Curator: Inga Šteimane


Distant Moods on a Blue Evening – it is a colourful title, the programme of the exhibition and also a sort of password, an allusion to Rainis, who was a great Latvian poet, contributor to the development of Latvian literary language, a social democratic publicist and politician. While the choice of the title (borrowed from his first collection of poems) is, in a way, a nod to the Year of Rainis and Aspazija, his wife and fellow-poet, marked in Latvia with grand scope in honour of the 150th anniversary of birth of the two authors, the exhibition actually pursues its own independent goals and makes no attempt to illustrate Rainis. And yet Distant Moods on a Blue Evening is by no means just a poetic phrase chosen simply by virtue of sounding pleasing to the ear. The title is transformed by the topicality of contemporary issues into a specific sign. All of the artists featured at the exhibition are representatives of the Age of Discourse – each with their own initiative of interpreting the world and their own

contribution to accumulation of knowledge. Without an insulating desire to find the ‘final vocabulary’ (Richard Rorty). With the use of readymades, grammatically significant for contemporary art, in the shape of a huge variety of materials. With an individual narrative and form. At the current moment, which sees the rebirth of a desire to return to ideological doctrines and transparency, both in realpolitik and theoretical discussions, the Age of Discourse, which came to flourish in the 1980s, particularly after the 1989 collapse of ideological confrontations, acquires a new, previously unseen platform of detachment – a vantage point based in a hypothetical ideologized future. The Age of Discourse has been much questioned from the inside – for toying with small anecdotes and private, non-consistent knowledge; for being non-representable and variable; for illusory intensity, exoticism and irony; for abandoning beauty, intellect and the classical dominance of man. By all means, the noise and inconsistency of discourses, the uniqueness of individual vantage points and diversity of experience can be found bewildering in this exhibition like many others. However, there is a direct connection between discursive (dis)orientation and meaningful environment because the discursive and the contemporary social can be described as interchangeable – with the caveat that the environment has the potential of reproducing the diversity of discourses, tolerating it and generating individual knowledge and initiatives that does not overwhelm and threaten the environment itself (there is no reason to view art separately, outside the general environment).

But what if it does not? Then the question arises regarding the environment, its mentality and quality of discursive experiences: has the diversity actually been but a transformation of ideological rhetoric, a synonym to affluence, freedom of choice within a consumeristically limited framework or a media-created myth? What has been the geography and topography of the diversity? Does the diversity and tolerance peel off like old paint, revealing beneath the cheerful and friendly top layer the steely gloom of a non-communicative structure? In the art world, the discursive experience has been passionate and all-inclusive. Although so much has been done since the beginnings of modern art, the last twenty years have seen everything put at stake once again, from the denaturalisation of fixed meanings in art, denaturalisation of identity (what art could be?), to universal dematerialisation, throwing to the wind (as literally demonstrated in 2012 by dOCUMENTA (13), the exhibition that serves as a barometer of contemporary culture and art, by opening its main show with Kai Althoff’s letter of refusal to take part in the exhibition because ‘life’ is more important, and Ryan Gander’s installation – draught blowing in an empty room). The discursive experience has been meaningful and rich in inferences, as shown by the art practice. For this reason, the art world – for instance, this exhibition – reacts sensitively to injections of ideological doctrines in media, cultural policy and development visions. Official discussions that ponder the making of history that has not come to pass yet and conclusions regarding the necessity for universal stories or meta-narratives are sure signals that the powers that be crave for ideology and security.

