THE Selbst – greetings in Riga

Documentation of a project by the German artist Thomas Eller he did in Riga, Latvia 1991 when
Latvia was still a Soviet province. In June of 1991, during the last months of the USSR, Riga was under
siege by the Soviet elite OMON-troups. Latvian citizens had barricaded and were watching strategically important buildings and institutions, like the broadcasting system, the parliament, etc. It was very clear that Latvia was seeking independence.
During this time Thomas Eller was invited to participate in a public art project that took place within the framework of an exhibition called „Interferenzen. Kunst aus Westberlin”.
His project consisted of three parts:

1. A sculpture of the artist (THE) was standing on the central boulevard in Riga 200 meters
away from and opposite a statue of Lenin, in a sort of “stand-off situation”.

2. A 10 second broadcast on Latvian TV, three times a day for one week, always 10 seconds
before the full hour, between 8 and 10 pm. The regular program stopped, the TV screen went
into “white noise” as if after a technical problem. I then appeared on the screen and asked the
famous question by Ad Reinhardt: „And what do you represent?”

3. For one week there was a daily spot in the Latvian Newspaper ‘Diena’ showing a different
b&w rendering of the artist in a non-descript suit (as reference to the sculpture in the street,
and on the last day the same spot was replaced by the question: „Who are you?”

This documentation presents an art project that seized the moment of a unique historical situation
and was using the whole gamut of what public art could be. In a rare intermediate situation there was
a potential for artistic intervention that would not have been possible before of financially feasible
afterwards and could at that time bring to the front the significance of the historical moment.
During the preparation of the exhibition it was also unclear how the larger political situation would
shift and which reactions would be triggered by the artistic intervention from the part of the administration.

 

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Photos by Thomas Eller

The Institut for Provocation in Beijing will host German artist Thomas Eller to talk about his projects in public space, and to explore the topic of “temporary and permanent interventions.”

Tuesday May 21, 2013 6pm Institut for Provocation, Beijing, China

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