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'Where My Cards Lay' by Ieva Kraule-Kūna at Kim?, Riga

Six of Swords (reversed): Magical Thinking after the vacuum of belief

It’s a rainy autumn evening, and we’re in a hurry. A dark stairway, a shrill doorbell. A bright light makes its way into the stairway, as the door is ajar. A man in a black satin robe, his eyes dark and his gait mysterious, invites us in. Inside, there are several large aquariums teeming with exotic fish, and frightening swords hang on the walls. I am asked to wait for a while and suggested to take a look at the fish, but, left alone, I cannot take my eyes away from two crossed knives above the door, behind which the silhouette of my mother disappears with him, the man who has drawn up a horoscope about myself for my mother in the form of an audio cassette. The prognosis is not that good.

Three of Coins: at the supermarket with only acorn and a paperclip in the pocket

There is no door to another world behind the coats in the wardrobe. Instead it’s rather a window to lusterless reality: a huge bag full of shaggy bodies in all shades of beige, black noses and empty eyes. I know all of its inhabitants but feign surprise every time when one of them – wrapped up in shiny plastic and tied tight with a ribbon – transforms, from the secret it once was, into a festive present. It’s hardly likely that anyone believes in this affected joy. And thus festive surprises and, possibly, a part of childhood are over even before school has started.

But then an unprecedented sight changes everything: it is them, put up on the wall, levitating as if they were newfound idol deities. Their features are exaggerated and their forms strained caricature-like. They are arranged by size, like me and my classmates at a PE lesson (it is shameful to a girl to be first in line and shameful for a boy to be last). There are seven panthers in bright pink, made from smooth synthetics, and She is the eight one. She is softly pink and downy, at least ten times bigger than her smallest sister and twice as big as I am. She is perfect. Available to anyone at any time. When someone asks me what I want for my eighth birthday, I always say I want her, the gigantic downy panther.

Put together, their weight was the same as hers, but my disappointment was even greater. Two mid-sized pink panthers came into my life, and this is how I learned that surprises are, for the most part, unpleasant.

Five of Clubs: the violent lust for life

The Babel Tower of the solidarity among nations has fallen, and we are building a primitive new culture over its ruins. Untamed fashion shows and untamed people in the twilit Rīga streets. Once a month, my mother is relieved of her wallet while coming home from work. But we’re lucky, because we’re alive. It is of no use to report it to the police. This is real life, not a news story. Lots of blood in the snow, burning cars, and scarcely recognizable body parts. Such are our evenings. Such the panorama of our city.

On the way to school, I see my peers hiding their faces in their sleeves, their future burned by the Moment glue. Only a few of them would grow into adults, into their fathers who wear black leather jackets and gold cross necklaces as uniforms. Their main weapon is not physical superiority but fearlessness – they have never had anything and now they have a violent lust for life, trying to obtain power and money. All the power and money in the world. Only a few of these capitalist crusaders, however, avoided becoming a mess of red and brown which the rest of us cowards without ideals would see every night on the news.

Four of Cups: the realities of everyday life

A Finlandia candy, spat into a cast iron bathtub where a pencil and a living lamprey have been lost down the drain. It was an honest mistake, but it’s normal for a preschooler to have a Prozit candy, emptied by an adult, just like the habit to celebrate every turn of life, year and week shouting “cheers!” far too many times is a norm. Bad habits are preserved even when the old ideals have long since been rejected and substituted with new virtues and new idols. The crow caws three times, a ray of sunshine is reflected in a raindrop, and everything is finished by now. Two-tailed fox, will you be our totem animal? No, child, I am but an accessory made of flesh cuddled around your mother’s neck, a reminder of recent events, of a dangerous raincloud. A shadow an overly bright light has left behind. No, let’s hide under the bed instead. No, let’s not sacrifice our lives for the public. Duties towards the collective and obedience were never in vogue in my family, neither now nor back then. A black and white image the size of a postcard warns you not to approach the windows. It is on the kitchen table. By the window. We’re sitting facing them. I say that we shouldn’t be here, but they laugh at me.

A group’s ability to change its future marks my individual inability to change anything. 

14.10.21 — 19.12.21

(featuring works by Ēriks Božis, Andris Breže, Ieva Iltnere, Ojārs Pētersons and Sarmīte Māliņa)

Curated by Līna Birzaka-Priekule, Zane Onckule

Photos by Ansis Starks


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