European cultural canon – visible and tangible

European cultural canon – visible and tangible
Kaspars Garda, Riga 2014 . project authors with sculptures in development
Una Griškeviča
21-05-2013 A+ A-
‘We think that these European citizens – boy and girl – will look fine in Riga City hall,’ authors of the project ‘European cultural canon’ Dzintars Zilgalvis and Aigars Bikše are convincing in conversation with cultural portal 'Riga 2014.' Both of the sculptures or citizens of Europe will be presented to be viewed as well as explored for their content from May 23 to May 30 in exhibition in Riga municipal hall during the assembly of European Network of Independent Cultural Centres ‘Trans Europe Halles.’

Inviting to friendly competition

‘We will clarify: we would hesitate to call them EU citizens as the assembly is not reserved to EU states alone,’ Dzintars Zilgalvis indicates in conversation underlining that the vent of May 23 will be one of Riga – European Capital of Culture pilot projects. ‘More than 150 delegates will arrive to TEH forum where they will be received by ‘Noass’ and this interactive exhibition is part of the program.



How the figures with drawers on both sides will function? ‘The delegates will be asked to fill them with objects symbolizing the culture of their home countries and are taken as cultural canon,’ Dzintars explains and they laugh in tandem with Aigars Bikšus that it is not impossible that a French citizen will feel represented by wine and Italian – by a brand of their cheese. ‘Of course, we cannot expect all 150 delegates to fill the drawers of cultural canon – that would be too much,’ Dzintars turns more serious, adding that each of European Union delegates is expected to leave a token and ten more drawers are left as a reserve.


‘Initially, we wanted the representatives of the states to draw lots for their respective compartments, but then we decided that it would be more interesting to have them compete for them. The first of them will be able to place their cultural canon in the pocket, which is the closest to hearts of the boy and girl pair.

Or perhaps it will be just a friendly contest, which will be left in the care of Olga Žitluhina and her dance company.  I think it could be attractive enough,’ Dzintars is convinced. He notes that Latvia will have a drawer reserved as well: ‘People are invited to express their ideas on the most significant part of our culture in the social media, the value to be stored the closest to European citizen’s heart. After all, both these figures have been born in Latvia, therefore, they are Latvians essentially as well as European citizens.’

With a smile about Europeans

While Dzintars consults with the artisans putting together the three meter sculptures or European citizens, sculptor and author of their visual image Aigars Bikše tells that they ‘played with this idea and wished to see our European vivid, prominent and brave. In my view, we have succeeded – they are ambitious, noticeable, busy, embodying the most vibrant characteristics of northerners and southerners alike.’


There have not been concrete prototypes for the figures, but Aigars had understood in process of sketching that there are many aspects, which have surfaced in both of them as robust and formal elements. ‘Every European means so many things after all! And everyone has his stereotypes about what is European like. I also drink French wine, eat Italian cheese and wear Finnish foot-wear getting the bets out of Europe as a whole,’ Aigars explains the idea of the figures not withholding that, of course, the visual image of these Europeans is also attempt to add smile to conversation about who we are. ‘There is an infinite number of possibilities, so we have to understand that this is not truth, but – subjective relation. Therefore, the sculptures also are colossal, impressive, but contingent.’

From jeweler boxes to sculptures

It turns out that the initial idea had been thirty six jeweler boxes which would hold cultural symbols of all the states as valuables. ‘There was also idea about a closed container preserving cultural identity of every state to ne opened only for special occasions. In the end, we understood, though, that container will not allow admire these objects, so we came to the idea of drawers. They are universally understood: drawers can be opened, their content – moved and even exchanged.’

Now, the idea is to invite everyone, on May 23 at 16-00 o’ clock to observe the figures and to explore contents of their drawers. ‘It is an interactive piece of art, therefore, it will be possible to do in general as well. Besides, the hall of Riga Council is well-guarded to prevent any unwanted excesses.’

Everyone is welcome to value the French wine in respective drawer as well as read some Rainis, that is, if his work will be deemed as the cultural identity of our country, of course.

At the moment, the representative of Riga as the next European Capital of Culture is considered to place in the drawer the most important object for our culture.


There are two versions of future of both European citizens in discussion so far. First – they will be displayed in the floating gallery ‘Noass’ and ‘Betanovuss’ for two following years. ‘We have a wonderful theatrical space there, which this pair could decorate for a while. Another idea is for them to become a traveling exhibition since the next THE assembly site is Marseilles. The organizational committee voiced the idea that if these figures proved visually interesting enough, Marseilles would be ready to receive them.  Now the next couple of days will decide whether or not our citizens will travel to Marseilles. Their luggage is ready and even packed at any rate,’ Dzintars adds.

Speaking of ‘Noass’ participation in the program of European Capital of Culture, Dzintars Zilgalvis says: we have developed the Museum of Naïve Art and already traditional festival of environment art ‘Ūdensgabali’ for the last seven years.

‘I expect we will also have a range of smaller exhibitions, therefore, please, just follow the program! The site is AB dam. In ‘Meet Me in the Museum!’ program, on June 4, the viewers will see the basic exposition of the Museum of Naïve Art to re-open, presenting international exposition, while the art festival will take place in August, as part of the town festival.’

Exhibition ‘European cultural canon’ will open for the assembly of European Network of Independent Cultural Centres ‘Trans Europe Halles.’ A shared DNA of European citizen will be established during this project based on values characterizing each of the EU member states, which are also part of self-perception of every European.



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