Like many other artists I am interested in many things. One of the things that I am interested in is the material culture and legacy of The Cold War (1946-89). This involves thinking about the way that people were forced to live during these times of division and separation. It means looking at the landscape for traces that can sometimes be almost invisible such as deep bunkers and observation posts. Architecture and buildings are also an important area for studying, looking at the creation of opposing architectural styles, while also finding striking similarities.

To inform this topic and investigate deeper, I will be participating in a short residency in Latvia with the SERDE interdisciplinary art group ( This will take place in September 2018 and this blog will document my thoughts leading up to the residency and also capture and document the activities undertaken during the residency. To conclude the blog, I will also share the output after the residency, when I have returned back home.

SERDE are interested in artists who are willing to work with local audience and hosts. This part is of great interest as I would like to expand my practice to work with local communities. So the plan for Serde will be to explore the environment, places and spaces with the aim of making a film. As stated, I am interested in the architecture that was created during the Soviet era and the method in which it functioned as a Utopian vision. I previously visited Armenia and did a micro residency with ACOSS (2013). The country was fascinating, especially the architecture and I produced a film that used footage shot in Yerevan and also shots of a book titled ‘The Soviet Architecture of Armenia.

My art work encompasses sculpture, film and drawing. The aim will be to produce a short artists film based on my experience of exploring the area around Aizpute (where SERDE is based) and in particular a visit to Skrunda (an abandoned Utopian housing project). My itinerary will also look at including a visit to the seaside and ‘The Forbidden Zone’ (where people were not allowed to enter during the Cold War). I am interested in talking to local people, doing interviews about life during Soviet times and how life compares now. This would be used in the film to provide a narrative. I also plan to visit some flea markets and book shops to pick up some material that can be used in the film. The film will also feature the local area around the residency, as I will make field trips to explore and record the environment. Post production and editing would take place back home after the residency.


I didn’t have time to write another entry during the residency as there was so much going on. So this is a retrospective collection of thoughts, experiences and things that I encountered.

It would have been good to have more time at SERDE as the 2 weeks went really quickly. It is possible to stay for much longer periods, but 2 weeks was the most I could accommodate. However the 2 weeks were very busy and there was some great company!

Its safe to say that I think that I’ve managed to gather enough footage for making some kind of video work. When I went to Latvia a few weeks ago, I didn’t know too much about the country. My knowledge of the Baltic states was a bit sketchy. This was in part a reason for wanting to do this project, it has been driven by curiosity. One of the main areas to explore was the Latvia’s borders, it’s relationship with it’s neighbouring countries and how this has affected and influenced identity.

Above: Exploring Latvia’s Soviet legacy

Its outwith the scope of this update to give a general history lesson on Latvia, but in short it reveals a fascinating, but turbulent past. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Independence of Latvia. In the aftermath of World War One, it broke away and declared independence from Russia on 18th November 1918. The countries independence was interrupted with the onset of World War Two, when the country was forced into the Soviet Union, followed by invasion and occupation by the Nazi’s. It was re-occupied again by the Soviet’s in 1944 and the creation of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) followed and lasted until 1991 when independence was reestablished.

A country that has went from independence, to dependence and then back to independence I discovered common identity threads that have spanned through the different epochs. These strong associations have guided the people through it’s journey and road towards independence. These are mainly: a strong connection with the land; music and poetry; traditional dance, textiles and dress.

Above: The folk and song tradition and other monuments
An interesting find that I picked up to lend credence to this, was a publication from 1986 that I found in a second hand shop in Leipaja. The book is a folio of about 65 maps

Above: Cover of ‘Historical Ethnographic Atlas of the Baltic’


The title in Russian is:

‘историко зтнографическнн атлас прибалтикн’

which translates as: Historical Ethnographic Atlas of the Baltic

The maps show the location and spread of traditional dress in the Baltic countries. The publication was produced in Riga Academy of Science.

