The title and the idea for the Latvian Pavilion
at the 57th Venice Art Biennale have been announced
December 13, 2016
Today, on 14 December, with a special performance at the Latvian National Museum of Art, artist Miķelis Fišers announced the title of the Latvian exposition “Kas slikts var notikt” (What Can Go Wrong).
According to the artist, everyone is free to interpret the title of the exposition as they wish, i.e. in amazement, or as a question or prediction. However, this will have no bearing whatsoever on his goal, which is to show how life on Earth is being dissipated.
The story of the Latvian pavilion will be communicated to the viewer in a manner typical of Miķelis Fišers, i.e. through provocative works of art, containing illustrations of a mystical world, conspiracy theory and esoteric adventures, using familiar fantasy characters from real life: lizard people, aliens, fabulous demigods, as well as documentary personalities. Visitors to the Latvian exposition in Venice will be introduced to these characters through woodcarvings, a light-sound installation and a large-format painting.
At the opening ceremony, Minister for Culture Dace Melbārde explained that, “Culture is Latvia’s most consistent success story, and our art is the whole country’s brand. Through their participation at the Venice Art Biennale, our artists are placed under the spotlight and noticed internationally, because at Venice, globally renowned curators are looking for new talents, while art lovers discover countries through the eyes of their artists. Miķelis Fišers is a unique Latvian artist, who has the subtle ability to combine socio-political irony and criticism in contemporary art forms, while concurrently working within traditional art forms. Therefore, I am honoured that he will represent our country at next year’s Venice Biennale, and hope that he will succeed in telling Latvia’s story to the 500,000 visitors, who will attend the event.”
Discussions about Miķelis Fišers often revolve around the question of whether he actually believes in the subject matter that he depicts. “One shouldn’t believe in anything, let alone me, and any truth should be perceived with an open mind, but critically,” says Miļelis Fišers in a laconic rejoinder to the question of what he believes in personally. The curator of the Latvian exposition Inga Šteimane adds that this question is usually posed unilaterally. According to Inga Šteimane, “Of course Miķelis Fišers believes in what he depicts, but it is wrong to solely pose the question in the context of esotericism. Despite modern technology, “the banality of evil” (Hannah Arendt ), which results from the inability to think, is still globally relevant.” She proceeded to reveal that Fišers’ unique characters in the Latvian pavilion “Kas slikts var notikt” (What Can Go Wrong) will resonate directly with the overall theme of the 57th Venice Art Biennale, which curator Christine Macel has defined in the title of the 2017 Biennale, “Viva Arte Viva”. Macel stresses that the 57th Venice Art Biennale wishes to reaffirm and consolidate the uniqueness of art as a territory, and to protect art as an ideal forum for freedom and answering the questions posed by both artists and viewers. “Viva Arte Viva” protects the artist’s unique vision and existence in his leisure time, along with the dimensions of his subjective thoughts and individual spiritual horizons.
For the second time, parallel to the funding provided by the Ministry of Culture, ABLV Charitable Foundation has assumed the role of the main supporter of the Latvian Pavilion’s exposition at the Venice Art Biennale. “The decision to become a long-term supporter of Latvia’s representation in an internationally important art world event is related to the ABLV Charitable Foundation’s participation in the public initiative to build the Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art using private funds. It is planned that the newly built museum building will open its doors to its first visitors in 2021. During the preliminary work phase, it is vital that the output of Latvian artists achieves international resonance, which will later reverberate within the museum’s exhibition programme. Therefore, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, the Foundation has undertaken to be the main supporter of the Latvian Pavilion until 2021, when the museum is due to open,” explains ABLV Charitable Foundation Board Chair Zanda Zilgalve.
Curator: Inga Šteimane
Commissioner: Daiga Rudzāte
Producer: Cultural Project Agency INDIE
Artist Miķelis Fišers (1970) has been developing his esoteric system of characters since the mid-1990s as a synthesis of opposites. They put one in mind of the academic and avant-garde tradition, the paradigm of onerous genius (uniqueness), and a light discourse of contemporary appropriation (ready adoption). And paradoxically, through his esoteric characters, he has become a powerful social voice within Latvian contemporary art.
Miķelis Fišers has received the highest award in Latvian visual art – the Purvītis Prize (2015) for his solo exhibition Disgrace. Miķelis Fišers’ works can be found in the collections of the Latvian National Museum of Art, the Finnish contemporary art museum Kiasma and the future Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art, while the LR Ministry of Culture also owns some of his works. He is a graduate of the Art Academy of Latvia’s Monumental Painting Department (1993) and Painting Masterclass (1995). He has participated in exhibitions since 1994 and has held 16 solo exhibitions. In addition, he has created stage designs at Dailes Theatre, the Theatre Observatory and the New Riga Theatre, and has also illustrated a printed edition of Rainis’ play “Zelta zirgs” (The Golden Horse), published by the Support Society of the National Library of Latvia (2016).
The cultural project agency INDIE was founded in 2007. The biggest projects it has managed to date in the field of visual art are: the Purvītis Prize, the Latvian exposition - Kristaps Ģelzis’ exhibition ARTIFICIAL PEACE (Contemporary Landscape) at the 54th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale; and an exhibition organised under the auspices of the public diplomacy and culture programme of the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union "Ornamentalism. Purvītis Prize. Latvian Contemporary Art", which was subsequently selected for inclusion in the official Collateral Events programme of the 56th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale.
Held every two years, the Venice Art Biennale is the oldest, most important and one of the most visited art events in the world. In 2015, the Venice Art Biennale was attended by over 500,000 people. Latvia has been taking part in the Venice Art Biennale since 1999. The 57th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale will take place from 13 May to 26 November 2017.
Photo: Kristīne Madjare