Latvian National Museum of Art presents virtual exhibition from its video art collection

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Latvian National Museum of Art presents virtual exhibition from its video art collection
Sarmīte Māliņa, Kristaps Kalns. Altar. Shot from the video installation in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Riga during Easter 2006. Collection of the Latvian National Museum of Art.

RIGA.- The Latvian National Museum of Art wishes to continue to reach out to its esteemed public and adapts its exhibition format to the conditions of the COVID-19 crisis. From 6 April to 31 May 2020, the visitors to the homepage of the LNMA, will have the opportunity to see an anti-public exhibition from the video art collection – far away from the museum’s halls, each in their own homes, on their personal display.

For the very first time almost the entire collection of video art of the Latvian National Museum of Art (LNMA), assembled over the last five years, is shown together. The viewers will see a small yet outstanding selection – video works by Sarmīte Māliņa and Kristaps Kalns, Kārlis Vītols, Ieva Epnere, Ēriks Apaļais, Krišs Salmanis, Kristaps Epners, Miķelis Fišers, Maija Kurševa, Katrīna Neiburga, and Krista Dzudzilo. Several works demonstrate a certain trend which, in the context of this crisis, can be seen as an almost prophetic anti-materialist position. Escapism in nature, the necessity to explain the world in interconnections according to a unifying principle, the inability to find fulfilment and spiritual growth in consumerist culture.

The narrative of these works covers a rather broad range – from the religious miracle of the resurrection of Christ during Easter in Sarmīte Māliņa and Kristaps Kalns’ work Altar (2006) all the way to Miķelis Fišers’ play with conspiracy theories in his work Language Lesson (2015). The earliest work in the LNMA video collection is Katrīna Neiburga’s feminist project from 2003, Traffic, showing a woman in a role that is fairly dangerous to her – that of a taxi driver. Meanwhile one of the most recent is Kārlis Vītols’ animation The End, created in 2018, about a man affected by midlife crisis, who is trapped in his memories and attempts to come to terms with the sense of physical and spiritual end.

The virtual exposition also presents a video etude Le Cygne (2016) from Ēriks Apaļais’ personal exhibition Family, which was opened in the Great Hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art before the announcement of the state of emergency and is temporarily closed. In this video, a girl tries to pronounce the word le cygne (from French ‘swan’) under water, but its materiality prevents her from doing it comprehensibly. This tiny detail is an apt commentary on the changes our ability to express ourselves clearly encounters under the conditions of external factors and other interfering forces.

It must be added that the video works in the LNMA collection were created for the format of the exhibition, often as part of a larger show, and their manner of installation – projection on single or multiple screens, size and other details are significant in making an emotional impact intended by the artist. The manner of exhibition may also be an inseparable part of the work. Thus, Voldemārs Johansons’ recording of an ocean storm is only to be shown in large format, where an effect of presence, of bodily experience is reached through the enormous size of the image and the permeation of the space with water droplets. It cannot be achieved through viewing the work on a computer screen, therefore the Thirst (2015) is not included in this exhibition of the collection of video art. However, the mentioned work undeniably fits in today’s situation with the reminder that man is not the most powerful force in this world.

Likewise, Mārtiņš Ratniks’ video installation Earth (2009), which was nominated for the second Purvītis Prize in 2011, requires a spatial 360° projection, what can’t be provided on a computer screen. Author’s idea that “we look but there is much that we do not see” forms the basis of many of his works and again aptly echoes the actual context of the invisible virus.

It is hardly a secret that exhibition goers frequently do not even watch video works till the end, since time is scarce and the clock is counting the minutes set aside for seeing the display. Yet at this period, staying at home, hurry should not be a problem. The creators of the exhibition believe that now is the right moment to see works you might have missed or would like to see again.

The shortest of the collection’s video works is the above-mentioned Ēriks Apaļais Le Cygne – only 00:01:21 min. The longest at 00:19:58 min is Ieva Epnere’s documentary Four Edges of Pyramiden (2015), which was made from material filmed in Spitzbergen in the abandoned Soviet coal-mining town of Pyramiden. It is in fact located on an island which is part of Norway, and for almost twenty years time has stopped there. The protagonists who live there say that in this edge of the world, where time stands still and contemporary oversaturated world does not reach, they can feel at one with nature and be happy – in their own way.

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