Info from Ebay:
Book Title Istoriko-Etnografitskii Atlas Pribaltiki: Odezhda
Translation Ethnographic Atlas of the Baltics: Clothing
Author L.N. Terenteva
Language Russian
Published Riga, Latvia – 1986
Condition Good Condition – scrapes to front cover along spine of main volume
Format & Size Hardcover – 9″ x 11.75″; 174 pages (vol. 1) + 66 maps (vol. 2)
Description Excellent, rare book set about the traditional folk costumes of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Includes illustrations and photos of complete costumes as well as individual elements such as sashes, skirts, blouses, gloves, mittens, shawls, bonnets, shirts, socks, and more. The second volume has 66 maps showing the distribution of costume types and specific clothing elements throughout the Baltic region. The complete list of maps is shown in the last photo below. An exceptional thorough survey of the regional costumes of the Baltic countries. Hard to find and highly recommended.

More on traditions and identity will follow in a later update. There is so much to cover and I obviously don’t want to put it to a slow death by writing about it word for word in one article.

Above: Filming around Western Latvia and documenting books in SERDE library
The film work I did looked at these areas in particular :

  • Monuments and public art
  • Traditions & Culture
  • The Land and the People
  • The Occupation
  • The Legacy of occupation

There are a lot of subjects there to explore. I visited and filmed several sites and although I might not actually use any of the footage – it was incredibly important to visit these places. It gave a sense of the place through the presence of the past. There were traces of the past, discarded objects, abandoned places. Thinking about Tacita Dean’s work and her approach, I’m not looking to make a documentary where a historical time line is presented along side a literal representation of the subject. This is film, theatre and the visual. The rules and boundaries are there to be explored.

Above: Iron casting symposium at SERDE

While at SERDE I got to witness something very amazing – the Iron casting symposium. The symposium as held earlier on in the year during the summer, however at the end of the week someone (maybe local, who knows) had stolen the iron. So the casting had to be postponed to allow sufficient time to build up a stock of iron, which is collected from old radiators, etc. It was a real pleasure to see this process. Too much process to describe!

The plan now is to work with the clips that I have and think about a narrative / approach. I will produce some quick edits that work as sketches to test out ideas. I would like to include a link to them in the next update, to encourage feedback and comments. So that will be the next journal update.


My aim is to write 3 blog updates during the residency in Latvia. One at the beginning, an interim update and a final one before leaving. So this is the first update upon arrival. The questions I was asking were such as where is Latvia, what is it’s history and what are it’s current social and geo-political relations with it’s neighbours? Curiosity drives the ambition of an artist. The best way to answer these questions is to visit a place and find out. The Baltic countries were the eastern border of the Soviet Union. The coastline was the final frontier of the Soviet Union and also of communism. Beyond this lay the world of capitalism. The Baltic states themselves formed a kind of buffer zone between these two worlds and in a sense they were the border line between two very different ideologies. The reason for this residency is to explore the legacy of the cold war and it’s heritage. This is borne through an interest in borders, frontiers, un-recognised states and frozen conflicts. On the lead up to the residency, I had researched Latvia and was interested to learn that this year it celebrates 100 years since it became an independent state in November 1918. On this basis alone it would seem a good time to visit.

The building is amazing. I was instantly thinking that it reminded me of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London. The building is about 300 years old and you can smell the oldness! There are so many fascinating objects in the place and it would be a good project to draw them. It is definitely a bonus if the building and accommodation is an inspiring place. It has facilities such as a dark room and a ceramics room. Most of the artists here on the residency are working in either video / film, ceramics and music. A truly inspiring building that is proving to be a continual source of fascination. During the few days that I’ve been here, some of the artists have organised performances and showings of their work. It is a rewarding experience to witness other artists working on their projects and then presenting their work during the residency.

The First Site Visits
The fist day of the residency was spent looking at information on the Cold War sites that are in Latvia and placing them on a map. Once I had a list of the sites, I then went for a walk around the town of Aizpute. It is important to absorb the surroundings, the place, the environment and let it flow through the mind and body.

