As part of her artwork in the exhibition The Latvian Collection the artist Makda Embaie organised a full day of music, dance, performance and art, - carnival IF JOY WAS THE DOOR, WHAT WOULD BE THE ROOM?. It was a genuine folk festival that moved from the castle (Malmo Konstmusum) to the old chocolate factory on Bergsgatan.
The artist Makda Embaie about the carnival:
"A carnival is more than a big party. It is a very special happening where boundaries are stretched and patterns are broken. It is a celebration where roles can change and bodies can merge into a collective - freedom and community behind the motley masks!
But in different places and times, carnival has also manifested itself as political resistance to repressive power structures such as capitalism, imperialism and colonialism. A manifestation of why and for whom the struggle must continue - joy and togetherness as an act of resistance.
The carnival IF JOY WAS THE DOOR, WHAT WOULD BE THE ROOM? is a one-day event with music, dance, performance and art that starts at Malmö Konstmuseum and ends at Inkonst. The carnival is an artwork created by artist Makda Embaie that you are invited to participate in, just as you are. Maybe you want to borrow a mask when you come, maybe you want to take off the mask you usually wear. You are warmly welcome either way."
The event consisted of video projections by Farah Yusuf, workshop by artist and art educator Elina Metso, tour of the exhibition Latvian Collection with the curator Lotte Løvholm, concert of BAM Batería Malmö, DJ sets by Andreas Romano and FNGRLCKN, performance by Maria Naidu and Hinda Aden, and talkshows with Stacey de Voe
Within the framework of the exhibition The Latvian Collection, Malmö Art Museum organized a seminar focusing on how we can understand our past and present through museum collections. The seminar started with a tour of the exhibition with the curators Lotte Løvholm and Inga Lāce, and then continued with lectures and panel discussions with Natalia Sielewicz, curator at The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Jaanus Samma, Tallinn-based artist represented in The Latvian Collection, and Suzanne Sandberg, historian and City Archivist at Malmö Stadsarkiv.
Taking several case studies as a departure point, the seminar discussed the histories embedded in our heritage pertaining to issues such as nationalism, repression, exile and colonial violence, and their possible mediation in museums in the present moment.
Artists, curators and researchers talked through various methodologies of working with museum collections and narratives embedded within them. What do museum objects or landscape paintings from an authoritarian time hold? Can looking at difficult heritage offer answers to our present political climates? What kind of healing are we looking for when we are entering the storage? How can we work with museum collections and give voice to many instead of one narrative? And how do transhistorical narratives and particularly collective work with contemporary artists through the historic collections shift the narratives?
The title of the seminar is borrowed from the book, No Archive Will Restore You by Juliette Singh where she presents the longing for archives in an academic context. The archive presents “an elusive hope of our individual salvation.” Singh describes how, as a student, finding the right archive held a promise for her: “If we could find the right archive, the right stash of materials that was sexy enough to sell ourselves, we could be spared the depression, the anxiety attacks, the pre-mid-life crises that would come when, one by one, we realized we were not going to be chosen (...) The archive was an opaque hope, yet it kept slipping away as though it didn’t want to be found, plundered, excavated.” (Singh 2018: 22)
An equal obsession with the collection as a site for potential could be transferred to the art scene. But as Singh suggests, the archive will not restore you. We are happy to start with this premise to think together what kind of work and methodologies should we apply in order to think through ambivalent collections, tricky archives and in the light of current entanglements like Russia’s war in Ukraine, triggering once again rising East European nationalisms.
Arist Asbjørn Skou about the idea of the workshop:
"The workshop will focus on drawing as a device for thinking, a tool for storytelling and a primary medium. It will both contain a practical and theoretical introduction to drawing, but these will be interwoven into a collective drawing game, that will give the workshop a playful character.
The participants will experience the drawing process as one of collective exploration, learning and production. Throughout the workshop, a massive multi-layered drawing will be created, where the work of each participant is compiled into a collectively produced drawing-landscape. This will be a chaotic scenography, or maybe a notebook the size of a room, or a giant fold-out map, or something completely else."
As part of the mediation program for the exhibition The Latvian Collection we invited artist Asbjørn Skou to give a number of workshops during the winter holidays, the first days of January. He created the concept for the workshops, drawing from his artwork OTHERTONGUE – sketch for an anarchist cabaret, a commissioned work he created on site in the museum gallery, as part of the exhibition.
The concept was to have both a theoretical and practical workshop to explore drawing as a medium for telling stories, and letting the stories evolve in the process. With materials known to most participants, pencil and paper, the exploration was both a way to delve deeper in to drawing as a technique, and as a way of challenging one’s creativity. The different tasks or exercises presented to the participants involved “shared drawings”, where the participants switch papers at a given time, or, when the paper was bigger than the table, the participants switched chairs. This was both a way to challenge the creativity and find inspiration in unforeseen places, as well as a way of using the actual space within the temporary studio and use the whole body in the process.
A theoretic approach that Asbjørn uses in his artistry, is the thought of the space where art is seen and created. His work for the exhibition was drawn directly on to the walls of the gallery over a period of three weeks, and it will not remain after the exhibition ends (except for his original sketches and photographs of the wall drawing). This is also a way of physically formulating the “moment in time” that the Latvian collection at Malmö Konstmuseum can be seen as. The collection came to the museum just before the war broke out in 1939, with the purpose of showing what contemporary art in Latvia was at the time – but it is also very much a testimony to the cultural politics of the late 1930’s in Latvia. How easily an image, or an idea, can be swept away, forgotten, or hidden.
Photos by Mimmi Sjö, 2023