Maija Rudovska in Survival Kit 13


This year’s Survival Kit 13 festival, The Little Bird Must be Caught, put the spotlight on the pressing question of how neoliberal politics gives rise to new forms of authoritarianism. Survival Kit is an ambitious international annual exhibition organized by the Latvian Center for Contemporary Art. This year, invited curator Ileana Fokianaki framed the show on the term “authoritarian nationalism,” borrowed from Greek-French political theorist Nikos Poulenzas. Planned in the shadow of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the exhibition faced the challenge of speaking about the relationship between art and politics. She took her poetic approach and gently guided viewers through some 44 works by her 32 artists who tackled oppression and censorship, resistance and whistleblowing. Singing and speaking voices and other sounds provided a constant undercurrent for the show, demonstrating the presence and intensity of the language of noise and the noise of language. The power of song is deeply ingrained in Latvian culture, and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s was driven by sound and music. At that time, popular music played a large role, as did the annual Latvian song and dance festival. Artists were also at the forefront. For example, members of the group Nebijušu Sajūtu Restaurācijas Darbnīca (Workshop for Recovery of Unfelt Emotions), who also participated in this exhibition.

The title Must Catch Little Birds comes from the work of Ojārs Vācietis (1933–1983), a Latvian poet who lived and worked in the Soviet Union. Vācietis’ words underscore the importance of freedoms that most of us in the Western world have taken for granted, but have come to see as very vulnerable these days.At the entrance to the exhibition in the Old Stock Exchange building in Riga’s Old Town is the Wake Me Up When It Over, 2022, a gently undulating veil rippling across the floor. The motor that powers it creates a repetitive mechanical sound that contrasts with the textile’s fragile visual presence. The piece set the mood for the entire show, a trade-off between texture and atmosphere. Perhaps this was the point. You can no longer see the world from a shared vantage point. And yet, despite the loss of commonality, art still has the ability to address complex issues.

Sound installation by Andrius Artiunian arizona clubOrphaned by the Armenian Genocide and adopted in 1924 by the future emperor of Ethiopia, Ras Tafari (later known as Haile Selassie I), 40 He told the story of the children of men. Ethiopian jazz, which evolved from Armenian influences on Ethiopian music, filled the space with his electrifying sounds. Presented with his three brass instruments reshaped on the floor, Arutiunian’s sound work offered a space beyond visual language, even beyond origin and identity: the space of the imagination.

Horizontal lines of black-and-white photographs, collected from various local archives, ran through the entire exhibition as a reminder of the national awakening in Latvia in the late 1980s and early 90s. They showed the crowds of Riga’s Old Town and the barricades that subsequently filled the city. These photos seemed especially symbolic today, in the context of the war nearby. . Nationalism has a positive side. It’s about uniting communities and enabling mutual support in times of need. Perhaps this idea is more important than ever.

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