The first site visit was made to Liepaja and an area to the north called Karosta. This area was a military port that was first established by the Russian Tsars and has many impressive (but now derelict) red brick buildings. It was then taken over by the Nazis during the war and then the Soviet Union who built Soviet style accommodation blocks that are much in the form of the brutalist style. After the collapse of the USSR, the Russian’s eventually left in 1994 and Karosta spiralled into a darkness and decay. There is an ex-Military prison in Karosta and the tour is interesting. The guide showed me a Russian army rules and regulations book. She flicked through the pages and dropped the book on the table and I found the open pages interesting. There was a Dada randomness about the selection process of this image and I am looking to incorporate it into my work:

I also came across a documentary that was made in 2008 about Karosta which documents the decline after the withdrawal of the Russians:

Karosta: Life After The USSR (

I plan on returning to Karosta to do some more filming. In the film one of interviewees states that after the fall of the USSR, Gorbachov effectively said ‘Take as much sovereignty as you can digest’. The story of Karosta is like the tale of place going from Utopia to Dystopia.

Something that I came across on rough land next at Karosta either resembled standing stones or plinths. It was ambiguous if these structures were realised or not. Either way, they are in a state of entropy. It would be interesting to re-appropriate these abandoned structures and utilize them for the purpose of art.


Northern Costal Batteries
The second site visit was to see the ruins of the costal defence batteries. These were built to defend the port of Leipaja and access to these military zones was forbidden. It is a strange feeling walking around in places that were for many years out of bounds. What I found most haunting about the place was that I was actually standing on the ‘idealogical’ border line (as I like to call it) between East and West. Thinking about this border line makes me realise how it was imposed upon a country and it’s people, so was it actually a real border line? There is a strange presence at these places, a connection is made with the people who must have been there year after year staring out to see, waiting for an enemy that never came. It seems now tboth the sea, nature and the people who live there have once again reclaimed this place as theirs.

Finally one additional piece of research was listening to a documentary on BBC Radio 4 titled ‘Cold Art’ (

The documentary is about artists who make art works about the Cold War and it features:

Stephen Fellmingham (, Dr Kathrine Sandys, Louise K Wilson, Teufelsberg and Deirdre Stewart


Some more research in the field of artists and film making. This is the final block of research before I head off next weekend for Latvia. So in order that I attended and came across them, here goes.

‘Tacita Dean – Looking to See’

I watched a recent episode of the BBC’s Imagine series titled ‘Tacita Dean – Looking to See’. This was a walk through of Dean’s career. What did I learn from watching this? Well, that her grand father founded Ealing Studios, so she pretty much as had film in her blood from an early age. The closest I can get to this is perhaps when I was a kid, my dad bought a film projector and showed films in the living room of our council house, using the wall as a screen. This was in the late 1970s / early 80s and the films were expensive and the titles limited. Anyway, that was my first experience of projected film. I also learned that her film making technique quite often employs either a fixed single camera or a limited number of cameras, perhaps 2. The view remains the same to the point where it appears to be point the camera and turn it on. I also learned that she appears to become interested in a subject and then make something that is either connected or a focused macro part of the subject, rather than featuring the subject itself. For example Fernsehturm (TV tower), (2001) in Berlin – filming the people in the revolving restaurant or ‘Disappearance at Sea’ (1996), 16mm – a film about the tragedy of the round the world sailing attempt by Donald Crowhurst. Or Mario Merz (2002).

In the documentary Adrian Searle (art critic, The Guardian) comments on the time and pace of Dean’s films and that in this modern world we expect everything to happen quickly, however Dean’s film act in an opposite manner and demand that the viewer slows down to watch the film. Another worthy note on Dean’s film making is in fact a comment made by her in 2003:

“I film with incredibly long takes and I wait. It’s extremely expensive, but I wait for something to happen within the frame because I don’t like zooming and panning. I’ll wait for that bird to fly through the frame.” (2003, p.41).

So I feel the main thing to absorb and take away from Tacita Dean’s film making is the use of time itself as a narrative and comment.


