Exhibition “Fields” at the Latvian National Museum of Art “Arsenāls”
The changing role of art in society is one where it doesn’t just create a new aesthetic but gets involved in patterns of social, scientific, and technological transformations. “Fields”, jointly curated by Rasa Šmite, Raitis Šmits and Armin Medosch, presents an inquiry into patterns of renewal and transition. The curators posed the question of which expanded fields of artistic practice offer new ideas for overcoming the crisis of the present and developing new models of a more sustainable and imaginative way of life.
In preparation for the “Fields” exhibition, a widespread survey was undertaken. It did not just look at art in the narrow sense, but at all kinds of creative practices that bring together new thinking, scientific knowledge, aesthetics, technologies and social practices. A year in advance, a public call was advertised that received over 200 proposals. The curators of “Fields” could draw on international networks such as the Baltic-Nordic “Renewable” Network and the European collaborations “Techno-Ecologies” and “Soft-Control”. The artist-in-residency series “Fieldwork” on the measurement ship “Eleonore”, as part of Linz 2013, aimed at creating ideas and projects for “Fields”. Workshops and panels at “Transmediale 2013” – Berlin, “Pixelache 2013” – Helsinki, and the Media Art Histories conference “Renew” – Riga, October 2013 were used to discuss work and taxonomies for “Fields”.
Rasa Šmite and Raitis Šmits are artists and founding directors of “RIXC”, an art institution in Riga, whose “Art + Communication” festival has become one of the most important festivals of this kind in Europe and worldwide. Armin Medosch is a curator, writer and artist based in Vienna, Austria. The “Fields” exhibition is a follow-up project to “Waves” 2006, which was also shown at “Arsenāls” in Riga, co-curated by Šmite, Šmits and Medosch.
Exhibition “Waves” (2006). “Arsenāls” Exhibition Hall
From the 200 proposals received through the public call, the curators have chosen 40 works from all over the world, but with a special focus on Central, Eastern and Northern Europe. “Fields” will be on view between the 15th of May and the 3rd of August 2014, at the Latvian National Museum of Art “Arsenāls” exhibition space of. The exhibition will be accompanied by public lectures, the “Renewable Futures” conference as well as artists’ performances and concerts. A catalogue will be produced, which will consist of a special issue of the “Acoustic Space” peer reviewed academic journal, jointly issued by Liepāja’s University Art Research Lab and “RIXC”.
The curators selected works that they considered to be contextual seedbeds for social change. The changing role of art in society is one where it does not just create a new aesthetic but gets involved in patterns of social, scientific, and technological transformations.
“Fields” presents a lively landscape of art that challenges existing viewpoints and deconstructs social issues, but also proposes positive visions for the future. The premise behind this project was that from the very start, no longer can any single field and associated label do justice to the diversity of contemporary art practices. Typically, today, the most interesting practices are transdisciplinary and transformative - they rely on new combinations of existing fields-as-in-disciplines, combining the artistic with the social and the natural, the scientific and the emotional, the sensible with the actual.
“Fields” opens up the contemporary field for a free and associative play of radical taxonomies, remixing and recombining existing categories, thereby carrying out important boundary work that gives a new shape to the contact zones between art, science, technology and social engagement in the 21st century.
While the final list of artists may still change, we would like to present some examples for the radical diversity of approaches.
The relationship with nature plays a major role in this exhibition, often in combination with ideas from the open culture that emerged on the net, about sharing resources and tackling social issues through participatory and social mechanisms. In some cases, such as “Leave it in the Ground” by Oliver Ressler (2013), or “Seedsunderground” (2013-14) by Shu Lea Cheang, the work carries a clear and direct political message, concerning issues such as renewable energy, sustainability or the fight for the diversity of agricultural seeds and plants.
Lisa Jevbratt “Zoomorfs”/Red Fox – Vulpes Vulpes, 2013
Other work, less overtly political, opens our senses and minds to new ways of seeing the world, referring to what French philosopher Jaques Rancière calls the “distribution of the sensible”.
Lisa Jevbratt shows how different reality is if we imagine looking at the world with animal eyes.
The Belgian collective Okno combines rooftop gardening and beehives to create new maps of the distribution of plant life in cities. Erich Berger measures changes in the magnetic field of the Earth. Manu Luksch offers a free ride on a water taxi in exchange for a conversation with “Kayak Libre”.
The human body itself becomes seen as a node in a complex network of force-fields, where nature, genetic science and political and economic topics intersect. The Latvian artist Gints Gabrāns proposes to modify our bodies so that, with the help of new enzymes, we can eat grass and tree branches. “Hu.M.C.C.- Human Molecular Colonization Capacity” project by Maja Smrekar, Slovenia, uses an enzyme from the artist's body to create a yoghurt. Hans Scheirl's paintings and installation “Transgenic” (TM) breaks through barriers between 2D and 3D, simultaneously opening up new ways of artistic and bodily transgression.
The intersection of social and visual fields is the topic of works by Austrian video artist Annja Krautgasser's “Prelude” (2010) and media artist Hannah Haslaati, Finland, who uses principles known from Gestalt psychology to make group dynamics visible.
Superflex “Working Life”, 2013
The intersection of the globalised economy with digital technologies, financial markets exploitative labour practices and culture and concerns of local communities and indigenous people are addressed in works such as “Histoire Économique” (2013) by British artist Hayley Newman, “Working Life” (2013) by the Danish artists’ collective “Superflex” and “Eccentric Archive” (2012-14) by Ines Doujak in collaboration with John Barker.
The revelations by Edward Snowden about global surveillance activities of the USA through its PRISM program have made evident how important the invisible world of data flows and data bases is. Data fields, battlefields and the war on terror mark the background for works such as “Endless War” (2012-14) by British-Japanese artist couple YoHa (Graham Harwood and Matsuko Yokokoji), and “We should take nothing for granted!” - on the building of an alert and knowledgeable citizenry by Slovenian artist Marko Peljhan and Project Atol.
The relationship between matter and information, as suggested by cybernetics pioneer Norbert Wiener, is the topic of the “Earth Computer” (2014) by Martin Howse and “Ghostradio” (2014) by Pamela Neuwirth, Markus Decker and Franx Xaver.
Mārtiņš Ratniks “Fields”, 2007
Works such as Martins Ratniks’ installation with 27 CRT TV screens, and French artist Cecile Babiole’s sound installation are engaging with the raw energy of electrical and electro-magnetic fields, continue work started with the “Waves” project in 2006.
Relationships between electrical and biological fields inform the collaboration between Latvian sound artist Voldemars Johansons and “RIXC's” own project “Biotricity” (bacteria battery) as a result of which, live music is generated from electrical signal fluctuations stemming from living micro-organisms.
The exhibition at the LNMA Exhibition Hall “Arsenāls” will open on the 15th of May at 6 p.m.
Supported by: “Riga 2014”, Riga City Council, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia, State Cultural Capital Foundation, EU programme “Culture 2007–2013”, Nordic Culture Point, Latvian National Museum of Art, Austrian Ministry of Culture, Embassy of Austria in Riga, Goethe Institute in Riga, French Institute in Latvia.
Partners: “Soft Control” and “Techno-Ecologies”, “Renewable Network”, Liepāja University Art Research Lab (MPLab) and Latvian National Museum of Art.
For more information, see here.