Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA3) returns this summer in a renewed format presenting parallel projects including a magazine launch, multiple shows from curator René Block and culminating in the main biennial project curated by SUPERFLEX There Is an Elephant in the Room.
RIBOCA3 was previously set to take place from 15 July – 2nd October 2022 under the title Exercises in Respect, but the organisation made the decision to cancel the event due to the devastating Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The founder of the Riga Biennial Foundation Agniya Mirgorodskaya elaborates: “The war set out new priorities for everyone. We simply couldn’t continue working toward an exhibition rooted in mutual respect and cooperation, while these unthinkable crimes were being committed in Ukraine. The exhibition had to be postponed and changed. Our two-part launch across two locations this summer hopes to inspire dialogue between international and local artists and practitioners, and with the local community during a time when collectivity and global discussion are so necessary.”
Launching 11 May 2023
Drawing a line under the concept of Exercises in Respect, RIBOCA3 will showcase artists from the cancelled exhibition, along with their documented projects, in a magazine which provides a platform to display their work and reach wider audiences. The publication echoes the original exhibition concept while highlighting the resilience of the artists and curators that continue to find ways to connect and share art despite the challenges posed by the current situation.
Curated by René Block
17 June – 10 September 2023, at Kunsthal 44Møen
René Block has invited 13 Latvian and Nordic artists to participate in the exhibition at the Kunsthal 44Møen, located on the island of Møn, a UNESCO-declared biosphere reserve just off the coast of south-eastern Denmark where Block partially lives and works. The exhibition will include artists that were to participate in the original exhibition Exercises in Respect, celebrating longstanding connections coming to artistic fruition. Among existing works, there will be new commissions originally designed for Riga that have been transformed for the Kunsthal 44Møen.
For the exhibition, artists from Latvia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Ukraine will gather on the island to think, reflect and tell stories – some new, some interrupted. For example, Evita Vasiļjeva, who had originally planned to install her concrete reversed benches on Andrejsala in Riga, will now turn pre-existing Danish benches upside down. Dace Džeriņa’s gentle and poetic film about a decaying manor in Kurzeme, Latvia, commissioned for the original concept of RIBOCA3, will now serve as a connecting link between the exhibitions in Denmark and Riga. Jason Dodge, from the island of Møn, will create an abstract installation using floor surfaces. Bjørn Nørgaard’s container will take a proud place in front of the Kunsthal, creating a platform for conversation and exchange between industry and nature, locals and tourists, people and other species. Humorous drawings by Māris Subačs, framed into a wall installation, will serve as a reminder that one can discuss serious things in a playful manner.
The 2023 season is an important milestone for 44Møen. After a year of renovations 44Møen reopens with new facilities: Klanghallen for concerts, installations and events; Studio 44Møen for visiting artists and schools; and Residency for shorter and longer stays for artists and guests.
René Block explains:
“INTERMEZZO is a celebration of art, respect, and coexistence across and despite the conflicted waters of the Baltic sea. With new work from the whole region, 44Møen will be the centrecenter of an artistic dialogue that was interruptedprevented in Riga in 2022. INTERMEZZO is a space for reflection and dialogue about a changing Europe.’’
Participating artist list: Nanna Abell, Meriç Algün, Mehtap Baydu, Evelīna Deičmane, Dace Džeriņa, Jason Dodge, Ingrid Furre, Boris Mikhailov, Bjørn Nørgaard, Māris Subačs, Superflex, Evita Vasiļjeva, Maaria Wirkkala.
There Is an Elephant in the Room
RIBOCA3’s main project
Curated by SUPERFLEX
10 August 2023 – March 2025, multiple venues and sites in Riga
The acclaimed artist collective was originally invited to participate in Exercises in Respect by René Block. After the postponement in 2022, Block was keen to highlight the work There Is an Elephant In the Room and invited SUPERFLEX to curate RIBOCA3’s central component in Riga under the same title. The biennial will see the gradual unveiling of works by an international roster of 25 celebrated female artists. The works will be primarily situated in public spaces, placing the focus on the city itself and establishing an artistic infrastructure in an urban space. There Is an Elephant in the Room will be accompanied by a rich public program, featuring workshops, live acts, and talks, fostering debate, and making space for a plurality of perspectives.
SUPERFLEX will create a space that will serve as the setting for the public programming, with a large LED artwork, There Is An Elephant In The Room[AM5] , to be placed inside a transparent space that will host the talks and discussions. This room will function as a centre for RIBOCA3 and a site for assembly.
SUPERFLEX on There Is an Elephant in the Room:
“The biennial will open with its announcement and will last for almost two years, reimagining the Riga Biennial as artistic infrastructure. The elephant in the room is a phrase that serves as a reminder of the things that go unsaid but which must be addressed. It implies that a topic cannot be brought up because of fear of friction.
