From April 27 to July 23, the Riga Photography Biennial (RPB) programme Next 2023 will take place. It is dedicated to the young artists of the Baltic, Nordic, and other European countries who are still at the beginning of their creative career. This year, special attention is given to Ukrainian photographers. The focus of the Next 2023 programme is awkward topics that are often avoided.
«The past two years have been spent in isolation. It has sparked many discussions about the impact such a phenomenon will have on society, including our mental health. Just as we thought we could start returning to our usual way of life, a new challenge shook the world — a war that requires us to rethink our values and clearly express our positions» reads the RPB Next 2023 statement. «We consider it essential to support Ukrainian artists by giving them the opportunity to continue their creative practices and secure earnings, as well as by popularising Ukrainian culture. In this year’s programme, Ukrainian photo professionals have been given a special share,» adds the director of the Riga Photography Biennial Inga Brūvere.
The photo exhibition of nine young Ukrainian artists Safe Light will be featured in the RPB Next publication. The exhibition acknowledges photography as a tool which constructs and shapes national identities and nurtures resistance. Safe Light, curated by Evita Goze (Latvia) and Yulia Krivich (Ukraine/Poland), will showcase the works of Ukrainian artists Vic Bakin, Nazar Furyk, Mykhaylo Palinchak, Viacheslav Poliakov, Polina Polikarpova, Julie Poly, Anton Shebetko, Daria Svertilova, and Zhenya Trifonova. The publication also includes an essay Exactly That Body: Images Against Oppression by Ukrainian visual culture researcher, writer, and curator Kateryna Iakovlenko. It focuses on the dissemination and publication of cruel and uncomfortable images as a form of speech and protest for victims of violence. The publication is edited by curator, artist, and journalist Evita Goze and the artist is Līga Spunde (Latvia). The RPB Next 2023 publication will be available at the event locations. Along with the exhibition, it includes detailed descriptions of the events of the programme.
RPB Next 2023 will open with an exhibition Safe Spot by Polish artist Michalina Kacperak at Riga Art Space. The exhibition tells a personal story of the artist’s family life under dysfunctional circumstances, living with an alcoholic father. The inspiration for the exhibition came from her now 13-year-old sister’s ability to cope with the difficult situation. In an attempt to overcome the trauma of her past, the artist created photographs, installations, and a series of portraits of her father together with her sister. The exhibition, curated by Inga Brūvere, will be on view from April 28 to June 18, and was created in collaboration with the Jednostka gallery in Warsaw.
On April 29, the solo exhibition On Transitions: Impressions of Abu Dhabi by the Latvian artist Adele Bea Cipste will open at the gallery Look. The exhibition will be on display until May 20. The show is a reflection on what shapes a sense of place and how an individual’s attachment to a place changes in time and as new layers of memory and experience are formed in the context of continuously living between Riga and Abu Dhabi. The exhibition is curated by Raivis Alksnis, head of the Look gallery.
On May 8, the exhibition, curated by the winner of the competition Emerging Curator!, organised by RPB and Art Academy of Latvia (AAL), will open at the AAL experimental art space Pilot. The exhibition Time Found by the Latvian artist and curator Laima Daberte will feature her own works alongside the works of Latvian artists Kristaps Freimanis and Armands Andže, and the Portuguese artist Teresa Faleiro.
As part of the festival, the winners of the RPB Next 2023 competition Seeking the Latest in Photography! will be awarded. The jury recognised Lithuanian artist Ieva Baltaduonyte with her photo series Uprooted as the winner. In her work, the artist brings the unphotographable trauma of forced displacement and war-related Post-traumatic stress disorder to light, thoughtfully engaging with the complex ripple effects of the Russian invasion in Ukraine. The exhibition will be on display at the ISSP Gallery from May 12 to June 29. At the opening of the exhibition on May 11, the four highest-rated contestants in the competition — Ieva Maslinskaite (Lithuania), Kristīne Krauze–Slucka (Latvia), Līga Stibe (Latvia), and Hedi Jaansoo (Estonia) — will also present their works. Artist Anna Dzērve will be awarded with the special prize of VV Foundation — an opportunity to participate in the PaiR artist residency in Pāvilosta — for her work I’m Glad He Died. On May 12, the presentation of the photobook 29 Landscapes by Armands Anže, the winner of the special prize from the Lithuanian independent publishing initiative NoRoutine Books, will take place at the ISSP Gallery.
On May 19, Diana Tamane’s (Latvia) exhibition Half-love will open. The work follows artist’s half-sister, her father’s daughter from his second marriage, growing up. The pictures were taken while spending summers together at their family home. The process of taking photos is an opportunity for Tamane to spend time with her half-sister, as well as a chance to re-enact her own childhood experiences against the background of a seemingly idyllic seaside village. The exhibition is curated by Evita Goze and will be open to viewers until the end of the RPB Next 2023 programme — July 23.
From May 26 to July 2, a group exhibition Language of Flowers will be on view at the Gallery of Latvian Artists’ Union. The works of artists Hedi Jaansoo, Ieva Maslinskaite, Agate Tūna (Latvia), and Daniel Vincent Hansen (Norway) will be on display. The exhibition features reflections by four young artists and four different quests after the true essence of things, with artists withdrawing into themselves and carefully questioning the language of their creative medium of choice — photography. The exhibition curators are the head of the Riga Photography Biennial Inga Brūvere and Norwegian artist and curator Marie Sjøvold.
From May 29, for two weeks photography will enter the urban environment of the Riga. The series of works Grandmothers on the Edge of Heaven by Ukrainian artist Elena Subach will be on display at ten public transport stops. Originally conceived as a lyrical tribute to the older generation and a call to support loved ones, the series have taken an even sadder turn during the war. The beauty, fragility, and vulnerability of the people make the inestimable importance of mutual support even more pronounced. The project was created in collaboration with the Odesa Photo Days festival in Ukraine.
In June, the second part of the RPB Next 2023 programme will feature two significant events dedicated to the development of the photography industry. On June 3, an international open-to-all conference Awkward Topics: Troubleshooting will be held at the ISSP Gallery. This year, art theorists, critics, and artists Sergey Melnitchenko (Ukraine), Sasha Kurmaz (Ukraine), Visvaldas Morkevicius (Lithuania), Zuzana Pustaiova (Slovakia), Agnieszka Sejud (Poland), Inuuteq Storch (Denmark), Karolina Wojtas (Poland), and Diāna Tamane (Latvia) together with conference curator Adam Mazur (Poland) will explore how unpleasant phenomena such as burnout, depression, addiction, anxiety, guilt, toxic relationships, and all kinds of emotional breakdowns manifest themselves in photography.
On June 8, as part of the exhibition Emerging Curator! at the AAL experimental art space Pilot, a public discussion will take place. Solvita Krese, curator and director of the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, Maija Rudovska, curator, researcher and art critic, and Kaspars Groševs, artist and curator, will discuss the challenges faced by freelance curators and representatives of non-governmental organisations in Latvia, as well as their previous international experience. The curator of the discussion and moderator is art historian and curator Antra Priede.
On June 10, RPB Next 2023 invites the youngest generation — children aged 5–12 — to participate in workshops led by the Latvian artist Līga Spunde at Riga Art Space.
During the RPB Next 2023 exhibitions, regular meetings, discussions, and tours with artists and curators will be held. More information about the Riga Photography Biennial and the NEXT 2023 programme — on RPB website.