Exhibitions: (Re)construction of Friendship
The Mākslas telpa association offers an international contemporary art exhibition with artists from Ukraine, Germany, Kosovo, Iceland, Sweden, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. “Utilising narration, interaction, humour and curiosity, the exhibition optimistically involves viewers, inviting them to think about the complexity of the current state of affairs, geographic boundaries and the meaning of friendship” says one of its curators Æsa Sigurjónsdóttir from Iceland. www.riga2014.org/DraudzibasRekonstrukcija
A Latvian’s Suitcase
What would you take with you if you had to leave Latvia tomorrow, for an indefinite period? The Latvians Abroad association’s exhibition – A Latvian's Suitcase – obliges us to reflect on this. What to take, what to leave behind? Hundreds of thousands of Latvia’s people have had to answer those questions over the last 200 years. Individual stories reflect departure from Latvia in a number of waves, such as the Baptist emigration to Brazil in the 1920s or Second World War refugees fleeing to the West. www.riga2014.org/LatviesuKoferis
In Spite of Everything
This exhibition organised by the Latvian Museum of Naïve Art will provide insight into the achievements of creative individuals whose lives have been subject to occupation, exile, and the simple desire of such individuals to resist inhumane regimes. “The works of art created during this period are very optimistic” points out one of the creators of the exhibition, Dzintars Zilgalvis, explaining how the artists defied pessimism. It was actually in the period from 1950-90 that Latvian naïve art experienced its boom. www.riga2014.org/Parspiti
Stories About Man and Power in 10 Objects
The main ‘story-tellers’ in the History of Rīga and Navigation Museum’s exposition Ten Artefacts Telling Stories about People and Authority are ten authentic objects associated with specific people and which reveal the relationships between people and authority in the 20th century, from Tsarist times to the German and Soviet occupations. For example, a harmonica tells us about the people and authority during Latvia’s 1905 Revolution while a typewriter speaks of Baltic German emigrants, but a pair of boots relates a story of personal courage in a collision with authority. www.riga2014.org/10lietuStasti
The Museum of Fateful Objects
Some time ago, the Museum of Fateful Objects project issued an invitation to the residents of Rīga: to put forward important artefacts and items that have changed their lives and have always been by their side, and to entrust their related life stories to an exhibition at the Building on the Corner. “Objects and artefacts sometimes know more about us than do the people we live with” considers project initiator, director and journalist Ilona Brūvere. The 50 most colourful stories – funny and sad, festive and mundane – will be published in book form. www.riga2014.org/LiktensLietuMuzejs
"Leftovers of the War"
28, 29, 30 and 31 May, in the courtyard, at 19:00
This performance centers around the personal stories of four artists from northern Europe. It is like a trip down memory lane, faturing both living exhibits and ghosts from the past. There artists were born over two decades after the Second World War but still, even now, consider themselves to be its 'leftovers'. The war was a catastrophe on a global scale, which affected us and connected us all, and it is around this event that the artists tell the tales of the fates of their predecessors, thus bringing their experiences and memories to life.
The performance is in English.
"Just Enough Time to Pack a Few Things"
4 July, in the courtyard, at 21:00
On 14 June, 1940, the Wehrmacht forces march into Paris, the French government has capitulated. On 17 June, 1940, Soviet forces march into Riga, following an ultimatum from the Soviet Union. Within a few days the Second World War takes two European cities, which have become the spacial reference points in Alix Landau-Brijatoff and Emmanuel Robert-Espalieu's play "Just Enough Time to Pack a Few Things". The play tells the fates of the author's family which, in turn, uncover one of the biggest humanitarian catastrophes of our time - the holocaust - and tell a tale of connectivity across the war torn continent, through conversations between mother and daughter.
The play is in French, with Latvian subtitles.