For argument’s sake, let us imagine a history-making process that would demand naturalisation for every discursive right and freedom in this exhibition – for the Faustian melancholy of Arturs Virtmanis and Thomas Behling; the hybrids of Ane Graff and Sten Are Sandbeck; the conspiratorial journalism of Miķelis Fišers and Jurga Barilaitė; the indefinite fragmented accusations of Maija Hirvanen, Margus Tamm, Marta Stratskas and Bolatta Silis-Høegh; the non-literary (vernacular) stages of Margrét H. Blöndal and Merike Estna; the lyrical demons of Elina Brotherus and Emilija Škarnulytė; the emphatic anarchy of Sofia Hulten. What would this sort of naturalisation look like? As likely as not, quite tragicomically insensitive. ‘It is still a kind of primeval communism or barbarity,’ – this is how Rainis described our people who ‘do not respect and recognise personal boundaries’ in a letter to actress and poet Biruta Skujeniece a hundred years ago (in 1913). In this letter Rainis speaks of his dream that ‘a time will come when there will be subtle cordiality; there will be a good individual who will not turn away from others that need help for their souls and togetherness; there will be such a good and strong heart that not even the heaviest of boots will be able to crush it. Perhaps there will even come a time when no-one will walk around in heavy boots – but that could only be expected at a much later time’. Regardless of what was made of the strictness of Rainis’ socialist convictions an his scientific materialism during the Soviet times, his idealism was so much more subtle and non-materialistic than the dictatorship of proletariat. Today, it resonates with the quest of contemporary art for ‘equilibrium’ and ‘weightlessness’ in a diversity of ways. Fourteen artists from Northern Europe – Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Iceland and Germany – were invited to participate in the exhibition. Distant moods on a blue evening.

Inga Šteimane, Curator




Abracadabra, 2014

While the word ‘Abracadabra’ holds a place of its own in pop culture (Harry Poter, Musiqq), in aramaic and hebrew it is a magical phrase that means ‘I will create as shall be spoken’ and can be used both to cure and kill. This sort of dualism is also incorporated into Jurga Barilaitė’s playfully conspiratorial four channel videoinstallation that poses the question in its own hypnotic way: what lies behind the social and economic catastrophes of our time, behind the crises, inflation and threats of war? Jurga Barilaitė’s strength lies in fluidity, intuition and improvisation; these qualities determine the dynamic form of her work in various media – painting, performance, film and drawing.

Jurga Barilaitė is a graduate from the department of painting of the Vilnius Academy of Art (1996); she lives and works in Vilnius.



Room 6–7, 2014, Bad Finger, 2014, I Like Myself III, 2013, The Dream, 2012 and other works

Thomas Behling’s conceptual art is akin to the bricolage or DIY principle employed by famous German contemporary artists, such as Joseph Beuys and John Bock; however, Behling’s form and content are not as explosive; they do not make speeches from a podium and do not have grand-scale ambitions. His works are small creations that emphasise an attachment to material and techniques of its treatment that are typical of old-fashioned artisan crafts. Thomas Behling provokes a discussion of kitsch and the déjà vu effect. He highlights preconceptions. A special place in his art is held by the concept of sentiment; it is explored from various angles – both as a subculture of sentimentality and schmaltz and in a more universal way, as faith, views and beliefs in general.

Thomas Behling is a graduate from the University of the Arts Bremen (2006). He lives and works in Berlin.




The sculptures of Margrét H. Blöndal are like affects – both in the sense of Gilles Deleuze’s ‘blocks of space and time’ and ‘athleticism of becoming’ and in the medical sense of a powerful and relatively temporary emotional state. Both cases involve the body in a more or less direct way, and it is exactly the involvement of the body that makes Blöndal’s works a fusion of sculpture, architecture, circus and totem. Blöndal responds to space, to the location. Hers is a hunter’s technique, based on intense concentration, silent observation and quick reaction. Contrary to the generally accepted logic, we do not perceive Blöndal’s sculptures as something that has been brought into a space; quite the opposite – we see them as something that has ‘come out’ of the space or, to use a somewhat shamanic phrase, a spirit that has been extracted from the depths of the space. At the same time, the small, seemingly useless objects that Margrét Blöndal uses in her art and that are the technical basis of her finely constructed works, resonate with the contemporary ethical hopes as described by Richard Rorty, namely, that ‘human solidarity is not a matter of sharing common truth or a common goal but of sharing a common selfish hope, the hope that one’s world – the little things around which one has woven into one’s final vocabulary – will not be destroyed’.

Margrét H. Blöndal was born in Reykjavík, Iceland, where she lives and works. She studied at the Reykjavík School of Visual Arts and the Icelandic College of Arts and Crafts. In 1997, she obtained her MFA degree from the Rutgers University (USA).



