Alicia Knock and Inga Lāce have been announced as the co-curators of v the exhibition curators ask: in a time of geopolitical fragmentation, can international alliances be forged and nurtured based on friendship and solidarity rather than power and market dynamics? This year Survival Kit will work closely with the 14th Kaunas Biennial in Lithuania and the 35th Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts in Slovenia.
The idea of the upcoming festival exhibition stems from history of emancipation struggles in the 1960s, when the Soviet Union and other socialist bloc countries purposefully cooperated with countries in Africa, participating in their decolonisation processes – from economic and military aid to educational and cultural exchange programmes, while attempting to impose socialist ideology through indirect colonization. Although the primary aim of these ideologically motivated aid programmes was to extend socialism’s influence in the world, they often offered the communities of students, artists and workers involved a completely new experience and a new perspective on the world.
“Charting the relations between these regions during the Cold War, which were often characterized by political cooperation as well as artistic and cultural exchanges in the name of mutual “solidarity” and “friendship”, and moving away from the ideological layering of socialist motivation, together with artists we will revisit the events of the past without nostalgia and look for new ways to create and maintain networks of solidarity and cooperation in the present,” says Inga Lāce, curator of the festival.
Survival Kit festival has been a part of Riga for 14 years. Although the city’s historical relationship with Africa is not a well-known fact in the broader context of today, during the Cold War it had an impact on art, culture and everyday life in the city. Exhibitions of Congolese and Angolan artists were held in Riga, students from African countries studied here, and local periodicals regularly published news about Africa’s struggle against colonialism. The exhibition Long-distance Friendships will feature artworks that explore fragments of unwritten history in the context of today. Conferences, festivals, gatherings and other performances of “peace and friendship” during the Cold War were always constrained by a strict ideological framework, so the curators will invite artists to propose a new, redefined framework for an imaginary conference that is truly grounded in the values of solidarity, storytelling and intimacy from today’s perspective, addressing the issues of co-existence today, one that considers the environment, gender and politics.
Survival Kit festival is a pivotal event that contributes to the vitality of the Baltic art scene and has become a significant platform for contemporary art both locally and in the wider region.
“This is the first time we are expanding this international context by working so closely with two other major art events – the 14th Kaunas Biennial and the 35th Ljubljana Biennale of Graphic Arts. This collaboration provides us with a unique opportunity to not only strengthen regional identity but also to deepen the understanding of Eastern Bloc countries and the region’s diverse developments in art,” says Solvita Krese, LCCA Director.
The 14th Kaunas Biennial, which will take place in the Lithuanian city of Kaunas from 25th August to 29th October, is also titled Long-distance Friendships and shares the same curators as Survival Kit 14, Alicia Knock and Inga Lāce. The two exhibitions are united by shared research, friendship, and exchange of ideas. The Kaunas Biennial will address the theme of friendships of distance taking as its point of departure the post office, representing the Cold War period’s official and unofficial spaces, it was a space of surveillance and censorship, yet Under the nose of official communication, it was a space for smuggling and defiance. Artists will revisit politically engaged mediums such as cinema, textile and printmaking to stage a fragmented history of resistance and unwritten histories, seeking to answer the curators’ question about the possibilities of building international ties based on solidarity and friendship today. Both the Kaunas Biennial and Survival Kit 14 will also collaborate in a long-distance friendship with the 35th Ljubljana Graphic Art Biennial, which will take place in the Slovenian capital from 15th September this year until 14th January next year. For this exhibition, Alicia Knock and Inga Lāce are working with artist Ibrahim Mahama, the Exit Frame Curators collective, and curators Selom Koffi Kudjie, Beya Othmani and Patrick Nii Okanta.
Kaunas Biennial is co-funded by the Lithuanian Council for Culture and Kaunas City Municipality. Survival Kit 14 is organised by the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art and supported by the State Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia, Riga City Council, Goethe-Institut Riga and Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen.