Culture, Sexuality

A new exhibition looks at sex, love and dick pics in Latvia

At Riga's Art Academy, 'To Fall in Love, Click Here' challenges old notions of sexuality and identity in a post-Soviet country.

7/28/2021 3:55:00 AM

At Riga's Art Academy, 'To Fall in Love, Click Here' challenges old notions of sexuality and identity in a post-Soviet country.

At Riga's Art Academy, 'To Fall in Love, Click Here' challenges old notions of sexuality and identity in a post-Soviet country.

; a furry zebra-print driving seat holds a lavender clutch bag bedazzled with the name ‘Lucifer’, containing a machete with a metallic scorpion tip.The artist describes how “the younger generations here have a healthy relationship with sexuality”, and yet cultural legacies (and censorship) live on. “I did think about my parents, while making photos, who are Soviet generation and don't come from an art background. I actually didn’t even show them the exhibition, because I knew that they wouldn’t be at peace with how I portrayed sexuality… I have accepted that they come from a different background and I don’t push them to understand my work.”

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View from exhibition ‘To Fall in Love, Click Here’. Konstantīns Žukovs ‘Black Carnation 1’, 2021. Riga Photography Biennial – NEXT 2021. AAL Experimental art space ‘Pilot’. Photo: Madara Gritāne 3.jpgKonstantin Zhukov’s project began with the Black Carnation Club — an apartment-turned-social space where local men would meet for sex in the 1920s, until it was raided by police in 1926. Konstantin reflects on how the space once occupied by covert operations such as the Black Carnation Club has been “superseded by a virtual space, where dress codes and passwords have given way to emojis and English-language abbreviations. To people whose sexuality lies outside the boundaries of heteronormativity, dating apps are often the only way to meet other people safely, for one night or until death does them part.”

Konstantin decided to inviteGrindrusers to a video call, resulting in an installation made up of iPhone portraits — an adjustment made for Covid’s social distancing but which suits the project’s theme, much like Irēna’s use of digital tapestry. Exhibited among questionnaire responses from his subjects and sculptural interventions with iPads displaying his various nude studies, Konstantin describes how “the entire project was done using my phone — I met my respondents through the app, conducted the interviews via the video calls and created their portraits by making the screenshots. Both true to the medium and a testimony to these unprecedented times”. headtopics.com

In April,a homophobic attack occurredin Latvia where a young man and his partner were set on fire as they slept in their apartment, by a neighbour who was seemingly opposed to their sexuality. One of the young men ended up succumbing to his injuries. Konstantin observes that “the attack itself and the police inaction affected many liberal-minded people in the country. It prompted a couple of respondents to amend some of their answers. They decided to be more open in their responses, to make a statement by showing who they are”.

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