Exhibition “Inside & Out” is open for viewing through January 13, 2013.
The international exhibition, “Iekšpuse un Ārpuse/Inside & Out”, at the Contemporary Art Center kim?, is a personal project of its curator, Maija Rudovska; it contemplates post-colonial social construct notions, such as center/periphery, real/fake, etc., or simply put, it is like a “third room”, or an inter-space, in which all of these opposites can connect.
The beginnings of the idea for the exhibition came to Maija several years ago, and the artists were selected by viewing their work in person, while abroad. The exhibition also focuses on the relationship between international and local art – the exhibition is specifically meant for local audiences and was planned just for the space at kim?. It is based on serious research, with a desire to refresh the local art-show scene. “Inside & Outside” presents (often inartistic) Scandinavian art through an Eastern European grid of emotion, thereby revealing it as quite sensitive.
The continuation of the exhibition's astral body is a charming collection of articles resembling an archival folder assembled in the Dutch style, which is so very fashionable at the moment. In one of the texts, the curator mentions a ladder as being a direct and symbolic characterization of an inter-space. Stairs are similar to the “slash” symbol on our keyboard, which I associate with an unreal environment or situation – the inter-spaces. In the collection of texts, Alise Tīfentāle describes inter-spaces very sensually, equating them with music. Music is something in which you can retreat, forget yourself, and recharge. It is like a sphere separating the external world and the mind. Music exists even when it is not being played or performed, but when it is being heard, it remains just as elusive.
The art exhibition's concept is most vividly and tangibly illustrated by the introductory work, located by the first floor's stairwell. It was made by the locally well-known Estonian artist, Flo Kasearu (1985), and is called “Estonian Dream”. It's a compilation of videos posted to Youtube by the user Texasgirly1979. In atragicomic way, the piece reveals how an Estonian ex-pat in America longs for home – but without a specific geological reference, or in other words, without a mentally constructed “comfort zone” – as she lives in two worlds simultaneously. Texasgirly flirts with the camera and toys around with kitschy symbols of Estonian identity – such as singing Estonian songs while driving, and empathizing with the Estonian hostages in Lebanon; she is also seen simply playing with her pets, creating (or trying to create) the entertainment and spiritual sanctuary that she so very much needs.
The next work you see as you go upstairs, is this year's piece by the Danish artist Elsebeth Jørgensen (1970) – a three-part video installation titled “How to Lose Yourself in a Picture”. It is based on a one-year study done in the archives of the University of Bergen's library, in which the artist looked at unregistered and publicly-inaccessible archives – a “meta-archive”, if you will. The resulting piece is a nostalgic illustration of archives being an endless source of interpretation, as well as a dividing-line between fact and fiction. The work also brings across the message that the archiving process – or the construction of a collective memory – includes ambiguity, dilemmas and the decisive importance of a subjective view. In a poetic way, an archive is displayed as a place where time stops and one can not feel guilty about spending time reading – reading is yet another state that inter-space can take on. In addition, the art work's velvety, intellectually ingenious “soundtrack” is itself a great piece of spoken-word art.
The opportunity to rewrite history through an archive is also played upon by the art historian Iliāna Veinberga and philosopher Ainārs Kamoliņš, in their co-project, “So the Last Will Be First”. It is an ironic look at power in a “cultural-theoretical research” kind of way, and is embodied through installations and objects. The work guts the art criticism of the early 90s – or rather, its power to marginalize – assuming that an ideology exists now, rather than back then, when art was obviously bound to politics, and therefore, it is not possible to find a correct set of criteria to use. The piece reveals that everything is visible, but we refuse to see it. The spirit of the work is like a laid-back conversation, and sort of has fun with the situation, but at the same time, it is also clean material with which to move onwards, towards the truth. And in the end, “So the Last Will Be First” contains one of the basic motifs of the exhibition, namely, viewing one's experiences through the eyes of others – thereby illustrating the post-Soviet capacity of mental space.
The exhibition's central character, of sorts, is the international luminary from Sweden, Christian Andersson (1973). In his works, Andersson tends to ponder over possible events, which are often based on historical and anthropological materials, and they emphasize what is known or, on the contrary – that, which is less known. Many of his works are based on legendary objects or references to things that already border on the edge of oblivion, or that have no obvious place in history; but through his interpretation, they are given an alternative perspective – sometimes even mocking our expected perception of them. In this exhibition, Christian's work is represented by his 2010 piece, “Untitled (Infinite Morning)”, which is a photo of a photo picturing Georg Kolbe's 1925 statue, titled “Dawn”. The statue was returned to its original place, in the Barcelona Pavilion, in 1986; it had been torn down by the Nazis in 1930. Re-photographing serves as a phantom, as a gap in time, and as the termination of a curse, connecting the historic emptiness and including the time that has since passed. The statue itself embodies the transition from classicism to modernism – the transition from the past to the future. But in the photograph, in which the statue is wrapped in bubble-wrap, it resembles a corpse – thereby producing a grim and violent image. In turn, the pattern on the pavilion's marble wall reminded Andersson of the well-known Rorschach Inkblot Test. These optical associations are embodied in two upright and rotating stainless steel sculptures – “The Great and Secret Show”, which match the shape of Rorschach figures No. 5 and 6. They are like commemorative monuments to this test, which is now no longer really used because all of the test images can now be found on the internet and therefore, can no longer be used as originally intended. Both works perfectly express the main features of Christian's creativity – an emotional story, and at the same time, a pretentious and completely (sometimes even shamelessly) over-designed ascetic aestheticism. And, as usual, Christian has “spread himself out” in the room, with his cables all over the floor – but not overly offensively, and it's actually quite organic and cohabits with the surrounding works in a friendly manner.
