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
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.