Katrīna Neiburga


For Katrīna Neiburga (b. 1978), art is subordinate to a yearning for emotion, authenticity and the preservation of living memory. It is poetry that operates at the level of perception and feeling: pared to the bone, saturated with truth, searing and beautiful. One of Neiburga’s chief means of expression is her deeply personal iconography, which is evident in her video installations, both in exhibitions and as theatre set designs. She is interested in sociology, investigating preconceptions about the nature of things.

Neiburga holds an MA in Visual Communication from the Art Academy of Latvia and has studied at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, Sweden. She has been exhibiting since 2000 and has participated in biennials in Sydney (2006), Moscow (2007), Venice (2015), and Kochi–Muziris (2016). In 2008, she was short-listed for the Ars Fennica Award and received the first edition of the Purvītis Prize.

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Few of us have ever had a heart-to-heart with a taxi driver. Not just about the rates or the route ― about the spots passing by the taxi window, the rising prices, politics: in short, about life in general. That sort of conversation may turn either into a confession and solace offered by a stranger, or a tour through city territories and mundaneness.

Likewise, few of us have ever come across certain collector types who go for other people's stories, extraneous experiences which intertwine with their own in a peculiar sort of fabric. Katrīna Neiburga is one of those people who collect stories ― on cultivating tea fungus, on what girls carry around in their handbags, on things normally told to no-one but a taxi driver or a random fellow-passenger in a train compartment. And yet Katrīna is not a true collector. It seems to be very important for her to be a part of the conversation, to spin a yarn and have a go at asking the person she’s talking to questions important to herself. The artist's vital curiosity channels anthropological "archaeology" into creating a contributor-orientated situation.

Switching from object to situation in her practice of art Katrīna performs a virtuoso balancing-act between documentality and fiction. Having decided to make a temporary change of occupation and become a cabbie she taxis around residents of the Pārdaugava suburbs, talks to her passengers listen to their stories and registers them. And afterwards, visitors of the re:publika project and chance passers-by who happen to take an interest are offered an opportunity to spend some time in the old Volga car and watch the taxi driver's dialogues with her passengers on a little monitor.

Accident combined with a staged situation, or rather an arbitrarily made-up set of rules, makes for ideal psycho-geographical premises. The unscheduled taxi routes and unpredictable people act almost like a drifting derivation method, allowing the revelation of a surprising urban texture and one to lose oneself in the stories told by random passengers.

The second part of the project consists of Katrīna's interviews with female taxi drivers; this time it's not just an extension of situative context but also a materialisation of focused interest manifested in the Sestais elements (The Sixth Element) women's art project and in a study of interplay and succession in her own family’s female line. Women's position determined by social roles and traditions without explicit feminist articulation becomes the subject of the artist's analysis.

The grey-haired taxi driver's stories of curious incidents dating from the Soviet era, her family problems, adventures and worries about an insecure future create a portrait of a strong woman ― one it's so easy to identify with if you live in Latvia. Assembling assorted fragments of other people's experiences is Katrīna's way of making marginal notes of sorts and possibly of getting closer to eventually writing a body matter on herself.

Text by Solvita Krese