Have Me for Real, made on commission by Estonia/Belgium-based Latvian artist Diāna Tamane, looks at the issue of alienation. Video and photographs featuring various cities of the world – at once seemingly familiar and foreign – interchange one another. A specific location becomes an abstraction of a memory, associatively linked to information stored from experience. Tamane studies the ‘global citizen’, a condition which is becoming ever more common today.

Using photography and video, Tamane delves into studying autobiographical elements. The journey is her method for discovering daily routine and individual forms of expression. Family members are frequently the subjects of her art through which she reveals a broad historical and political context. Tamane has exhibited her works across the globe; in 2016 she was awarded the title of Young Belgian Talent, and in 2018 she received the Riga Photography Biennial Award.

Location: Zuzeum Art Centre
Lāčplēša iela 101, Riga


The well-known artist duo of Andris Eglītis and Katrīna Neiburga are exhibiting several works at the Riga Biennial, one of which is the mixed-media installation Nest. Based on the basic purpose of a nest – the place where an animal (usually a bird) sleeps and lives – the installation has been created as an authentic piece of nature that has somehow managed to survive in a place where it shouldn’t even be. In this case, the ‘nest’ is an object made from urban elements accessible to humans (electricity poles, tramway rails, cut-down trees), in the middle of which hides a mystical bog.

Andris Eglītis works with painting, sculpture and installation art, gathering inspiration from elements of the natural world and people’s relationship with them. Katrīna Neiburga creates video installations and set designs in which she reflects her personal experiences on an emotionally heightened level.

The two artists represented Latvia at the 56th Venice Biennale with their installation Armpit, after which they also exhibited at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California and the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India.

Location: the University of Latvia’s former Faculty of Biology building
Kronvalda bulvāris 4, Riga


Jonas Mekas’ video work Lithuania and the Collapse of the USSR is a compilation of news clips aired during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Made 20 years after the fact, this artwork serves as a reflection and documentation of a historically critical moment. The television news clips were filmed by Mekas in his home in the USA with a Sony camcorder. The emotions of anxiety and peace coexist in this powerful work symbolising time, memory, and the approach of change.

Mekas is a Lithuanian-born American artist who mainly works in the fields of photography, video, and writing (both prose and poetry). In 1954, he and his brother Adolfas founded the magazine Film Culture, which soon became America’s most influential publication on the art of film. Mekas worked as a film critic, and in 1962 co-founded the Film-Makers’ Cooperative; in 1970 he founded Anthology Film Archives, one of the world’s largest repositories of avant-garde film works. Mekas has authored more than 20 books of prose and poetry, and has participated in international exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, documenta in Paris, and at the 51st Venice Biennale.

Location: Kristaps Morbergs Summer House and Garden Complex
Z. A. Meierovica bulvāris 12, Riga


Reflecting the power of the sea, Estonian artist Karel Koplimets has created a new, commissioned video installation reminiscent of a tableau vivant. It features a small ship at sea during a storm, struggling with the waves and apparently about to sink. The video is a never-ending time loop that, in terms of style, brings to mind the maritime art of the 17th - 19th centuries. Koplimets uses the space to place the viewer in an uncomfortable position – in terms of emotions, on the same level as the ship that has been overcome by a storm.

Koplimets creates spacial installations in which photographic and computerized elements play a critical role. He is interested in politically and socially relevant subjects as well as in the relationship of fear that humans have with their environment. In 2013 Koplimets was nominated for the prestigious Köler Prize, and his works are in the collections of the Art Museum of Estonia and the Musée de l’Elysée.

Location: Zuzeum Art Centre
Lāčplēša iela 101, Riga

Although curator Katerina Gregos has emphasised the importance of studying regional features and the agency of Baltic art, RIBOCA1 is an event in which a wide spectrum of international artists participate. It is not only in eastern Europe that artists have created anew or have already exhibited works which have the process of change at their centre – the moment that separates the past and the present from the future. By showing these kinds of works by artists from Latin America, the US and other regions, Baltic art is raised to an international level, and global art currents are concentrated in a regional context.


Erik Kessels. 
The Human Zoo, 2018 (detail). Site-specific photographic intervention. New commission for the 1st Riga Biennial. Courtesy of the artist

Dutch artist and designer Erik Kessels has created the installation The Human Zoo specially for the Riga Biennial, a piece that is both thematically and literally linked with the University of Latvia’s Faculty of Biology’s former Museum of Zoology. The museum’s expansive collection contains large animal skeletons, insects, birds and other preserved specimens and their images. Using the available material, Kessels has organically immersed himself into the exposition – by creating an original connection between a human (the viewer) and the animal (the exhibited specimen), he emphasises the similar in what seemingly appear to be two very different organisms.

Erik Kessels has been working as the creative director at the advertising agency KesselsKramer since 1996. His deep interest in photography has resulted in the publishing of more than fifty books, and since 2000 he has been the editor of the alternative photography magazine Useful Photography.

