Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No more - 1st Riga Biennial Riga, Latvia


Riga International Biennial Of Contemporary Art
Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More
June 2–October 28, 2018


The 1st Riga Biennial, Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More, will open to the public on the June 2, 2018. Chief curator: Katerina Gregos.


Change is a constant and imperceptible process. Nothing remains the same yet it often feels as if things are fixed, solid certainties. Change operates in strange ways. Until recently—and excluding those more rare radical moments of personal, social or political transformation—change appeared to creep up on us slowly. But then, one day we wake up and experience a sudden break in consciousness. It abruptly dawns on us that our world has changed beyond recognition. We have been thrust into the future, unwittingly. In recent years, since the advent of the technological revolution, our world seems to be ever accelerating and transforming. The 1st Riga Biennial biennial will reflect on the phenomenon of change—how it is anticipated, experienced, grasped, assimilated and dealt with at this time of momentous transitions.


The title, Everything Was Forever, Until it Was No More, is borrowed from Alexei Yurchak’s book of the same name. Yurchak discusses the collapse of the Soviet Union and one particular characteristic that defined it: the sense that although the Soviet system felt permanent and immutable, its demise was at the same time perceived as completely natural. The shock of being thrust into a new order came only later. The title of his book suggests the slippery nature of change; the fact that what might seem eternal can suddenly come to an end. It resonates in the entire post-Soviet sphere, but can also be seen as a potent metaphor for our own era.


“Ta panta rhei” (everything flows) the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus pointed out, meaning that everything is constantly changing, from the smallest organic particle to the whole universe. He asserted that only change itself is real, constant and in eternal flux, like the continuous flow of the river, which always renews itself and only appears to be staying the same over time. Humanity seems to be at a watershed, propelled forward at great speed by technological change, new practices of daily life that seem to occur in a flash and radical ideas that are becoming mainstream. Yet more and more of us—old and young—have trouble keeping up with incessant, overwhelming flows of information and the increasing acceleration of our lives and work. Though this condition has become normalised in most areas of life, and differs from place to place, few seem to question it or are able to resist it. We often tend to forget that evolution, which allows for adaptation to new conditions, has been an extremely slow process. Nevertheless, within 300 years we’ve had to adapt to habitats, practices and amenities that bear no resemblance to what our ancestors experienced for thousands of years. In this time, the world has been dominated by humanism. The seeming mastery of man over the planet means that the world is likely to change beyond recognition in this century. The present is defined by epochal shifts and changes, which are at once both exciting and frightening. The Baltic region itself has become the locus of political and economic restructuring, identity renegotiation and global reintegration and Riga thus forms a perfect backdrop from which to consider these issues.


From the personal to the political, the social to the ecological, and the philosophical to the existential, the exhibition will probe how contemporary artists are responding to some of the major challenges of the day, how they register change, and how they imagine the future. Many of these changes have radically altered the way we experience the world as well as time and have undermined—or overridden—all of our senses except vision. A part of the exhibition will also thus refocus on the sensoriumthe sum of the human organism’s perceptive tools—creating moments that trigger the senses that have been marginalised, allowing for a much-needed deceleration of perception. Summoning ghosts from the future and recalling prophets from the past, the biennial will reflect on our anxious present and pinpoint the tectonic shifts that are taking place in the public as well as private realm today.



Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art
Brīvības street 33 – 8
Riga, LV-1010
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