From Riga to Los Angeles, biennials are searching for answers in troubled times

The Art Newspaper | Liza Premiyak, Hannah Mcgivern, Laurie Rojas, Victoria Stapley-Brown

The new kid on the (Eastern) bloc: Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art. The Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (Riboca), which falls on the 100th anniversary of the three Baltic countries, is the first large-scale international art event to take place in the Latvian capital. One-third of the festival’s participating artists hail from Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, so Riboca’s founder, Agniya Mirgorodskaya, hopes that the centenary celebrations will bring attention to names that are too often overlooked. At the same time, she wants to avoid conflating regional artists into a catch-all term. “I don’t want to emphasise ‘Baltic’ as a concept,” Mirgorodskaya says. “By showing artists from these three countries, I want to show how different they really are.”

The biennial’s title, Everything Was Forever Until it Was No More (taken from a book by the Russian theorist Alexei Yurchak), was chosen by the exhibition’s curator, Katerina Gregos, to explore the nature of change. Riboca will be divided into several thematic clusters, exploring technological developments, political change, obsolescence and its aftereffects, and the repercussions of acceleration and speed. “Many recent exhibitions and biennials have been nostalgic and anachronistic, but Riboca sets its eyes firmly on the present,” Gregos says.

Unsurprisingly, Brexit will make an appearance, taking the form of a kiosk selling all things British—a creation of the YBA artist Michael Landy. Other highlights include “a towering sculpture made of vehicles” by the Belgian artist Maarten Vanden Eynde, displayed in one of Riga’s once-flourishing factories; a performance piece by the US artist Alexis Blake, focusing on the under-representation of women in the history of art, which will be performed at the National Museum of Art; and an outdoor installation called The Nest (2018), by the Latvian artists Katrina Neiburga and Andris Eglitis, which Gregos describes as “a bucolic structure with a twist”. “Almost half of the works are new commissions, so there will be many surprises,” she says…read more

Image: Courtesy of the artist and the Verbeke Foundation, Kemzeke, Belgium