The Black Bay Sequence, 2010

My Happiness is Round, 2007

Elina Brotherus works in photography and film. Her works are defined by their quiet yet intense atmosphere and autobiographical story-lines combined with interest in the classic grand subjects: landscape, portrait, interior, still life, the human figure. The ‘Distant Moods on a Blue Evening’ features two films by Elina Brotherus.

‘The Mustalahti Sequence’ uses a favourite approach of the artist – combining self-portrait with landscape. According to her, a combination of this kind fills the landscape with content and adds an aspect of detachment to the self-portrait. The movement of the figure from the foreground into the depth and back again works as an emphasis on space, the third dimension of the landscape, whereas the ever-changing light, atmosphere and texture of the water form a unique relationship between the figure and the background, as well as psychological nuances of the self-portrait in each sequence.

The ‘My Happiness Is Round’ short surprises with an idyllic yet mysterious atmosphere of childhood that lends itself to existential generalisations regarding the relationship between man and the world. It seems that the key to the film lies in the conclusion by the protagonist – a little girl – that ‘I become everything, even if I cannot grasp everything’. The generalisations have largely been achieved through photographically-built static frames (pure landscape; interior; figure; portrait), through contrasts of space and light-and-shade, choreography and music which adds a supertemporal detachment to the viewer’s relationship with space.

After graduating from the Helsinki University of Art and Design in 1999, Elina Brotherus moved to Paris. She lives and works in Helsinki and Paris.




Merike Estna uses professional and complex painting techniques. She ‘savours’ the corporality and pliability of paint (the artist creates the facture of her paintings, using flat, approximately 20 cm wide brushes that lend themselves to making soft and wavy lines). She is building her personal lexicon of colour that manifests itself as ‘synthetic weightlessness and lightness’, as a ‘perfection’ based in the reality created by modern technologies instead of trees and skies. Merike Estna excludes the dichotomy of ‘the objective’ and ‘the subjective’ from her thinking; her works present a harmonious world, built as a self-sufficiently formed discourse in which the so-called objective knowledge is merged with unique original truths. Especially for the ‘Distant Moods on a Blue  evening’ exhibition, the artist has created a site-specific piece, thus making a point of the fact that she does not accept the self-reliance and inertia of painting. Estna paints on the horizontal plane of the floor, prompting the viewer to step on her works – literally forcing them to connect and communicate with painting. Sound and posters are additional communication agents.

Merike Estna was born in Estonia, but lives and works in London. She has graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts with a Bachelor’s degree in painting and from the Goldsmiths College, University of London, in 2009 with a Master’s degree in art practice.



Ascender, 2015

Sound by ERROR




You will become more lonely year by year,

Friend after friend will turn away from you,

Rarely you’ll meet a fellow traveller, a kindred spirit,

Rarely you’ll see a flower blossom on the rocks.

And finally they, too, will disappear. Amid the mountain vastness

The endless silence suffocates your h e a r t;

No sleep will come on ice-clad summits of the mountains:

An icy shield protects you from all sides

With all the worldly yearnings in your chest still burning on.


Having formed as an artist in the context of the 1990s post-ideological criticism, Miķelis Fišers makes a point of ignoring certain – previously significant – boundaries like the lines between the right and the left, culture and subculture, the scientific and the esoteric, the professional and the amateur, etc. By the time that both the critique of social systems and the abstract and clear formal structure that define the art of Miķelis Fišers find their way to the viewer, they have acquired the wierdest of appearances, those of esoteric images rendered in DIY techniques. Created specifically for the ‘Distant Moods on a Blue Evening’ exhibition, ‘Ascender’ is an audio-visual installation that appropriates and interprets the poem “Mount Climber” by Rainis, one of the most popular works of the Latvian poet. Fišers’ take on the poem, a series of images created in an original technique – drawing with light – features the accents of great narrative criticism as well as esoteric picture of all situation typical of the artist.

