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An installation “Swamp Radio. Fluctuations of Microworlds” by Latvian artists Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits, which last year was nominated for the prestigious Purvitis award of Latvia, from January 23 to September 7, 2020 is exhibited in the ALARM exhibition in Canada.

The exhibition is taking place at THEMUSEUM gallery in Kitchener / Waterloo (next to Toronto). ALARM through art is aiming to draw attention to the issues caused by ecological change and our impact on it. This exhibition also features an artwork by Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits, where the swamp bacteria from the swamps of Latvia are producing electric fluctuations and manipulating image and audio, creating the green energy poetics.

Rasa Smite, Raitis Smits. “Swamp Radio. Fluctuations of Microworlds” (2018). Exhibition ALARM, curators Jane Tingley, Nina Czegledy. THEMUSEUM gallery, Kitchener / Waterloo, Canada. RIXC publicity photo.

On January 23 at THEMUSEUM gallery in Kitchener / Waterloo was opened the exhibition of contemporary art ALARM, declaring a climate emergency. The main event of the exhibition ALARM was the opening of the international exhibition of contemporary art “Agents for Change | Facing the Anthropocene”. The curators of the exhibition are Nina Czegledy and Jane Tingley. The exhibition consists of ten artworks of new media art that combine art, science and technology and which are created by internationally renowned artists, mainly women - from Canada, USA, New Zealand and Latvia. Responding to the global recognition of the importance of the creative voices and activism of women artists, this unique exhibition demonstrates progress towards improving gender representation in the arts.

THEMUSEUM gallery in Kitchener / Waterloo, Canada. RIXC publicity photo.

The exhibition ALARM is declaring that it is time to take action and learn about our effects on climate. People must adapt their lifestyles, take responsibility and mobilize climate action. It is the key message of the exhibition ALARM: take action, learn, adapt, take responsibility and mobilize. The exhibition consists of four main events: the exhibition of new media art “Agents for Change | Facing the Anthropocene” that is taking place at THEMUSEUM gallery and three other smaller exhibitions and events - “Melting Ice”, “Extinction” and “SPECTRUM | The Climate Emergency Experience” that are taking place elsewhere in Kitchener / Waterloo. These exhibitions explore the impact on the melting polar ice caps, water, climate refugees and the at-risk species with a focus on the dwindling frog population as they approach the sixth mass extinction.

The word Anthropocene describes the current geological period during which human activity has significantly influenced the climate and environment. The impacts of environmental change have begun to affect everyone — from rising sea levels, to intense heat waves, to the mass extinction of the earth’s flora and fauna. As the title of the exhibition suggests, change is inevitable, but only by facing the future and understanding the challenges in front of us can we begin to become agents for change. Selected artworks approach this complex topic by unpacking the lived realities of humans on this planet, but also of the animals and insects that we share it with. The works in the exhibition critically and poetically investigate our present, unpack the social and cultural impacts of environmental change, speculate about future realities, and suggest solutions for how we might approach life in the Anthropocene.

In the exhibition, the artwork “Swamp Radio” by Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits takes a challenge to give voice to those that usually are neither heard or seen - the microorganisms that are living in the depths of the swamp and about whom we usually don’t even think about. These vast wetlands with their ancient ecosystems are like time-capsules; however, they are also key players in today's society, as they maintain a high level of ecological diversity. The artists Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits in a performance seen in a video are walking in the swamp, installing “bacteria batteries”, environmental monitoring sensors and transmitting devices, to transform swamps into living power plants and to make visible such invisible nature processes as the bacteria activity in the depths of the swamps. The live installation in the exhibition space, consists of six “bacteria battery” cells, built by using MFC (Microbial Fuel Cell) technology, which generates electrical energy from microorganisms living in the mud from the swamps of Latvia. Electrical impulses and fluctuations of “bacteria electricity” are transformed into real-time sonic structures, which intervenes with the video image of the artististic performance by the artist duo.

Rasa Smite, Raitis Smits. “Swamp Radio” (2018). Video from the installation. RIXC publicity photo.

Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits are internationally acknowledged artists and cultural innovators, who work at the intersection of art, science and emerging media. They are co-founders of RIXC Center for New Media Culture in Riga (Latvia), curators of its annual festival, and editors of Acoustic Space publication series. They also work as researchers and educators in Latvia, the US and Europe. Rasa Smite is a professor at Liepaja University (Latvia) and Raitis Smitis is an associate professor at the Latvian Academy of Art. Currently they are visiting lecturers at MIT Art, Culture and Technology Program in Boston, at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design in Germany and at Academy of Arts and Design in Basel, Switzerland. In their artistic practice, Smite and Smits work together as artist duo, creating networked and visionary artworks. Their most recent artworks are exploring the relations between nature and technologies, humans and plants. Smite & Smits have received The Excellence in Culture Award (2017) from Latvian Ministry of Culture; and their artwork “Swamp Radio. Fluctuations of Microworlds” (2018) was nominated for Purvitis Award in Visual Arts of Latvia.


The exhibition ALARM is open from January 23 to September 7, 2020 at THEMUSEUM gallery, Kitchener / Waterloo (next to Toronto), Canada.

The curators of the exhibition: Nina Czegledy and Jane Tingley

The artists of the exhibition:

Selected Canadian artists include Diane Landry (QC), Donna Legault (ON), Maayke Schurer (ON), Liz Miller (QC) and Elaine Whittaker (ON). The international artists are Kristine Diekman (USA), Olga Kisseleva (FR/RU) and Pinar Yoldas (TR/USA), as well as artist duos Caroline McCaw and Vicki Smith (NZ), and Rasa Smite and Raitis Smits (LV).

Thanks to VKKF for supporting Latvian artists to participate in ALARM exhibition.


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