In the power of a divided landscape. Riga Photography Biennale Exhibition Screen Age II. Landscape Review / Day

Images as the dominant dominant form of communication are analyzed every two years by the Riga Photography Biennale, the central event of which this year is an international group exhibition. Screen era II. Landscape, which can be viewed in the Riga Art Space. Curators Inga Brūvere and Marīte Šēvolda focus on digital landscapes, with the word “landscape” meaning the material and biological environment around us in a very broad sense, not only in which a panoramic view of nature should captivate the viewer and provide an aesthetic experience.

The exhibition draws attention to how ever newer technologies, their availability, usage logic and aesthetics are changing our relationship with the world around us. Does the change of external forms and devices also change the potential of the mental image, its possible connection with the sense of our world and aesthetic needs? Or is this link working in the opposite direction?

Flat aesthetics

Technology has greatly expanded the geography of the world, making it more physically accessible to both Westerners and their ability to travel home, with documentary evidence of almost every corner of the world within a few clicks. While virtual accessibility has not diminished people’s desire to go outside, get impressions, enjoy the surroundings, the presence of screens has intensified in this relationship, often acting as an important mediator between the landscape and our perception or transmission. It is probably too early to judge how the constant “sitting on the phone” has changed our senses’ ability to perceive the environment, but the image of the landscape in our minds has become flatter, and such an aesthetic of flatness is also offered by the Riga Photography Biennale. Screen era II. Landscape.

The exposition does not chlorinate technological progress, and even less does it go to black and white categories. Rather, it seeks new ways in which technology encounters what we are accustomed to call natural, and makes us rethink the meaning of this distinction as such. The exhibition exposes the sense of image and landscape to self-reflection and tries to find out their interaction, to capture the experience that the latest technological opportunities currently provide the viewer, because we most often do not pay attention to it. The search for new possibilities and the expansion of borders is not an end in itself demonstration of abilities and possibilities, the works exhibited in the exhibition have arisen from the need to identify the possibility of the emergence of new artistic content in forms that have not been possible before.

For example, the witty work of the Estonian artist duo Kristina Olleka and Kerti Vīart Exhibit_Onscroll originally landscape posted Instagram in space and then translated this form into “real” video objects, demonstrating that technology and social networks are not only a “screen” and a platform for broadcasting content, but also a man – made, somewhat autonomous landscape with its own rules and points of view.

Conversations with clairvoyants

In terms of physical appearance, the work of the Norwegian artist Sven Fannar Juhanson is completely different from the others: in the sound landscape installation, the person of interest can hear his conversations with the psychics – they discuss the photos he finds. It seems an ironically profound return to analog photography as an image, in which it is easy to list the visible elements, the associations they form, while “replacing” the image with sound and forcing the viewer to visualize it himself. On the one hand, the work contrasts with the saturation of images in the digital age, but to the same extent it illustrates the ways in which we think and perceive images – at times clairvoyant sounds amusingly naive, at times it fits perfectly into any accompanying text in a contemporary art exhibition (“we use images, to better understand the world around them “).

The artist has called the soundscape of such images the zero point of photography, it is a return to the idea of ​​the image in its pure form, without materialization, but maybe such textual images / thought photographs will be the last, extreme image form in which it will exist? At the same time, the combination of both opposites is apt – clairvoyants who work with the invisible, and photography as an art that makes the invisible past visible.

Alienated sterility

Digital technologies tempt every user to transform images as reality documents, fixations – with such transformations as a means of expression is full not only the exhibition hall of the Riga Art Space, but also our everyday life, which we broadcast, for example, through Instagram filters. Exposition Screen era II. Landscape focuses on more technologically sophisticated transformation possibilities and tools for constructing artistic realities, but also in analogue images, paintings and graphics, reality has never existed directly, it has been subject to the possibilities provided by observation and imaging technologies. This is reminded by the works of the Swedish artist Eva Stanenram, in which pornographic images in the forests are “retouched” – naked bodies are removed from the photos, but vague censorship marks are left in the frames, reminiscent of scars on human skin.

In the age of digital screens, we are no longer interested in realistic, authentic landscape documentation, which has become so self-evidently simple for anyone who can handle a smartphone. The interior and natural landscapes in the exhibition are dominated by alienated sterility, coolness (at least three works seem to have mountain or high cloud views), and perhaps this sterility and apparent technological rationality make us as users look more for elements of chance, something unauthorized and uncontrollable. , even wild, like engaging the clairvoyant in your imaging experience or turning classic landscape views into digital animation. Finnish artist Tuomo Rainio’s binary code-based works reduce landscape clichés to a key element of the digital world, focusing on what underlies an image regardless of technology – any image is a densification of different visual shapes, and each shape is based on dots that form colors, lines , strokes.

Blur in pixels

If the exhibition were to be seen as a symbolic portrait of the modern landscape, it could be described by the word “split”, and this split is emphasized by almost every exhibit. The prototype of the 21st century landscape is not a panoramic, wide, seamless view, but a flow of multi-channel images in individual screen windows or a blur of visual shapes. This fragmentation reminds me of my own hectic use of Internet technology, using multiple “taboos” and sites at the same time, scrolling apps up and down on the phone back and forth. I think that this polyphony, the parallelism is familiar to all of us.

As an event, the exhibition focuses on themes and authors who usually arrive at the Latvian intellectual space with great delay and in fragments. If the audience is not interested in the offered topics, I recommend to look at the exhibition, if only to see the authors currently recognized and in demand in the world and to expand their knowledge about the possibilities of visual art in the post-media age. The selection of works is well thought out, they speak for themselves and form a dialogue and seem to reinforce each other, for example, the digital romanticism of Mārtiņš Ratniks highlights the concept of this exhibition much more vividly than it was seen when exhibited separately.

The topics covered in the exhibition may be too unfamiliar to most viewers, so without the accompanying texts the catalog is difficult to comprehend and fully understand – it would have been more valuable to integrate the texts as annotations to side works, because it is not convenient to cross the edition in the dark. And if someone argues that a work of art must be effective even without textual commentary, I will remind you that contemporary art has been closely connected for many decades with the intellectual space organized by ideas, theories, and text-based forms of knowledge. The program of the Riga Photography Biennale is closely related to the analytical exploration of the surrounding world in art, and there is still a desperate lack of intellectual (rather than decoratively impressive or emotionally moving) art traditions in Latvia.


Screen era II. Landscape

Riga Art Space until 18.X

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