Mediamatic Magazine 3#2 Torben Soborg 1 Jan 1988

Week of Danish Culture

The phone rings.
Could you go to Riga to show some Danish video art? ... the Latvians have especially requested Danish video art as a part of
The Danish Cultural Week in Riga.
What can you say but yes? It is not everyday that you are invited to the Soviet Republic of Latvia. And of course you would like to show Danish video art in Riga - or anywhere for that matter. But do they know anything about video art in the Soviet Union - or more correctly: in Latvia?


It came as something of a surprise that they do indeed know something about it! In fact
there are quite a few video artists making both tapes and installations. But just as in
Denmark, Latvian video art is an alternative medium when compared with the more traditional art forms.
Even though the artists are restricted to using just VH Sequipment with no special
editing facilities, it is surprising to see how exciting and well-produced much Latvian
video art is as compared to work from Moscow which has attracted considerable attention at recent festivals in Western Europe. The Moscow productions are rather primitive not only technically (which could be excused) but also from an artistic point of VIew.
and ZIGURDSFOLKMANIS. Quite a few have also tried to make video installations,
especially KRISTAPSGELZIS, but most efforts have been short-lived. One of the reasons
for this could be the difficulties involved in getting enough video equipment: monitors and video players.
There are also quite a number of performance groups. Some of these have used video
but mainly to document their work.

Latvian video art

Two different examples of the variety of Latvian video art are ZIGURDSVIDINS' Variacia 2 and ZIGURDSFOLKMANIS' production which as yet untitled.
Variacia 2 lasts about 60 minutes. It begins with some mythical figures in symbolic costumes standing on a frozen beach. The sequences on the beach alternate with sequences in and around a house. The video is rather like a performance but is not documentation. What I find enthralling are the expressive gestures and (quasi-) mythical
configurations, the moving camera that constantly wanders through the picture and
the jazz-like music which has been recorded directly onto the videotape and really contributes to the atmosphere.
ZIGURDS FOLKMANIS' video, not as yet in its definitive version, lasts somewhere
around six minutes. You could describe it as a TV producer's nightmare: a TV producer where the events he is viewing and editing begin to take over in a strange and perculiar way. The video really exploits its technical possibilities - in fact creatively the artist gives way beyond the limits of what is supposedly possible with the technical facilities at hand. This is also true of the sound.

Kinoamatieru Biedriba

Almost all the video artists in Riga use equipment from Latvijas PSR KINOAMATIERU BIEDRIBA. This is a club for non-professional film-and video people and is managed
by RAIMONDS JOSTSONS.The club has premises in the old town and has a small
VHSvideo studio with sound equipment but lacks any special editing facilities. In spite of
this the results are impressive.
The club and studio is (as far as I understood) supported by THE ACADEMY OF
SCIENCE.To get access to the studio you have to belong to the club or some other organisation and/or you must demonstrate (with photos and previous video work) that
you will make something worthwhile. It is decided democratically and cooperatively by
those already using the studio which newcomers will granted access and to what extent.
The more you work the better the equipment you can use.
The studio is mainly used to make documentary videos and, more recently, narrative
tapes of the short story type - but video art is occasionally also produced.

Other Facilities

In addition to this studio there is the RIGA VIDOECENTRS which you could almost call
a commercial video studio. It is paid to produce videos for organisations, factories, collective farms etc., and also advertisements about AIDS,anti smoking campaigns, safe sex and so on for local health departments, banks and others.
The centre offers lectures about Western film-makers to educational institutions, organisations, culture houses and clubs. The centre also provides monitors and video players. In fact there are quite a few video clubs in Riga, for instance at the University
club they were discussing the RAMBO phenomenon - with screenings included.
The ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS has no video equipment but the ACADEMY OF MUSIC
is considering buying equipment because it is at this academy - of all places - that
Tv-producers are trained who at present have to receive their practical education at the Riga Television Station.
The only places with U-MATIC or more advanced equipment are Riga Television
(of course), the Health Department and the University which has a television studio that is mainly used for language education.

...even on TV

As mentioned before video art is still an alternative medium and the main possibility
for showing your videotapes is amongst friends and the like-minded. However a number of festivals are now emerging ...and work has even been shown on Latvian television. Television students are sometimes given their own programs to show what they are capable of doing and occasionally they have included Latvian video art and
Apart from this THE RIGAS EKSPERIMENTAL JAUNATNES CENTRA is working towards getting its own TV-channel. The manager of this experimental youth center, GUNARS SLAVINSKIS, hopes to establish a video studio within the next year with help from Japan and Western Germany.
Whether he also succeeds in starting the TV-channel is as yet to be seen but the CENTRA
hopes to be the first to achieve this in the Soviet Union.


THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK is cooperating with Latvian video artists both individually and through the experimental centre. We hope soon to be able to present Latvian video art outside Latvia and we would like to invite Latvian video artists to Denmark and other European countries.
This October, as part of the Danish Cultural Week in Riga, the DANISH VIDEO ART
DATABANK showed two programs of video art which were mainly productions distributed by the DATA BANK.
Both programs were shown a couple of times at KINOAMATIRU BIEDRIBA in the old town and at the RIGAS KINO NAMS, a cinema in one of the main streets. KINO is leased
uses the cinema for screenings which include movies from non-professional studios.
They also hire the cinema out to other clubs and organisations. In KINO the programs
were shown on four big monitors in the cinema and at the same time at monitors in the foyer and the cafetaria.
All the screenings were well-attended and especially at the KINO people asked a
lot of questions about Danish video art and video art in general. I had ZIGURDS FOLKMANIS as my interpreter. He could speak perfect English (and read Danish) plus he was the ideal choice, being a video artist himself.