The city of Riga, like all cities, is an embodiment of a collective effort, and the biennial seeks to highlight the complex social relations that already exist in the city. This collective work is not necessarily harmonious. Friction is an important part of collectivity – we thrive in friction.”
Curated by René Block
9 August – 17 September 2023
The second part of the reimagined RIBOCA3, conducted by Block, and assisted by Katrin Seemann, is titled Fragment and specifically draws on two mediums that have interested Block for decades: moving image and sound. 20 audio-visual installations will find a home among the former Riga Technical University building’s architecture, with its expansive halls and grand ballroom offering visitors an immersive and exciting journey through the artworks. Fragment can be deciphered as the remains of the original concept from Exercises in Respect, featuring 10 artists from the artist list and a connecting thread of Dace Džeriņa’s film that was commissioned for the RIBOCA3 in 2022.
ABOUT RENÉ BLOCK
René Block started working as an independent curator after overseeing exhibitions at his own galleries Galerie René Block in Berlin (1964-1979) and René Block Gallery Ltd. in New York (1974-1977). During this period he worked closely with emerging artists of the time, including Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, KP Brehmer, KH Hödicke, Wolf Vostell, Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik.
In 1972 Block began work as a curator for the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, the Berliner Festwochen as well as the Academy of the Arts. From 1982 to 1992, he was in charge of the visual artists and composers at the Berlin Artist in Residence Program, where he organised a number of international projects, performance and music festivals, as well as exhibitions for the Daadgalerie. In the following years, up until 1995, he was responsible for the programming of the IFA (the Institute for Foreign Relations) Exhibition Service, representing German art in foreign countries. During this period, he began a career-long venture as curator for a number of biennials, including: Hamburg 1985, Towards an Art of Peace Biennial; Sydney 1990, The Readymade Boomerang; Istanbul 1995, Orient/ation; Gwangju (Korea) 2000, Eurafrica; Cetinje (Montenegro) 2004, Love it or leave it (with Natasa Ilic); and Belgrade 2006, the October Salon’s Art, Life & Confusion (with Barbara Heinrich).
From 1997 to 2006 Block tenured as the director of the Kunsthalle Fridericianum in Kassel where he curated a number of notable exhibitions. Among them was the “Balkan Trilogy” series with the exhibition In den Schluchten des Balkan (2003) exhibiting 88 artists from twelve countries in the wider Balkan region, and a number of other satellite projects in the Balkans including the Biennial of Cetinje in 2004. During this time, he also instituted a new programme called the Kuratorenwerkstatt (curatorial workshop) Fridericianum which permitted five young curators to gain experience by working with him to develop their first major projects.
He concluded his work on major art projects by curating the Nordic Pavilion (Welfare – Fare Well) at the 52th Biennale di Venezia (2007). In 2008 he established the artspace TANAS, which acted as a platform for Turkish artists in Berlin and ran until 2013. At the same time, he co-founded the Kunsthal 44 Møen in Denmark, where he continues to operate as its artistic director.
SUPERFLEX was founded in 1993 by Jakob Fenger, Bjørnstjerne Christiansen, and Rasmus Rosengren Nielsen. Conceived as an expanded collective, SUPERFLEX has consistently worked with a wide variety of collaborators, from gardeners to engineers to audience members. Engaging with alternative models for the creation of social and economic organisation, works have taken the form of energy systems, beverages, sculptures, copies, hypnosis sessions, infrastructure, paintings, plant nurseries, contracts, and public spaces.
Working in and outside the physical location of the exhibition space, SUPERFLEX has been engaged in major public space projects since their award-winning Superkilen opened in 2011. These projects often involve participation, involving the input of local communities, specialists, and children. Taking the idea of collaboration even further, recent works have involved soliciting the participation of other species. SUPERFLEX has been developing a new kind of urbanism that includes the perspectives of plants and animals, aiming to move society towards interspecies living. For SUPERFLEX, the best idea might come from a fish.
ASSOCIATION RIGA INTERNATIONAL BIENNIAL
The Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA) was founded as a major initiative of the association Riga International Biennial, its commissioning body. The Founder and Commissioner of the Riga International Biennial, Agniya Mirgorodskaya, developed RIBOCA in order to set up a new global platform for international and Baltic artists, to promote contemporary art and provide educational and community support within the region, as well as to increase artistic engagement between the Baltic region and the rest of the world.
On the 24th of February 2022, The Riga Biennial Foundation, the organisation behind the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA), made a significant decision regarding funding for the biennial. The foundation board decided that it would no longer accept funding from Russia due to the brutal war in Ukraine started by Russia. Instead, the foundation has created an endowment foundation called “Just a Moment” that will support RIBOCA from now on. The Just a Moment endowment foundation is registered in the United States and will generate income from revenue from construction and investment projects.