Signals from Another World
Andris Brinkmanis

18.04.2019 — 31.05.2019

The exhi­bi­tion revis­its the pio­neer­ing work of Lat­vian the­atre direc­tor Anna “Asja” Lācis (1891–1979).Even though she is most­ly known for her con­tri­bu­tions in the field of the­atre, she was a tire­less exper­i­menter and worked also as an actress and ped­a­gogue. Apart from her exper­i­men­tal work with chil­dren’s the­atre, Lācis was also among the first to con­tribute and ana­lyze the media influ­ence on younger audi­ences and to work with chil­dren’s cinema.

Through­out her long career, Asja Lācis has inter­fered and col­lab­o­rat­ed with many oth­er pio­neers. Among these were Bertolt Brecht, Max Rein­hardt, Fritz Lang, Bern­hard Reich, Erwin Pis­ca­tor, Siegfried Kra­cauer and Wal­ter Ben­jamin in Ger­many, with Fyo­dor Komis­ar­jevsky, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Vsevolod Mey­er­hold, Vladimir Bill-Belot­serkovsky, Sergei Eisen­stein, Vic­tor Shes­takov, Dzi­ga Ver­tov, Sergei Tretyakov in Rus­sia and Linards Laicens, Leons Pae­gle in Latvia. She was an impor­tant inter­me­di­ate between dif­fer­ent tra­di­tions of Avant-garde.

The exhi­bi­tion focus­es on Lācis’ ground­break­ing prac­tice with chil­dren’s the­atre which specif­i­cal­ly involved war orphans and home­less chil­dren which was the­o­ret­i­cal­ly unpacked by Wal­ter Ben­jamin in his essay “Pro­gram for a Pro­le­tar­i­an Chil­dren’s The­atre” (1929).

The anti-author­i­tar­i­an ped­a­gog­i­cal method of aes­thet­i­cal edu­ca­tion elab­o­rat­ed by Lācis and Ben­jamin, togeth­er with an account on her prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence, became re-dis­cov­ered by younger gen­er­a­tions dur­ing the intense 1968 peri­od first in Ger­many and lat­er on also in Italy, Spain, France and else­where. Her work main­tains its rel­e­vance and remains as a cru­cial ref­er­ence point also at the present.

In accord with Augus­to Boal’s sug­ges­tion ‘Knowl­edge acquired aes­thet­i­cal­ly is already, in itself, the begin­ning of trans­for­ma­tion’, this exhi­bi­tion aims to explore the poten­tial­i­ties of “Lācis expe­ri­ence” framed in the “pro­gram” by Ben­jamin today; in this case, more specif­i­cal­ly with respect to the polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic and social con­di­tions of the con­text where exhi­bi­tion is tak­ing place.

The exhi­bi­tion includes ele­ments from the project’s two pre­vi­ous pre­sen­ta­tions (Doc­u­men­ta 14 in Kas­sel, 2017 and in Lat­vian Nation­al Library in Riga, 2019) such as archival pho­tos, doc­u­ments, and videos of Lācis. Rel­e­vant texts writ­ten by Ben­jamin and Lācis along­side with oth­er researchers and the­o­reti­cians on alter­na­tive ped­a­gogy and the­atre will also be avail­able for con­sul­ta­tion in the exhi­bi­tion space. The dis­play struc­ture of the exhi­bi­tion is designed by Rihard Funts and func­tions as an open spa­tial tool-box that local artists, cul­tur­al agents and pub­lic are invit­ed to inter­act with and use. Over the course of the exhi­bi­tion, AVTO will become a free work­ing space where talks, work­shops, and read­ing groups take place.