Foto: Gundega Melberga
Sensitive Surface / Elīna Cērpa
Mar 25 – May 4, 2023
ISSP / International Summer School of Photography
Riga, Latvia

ISSP Gallery hosts the multimedia exhibition Sensitive Surface by Latvian contemporary theatre director Elīna Cērpa. The exhibition is dedicated to photography as a tool for self-discovery and acceptance, and it explores the deeply personal reasons behind the obsessive creation of certain images.

The title of the exhibition is a metaphor: to allow oneself to be sensitive and fragile is to cross a boundary beyond oneself. This human vulnerability is most often seen as a weakness, but the artist emphasises that there is a strength in it: vulnerability is where compassion resides. The exhibition is also an attempt to look at photography outside the usual context of an art exhibition, delving into the impulse to photographically document seemingly mundane things.

Elīna Cērpa’s visual art project Sensitive Surface is based on a documentary theatre performance and photo installation of the same name: “This work was created in 2011 in the Netherlands, when I repeated the same activity almost every day for more than a year – I took self-portraits. When I told some friends about this passion, they saw it as a selfish, self-gratifying process. I wanted to understand why I was doing what I was doing. I knew it was much more than just looking at my face. What drives us to photograph what we photograph? This question prompted me to look for other people who have a long-standing interest in a particular subject”.

In 2011, Elīna created the contemporary theatre event together with ten participants who responded to her invitation. Now, more than ten years later, the artist is asking the same question again: what makes you want to take photographs? “Sometimes we create an image but cannot rationally explain why we chose to photograph, for example, a broken glass or a footprint in the snow. What are the conscious and unconscious desires behind the photographs we have taken?” says Elīna Cērpa.

In collaboration with five participants, Sensitive Surface at the ISSP Gallery takes a new form as an interdisciplinary multimedia exhibition where visual art is in close interaction with movement and text. The project participants – Gundega Melberga, Gustavs Grasis, Valda Biteniece, Irēna Andrejeva and one anonymous participant – meet in a shared space and create a conversation-like experience through photography, text and video. The video team for the exhibition includes cinematographer Reinis Aristovs, dancer Aeden William Conefrey and sound designer Edvards Broders. The spatial solutions of the exhibition are created in collaboration with artist Aleksejs Beļeckis. The lighting designer is Romāns Medvedevs. Curator – Iveta Gabaliņa.

Elīna Cērpa is a Latvian contemporary theatre director who has lived in the Netherlands for the last fourteen years. She graduated from the Das Arts MA Theatre Arts programme at the Amsterdam School of the Arts and has participated in various international performing arts and museum projects. Elīna’s work has been shown at Frascati Amsterdam, Trouw Amsterdam, Tropenmuseum, Lisboa Santa Apolonia, Warsaw Central Station, New Riga Theatre, Valmiera Drama Theatre, etc. Since the end of 2022 Elīna has been back in Latvia. Her work is somewhat political, but at the same time cinematically poetic. It encompasses the genre of documentary theatre, the conscious transformation of classical theatre and the research of photographic archives, which transforms into the dramaturgy of Elīna’s performances.

Thank you to the Art Academy of Latvia and AAL Experimental art space PILOT! The exhibition Sensitive Surface is supported by the State Culture Capital Foundation, Riga City Council and Riga Passenger Port.

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