In late August, when visiting Riga, I met with artist Kaspars Groševs in his sundrenched and roomy studio apartment. In addition to Groševs’ awe-inspiringly multifarious practice – including, but not limited to, knitting, drawing and sound – our conversation takes up artist curated exhibitions and the recent relocation of the 427 artist-run space that Groševs operates together with Ieva Kraule.
Sound plays a prominent role in your artistic practice. Can you talk about your relationship to music? In particular, I’m curious to hear what is it about audiotape that fascinates you.
I’ve been doing sound for a really long time. I work with it the same way I work with visual art – that is, I like to start out by creating limitations, for example, by setting a timeframe or working with a particular space. What I like about audiotape is that the time it takes to record it is equal to the time it takes to listen to it. In a way it feels like time is being wrapped in a little roll; you can look at a tape and imagine what it represents in terms of time. The last piece of sound that I made was an 8-hour mix-tape with different source materials and patterns. I had eight white tapes which I recorded one tape per day for eight consecutive days during a residency in Rupert, Lithuania. From a technical point of view I tried to squeeze out everything I that I possibly could from this one piece of equipment – a 90s groovebox – that I was working with. Recently, at the opening of “Le fragole del Baltico” in Milan, I did a performance where I played the piece and randomly changed tapes with 30 min intervals (which is how long it takes to play one side of the tape).
All things considered, would you say that your artistic process aims at exhausting all the available options within certain predefined parameters?
Exactly! In a way I also try to exhaust myself by repeating the same thing all over again until it loses its individuality and becomes a mass of something. That is what I’ve been doing with my music for the past year or so. Also, with the “White tapes” project I wanted to discipline myself to make one hour worth of recordings every day. One hour may not sound like much but it is actually quite a lot when it comes to creating music.
How did you get started with knitting?
The knitted costume that I have was made for the “Aspen–Kemmern” exhibition at Kim? Contemporary Art Centre. I thought about sixties and resort locations and somehow this idea about a leisure suit came to my mind. I didn’t want anybody else to knit it for me. I wanted to do it myself and have this imperfect end result. If you look at the suit up-close you can see how it is made; it is very uneven. The patterns that it has are improvised. The other knitted work that I’ve made was for an exhibition called “Lilly’s Pool” at Art in General. For that one I bought and unravelled female sweaters, which I then re-knitted into different shapes; whatever patterns the sweaters had turned into colourful stripes. The knitwork was shown alongside fifteen patterned drawings. Making these drawings seemed in a way really similar to knitting. Or rather, knitting seemed very similar to drawing.
What is your approach to exhibiting? For example, can you say a little bit about the idea behind “Qu’est-ce que ça peut faire tout ça“, a show that you recently did at the Shanaynay gallery in Paris?
The show in Paris was done in collaboration with Ieva Kraule. The starting point for it was a collection of French poetry from the 70s that was translated into Latvian and published in Riga. We found a review that noted, amongst other things, that the translations were sometimes a little bit inaccurate. Inspired by these inaccuracies and communication failures we created a little dialogue using excerpts from the book that we ourselves translated into English. Also, the works that we exhibited were sort of a dialogue between ceramic objects and drawings talking in similar shapes but misunderstanding each other. For the drawings I used candle wax and watercolours – a technique I got to know in my childhood. With this technique, even if you try to repeat similar shapes, you always end up with different variations and new accidents. In general I really like the idea that I can lose control over my own work, or that I can never see it fully. In “00:10:00:00”, my second solo show at Kim?, I had two paintings that I changed every day; I wiped one off and painted one on. I also exhibited sound pieces that interacted with each other. So the sound was constantly forming new combination and the paintings were changing as well, which meant that every time you’d visit the exhibition you’d see a new version of it.
Aside from your artistic practice you also write art criticism and work as a gallerist. How does it feel to simultaneously occupy all these different roles?
I must admit it feels kind of schizophrenic at times. But actually, although I’m writing every now and then, I wouldn’t say that I’m an art critic. Neither would I call myself a gallerist, but rather a person running a space. In a way, within all of these roles, you work with a similar set of elements in order to create different perspectives for the audience. In this sense I consider writing and working with the gallery as an extension of my artistic practice.
How come you ended up doing so many different things? Do these practices cross-pollinate, or is it on account of the scale of the Latvian art scene?
It is a little bit of both. I came to writing by coincidence. A friend of mine, who was an editor of a magazine, persuaded me to write. At first I was only writing about sound art but then slowly I started to write about other things as well. When I write I put everything else aside and think differently about my role as an exhibition visitor (when it comes to my own exhibitions I guess I have some kind of idealized scenario in my mind). And opening an art space came in a way as a logical step after realizing that in Riga there was a lack of small galleries with a narrow focus on contemporary art. Also Ieva and I we were curious to try our hands at putting together an interesting program and inviting over artists that we like.
The group exhibitions that you have curated together with Kraule at 427 have been bold and innovative. Being an artist-curator gives you a great deal of creative freedom.
With the group shows that we’ve done we’ve wanted to create situations that could not exist otherwise; not just put together this, this and this but also influence the creation process of the works. For example, one of the projects that we did was a retrospective of M.S. – an unknown artist. The works of this artist had been collected and made available for viewing by people who happened to be artists themselves. We also did an exhibition called “A Guide for Making a Genie”. It combined artworks with elements such as candles, wine, milk, water, etcetera that we introduced to the space in order to create a ritual.
What does the future of 427 look like?
We were suddenly kicked out of out old space at the end of June while having a lovely exhibition by Matthew Lutz-Kinoy that we did in collaboration with Kim?. The property was sold and the new owners wanted us to move out fast, so we got one week to take down Lutz-Kinoy’s 5,5 m painting and be on our way. In June-July we were searching for a new venue. Eventually we found a place but could not move in so quickly, so for the month of August we were offered another location in the Old Town of Riga. When it comes to the program it is hard to say in which direction it is going. We have some events planned until the end of the year and then we will just have to see what happens. Also, Ieva is going to study in Amsterdam at the Sandberg Institute. Maybe that means we will have more Amsterdam vibrations…
The conversation between Kaspars Groševs and Mirja Majevski took place in Riga, LV on August 20, 2015.
Text: Mirja Majevski
Photo: Mirja Majevski, Ansis Starks, Charles Benton, Naoki Sutter-Shudo
|Born:||1983 in Riga, LV|
|Education:||BA and MA in Visual Communication (2011), Art Academy of Latvia|
|Info:||In September 2015 Groševs is participating in the XII Baltic Triennial, curated by Virginija Januškevičiūtė, taking place at CAC, Vilnius. In December 2015 he is curating MISS SO SPA LO REED at Kim? Contemporary Art Centre, Riga.|