“Rūgts” / Bitter
A Solo Exhibition by Krišs Salmanis
Curator: Zane Onckule
May 5 to June 11, 2023
Kim? Contemporary Art Centre
Conceptually clear, formally laconic, and precise in its content, Krišs Salmanis’ newest solo exhibition offers a critical review of the bygone powers present in one’s consciousness through work that is acutely aestheticized while avoiding nostalgic pitfalls. Challenging (pop) culture’s belated trend of flirting with post-Soviet aesthetics and narratives—a trend which often utilizes a kitschy, “so-bad-it’s-good” approach to artmaking—Salmanis’ exhibition foregrounds an unenthusiastic irony toward the relics of the recent past, the physical and intellectual “ruins” of today. It’s an emotional narrative, full of perplexity and bitterness toward those who are willing, able, and prepared to read it.
This exhibition put itself together within a couple of hours after I set to work at 11 p.m. on December 31, 2022. By that time, I already had clear ideas for most of the works. It seems they had been piling up for some time.
I have always considered myself a happy person. I am lucky to have been born in a place and time where I could comfortably have a good education, find like-minded people, and work and rest. I was exposed to Soviet life just enough to understand how lucky we had been to get out. I considered talk of the Soviet legacy to be that of old people merely complaining.
Staying in the countryside for a long time during the pandemic, I started noticing the white brick slums sagging in the fields, manor complexes, and crossroads. They helped me understand that my Soviet heritage is a developmental disorder in aesthetics. The slums seem to me such a normal part of the countryside I don’t even pay attention to them. This realization allowed me to understand the meaning of the plastic windows in Art Nouveau buildings as well as the plasterboard arches in block-house apartments, which I had hitherto thought of as an effect of poverty. Soviet heritage also means living in a world of symbols. Some people lay down flowers at monuments which others promptly destroy. When, at the end of a cruel and bloody year, some keep on celebrating on Moscow time while, an hour later, others shoot fireworks at the wounds of Ukrainian refugees, we have to admit that our guilt is deeper than aesthetics.
— Krišs Salmanis
Krišs Salmanis (b. 1977) lives and works in Riga, Latvia. He studied at the Art Academy of Latvia and the Media Art Academy of Cologne, Germany. Salmanis has had shows at Kim? Contemporary Art Centre in Riga, Latvia, CAC in Vilnius, Lithuania, Art in General in New York, USA, A4 in Chengdu, China, and elsewhere. He has garnered a number of awards, the 13th Tallinn Print Triennial in 2004, 19. Videokunst Förderpreis, Bremen, Germany (2010), the Purvitis Award (2017) and the Latvian Theater Award (2019). Salmanis’ works are in the collections of the Latvian National Museum of Art and the Art Museum of Estonia. He has taken part in numerous international artist residencies, including HIAP in Helsinki, Finland (2012), KAIR in Kamiyama, Japan (2015) and ISCP in New York, USA (2022). He represented Latvia at the 55th Venice Biennale. Salmanis has had three solo exhibitions at Kim? and Rūgts is his return to the institution since the last exhibition in 2016.
Supported by the Culture Ministry, the State Culture Capital Foundation, Absolut.