In this exhibition, five Latvian photographers (Arnis Balčus, Reinis Hofmanis, Alnis Stakle, Iveta Vaivode and Ilze Vanaga) and five scholars (Sergejs Kruks, Klāvs Sedlenieks, Kārlis Vērpe, Laine Kristberga and Ivars Austers) have co-created a unique interdisciplinary study of contemporary Latvian landscape. Since 2013, they have worked in pairs (scholar/photographer) to create five semantically linked series of photographs and five articles, which combine to approach a specific topic through double means of photographic narrative and text. The overarching theme of the exhibition is landscape, which is construed as a surface for contemplative viewing, a stage for a quaint or ordinary event and, beyond any doubt, a catalyst for an individual’s becoming who they are only when embraced by a particular landscape.
Nowadays, to the overwhelming majority of people observing a landscape, whether through actual presence or by mediation on an image, is a common enough process as they pass time by gazing through the window of public transport, explore the content of digital or printed media, look out of one’s bedroom window, etc. Yet, one cannot and was never able to experience genuine natural landscape. Even remote natural parks untouched by civilization or desert-like sunsets on a remote beach will always have a postcard look or appear as images from a commercial advertisement, inevitably loaded with culturally coded meanings. Our understanding of the observed landscape is always psychologically and/or socially constructed, which in most cases also determines our preconceptions, feelings and ideologies about the essence of the picturesque and the sublime fundamental elements of landscape.
Landscape photographs have historically been and still successfully continue to serve as a medium for stories about otherness and about the exotic. Meanwhile, in art photography depiction of landscape is frequently constructed by searching for and locating the picturesque and the sublime in the mundane, by focusing the onlooker’s eye not on the unreachable from far beyond, but by inviting one to delve self-reflectively into oneself and the surrounding environment.
The exhibited photo stories can be attributed to the school of Latvian contemporary art photography, which, historically, is both rooted in the Western photographic discourse and contains unique cultural references characteristic solely of the post-Soviet environment. These five photo stories outline a new paradigm in Latvian art photography, which turns away from the conventionally beautiful to focus on the mundane, the personal and the seemingly irrelevant in the landscape. In this exhibition, Latvian landscape is portrayed through a multi-layered and metaphorically ironic narrative which, although seemingly heterogeneous in its nature, owing to the encryptions, enigmas and ambiguity endemic to art photography, draws the exhibition together in a wholistic image.
Produced by KultKom