International Conference "The Baltic Way - an Inspiration for Political Change"
22 August, on the ground floor, 10:00-19:00
Part of the Baltic Way conference, which will take place over 21 and 22 August, will be held at the KGB building. The conference is dedicated to celebrating 25 years since this unique affirmation of a desire for independence, while also remembering the Molotov and Ribbentrop Pact, signed half a century ago sparking the Second World War and leading to a loss of independence for the Baltic States. The Baltic Way brought together 2 000 000 people, who joined hands forming a human chain from Tallinn through Riga, to Vilnius, and affirming their desire for freedom. The conference tackles themes of social and individual existence under a totalitarian system, forms of resistance, and a drive towards restoration of independence.
Gints Grūbe, Curator Brīvības iela / Freedom Street chapter: The former State Security Committee (KGB ) building at the corner of Brīvības and Stabu ielas has stood vacant for a number of years. This is where, during the Soviet occupation, officials of this totalitarian regime used violent methods to commit genocide against the Latvian nation, organising deportation to Siberia, torturing and destroying people in the cellars, controlling the persecution and torture of countless people until 1991. As political power has changed, a vision for the utilisation of the building remains to be discussed and is an open question. Rīga 2014 saw an opportunity to grant the building new content within its programme, not allowing the historical events associated with the KGB’s actions in the building to be forgotten, but at the same time enabling reflection on relationships formed between authority and people, culture and destiny. A Slovenian director once said – history teaches us not to trust historians, hence when thinking about the content of the former KGB building, the main concept was to make each of us an actor in this history – in a manner, historians. Under the Rīga 2014 Stūra māja programme, several themed exhibitions will be created in the former KGB building, in partnership with non-government cultural organisations and museums, reflecting aspects of the building’s historical being, as well as creating a space for historical reflection on 20th century relations between authority and culture. The exhibitions have been conceived as very personal memory fields, able to induce clarification and allowing visitors to reflect on what they see as living testimony to 20th century events that affected every person in Rīga and Latvia. The project’s goals are for us to think more about history, to talk openly about our hurts, our fears, the nightmares that continue to haunt us, about the stories we cannot relinquish.
Ilze Auzāne, newspaper Diena A journey behind the mirror Museum of the Occupation project Walk through the Building on the Corner opens its doors The artistic impression culminates in the large mirrors on the walls, making the space unusually wide and bright – writes historian Rihards Pētersons, relating the paradoxes of the former Committee for State Security building. He is one of the museum’s Walk through the Building on the Corner project developers, creating an exhibition about the KGB’s activities and a tour of the building. It is the dissonance between the building’s ornate foyer and the terrifying detention cells, just a few doors away, that starts off the journey behind the mirrors of the KGB HQ, open to the public from 1 May. “The corner entrance is plainer, but has stuck in the public’s memory, hence the building’s nickname” reveals the historian. There is still a box in the foyer: if anyone, during the Soviet era, had threatened to resolve problems with neighbours, bosses or simply extract revenge, this was the right place to get messages to ‘those who need to know’. Most often these messages were anonymous – it almost sounds like today's internet-troll conflicts. The floor of one of the building’s largest rooms shows obvious remnants of an eatery counter, but the wall features an idyllic scene in a photo enlargement – a cottage on a river bank. In the KGB’s last years here, also when Latvia’s State Police took over the building, this was the canteen. Like a mixed salad, 1990s Eurorenovation features interleave with Soviet-era elements and original Art Nouveau decor. During the Year of Terror (summer 1940 to summer 1941), the next room had a shooting range. Immediately after the KGB left, 240 spent cartridges were found there. This was where those Latvian citizens, considered to be enemies, were executed by the Soviet authorities. The shivers brought on by this fact are reinforced by going down into the cellars. “The prison had a special furnace built that was fired up even in the summer” divulges Pētersons. The humid heat and perpetual light were used by the KGB to break prisoners' mental and physical resistance. Now it is colder here than outside and the prison cells are lit up by our torch. As we climb up the stairs, snatches of sunlight through stained-glass windows drag us out of the frightening reality of the past, but upper-floor windows reveal previously unseen views of Brīvības iela.
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