A few words about Līva Rutmane's conspiracy theories
Santa Mičule, Art critic

In spring of this year, Līva Rutmane (b. 1984) attained a master’s degree in graphic art from the faculty of Visual arts at the Art Academy of Latvia, but she has been participating in exhibitions for quite a while now (since 2002) and has announced herself as one of the brightest representatives of the new generation of graphic artists. when discussing rutmane’s contemporaries in graphics, mention is usually made of the exploration, breach and movement of new media boundaries; the artists equally intensively use the customary means of expression in graphics, for example, drawing, and a variety of methods of montage and photography as well as turning to the freer and more conceptual use thereof. among young graphic artists, rutmane differs through her interest in the condition of manipulated art, experiments with concepts and combinations of chance that close off the work of art, rather than revealing it. i could stop at this conclusion and not continue, but, as it turns out, the process of hiding and masking art can be more interesting than traditional forms of art communication, which are full of stories and claims to various levels of truth.
Līva Rutmane. Drawing. 2012

In the first exhibitions that i remember, rutmane announced herself with photographs, for example, in the contemporary graphics exhibition Vielmaiņa (metabolism), which took place at the latvian national museum of art in 2009. the young artist took part in the exhibition with a series of surreal photo-portraits titled Vienradzis (unicorn), in which the mystique, disguises and the wearing of masks by naked, strange personalities brought the works close to a gothic romantic aesthetic. rutmane’s ability to accurately direct the characters is highlighted, conjuring up that which we obscurely call mood. a variety of montage methods have been used in the compositions for the photographs, for example, covered fields and bits of “cut off” bodies that interfere not only with the shape but also with the construction of the scene itself, like abstract fields. a similar method has been used in the relatively recently created drawings from D. Š., rutmane’s installation for her master’s degree, which could be viewed at tabakas fabrika in the Vairāk, vairāk (more, more) exhibition in june. the fine and delicate composition in the D. Š. drawings are interrupted by empty fields that look as if they’ve been erased, evoking associations with blank areas in the memory, breaks in the flow of uniform reality and an interrupted feeling of time. at the same time, the drawings in the D. Š. series search for a relationship with the space in which they are exhibited. this is emphasised by the items placed next to the works as well as the drawings themselves, which strive to be unnoticed, to even disappear from the memory of the viewer; they are so fine, discrete and almost transparent, and to a certain degree they merge with the walls, like elements of the interior. despite how old fashioned and unsuited to the times these various -isms may seem, one wants to call this new trend the “new minimalism”, which responds with silence to the excesses of the information era. rutmane defines this strategy as a conspiracy that makes the unprepared viewer perceive the work of art as incomprehensible or pointless. she admits to having been influenced by jean baudrillard’s essay the Conspiracy of Art, in which he criticises the subjugation of contemporary art to commercial instead of aesthetic values – the relativisation of art in the direction of “art is everywhere” has devalued it, art has merged with reality and daily life, and its artistic values have been replaced by enthusiastically produced illusions of art institutions about the value of art. this is expressed in an art management style similar to show business, in sales records and in advertising-like publicity mechanisms. rutmane uses the above-mentioned conspiracy methods in her works, using them not as a criticism of institutionalism, but rather as a conscious form of opposition against the usual ways in which meaning is generated in visual art, to which we have become accustomed in our perception of art. in a similar way to how baudrillard defines image as a simulacrum of reality, in the case of rutmane’s artwork their meaning is just an illusory construction – a simulacrum of meaning that exists only as an illusion and as a “visual conspiracy” constructed with the assistance of various schematic codes.
Līva Rutmane. K on Paper Paper. K on Board. Installation. 2014
Publicity photo
Courtesy of the artist

But the discussion is not just about trickery and conspiracies. in summer of this year, a joint exhibition by rutmane, klāvs upaciers and inga Ģibiete titled cīeņa took place at the arsenāls exhibition hall’s creative workshop. upaciers and Ģibiete can be considered rutmane’s closest creative contemporaries, who also actively experiment with “traditional” media using means of expression that are simplified to the maximum, even naïve. themes and subjects are replaced by a manifestation of conceptual form, which in the case of cīeņa means drawing as a process in which the result of the depiction is secondary to the depiction as an artistic act. another significant feature of the artists is that they are very laconic in explaining their works, focusing on nothing but the work of art itself. this announces the self-sufficiency and completeness of the art itself, because it’s not possible to analyse the works outside of the self-created system, and it’s possible that these self-reflective signs and closed visual codes are also what is most fascinating about Rutmane’s artwork.

Rutmane’s works express a special attitude to drawing as a very dynamic and versatile form of art – even more so, drawing is a theme instead of simply being a medium or technological means of expression. in recent years in latvia, issues of popper Magazine as well as individual authors like the above-mentioned klāvs upacieris and inga Ģibiete have similarly used drawings as the language of contemporary art. drawing also “appears” as a secondary means of expression every so often in no less interesting ways in the works of kaspars groševs, maija kurševa, oļa Vasiļjeva and other artists. it’s possible that at the source of the popularity of drawing is the desire to return to the foundations of art, simplicity and innocence, through which to re-animate the primitive impulse that encourages one to express oneself creatively – the need to record something, to visualise some fantasy or impression. drawing also provides for the direct realisation of this impulse, namely, the person drawing is not dependent on knowing a specific technique or complicated technological processes (of course, one can also do this in a complex way, if required).

At rutmane’s latest solo exhibition, κπ, which was held at gallery 427 in november, drawing was in the main role. but, perhaps due to the specific character of the space, the relationship between drawing and paper attracted attention; in looking at the exhibition, one’s gaze continually returned to the format of the paper itself and its scale in relationship to what was portrayed. from being just a foundation for the material, it had become a means of expression equivalent to the drawing. in the description of the exhibition, the pronunciation of the newly created symbol was explained as kappa (κ) and pi (π), playing on the “tripping stone” theme. this motif appears in both the reproduction of the stones as well as in various configurations of form that can associatively be read as the moment/condition of tripping. with the assistance of a non-pictorial, semi-abstract form, a condition of discontinuity, deficiency and distortion (a distortion of the optic depiction, which enlarges various parts of the object unevenly) mentioned in the annotation to the exhibition has been imitated. this corresponds with the visual language used in the photo sessions mentioned at the beginning of the article, which tend towards deformation and the deconstruction of the reality of the image. but it is difficult to reach deeper than these specific levels of intonation in rutmane’s works; they are like inaccessible islands that can only be viewed from afar and for which it is only possible to define their external geographical features. at the same time, it is a reminder about how easy it is to manipulate with visual information and that non-compliance with interpretation is one of the forms of an image’s power.

Translator into English: Uldis Brūns
go back