Location: the University of Latvia’s former Faculty of Biology building
Kronvalda bulvāris 4, Riga


Petra Bauer & Rebecka Katz-Thor. Photograph from Women’s Gatherings in Sweden in the early 20th century (‘Members of K.G.V on a walk in the spring 1922’) from And All is Yet to be Done: The Grammar of Feminist Organising, 2018. Photo: Photographer unknown. The artists have without success tried to locate the photographer. New commission for the 1st Riga Biennial. Courtesy of the artists andKvinnSam – National Resource Library for Gender Studies at Gothenburg University Library 

As part of the RIBOCA Public Programme, artist Petra Bauer and researcher and critic Rebecka Katz Thor will present their project And All is Yet to be Done: The Grammar of Feminist Organising, and related happenings, at the Kaņepes Culture Centre (KKC). Their research project was commissioned to study the activation of spatial and time structures in feminist practice. Associations between contemporary and early feminist movements that could help in developing an alternative future have been accented. As part of the project, wallpaper made of photographs featuring women’s meetings that took place in 20th-century Sweden will be displayed in the Blue Room at KKC. An international feminist assembly will also take place during the exhibition.

Petra Bauer is an artist and cinematographer interested in using film as a platform for encouraging political discussions. Her book Sisters! Making Films, Doing Politics came out in 2016. Bauer is also one of the founders of the feminist platform k.ö.k.

Rebecka Katz Thor’s studies focus on the creation of images and their relationship to historic and political aspects. She works as a critic and writer for several Swedish art and culture publications.

Location: Kaņepes Cultural Centre
Skolas iela 15, Riga


Stelios Faitakes, one of Greece’s most well-known artists, has created the work New Religion specially for the Riga Biennale. The wall mural – featuring iconostases characteristic of the Byzantine era, i.e. for the Orthodox Church – is being exhibited in the foyer of the University of Latvia’s former Faculty of Biology building. New Religion is both a conceptual and formal group of images dominated by the image of a scientist. With the aid of painting, Faitakis raises questions about various elements of science and how they work, as well as underscores the overvaluing of science in Western society. Science is a god...a temple that has today taken over a large number of fields, including the visual arts.

At the core of Stelios Faitakis’s work is the combination of elements of the Cretan School of Byzantine painting and Mexican monumental painting, as well as influences from Flemish, Japanese and many other styles. He uses paper, canvas, wood and the walls of houses on which to paint his organic forms. Faitakis has set as his main task the surpassing of the rational mind as the only tool with which to perceive art and the world around us. He has participated in group exhibitions at the Palais de Tokyo in Pairs, the Genii Loci hall in Moscow, and documenta 14 in Kassel in 2017.

Location: the University of Latvia’s former Faculty of Biology building
Kronvalda bulvāris 4, Riga


Sissel Tolaas. 
beyond SE(A)nse, 2018 (research material). Beach smells collected in Jurmala, Latvia, vaporisers, mixed media, nanotechnology, chemical component, data. Dimensions variable. Supported by IFF (International Flavours and Fragrances Inc.). New commission for the 1st Riga Biennial. Courtesy of the artist 

Sissel Tolaas has homed in on various aspects of the sense of smell in her artistic and research practices since 1990. Using high-tech methods, she studies different smells in various places around the world. Beyond SE(A)nse is an artwork created by collating the smells of the Gulf of Riga and the surrounding area as well as information on the conditions of the water and the shoreline. The results of the study will be exhibited in the project The Spectrum of Smells of the Sea at the Art Station Dubulti in Jūrmala.

Sissel Tolaas has founded the SMELL Re_searchLab in Berlin, which studies smells and aromas. Among their projects is an archive of smells which contains 7000 hermetically sealed jars containing ‘smellscapes’, with which Tolaas has replicated the smell profiles of more than 50 cities worldwide. In 2016 she presented the first ‘smell memory kit’.

Location: Art Station Dubulti
Zigfrīda Meierovica prospekts 3, Jūrmala


A very special workshop developed by Italian artist Francesco Cavaliere will be taking place at Art Centre Dubulti, namely, a choir for ‘aged’ voices. The project is tangential to the Baltic peoples’ tradition of holding Song Festivals, and all locals or tourists over the age of 60 are invited to participate in Weather Imitators. Weekly workshops will end with a rehearsal open to the public.

Francesco Cavaliere is a musician, artist and audio story author who tries to awaken the listeners’ inner states in his works by delicately combining sound, material, and space. He enthusiastically leads workshops and is passionate about introducing as many people as possible to the rich language of music.

Location: Art Station Dubulti
Zigfrīda Meierovica prospekts 3, Jūrmala


Alexis Blake. 
she who has no crown, 2018 (documentation of research workshop in Riga for the RIBOCA commission, Photo: Andrejs Strokins) Performance. New commission for the 1st Riga Biennial. Courtesy of the artist 

American performance artist Alexis Blake has specially created for the Riga Biennial the musical piece she who has no crown by using, among others, works from the Latvian National Museum of Art. The work analyses how women were portrayed in the artworks created in the style of socialistic realism which was based upon communist ideology. Blake’s musical work was created in cooperation with the Latvian electronic musician ELVI (Elviss Zants) and the conceptual singer Lisokot (Varja Pavlova).

