One theory for the origin of the city’s name is that it is a corrupted borrowing from an archaic Livonian word. ‘Ringa’ meaning ‘loop’, refers to the ancient natural harbor formed by the tributary loop of the Daugava River. This short etymological tracing indicates the depths that the Livonian language remains embedded in the current language and culture of the city. Another reason to borrow this word is for its spectral presence (the last native speaker of the moribund Livonian language, Grizelda Kristina, died last year, aged 103). The past, in Riga, plays and replays, in a feedback loop as the cities cultural and political acoustics. This workshop/residency’s focus is on what it means to be emplaced in a city with its own particular histories that shape the language and experience of its present.
The activities of the laboratory will be structured according to another reflection of the ‘loop’ and the mathematical concept of the Möbius. Activities will test out forms of beginning and ending at the same coordinates, and responding to loops or strips of context-specific interest from creative, visual and writerly perspectives. Films may be watched and rewatched, a walk taken more than once, or a text written multiple times. These activities will seek to zero in on the process of interpretation itself; in the small and overlooked details that constitute semantic, associative and historical meanings in language. All participants of the workshop will be asked to help the organisers design these interpretative activities to expose the etymological, constitutive and often political renderings of Riga itself.
There will be several invited speakers to the laboratory, but the participants themselves will comprise its backbone. Participants will be invited to lead one short event or activity during the week that responds to the laboratory’s key propositions, as well as engages with the city of Riga in some form. His or her proposed activity will form the criteria by which he or she is accepted to join the programme.
The activity of the laboratory will center on art writing, and the potential of writing as an art-making process. Special attention will be given to the process of excavating the literal, and historical meanings and resonances of words, as a way to deviate from dominant interpretations, as well as the relationships between the past and present of these words and their relationship to specific places and cultures – in particular, Riga.
During the week long laboratory there will be talks, activities lead by the participants and organisers, as well as time allocated to generating work. During the final day this work will be presented and discussed.
This Migrating Art Academies laboratory in Riga is organised as a collaboration between kim? Contemporary Art Centre, Riga, Rupert (Vilnius), Vilnius Academy of Arts, Lithuanian Interdisciplinary Artists’ Association and Top Association for the Promotion of Cultural Practice in Berlin.
The laboratory is partly supported by Nordic Culture Point, Culture Programme 2007-2013 and Lifelong Learning Programme (Grundtvig).