Miķelis Fišers lives and works in Riga. He holds a Master’s degree from the Department of Painting of the Art Academy of Latvia (1995). Fišers was the winner of the 2015 Purvītis Prize, Latvian contemporary art award.


ANE GRAFF (1974)

Vast Oblong Space I, 2015

Vast Oblong Space II, 2015

Ane Graff’s objects are hybrids of sculpture, painting and textile art. They could also be described as hybrids of abstract gestures and sensuous corporality: you could equally well apply to them the nobly ambiguous pure-form-building modernist grammar and the impulsive effect-orientated decorativeness of romantic drapery. Balancing on the line between enlightened rationality and twilit urges, Ane Graff’s works do not strive to find the final vocabulary and do not reject the fortuitous effects of lighting and the specific room. ‘Vast Oval Space I’ and ‘Vast Oval Space II’ are new works created especially for the ‘Distant Moods on a Blue Evening’.

Ane Graff is a graduate of the Bergen National Academy of the Arts (2004) with a previous background in art history and psychology. This year she was invited to take part in the Surround Audience Triennial of New York’s New Museum, a forum that explores the future of culture through the art of today.



Our Socialdemocratic Bodies, Performance at the exhibition ‘Distant Moods on a Blue Evening’ 04.07.2015, 6 pm.

If Rainis was dreaming of a society with ‘social democratic bodies’, Finnish artist Maija Hirvanen actually grew up in one. A popular adage in Soviet Latvia went that Scandinavia was where ‘the real socialism’ could be found; now that, too, has experienced an economic and psychological decline. The dream of a modern ‘we-identity’ is currently undergoing a crisis.

Performance ‘Our Social Democratic Bodies’ by Maija Hirvanen poses the question of what ‘we’ actually means today. Which ‘us’ does this ‘we’ refer to? The work is Part One of the ‘Operation We’ trilogy by Maija Hirvanen; drawing on collective and personal experience, it explores the ways in which ideologies, for instance, gender neutrality, search for a common denominator and ideals of equality, influence the body. Maija Hirvanen mounts her contemporary dance and text-based performances with the Friends of Physical Contemporary Art collective.

Hirvanen holds an MA degree from the University of Art and Design Helsinki. She is a choreographer for the Zodiak centre for contemporary dance in Helsinki.



Trucking, 2015

Altered Fates, 2013

Sofia Hultén is a renowned contemporary sculptor. The abstract ‘story’ of her minimalism is neutral – it deals with objects in space and time: with placement, distance, changing location, with shapes and colour and the change they undergo in time. However, there is also an ideological narrative to Hultén’s works: the items she chooses are always household or industrial objects,  c currently abandoned yet initially ‘programmed’ to serve a specific purpose: sports shoes (“Trucking”), car parts, debris (“Altered Fates”), mattresses, doors… While they are past their functional and ideological expiration date, their physical existence continues.

Sofia Hultén’s interest in objects can be described as urban archaeology or contemporary ruin aesthetics but there is also a certain presence of an ethical narrative or even a ritual alongside this sensitive materialism: care for abandoned objects.

Born in Stockholm, Sofia Hultén moved to Great Britain as a child where she later studied sculpture at the Sheffield University. She lives and works in Berlin and Stockholm. Sofia Hultén is the winner of the 2011 Vänners Skulpturpris, a contemporary art prize awarded by Moderna Museet.



mOther / mOther, 2015

What You Want, 2015

Sten Are Sandbeck’s work seems to defy all methods and hierarchy of means of expression as well as doctrines of progress: We are – they seem to say – in a fundamental way no different from our ancestors. Sandbeck shares philosophers Feyerabend and Nietzsche’s distrust of the exalted position of scientific research, believing the inexplicable process of art to be as relevant an approach to the riddles of existence. According to him, the starry skies above us, eternity and life itself may serve as an equally appropriate system of reference for a work of art. But although Sandbeck’s discourse could be compared to that of Feyerabend’s ‘anything goes’ or even the anarcho-primitivism of a Thoreau or a Zerzan, his search for the roots of our behaviour is more reminiscent to the claim of our sociopsychological interdependency made by modern psychoanalyses.

