From August 7 to September 13, 2014 the Mūkusala Art Salon in its Main Gallery will present the exhibition “Latvians. Myths and Contexts”, which looks at notions surrounding Latvian identity and underlines their interrelation with the changing history and open future.
The silhouette of the first major cultural building of the 21st century in Latvia, the National Library, on the bank of the Daugava, makes one consider its semantic origin. Working on the project of the library in the late 1980s, Gunnar Birkerts was influenced to equal extent by the Glass Mountain of Rainis, Latvian traditional rural architecture, as well as the mythic Castle of Burtnieki – or Castle of Light – mentioned in Pumpurs' epic poem “Lāčplēsis”. While all of these references can be associated with the new library building, it is the latter that has taken the strongest hold in the collective consciousness. It suggests that the image of the Castle of Light, created at the moment of the nation's birth in the 19th century, bears messages important to the contemporary Latvian society.
Over the last decade the Latvian society has undergone a series of changes – accession to the European Union, mass emigration to other European countries in search for a better life, the economic crisis, joining the Euro. Also – the tense geopolitical situation and neighbouring Russia's unpredictable, intimidating foreign policy. It appears that a desire for nationally intoned activities, vividly exemplified by the recently adopted National Preamble, has arisen in step with these events. Likewise, Latvian signs and symbols from ornaments on the costumes of participants of song festivals or folk collectives have entered the everyday, becoming key to success for design and fashion products.
The exhibition “Latvians. Myths and Contexts” looks at notions and images, significant to the Latvian identity, which have been present in visual arts from the late 19th century up to now. The selected notions and images have transformed along with the changes Latvia has faced, at each stage representing collectively and privately significant phenomena. Modifications of these images suggest their potential openness in the future. If the answer to a series of unpredictable changes is a strong identity, basing it on ethnic, national, state or any other ideology is each individual's free choice. The exhibition “Latvians. Myths and Contexts” gives no clear answers on what a contemporary Latvian is, or should be, but rather asks questions that may assist in finding them.
The four thematic sections of “Latvians. Myths and Contexts” – landscape; one's plot, one's parcel of land; signs and symbols; folk-maid – show works by Leonīds Āriņš, Jēkabs Bīne, Aleksandra Briede, Juris Dimiters, Kristaps Ģelzis, Helēna Heinrihsone, Kārlis Hūns, Ieva Jurjāne, Jānis Kalmīte, Sandra Krastiņa, Laura Prikule, Vilhelms Purvītis, Džemma Skulme, Niklāvs Strukne, Juris Utāns and others from the collections of the Mūkusala Art Salon, National Library of Latvia and several artists.
Ivars Drulle's installation “Cabinet of Folksongs” is on display on the 3rd floor of the National Library of Latvia.
A separate part of the exhibition – in the Upper Gallery of the Mūkusala Art Salon – is Arnis Balčus' solo show “Victory Park”, where, blurring the border of documentality and fiction, the artist creates a critical mosaic of Latvian history and society.
To complement the exhibition, on August 27 a discussion will be held on art and national identity on the crossroads of the changing history and open future.
Cooperation partner: National Library of Latvia
Curator of the exhibition: Līga Lindenbauma
Publicity image: Helēna Heinrihsone. “Early Morning in the Forest. The Birth of Lāčplēsis”. 1989. Oil on cardboard. 170 x 150 cm. Collection of the Mūkusala Art Salon. Photo: Jānis Pipars