Emerging curator – Linda Krūmiņa
Artists in residency – Līga Ūbele/ Ķengarags
Ķengarags is the second biggest suburb in Riga by population, yet there can be multi-layered emptiness detected – physical, political, emotional and practical. However, this emptiness is almost never nothingness, most of the time it is the moment after or right before, or just a messy rearrangement that doesn’t make any sense hence that is referred as emptiness. “In fact, emptiness can be very full, but not with the “right” things. People describe emptiness as overgrown meadows, where there used to be cultivated fields, as foxes walking down the village main street in broad daylight, as weeds coming in through the broken windows of abandoned buildings, as university education losing its purpose, as changing attitudes toward property inheritance.” 
Līga Ūbele is an independent contemporary dance artist and set designer. When Līga was invited to this year’s residency to work with mixed language groups of people from any of Riga’s suburbs, she was interested in the fact that some of these areas are so big and populated, almost creating a city within a city. And city life usually tends to be hasty, fast and full of events, as well as interesting places. Her interest was leaning towards the local seniors who are more active in using public spaces outside than any other age group, though mainly sitting and chatting on benches. During her residency, Līga was interested in getting to know the leisure habits of seniors in the Ķengarags neighbourhood, creating new events involving local residents, listening to their stories and suggestions.
Līga reflects what has changed during her time in the residency: “I think that my vision has not changed, rather the residency has gradually revealed to me new layers of the topic chosen. It is significant that “emptiness” has become the main keyword for the residency, because when I started the residency, I too was almost like a blank page. I knew that I wanted to study the free time of seniors, I had various assumptions about the fact that, for example, the opportunities to spend free time attending cultural events are certainly small, but that’s all. Only by meeting the senior citizens of Ķengarags, working and talking with them did I gradually discover various aspects of their daily life and the reasons why they have chosen to spend their free time in the day centre. While initially I was more interested in the more global aspect of leisure and its impact on people’s views, now my focus has shifted mainly to something more personal, such as solitude as the key aspect to function in the day centre, meet others and stay active in old age.”
Līga was meeting local senior in a day centre in Ķengarags that offers various classes and other activities for seniors. She started leading contemporary dance classes, talked with seniors and participated in their celebrations and other classes.
Even though there is some sort of geographical emptiness and a lack of events in the suburb of Ķengarags, in the day centre where Liga worked with the local seniors, she heard many stories, saw many activities, initiatives and ideas, and that’s something that the artists wants to celebrate, acknowledge and share publicly.
Currently Līga is in the final stage of the residency and 3 events are planned for the end of December and January, which will reflect what was experienced and created there. Two of them will be Christmas events for the representatives of different denominations. Their main goal is to create a place and time for the seniors of the day centre to meet and celebrate the holidays, while at the same time jointly dreaming about how they see the future of both the day centre and Ķengarags – what they would like to fill it with.
“A final event/performance will be held in the middle of January, the purpose of which is to highlight and create confidence in the seniors themselves that their creative activities are important in the day centre. To highlight the fact that although there is no cultural offer in Ķengarags, they are the ones who create it by attending the choir, dance classes, etc. They are the ones who fill the void in Ķengarags with their activities. …Since emptiness, especially now, in winter, it is also very noticeable in the streets of Ķengarags, I want to bring it into this performance as well, in the form of video projections. Filling the symbolically empty Ķengarags with the activities of the visitors of the day centre.”
Curatorial text by Linda Krūmiņa