Since the inception of the project, curator Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel’s proposition was to reflect on the end of the world we live in, and to investigate the building of a new one with space for other voices, sensibilities, and ways of making relationships. The Biennial had thus been proposed as an alternative to the torrent of hopeless narratives, taking the notion of ‘re-enchantment’ as a frame for building desirable presents and futures. and suddenly it all blossoms grew from the Latvian and Baltic context, where worlds have ended many times, over centuries of occupations, wars and economic upheavals. Lamarche-Vadel says: The collapse of the world, which the show was speculating on, actually happened, offering a challenging yet historical chance to make RIBOCA2 even more relevant. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, our ways of building and understanding relationships are being confronted, as we realise that we, porous to visible and invisible interactions, are participating subjects in a broad and diverse landscape far more complex than our bodies and minds alone.
On approaching the RIBOCA2 district in Andrejsala, visitors first come across a new series of billboard poems by Hanne Lippard. These texts evoke the “contactless” relationships that build the world we live in, its speed, ephemerality, and distance towards one another. Passing the gates of this immense territory and entering the first hangar, visitors stumble upon Ugo Rondinone’s monumental rainbow sculpture life time opens up perspectives on our understanding of time and existence. Due to the impossibility of transporting the original work, a new version was reconstructed in materials sourced locally in Riga. Hanged on a brick wall above a small door, the work stands as the prologue of an exhibition built as an odyssey. Passing this threshold, visitors encounter a wide field of stones and rubble of demolished buildings from around Riga, transformed daily by Bridget Polk’s rock balancing practice. The ephemeral and almost magically built sculptures are held in seemingly impossible balances and stage a poetic re-appropriation of ruins and building of new worlds through patience and resilience.
Continuing through the site, an installation on the waterfront by Lina Lapelytė and architect Mantas Petraitis, who have recreated the log-driving practices from Riga’s timber trade industry in the Middle Ages – when workers balanced on logs being transported down the river – reflects on the relationship between men, natural resources and the force of the river in a performative representation of vitality and desire.
The largest venue of the Biennial is a former port building with 36 works on view. Valdis Celms, a pioneer of the Latvian kinetic art movement, has realised two projects first designed in the 1970s - large-scale kinetic sculptures that aim to invoke cosmic movements and energies that exist beyond human perception. Pawel Althamer’s installation is now a vast empty room in the exhibition space, which will gradually be filled by the visitor’s contributions. Originally planned as a celebratory, collective and Dionysiac drawing session for the night of the opening, the work had to be reinvented.
By using the universal technique of crochet to explain a complex mathematical theory that has revolutionised the understanding of the world, Daina Taimiņa make geometries of chaos and disorder accessible. For months, the public had been invited to collaborate, with more than 600 crochets being sent from all over Latvia and the world, including the US and Australia. Augustas Serapinas initially planned to make copies of a hundred snowmen on Riga’s streets as an homage to the artistic collaboration between individual imagination and the earth’s resources. Historically warm weather this year prevented snowfall and Serapinas decided to work with locals to find ways of building snowmen using soil, engaging us to imagine what kind of rituals will replace this tradition as snow becomes increasingly scarce.
As for the artwork that could not be shipped, finished, or even begun due to the abrupt pause of the world’s dynamics and production systems, a display dialogue is planned instead. For instance, Marguerite Humeau’s work is represented by a guide describing the absent piece; a monumental sculpture of submerged body parts of a dying whale inspired by Latvian folklore and interrogating the hypothesis that climate change could be responsible for the rise of spirituality amongst animals.
During the three-week exhibition run, performances (Bridget Polk, Dominika Olszowy, IevaKrish, Benedik Giske, Nina Beier and Dora Budor), artist talsk (Lina Lapelyte, Marguerite Humeau, Valdis Celms, Oliver Beer, Tomas Saraceno, Emanuele Coccia, Jaanus Samma in conversation with Uku Lemper and Ineta Lipše, and a continuation of the Biennial’s online series of conversations with Jack Halberstam, Avery F. Gordon, Vinciane Despret), guided tours and public programmes will be held while ensuring health and safety condition. A special RIBOCA2 family Sunday will be held on 23 August with a full day of activities and workshops for parents and children.
Augustas Serapinas, Mudmen, 2020, installation, collectively created sculptures, hay, soil, mixed media. Commissioned by the 2nd Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art, RIBOCA2. Photo by Hedi Jaansoo. Courtesy of the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art.
Edith Dekyndt, Visitation Zone (detail), 2020, site-specific installation of fermented products in vivariums, ongoing cleaning performance, variable dimensions. Commissioned by the 2nd
Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art, RIBOCA2. Photo by Hedi Jaansoo. Courtesy of the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art.
Jaanus Samma, Riga Postcards, 2020, installation, digital print on silk, metal stands, flower arrangement. Commissioned by the 2nd Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art, RIBOCA2 and Nida Art Colony. Photo by Hedi Jaansoo. Courtesy of the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art.
Lina Lapelytė and Mantas Petraitis. Research material, Venta river, Kuldiga, Latvia. Postcard collection of National Library of Latvia
Oliver Beer, Simply Rights / Unattained Goals (Household Gods (Aspazija)), 2020, installation, sound, speakers, vessels, mixed media, plinths. Commissioned by the 2nd Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art, RIBOCA2. Photo by Hedi Jaansoo. Courtesy of the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art.
Featured image Ugo Rondinone, life time, 2019
Neon, acrylic glass, translucent foil, aluminium, 248 x 752 cm
Courtesy of studio rondinone
Here, in the building where Georges Bizet wrote his masterpiece Carmen in 1875, Matt Copson premieres a bildungsroman opera in three laser-projected parts: Age of Coming, Coming of Age and Of Coming Age. His opera tells the story of a baby at odds with a vengeful god, who tries to convince him that life is miserable and cruel, and nothing more. On view High Art, Paris