The ‘mOther’ and ‘what you want’ mobiles (or as Sandbeck himself coins them: Unstables) were created specially for the ‘Distant Moods on a Blue Evening’ exhibition. Their central reference is psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s concept of the decentralized subject and his theory of desire (its graphic representation reminiscent of the American modernist Alexander Calder’s mobiles..). But in the end, for Sandbeck the use of such theory means no more – or less – than any use of ready-made material for art – production: You find it, modify it and use it for your own purpose.

Sten Are Sandbeck spent part of his childhood in eastern Africa. He graduated from the Academy of Art in Bergen (2004) after previous studies at the Industrial Design Institute in Oslo, the Department of Architecture at Milan Polytechnic, the Department of Design at the University of Essen and the Jacques Lecoq School of Theatre in Paris. Sandbeck lives and works in Modum, Norway.



Storm, Winter Storm, Uproar, Severance, Dust and other paintings, 2015

Bolatta Silis-Høegh’s last year’s solo exhibition of dramatic landscapes and self-portraits ‘Lights On, Lights Off’ in Copenhagen was a poetic but angry protest against the government – sanctioned ecological catastrophes in Greenland, Norway, Sweden and elsewhere in the Nordic region, caused by oil and other fossil fuel extraction, as well as by global warming. The ‘Distant Moods on a Blue Evening’ exhibition features new paintings that stay with the critical narrative and dramatic mood of the artist’s previous works while formally developing further the fusion of abstraction and landscape. The almost black-and-white landscapes by Bolatta Silis-Høegh are expressionistically stylised (‘Storm’, ‘Winter Storm’, etc.) but her figurative works with dark blue abstract space are a nod to symbolism (‘Uproar’, ‘Severance’). The black lines of the landscapes, reminiscent of sudden eruptions, carry a critical generalised narrative, retaining references to nature; the abstract space of self-portraits, on the other hand, can be perceived as an ‘internal landscape’. Bolatta Silis-Høegh tends the tradition of corporality, sensitive contrasts of finish and spontaneity in painting.

Bolatta Silis-Høegh was born in Greenland; her father is Ivars Sīlis, a photographer and publicist of Latvian extraction. Silis-Høegh graduated from the Aarhus Academy of Art (2006); she lives and works in Copenhagen. In 2012 her art installation “Ningiu” was featured at the Danish pavilion of the Architecture Biennale in Venice.



Aldona, 2012

‘Aldona’ by Emilija Škarnulytė is a comment on the Soviet heritage from the viewpoint of her generation and also her own family. By staying away from journalistic style and direct accusations, simply documenting events taking place in present day, the film manages to create a generalising, demonic image of the Soviet times, gradually fading into oblivion. The documentary film is based on the true life story of the artist’s grandmother Aldona from Druskininkai in Lithuania. On an April day in 1986, Aldona suddenly lost her vision without any apparent reason. Unofficially, her doctors said they believed that her optic nerve had been damaged due to the disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant (Ukraine) on 26 April 1986.

The film shows Aldona walking in the Grūtas Park, a sculpture garden featuring a collection of grand statues of the Soviet leaders, dismantled and brought over from cities and towns all over Lithuania. The blind woman is touching the sculptures, trying to guess the subjects.

Emilija Škarnulytė was born in Vilnius. In 2007, she graduated from the National M.K.Čiurlionis School of Fine Arts; she obtained her BA degree in sculpture from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan (2007) and studied at the Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art (2012-2013) in Norway. The artist lives and works in Norway.




in cooperation with Marta Stratskas

Margus Tamm creates voluminous works of art in space. Their meaning could be expressed through the conceptual problem of ‘silence vs. word’ or, speaking in more visual art-related terms, ‘emptiness vs. object’. The discourse of Margus Tamm is, essentially, a Wittgensteinian one: ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’ And, like Wittgenstein, Tamm also does not remain silent. However, what speaks in favour of Tamm’s integrity is the fact that, by interrupting silence with words or emptiness with objects, he, in a sense, still does not lose ‘emptiness’: Tamm’s object is devoid of a symbolic ‘vertical’ filling; the signs ‘point at other signs horizontally” (Oliver Laas). The ‘Raymond the Diamond’ installation is like a happening of horizontals. Despite the fact that the work is designed in space, there is a graphic two-dimensionality to it. The graphic quality also overpowers the social space offered by the ideologically-charged ready-made plastic: industrial pipes and toy pigs. Essentially, it is an abstract work, however, unlike the transcendence of the 20th-century abstractions, Tamm’s line is analytical – its direction is determined not by some sort of higher idea but by the mechanical possibility of joining it to the next section.