Weaving through Alexis Blake’s works is her interest in both the aesthetic and socio-political aspects of the human body. She works primarily in the fields of performance and video art, but her creative work is also heavily based on the research process itself.

Location: Latvian National Museum of Art
Jaņa Rozentāla laukums 1, Riga


Michael Landy. 
Open for Business, 2018 (Preparatory drawing by the artist). Site-specific temporary installation. Dimensions Variable. New commission for the 1st Riga Biennial. Courtesy of the artist and Thomas Dane Gallery, London 

In making his installation Open for Business, the notable British artist Michael Landy has used one of Riga’s kiosks to make a humorous paraphrasing of Great Britain as a nation of shopkeepers in today’s political arena. He has transformed a Riga newsstand into a token United Kingdom – painted in the colours of the Union Jack, it sells items essential to Brits: breakfast tea, scones, digestive biscuits, teacups, etc. Through this work, Landy criticises Britain’s recent political dealings and economic choices.

Michael Landy has covered political and social issues in his work for the length of his career. In 1988, along with other young British artists, he participated in the Damien Hirst-initiated exhibition Freeze. Landy’s works can be found in the collections of several public art institutions, including the Tate Modern in London and MoMA in New York.

Location: the University of Latvia’s former Faculty of Biology building
Kronvalda bulvāris 4, Riga


In his work The Land of Drought, digital art master Julian Rosefeldt uses Joseph Haydn’s oratorio The Creation (1797-1798), inspired by its core idea of observing the relationship between humans and their environment. Combining noise and video art, Rosefeldt has created scenes featuring civilization’s researchers – scientists. The scenes were shot using a drone, which gives the viewer a feeling of alienation but at the same time, balances out with a sense of participating in the research process. In The Land of Drought, Rosefeldt highlights the dialogue that occurs between an earthly viewpoint and a bird’s-eye view. As the dialogue develops, the work’s unifying aesthetics involuntarily create an optimism about this world which humans have both made and destroyed.

Julian Rosefeldt gains inspiration from film, art and popular culture, often using well-known figures from the movies. With the aid of humour, he accents the divide between humans and the environment and takes the viewer into a world that is surreal. Rosefeldt’s works have been shown in film festivals and exhibited in museums throughout the world, among them, his 2015 video installation Manifesto with Cate Blanchett in the lead role, which has been shown at several solo shows. His works can be found in many public collections, including New York’s MoMA, Berlin’s National Gallery, and the Saatchi Collection in London.

Location: the University of Latvia’s former Faculty of Biology building
Kronvalda bulvāris 4, Riga


Perhaps one of the most intimate works to be show at the Riga Biennale is Nedko Solakov’s Driving Through the Past, With the Present Ahead, and the Future Behind My Back. It consists of drawings made by the artist depicting what he saw as he travelled from Bulgaria to Latvia. The impetus for the creation of these drawings is quite simple – because of his fear of flying, Solakov travels only by car.

Conceptual practice is a very crucial aspect of the Bulgarian artist’s creative work. Drawing and painting intertwine with the creation of stories which become an integral part in reaching a complete understanding of the work. Solakov analyses the discrepancies found in contemporary art as well as issues that deal with human existence. His works are in the collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Tate Modern in London, and MoMA in New York. In 2007 he received an Honourable Mention at the 52nd Venice Biennale.

Location: Kristaps Morbergs Summer House and Garden Complex
Z. A. Meierovica bulvāris 12, Riga


Mark Dion. 
A Tour of The Dark Museum, 2018 (detail). Site-specific installation, mixed media, flashlights . Dimensions variable. New commission for the 1st Riga Biennial. Courtesy of the artist and Waldburger Wouters, Brussels. Photo: Andrejs Strokins

Prospective visitors to the Riga Biennale had the opportunity to see Mark Dion during the public lecture series when he presented Troublesome Nature. This time around, A Tour of the Dark Museum is a work that reflects on the abandonment of the University of Latvia’s former Faculty of Biology building. The tour is an opportunity to fix in time the dilapidated effect of the space while, along the way, coming into contact with notes on nature, the artist’s personal effects, toys and photographs. In this installation, Dion points to society’s obsession with aging as he gives his thoughts on the future of the natural sciences.

With his artistic studies, Dion looks at various historical aspects through the prism of collective consciousness and analyses ways in which ideologies and institutions can influence our thinking. Balancing the differences between objective and subjective truth, Dion aknowledges the great authority that pseudoscience has attained in our day. Mark Dion has received several prestigious awards, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Lucida Art Award in 2008.

Location: the University of Latvia’s former Faculty of Biology building
Kronvalda bulvāris 4, Riga