Aija Bley’s “Love Stories” from Japan

Aija Bley’s “Love Stories” from Japan
Arta Tabaka . Aija Bley at work in Japan
One of the final exhibitions in the “Riga 2014” Programme, Aija Bley’s “Love Stories” opened at the “Intro” hall of the Riga Art Space on the 19th of December. Most of the works displayed at the exhibition were created during the artist’s visit to Japan earlier this year.

Aija Bley says that, thanks to the “Riga 2014” project, 2014 has been a tremendous year to her, although not an easy one. The artist participated in three different “Riga 2014” projects, each of which ended in a solo exhibition. “That’s a dream come true for every artist!”

“Love Stories” is the final exhibition of Aija Bley this year, it will run at the Riga Art Space until January 14 next year. The exhibition is supported by the EU-Japan Fest.

The exhibition presents photographs the artist took in Japan earlier this year, each of which seeks to answer the question, what does love look like? The works look at the phenomenon of love from a new perspective, and the artist strives to demonstrate the presence of love in every picture. The exhibition encompasses photographs, commentaries, and a video installation.

The curator of the exhibition Inga Šteimane says that Aija Bley’s “Love Stories” calls to mind a popular story about Jean-Luc Godard who was dreaming of making a home movie that would look like an art film, and make the art film seem like a private chronicle. In other words, making a work of art reflect the author’s life, yet the film must not be a personal chronicle.

“Godard achieved this by “accidentally” appearing in a scene, providing voice-overs, or making actors play a scene from his life. Aija Bley acts in a similar manner in her video project “Pool 2” – she makes a cameo appearance, swimming over the pool, but the story is not about her,” explains the curator of the exhibition.

“While stating that the theme of the exhibition is love stories, Aija Bley photographs lonely characters in urban environment, mighty trees in an old park, narrow apartments, closed courtyards, white walls, plastic boats that look like swans – and just one pair locked in an embrace. Where is love? It’s easier to describe what is not there: contrary to Bley’s first solo exhibition “Later” (2012), the “Portrait Workshop” project (2013-2014), and “Walks in Zolitūde” (2014), the images at the given exhibition carry no anthropological meaning. There is no psychologism either,” says Inga Šteimane, explaining that there is rather an abstract pulse that unites all the images, regardless of the theme of a particular photograph.

“Love Stories” encompasses thirty-two photographs made in Japan, and one video. Each image is accompanied by the artist’s commentary in four sentences.

“Despite the intermittent narrative, the exhibition presents a continuous story, and every square centimetre in each picture plays its part: the rhythmical structure of the compositions changes, but something pulsating deep down remains the same. That is why the eye takes the exhibition in at one view, and does it again and again,” the curator explains the concept of the exhibition.

The exhibition shifts the usual interpretations of the subject from anthropological and psychological explanations to abstractions, emphasising the artist’s ability to substantiate the presence of love in every single photograph.

During the “Riga 2014” Programme, Aija Bley also participated in the “Riga Self | Portraits” project, running several self-portrait workshops in the neighbourhoods of Riga. At these workshops, too, the focus was on love. The artist asked participants in the workshops to bring along a person they loved – their spouses, grandparents, sisters, brothers, mothers, or somebody else, and the photographs taken at the workshops explored the nature of relationships and their expressions.

The other project that Aija Bley took part in was the “Urban Storytelling”, which was taking place in various neighbourhoods of Riga in the summer. Aija Bley and Japanese photographer Ayaka Yamamoto were working in Zolitūde, each creating her own story for their joint exhibition “Walks in Zolitūde”. All the models for the photography project are residents of Zolitūde who were met by chance as the artists were walking around the neighbourhood. The Japanese artist’s works focused on teenage girls growing up in urban environment, whereas Aija Bley was studying the theme of solitude and love, photographing people with their dogs.

Aija Bley is a film director and photographer who has created more than 25 videos since 1995, and whose solo exhibition “Later” at the Latvian Museum of Photography was nominated for “Purvītis Prize” in 2013. The artist is a graduate of the Latvian Academy of Culture with a degree in film production, she also studied art history at the Art Academy of Latvia, participated in several international photography workshops, and the ISSP photography school. Aija Bley also participated in and ran several workshops during the “Riga Film” project of the “Riga 2014” Programme.

The exhibition is supported by Rīgas nami, EU-Japan Fest, and “Epson”.

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