Curatorial Statement

Survival Kit 14 - Long-distance Friendships

curators Inga Lāce and Alicia Knock:

Long-distance Friendships invites visitors to engage with stories of transnational solidarity between Africa and Eastern Europe, where microhistories of friendships become a starting point for contemporary alliances. Building bridges between sister exhibitions in Kaunas and in Ljubljana, this journey across time and space takes place in the former Vidzemes market, providing opportunities for performative reimaginings: what new transactions can be based on exchange and gifting or on fragmentation and impossibility? How can we use the traces of past ideologies for pedagogy and radical imagining?

The Riga-leg of Long-distance Friendships reflects on student exchanges and international festivals and conferences that were held throughout the Cold War. As we progress into a deconstructed congress for future friendships, people navigate dismantled chairs and fragments of stories, mixing lesser-known episodes of Soviet cultural diplomacy and fictional encounters. In the meantime, we ask What would be the most urgent topics of discussion if such a conference was held today?

Some works communicate through sound creating scores for new gatherings in the disused kiosks of the market. New forms of economic transaction take place across hybrid architectural models for friendship and gardens of future ecologies trigger paradoxical present desires as yet unborn but arising from a shared past. Tensions between official and unofficial realms, between conformity and resistance are woven into new geometries of personal encounters.

Cinema played a key role in post-independence nation-building and will be addressed from the perspective of former students who were offered scholarships in the 1960s to study in Moscow, Prague, and Lodz, highlighting the contradictions that appeared when they came together. The stories of the international students of the Riga Institute of Civil Aviation Engineers will be addressed also detailing the experiences of their children, the second generation of Afrolatvians.

By building new transnational and transgenerational connections across a vast constellation of times and places, this live exhibition aims to produce a research map – one that, although fragmented and unfinished, may sketch new scenarios of togetherness.

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