Sunday, February 9, 2014

Rīga 2014 - Cultural Capital of Europe

I am honored to be a small part of the unprecedented program in my native city - in 2014 Riga is the Cultural Capital of Europe along with Umeo, Sweeden.
However my involvment with Riga2014 program started not in Riga but in Liepāja.
The day I visited Liepāja was sunny - as high as sun can get in Latvia around Winter Solstice :-)
I gave a talk about crocheted hyperbolic planes in New Media Lab, University of Liepaja.
Local newspaper gave a very positive review of this lecture here
I was also happy about an opportunity to visit Amatnieku Nams (House of Craftsmen) thanks to Laura Valdmanis -teacher fro US who is in Liepāja this academic year on Fulbright Stipend. Here I am with Laura in Liepāja at the longest amber necklace in the world - it is 123 m long and weighs 60 kg:
I also had a chance to touch two treasures more than 100 years old:

First half of January was spent to prepare for the grand opening Riga 2014 which was set for January 17-19. On January 17th new hall was opened in Nature Museum - Amber Hall. Amber experience starts already at the entrance with a large textile mosaic by Elina Veilande Apine "Reflexions", amber threads, linen, cotton, wood, plastic and acrylic beads, 137 cm x 188 cm.

In exhibit on second floor there are ambers from different parts of the world.

The largest one weighs 1.7 kg.
Amber threads are used in another textile piece:
There are many examples with the amber containing various insects, also some nice jewelry.

Natural Baltic Amber has unique properties unlike any other amber in the world. Famous Hippocrates (460-377 BC), father of medicine, in his works described medicinal properties and methods of application of Baltic amber that were later used by scientists until the Middle Ages. In ancient Rome Baltic amber was used as medicine and as a protection against different diseases. Calistratus famous physician of those times, wrote that amber protects from madness, powder of amber mixed with honey cures throat, ear and eye diseases and taken with water cures stomach illnesses. Pliny the Younger noted that Roman peasant women wore amber medallions not only as adornments, but also as a remedy for "swollen glands and sore throat and palate." Persian scientist Ibn Sina (Avicenna) called amber remedy for many diseases. There was a belief in eastern countries that amber smoke strengthens human spirit and gives courage. In Asian countries "amber syrup", a mixture of succinic acid and opium, was used as a tranquilizer and antispasmodic. (

This reflects also in this amber exhibit.
On January 18th I had to set up a little exhibit with my works and prepar for leading the workshop, so I missed Book Chain - move of books by human chain from old National Library building to the new one which will open later this year. Interesting program was happening in Riga Bus station - various musicians were performing classical music. I missed that too. But I at leasrt caught some of activities which were happening in Riga Central Market.
There were several stations in Meat Pavillion were people were simply telling their stories. It was interesting to listen, I just had time for few. Dairy Pavillion was dark - on its ceiling there were prjected old documentaries about Riga.
Fruit and Vegetable pavillion had radio stationed there.
In Fish Pavillion reknown chef was cooking fish dishes according ancient recipes. Line was too long for me to try. Instead I stopped at this fish place to buy some of my favorite fish - roasted lampries. And suddenly the guys next to fish seller dressed in the same uniforms started to sing Rīga Dimd - every Latvian will recognize it from the very first beats. 

It was absolutely amazing experience with people joining the choir "Kamēr.." whose singers were scattered all over the place among the sellers.Watch and listen Rīga Dimd in Central Market Fish Pavillion

My part in Riga 2014 will be an exhibit "Hyperbolic Planes and Sustainable Networks". January 18th I was leading the workshop to kick-off the start of the project - to create the network of crocheters which are linked through crocheting white hyperbolic planes which in September will be joined together to form one large installation.

These pictures are taken well before the start of the workshop. People filled the space - about 60 signed up but there were more than that who were interested. I will write about this project more later.
I missed World's Fire Sculpture Festival and many more events that day all around the city. But I am very happy I did not miss fireworks.
These were the most spectacular fireworks I have ever seen in presence. They were perfectly timed with music by Janis Lusens, specially written for this event. I recorded the very final moments when again you can recognize Riga Dimd beats. People who came earlier were standing by the river and here is a video with all beautiful reflections To experience all 12 min go here

I am so happy I can be a tiny part of this whole big event - Riga 2014.