Expo curator: creating heart beat archive in Riga

Expo curator: creating heart beat archive in Riga
Martins Vizbulis
Astrīda Rogule, exhibition curator
19-01-2014 A+ A-
Last January, Christian Boltanski, the outstanding master of French contemporary art, visited Riga to agree on the display of his exhibition here, in 2014, when Riga becomes the European Capital of Culture. During his visit, he agreed to present one of his most significant projects – “Heartbeats” – that already has been presented in Australia, Israel, Sweden, Finland and, of course, in Paris, the capital of France, at the contemporary art center “La Maison Rouge”, where in 2008, heart beats were recorded and played back for the first time. The venue of the exhibition is always very important to Boltanski, therefore, it came to us as a surprise when the artist chose the second floor, the creative workshop of the exhibition hall “Arsenāls”.

The venue has been shaped for the creation of the heartbeat archive and Boltanski’s installation that plays back and reflects his own heartbeat. His video work "Entre Temps” (In-between times), the projection that portray the gradual transformation of Boltanski’s face in different ages and time periods, starting from six to fifty seven years old, will also be displayed.

Christian Boltanski begun to create the heartbeat archive in 2005 and several tens of thousands of people have already taken part in the project. Visitors of the expo have the chance to record their heartbeats, which later are transferred to the project’s main sever – the heartbeat archive, which is located in the Sea of Japan, on the remote Eijima island.

The focus of the exhibition is a lightbulb that flickers according to the beat of Boltanski’s heart. The hollow pulse echoes in the walls and the visitor’s heart beats according to Boltanski’s drum. The lightbulb reflects in the dark mirrors – the receivers of the pulsating light. The dark coats, worn by unknown people, add another experience, pulsation that is confronted or complimented by the artist’s dominant heartbeat.

In 2010, the artist said: “All my life I’ve tried and still try to protect people and fight against the fate of dying. And all my life I’ve suffered defeat, because it’s absolutely impossible to protect anyone. At the same time I’m convinced that every one of us is important, but we fade away so quickly...”

There are no two people, no two heartbeats alike, therefore the creation of the archive is Boltanski’s attempt to create an illusion for the possibility of immortality.

Christian Boltanski and the producers of the exhibition – agency “Eva Albarran & Co” – were present with us virtually every step of the way, but the artist’s interest and demands were no indication of distrust or arrogance – exactly the opposite, he was trying to find the most specific and cost efficient ways to achieve the goals of the exhibition.

The artist will participate the opening of the exhibition, as well as the press conference on 19 January and the next day, on 20 January, he has agreed to read a lecture at the Art Academy of Latvia.

The making of “Heartbeats” in Riga is supported by L'Institut français de Lettonie (French Institute in Latvia).

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