Next to Christian's piece we find “Komplekts”, a small installation prepared specifically for the exhibition by Latvian artist Oļa Vasiļjeva (1981), who now lives in the Netherlands. Inspired by the “Ogres trikotāža” knitwear company in Latvia, the piece emphasizes how the anonymity of artisanal work is still seen as second-class, when compared to ego-driven authorial works. Composed of various elements, the set-designed piece dwells in the space quite organically as it, firstly, draws attention to the materials from which it is constructed, rather than to its authorship. In turn, the exhibition's most playful, and highly site-specific, artist is Norway's Cato Løland (1982), who manifests himself here with five separate pieces. Cato stayed in Riga for a week, creating all of his works on-site. The artist has constructed on the floor an almost unnoticeable composition of tiny figurines; he has used pieces of felt and silk (hand-dyed with red beet juice), and even made the spots on the floor that are missing tiles part of the composition.
The artist has also hung on the wall, as abstract paintings, pieces of paper which had been used to block out the windows of kim? – now warped from moisture and faded from the sun – and titled them “Glare”. The artist has also transformed one of the windows of kim? – a continually changing landscape – into a work of art. And finally, the artist has also taken the space behind a plasterboard wall (usually used for storage) to display the piece “Memorabilia” – beets, rutabagas and carrots preserved in clay found in the surrounding territory of kim?. Løland has nicely “sprayed” a perfume of joviality in the exhibition's slightly stiff air of seriousness, and in addition, has used the space rather ingeniously.
Two video works that echo one another, in terms of manipulation of fact and fiction, are “Swede Home”, by Iranian artist Shirin Sabahi (1984), and “Untitled (Schindler/Gray)”, by Dutch artist Kasper Akhøj (1976). Akhøj's piece is based on long-term research done on two different and unrelated buildings – typical modernist housing projects of the 20th century. The artist has combined historical layers, side-effects, associations, irregularities and a formal approach, and through the use of “before” and “after” images, has merged together the stories of the buildings' architects and inhabitants into a pulp-fiction thriller. The narrative covers the entire past century, and includes references to such figures as John Cage and Kenneth Anger. The work significantly reconfigures what is important, with the aim of finding a counterweight to the prevailing volatility of the current day. The piece's automatic slide projectors, the mechanical sound of the slides being changed, and the metal supports are all part of the overall whole. “Swede Home”, however, is a slighlty weaker piece, or rather, a more purely ideologically attractive work. It consists of personal archival material filmed in Iran in the 60s and 70s by Swedish engineer Jan Edman, and then supplemented by Edman's comments 30 years later. Sabahi contemplates the transformative nature of the past from a current viewpoint. “Swede Home” is supposedly documentary material, but actually, it is fiction, or just a fragmented way of talking about a time in the past. Edman also comments quite reluctantly – leaving half of what we see unexplained, and annoyingly puffing through his nose. Nevertheless, watching old films has always seemed like traveling in time, and 8mm film has a sort of charm in itself.
Another artist with much potential, but a dampened capacity for direct outreach, is Patrik Aarnivaara (1977) from Sweden, who has four works in the exhibition. His main piece, made from plates of organic glass and titled “Trychronic”, includes an effort to depict cinematic effects via sculpture; the artist invites the viewer to look at a wall of small “paintings” through the sculpture itself, in effect making the viewer become the camera. The small “paintings”, that is, Aarnivaara's other works, have been created using the artist's own special technique (which uses synthetic oil and anti-reflective glass), and depicts the motion of a journey as captured moments. Paintings can also be seen in the exhibition, such as Ēriks Apaļais' painting, “Untitled”, done this year; with the help of simple means, it expresses disassemblement and a lack of balance. Apaļais' piece is like a linguistically semiotic play on an internal situation, and is so effective, in a compositional sense, that it seems that the entire wall, along with the painting, is falling down.
“Inside & Out” is just as misleading and vague as its concept. It is deliberately imperfect and can confuse one with its many possibilities of interpretation. The exhibition is explicitly analytical in its overwhelmingly post-conceptualistic spirit, and will definitely not elicit something similar to catharsis. Nevertheless, it is a good opportunity to practice deconstructing your perception by looking at your own “duck pond” from afar, and ultimately, a chance to enjoy a wonderfully done job. I'd like to compare the exhibition with “Lullabies”, as composed by Klāss Vāvere – Maija Rudovska has compiled, in a certain context, tracks, or artworks, that interest her, removing nothing from them individually, and allowing them to speak independently. Like a DJ, she has confirmed her view through works that have been created outside of herself, and which also happen to coexist with one another in very good harmony.