‘Extinction’ by Salome Lamas

Through social media, I came across what looked like an interesting film that was being screen at the ICA in London. The subject matter is well within the scope of my own interests and is the type of project I would embark upon. The film is about the breakaway and unrecognized state of Transnistra. I was already familiar with this state and it would be a place of interest to visit. Here is the official description of the film from Lamas’s website:

‘The end of the cold war did not produce a thaw throughout the continent. A peculiarity of today’s Europe is the variety of “frozen conflicts” it contains. Transnistria is an unrecognized state that broke away from the former Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union in 1990. The film is a casual juxtaposition of the elevated with the banal, with an eerily convincing logic of paradox.’

There are a few short trailers available, so that is all I have been able to watch, however from what I did see it looks interesting. The trailers are in monochrome which makes the Soviet architecture look very dynamic and stunningly beautiful. It also adds tension and drama, perhaps it is in black and white because Transnistra has many shades of grey. So in short, the cinematography looks stunning. However the reality for myself is I don’t have a production budget nor anyone to assist really. So it is a case of making do with the little that I have.


‘Face Cream’ by Monster Chetwynd, Talk and Film screen on Sat 25thAugust, GoMA, Glasgow

As I always say, the great thing about living in Glasgow is that there is always something on that is arts related. Quite often it is a case of targeting events that are of specific interest to your own practice. So for this reason I went along to see a film that has been made by Monster. The first part of the event was a talk about some of the projects and work that she has made over the years and this has involved a lot of performance. It transpires that this is how she became interested in film making, because she was documenting her performances. The film itself was interesting because it blended documentary style footage from one of her ‘Face Cream’ making workshops (one of the participants faces was actually blurred out) with professional acting and green screen CGI scenes. So it seems the process and habit of documenting has worked its way into her film making approach. The film narrative was broadly based around the notion that face cream has magical powers, such as rejuvenation, youth re-gained, rolling back of the years, etc.

There was a whole host of people involved in the project and it was good to see a strong element of social inclusion and outreach working with artists and people in the east end of the city. The scenes were quite varied and interesting, with the some of the people involved having to learn how to fly with the help of a crane and harness! The scenes towards the end and the music choice reminded me of the East German film ‘The Singing Ringing Tree’. There was a budget for the film and this is maybe not common knowledge so I won’t disclose it here.

So this was the last block of research carried out and now it is a case of going on the residency. I’m drawing up a list of sites and places that I would like to visit in Latvia. Also hoping to interview and speak with local people in Aizpute, where SERDE is located. The next update will perhaps be from Latvia.


Refs: 31/08/2018) 31/08/2018)


Two events that I attended in July 2018 have provided fruitful in terms of providing inspiration for film making.

These were:

Tacita Dean, Woman with a red hat, The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (6thJuly 2018)

The first event was a kind of artists talk and Q&A between The Fruitmarket’s director Fiona Bradley and Tacita Dean. I was impressed by Tacita’s technical knowledge and ability to explain the differences between analogue and digital in a simple way. My notes that I wrote:

  • In this new film she works with performance and some of the themes are actor, object and narrative or how to disrupt narrative.
  • Notion of using actor as a medium
  • She didn’t know so much about theatre and looked at how important the text was to an actor
  • The artist is in control of the text
  • The work is about enchantment and disenchantment and the film lasts for 50 mins
  • There is an emotional trajectory to the piece
  • The work doesn’t seek to disrupt the magic of theatre, but at the same time it is pulling the rug out from it
  • When are you not self-conscious? When is an actor not self-conscious (when they are in stage)?
  • Talked about an aperture gate marking system (film frame), reprinting aperture hole with 3d technology
  • Talked about filming Humming birds – Film is the alchemy of the moment and can give something other mediums can’t
  • It is an investment in the moment (film vs digital)
  • Talked a bit about blackboard drawings
  • Gathered that she uses a film crew
  • There is a work in the show about the Foley artist (which is the reproduction of everyday sounds). How we would perceive these sounds differently if don’t have a film
  • She realised that sound could be edited as brutally as editing a picture
  • Talked about work in the show ‘The Russian Ending’ and how early cinema made two separate endings (a happy ending and a sombre sad ending)
  • Talked about the mono prints of postcard collections


