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Interview with Auguste Petre, curator of the MAREUNROL'S exhibition "Fieldwork: Invisible exercises"

From 3 November to 29 December 2023, the exhibition "Fieldwork: Invisible exercises" by the contemporary fashion and art duo MAREUNROL'S will take place in the exhibition hall of the Rīgas mākslas telpa. This will be the most ambitious representation of the artists' visual works to date, in which art is highlighted as a sensory space - the means of visual expression, subject to the concept created by the artists, are the most powerful tools for conveying the truth. It is a truth that is able to pierce even through the layers of stereotypes and superficial perceptions, which is why it is particularly important for both artists to reveal their deepest interests and professional life stories.

In this blog post, we had the opportunity to interview Auguste Petre, the curator of the exhibition, to delve into the intricacies of creating this exhibition. She shared insights into her role as a curator, detailing the challenges and joys of bringing together diverse pieces of art. Auguste Petre is an independent curator and researcher of art processes.

Photo: Kristīne Madjare

How did the idea of an exhibition with MAREUNROL'S come about?

In 2022 we met MAREUNROL'S for the first time when we were working on the exhibition "dreamtime" at the Riga Smaller Gallery and we developed such a good chemistry. As we have a lot of friends in common, we often (unintentionally) met up where we continued to talk about a future project together. We consider one nice evening in the bar "Auss" to be fateful. Then, when this spring we started working together with radio "Tīrkultūra" (created by Rolands together with Reinis Semēvics) on the Audiovisual Summer Gallery, our paths crossed more and more often and Rolands told us about his idea for a solo show at the Rīgas mākslas telpa. Since then we have been working very consciously on the exhibition and now I can say for sure that this will not be our last project together.

Photo: Kristīne Madjare

How was the "Rīgas mākslas telpa" chosen for the exhibition?

The offer to create an exhibition in the Great Hall came directly from Rīgas mākslas telpa - Mārīte and Rolands were approached by Artūrs Virtmanis, curator of the RMT programme.

However, the aspect of the choice of the space, willy-nilly, suggests an extremely topical and very painful problem, which in the long term affects the quality, large-scale contemporary art processes in Riga. Rīgas mākslas telpa has been the only functioning exhibition hall in the capital for some time, and it also has certain functional limitations (for example, the low ceiling makes it impossible to exhibit large-scale installations, which is one of the reasons why the objects in the video work are not included in the exhibition). The much-discussed case of the Museum of Contemporary Art has already become something of an inside joke, with some in the industry having given up hope of ever seeing such an institution. It is virtually impossible to choose a venue for the exhibition, and this only highlights how acutely lacking in Riga's cultural space is a high-quality and independent exhibition hall, which would be run by a professional team.

Which stage of the exhibition process do you like best?

This is an extremely difficult question.

One of my favourite feelings is the one that comes on the last day of setting up. When the concept and the space that you have imagined in your mind becomes a reality. Then everything seems to fall into place - the exhibition has matured. At the same time, it is a very intimate moment before the exhibition takes on a life of its own, before the viewer enters. But, I'll be honest, I enjoy curating exhibitions in general, especially when you have to work with like-minded people, as is the case with MAREUNROL'S. I enjoy the hour-long meetings in the artists' studio, I enjoy the way the initial concept of the exhibition develops tangibly - it both grows and becomes redundant in the process. I even enjoy the timing and writing of the funding proposals, the communication with the media and the technically complex set-up. These are all great tortures through which the valuable is born. To be honest, the only part I don't really like is the opening of the exhibition. I often feel I don't belong there.

Could you tell us more about the decision-making process for including sounds in the exhibition and how they complement the visual elements?

Sound was one of the key elements of the exhibition from the very beginning - an independent artwork that interacts strongly with the visual objects. Sound in this exhibition sets the context and is one of the main atmospheric indicators. It is a medium that has long been of interest and complemented MAREUNROL'S visual activity, and a special sound was also created for the "dreamtime" exhibition. Sound has always been an extremely important part of my everyday life and exhibitions, and recently I have been increasingly focusing on exploring this medium to the full. Sound is a very emotionally powerful way of talking to the visitor. In this exhibition, sound is also closely linked to the text - a poem by Marija Luīze Meļķe, which, spoken throughout the exhibition, creates another parallel dimension to the perception of the exhibition.

How do you ensure that visitors actively engage with and appreciate the sound elements of the exhibition?

We don't give specific instructions to anyone - in "Fieldwork: Invisible Exercises" it is very important to let the visitor make their own choices. Whether it is the choice of which door to go through to enter the field of research created by Mārīte and Rolands, the choice to slide further into the exhibition to the right or left, the choice to listen and decipher the sound. These are the exercises we are talking about in the exhibition - not only the artists' working process, but also their attempts to be in the exhibition. However, sound is harder to avoid than the visual - even if you cover your ears tightly, the nuances will still be audible. The theme of the exhibition is based on general feelings about the present time and sound acts as one of the atmospheres, because it is as difficult to escape from the real environment, responsibilities and feelings as it is not to hear. At the same time, we bear in mind that each visitor comes with their own experiences, interests and tastes, so it is impossible to claim a specific assessment for all elements of the exhibition.

What would you say is the most difficult part of the process of curating and curating an exhibition? Both in this exhibition and in general?

The hardest thing is to get going when you have no strength left. That's why I often dread exhibition openings - you feel so drained and given up energetically, even though the etiquette is to cheer. But from a professional point of view, I have to say that the most difficult thing about being a curator in Latvia is the heavy burden of responsibilities and the increasing lack of understanding about the nuances of the job. Unfortunately, a curator often has to do the work of several people, taking on not only curating and collaborating with artists, but also producing, communicating, writing projects, and implementing an exhibition education programme. With exhibitions as large as Fieldwork: Invisible Exercises, this is very tiring and internal resource-consuming. The remuneration is ridiculous (to say the least), despite the volume of work. I would very much like to see this long-standing problem remain stagnant. I know that it has thoroughly exhausted many of my colleagues.

As a curator, what is your main source of inspiration or influence in the art world when curating exhibitions?

I won't be too original. My main source of inspiration is art itself. In the case of specific exhibitions, it's definitely the artists I work with. That's why I enjoyed the process of MAREUNROL'S exhibition - I have a lot of respect for Rolands and Mārīte as people and as creative individuals, and I drew inspiration from them during the collaboration process. Exhibitions in a different context are a strong stimulant, so it's very important for me to go abroad regularly. Lately, I've been focusing not so much on the overall exhibition, but on the details - the light, the sound, the smell.

But in general, I'm a dreamer by nature, so inspiration also comes to me through fantasy. I'm walking in the countryside by the sea, thinking about the greatest exhibition ever, and suddenly...

Don't miss the chance to see this exhibition in Riga!

Auguste Petre, the curator of the exhibition, answered the questions.


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