Margus Tamm was born in Tallinn, where he currently lives and works. He graduated from the Department of Printmaking (2000) and Department of Interdisciplinary Arts (2002) at the Estonian Academy of Arts and studied at the Research Department of the Chelsea College of Art and Design (2009). Since 2001, he is a member of the Avangard performance group and since 2006 – a member of the Artishok art and criticism movement.



Resurrection Blues, 2015

The subject matters of Arturs Virtmanis are entropy, disappointment and melancholy but his art form reminds a theatre of objects. To stage it, he creates his hybrid objects, borrowing his approach to material from sculpture, painting, printmaking, architecture and other areas, for instance, from ethnography.

Created specifically for the ‘Distant Moods on a Blue Evening’ exhibition, the magnificent helium-filled ‘Resurrection Blues’ has become the first image of the show. The work emphasises the symbolic presence of the colour blue at the exhibition and makes the viewer lift his or her gaze. The word ‘resurrection’ with its religious connotations, used by Virtmanis in the title, and the revolutionary ‘rise!’ [celies!] used by Rainis in his poems, are equally spiritual concepts with equal cultural background of positivism. The both express the same movement, from the existing state upwards; in a more abstract way – they indicate the distance and time between the existing and the desirable. It is a road, and a road is a positive thing (in Latvian augšāmCELšanās (resurrection), CELies (rise) and CEĻš (road) are etymologically related words).

The works of Arturs Virtmanis are like metaphors of today’s great exhaustion from the road, from responsibility and discourses that do not take us where we hoped they would (did you notice the clock with the scythes?). Arturs Virtmanis conjures up a theatrical world from which his work hails: ‘…on a distant blue evening, on the edge of a cliff (with the Old Brewery visible somewhere in the distance), Rainis and Nietzsche are standing hand in hand (Aspazija is not there because she secretly despises them both), staring out into the distance. Rainis is a romantic, dressed in a revolutionary and rationalist’s clothing; Nietzsche is a mystic in a scholar/rationalist’s clothing. There are thought bubbles (balloons) above their heads – fancy-full and hard-to-sustain idealised states; fragile hopes for a brighter future; messianism; a desire to resurrect non-existent gods… They feel weightless; they are floating above the ground all by themselves, black silk ribbons around their necks… The relentless temple clock is turning faster and faster, carrying everybody closer to the dark precipice on the edge of a hop field… Somewhere in the city, an inebriated crowd of Dionysians are revelling. We see unintelligible flags tangled in the wind. One by one, the balloons of hope start to come down… the ones that do not smash on the roof gables are torn to pieces by the roaring crowd… Forgotten by everyone, overcome by melancholy, Rainis, Aspazija and Nietzsche with scythes on their shoulders slowly disappear somewhere behind the clouds…’

Arturs Virtmanis was born in Riga and studied at the Department of Sculpture at the Art Academy of Latvia (1990–1996). Since 1996, he lives in New York. The New York Drawing Centre chose Virtmanis as one of the artists of its 2014/2015 Open Sessions programme.


1. Ane Graff NO

2. Jurga Barilaite LTė-jurga.aspx

3. Margret H. Blondal IC

4. Merike Estna EST

5. Thomas Behling DE

6. Sofia Hulten SWE/DE

7. Miķelis Fišers LV

8. Sten Are Sandbeck NO

9. Elina Brotherus FI

10. Bolatta Silis-Hoegh DK/Greenland

11. Margus Tamm EST

12. Arturs Virtmanis LV

13. Maija Hirvanen FI

14. Emilija Škarnulytė LT