Cultural Experience in Latvia

This week in Latvia was more refreshing than previous weeks. That’s why I would like to dedicate this whole post to my experiences in Riga.

On Thursday and Friday all of the art classes were cancelled because our teachers were too busy making preparations for a national sketching competition. There were about 20 contestants and they were selected from all over Latvia, and the finals were held here in Riga. The final part of the contest was not public to us, unfortunately.

So, instead of art lessons, we students had an opportunity to visit art museums in Latvia. I took the chance and it sure was worth it. It was a refreshing experience, to say the least.

Latvian National Art Museum

On Thursday, I took a visit in Latvian National Art Museum, one of the most popular places in Riga. There were three galleries I managed to visit: first of them was the gallery of Daina Rinke (1941), whose paintings mostly concentrate on capturing simple views of environment, usually without humans. I liked the way these paintings captured the calm and strong atmosphere of the views one would usually underestimate.

The second gallery was about the work of Vija Celmins (1938), who moved from Latvia to USA as a child, escaping the horrors of war, which was one of the main themes in her work. Even though there wasn’t that much of her work in her gallery, there was a document film shown in there, which made us understand Celmins and her visions even more. I liked that abstract and detailed style she had in her drawings.

The third gallery was about Latvian art from 1985 to 2000. Latvian artists were influenced by neo-expressionism and liberal movements, which is why the artwork in this section was criticizing the injustice all around the world. Even though I had a hard time to understand the context in some works, I find that era fascinating.

I’ve been thinking of coming back to Latvian National Art Museum some other day for I still have many decades of Latvian art to explore. However, today on Friday, I decided to visit Arsenals, the other museum of fine arts. It’s newest gallery was called “Nakotnes valsts” (“The Future Nation”). It concentrated on various artists’ definitions of future, it’s meaning in both individual and universal point of view.

Arsenals – The Museum of Fine Arts

This gallery was probably one of the interesting ones I’ve seen so far. I liked the way it had so much different works of art that handled many topics regarding the path humans have chosen. There were at least four artworks that I personally liked very much.

First, there was “Entertainment Algorithm”, made by Ernests Klavin. It was a computer program that increased or decreased the different statistics of humanity depending on the internet videos the user chooses. These were not real videos from YouTube or anything, just some definitions of common video categories such as unboxing, yoga, political memes (both left and right), porn etc. No matter what categories you chose, the statistics of humanity were never satisfying. There was still going to be ignorance, inequality and the toxic attitudes towards other people, ideologies or even nations. I found this message very interesting.

Before I go on with the other favorites of mine, I want to tell you that I accidentally forgot to write down the names of the other artists. I deeply apologize for that. However, to avoid the confusion, I want to tell you that all the works I mention in this post are each from different artists.

The second one that I liked was a video about the neurotic side of different methods and exercises that keep people happy and bright-minded all day. The video was about an artist making about ten different workout exercises that started as normal activities and then went weirder step by step, from drinking a glass of water to various facial and body exercises. The final step was eating three whole onions, and only after that “tomorrow can begin!”. It was like a satire of these small-minded radical visions of busy and over-the-top healthy lifestyles that are sometimes admired in society.

The third interesting artwork was a jar filled with a small amount of water. The interesting fact, however, is that this water was gained by sending balloons up to the sky, where they gathered the condensed water from the clouds. It was the artist’s vision of our future. If we push ourselves into the wall by wasting all our water in unnecessary products and other selfish purposes, we might as well have to start looking for water from the clouds.

Oh, and there was also this “Wheel of Fortune” that showed me three pictures based of what three numbers I got by rotating the wheel of fortune. These three pictures predicted my short-term future, a farther future and the very distant future. I got pictures about “making robot cats in a large factory”, “watching, or helping, a little bird in a three with my child” and “gathering a large amount of money from the table”. After thinking about these pictures I found out that they might actually project some of my thoughts I’ve been having lately. In a way I have been afraid of purposely destroying the bonds with the ones I love and then replacing them with shallow copies (“making robot cats”), but I also have struggled to find even a smallest amount of hope in myself and people around me (“watching, or helping, a bird in a tree”). However, no matter how hard I work, I might still be driven by my fears of not having a full control of myself and my relationships, which might let me create a strong delusional desire for power (“gathering a large amount of money from the table, driven by greed”).

First I wanted to take photos from the galleries but something was concerning me. Even if I took photos from the artwork and showed them in my post, it would never replace the experience of seeing them in one’s own eyes. Experiencing art is a journey on it’s own that can’t be told correctly to others. I’m sorry for this, but I hope you understand.

A beautiful view of Daugava (river).

I also hope you enjoyed this post. It was fun to write something refreshing, and trust me, I will be doing that even more in the future!

-Henry