To come so far and die in somebody else’s war, presented as part of Anahita Razmi’s LUX residency, Goethe Institute Glasgow (19thJuly 2018)

As mentioned in this journal, I had attended a film screening of ‘DDR/DDR’ at the Goethe institute and enjoyed it greatly. So I was pleased when I learned of this event. Anahita Razmi is a Berlin based artist who works in film and her current project THE FUTURE STATE, is an ongoing series of speculations around the future state of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

She selected films from the LUX archive and presented these with a selection of her own works. The films were:

  • Naeem Mohaiemen, Abu Ammar is Coming, 2016. HD video, 6 min.
  • Miranda Pennell, You Made Me Love You, 2005. SD video, 4 min.
  • Anahita Razmi, How your Veil can help you in the Case of an Earthquake (Lesson 1-8), 2004. Video, 4 min 55 sec.
  • Uriel Orlow, Remnants of the Future, 2010-2012. HD video, 18 min 15 sec.
  • Ben Rivers, The Coming Race, 2007. 16mm transferred to HD. 5 min.
  • Anahita Razmi, White Wall Tehran, 2007. Video, 45 sec.
  • Anahita Razmi, PARTIES, 2018. Video, 2 min 50 sec.
  • Hildegarde Duane, Meltdown, 1982. HD Video, 1 min 15 sec.

All of the films were interesting and my particular favourite was Uriel Orlow’s ‘Remnants of the Future’. The film connected with me because it featured a deserted communist era housing blocks that was being taken apart for salvage. Researching the film revealed that it was in the north of Armenia, near the town of Gyumri. In 2013 I did a short residency in Armenia and while travelling around the country I did see buildings such as this. It is these particular types of Utopian constructions that I am interested in exploring during the residency in Latvia 2018.

The screening was then followed by a conversation between the artist and Dr Azadeh Emadi, Lecturer in Screen Production (Theatre, Film and Television Studies) at The University of Glasgow.



BRUT Europe

As part of my interest in the subject of The Cold War legacy and research for a 2 week residency in September, I attended two events during the Glasgow International Festival in April this year (2018). The first event was BRUT Europe and was held at the Glasgow School of Art.

Organised by Artist Marija Nemčenko, the Lithuanian Cultural Institute and the European Commission in the UK BRUT Europe, a day of talks, screenings and workshops exploring the phenomenon of European Modernist architecture in contemporary cities.

The speakers examined the complexities of Modernist architecture across Europe, with examples ranging from St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross and the disappearing high-rises of Glasgow, to block multi-story houses in Kaunas, Lithuania. Speakers included: Edward Hollis, Chris Leslie, Hussein Mitha, Evelina Simkute and Owen Hatherley

The event concluded with a screening of Chris Leslie’s award winning film Disappearing Glasgow. The event offered a fascinating glimpse into the legacy of Modernist architecture throughout Europe.



Amie Siegel’s ‘DDR/DDR’ (2008) feature length film was screened by Transit Arts at the Goethe Institute, Glasgow. The film excavates the surveillance technologies, architectures, and psychological aftermaths of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (1949–1990). The film interweaves contemporary interview footage and cinematic tableaus that glide through the stark interior and exterior landscapes of Modernist East Germany with archival visual samples gleaned from disguised micro-cameras, indexing the espionage culture of their production. Siegel’s deeply associative technique traces the physical and psychic residues of a regime marked by its extensive state-sanctioned surveillance industry whilst undertaking another, self-reflexive inspection of the documentary form, its implicit surveillance, and performances of authority and objectivity.

The screening was preceded by an introduction from Professor Laura Bradley, Chair of German and Theatre at the University of Edinburgh and a specialist in the cultural legacy of the GDR.