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20 Aug 2009

e-artnow presents Ivars Gravlejs

© Ivars Gravlejs, from the series My Newspaper: On the 31st of August I had to photograph the traffic jam. I came to the place, but there was no jam. To get the picture I had a possiblity to throw a brick on the highway or to choose the less painful way - to go home and make the photo in peace. (The most crucial issues for the newspaper 'Denik' are traffic jams, dirty streets and parks, homeless, foreigners and the weather.)

e-artnow presents Ivars Gravlejs

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Discover the work of Ivars Gravlejs:


Useful advices for photographers

My newspaper

Latvian Girls and Boys

New wave in photography


Revenge on photography

Excerpt from a text published by Alise Tifentale – Art Critic, Editor-in-Chief of Foto Kvartals magazine. The original text was published in the 'FAMU' exhibition catalogue in 2008.

Laughter lengthens your lifespan, and that's why I could assert, that looking at Ivars Gravlejs works is indeed healthy. At least at those moments when the viewer feels truly amused. Without making a judgement about the author's true position, I can offer my interpretation, and humour has a particular role in it – it is an instrument of escape, medicine for those moments, which can't be treated, or which can't be endured in any other way. The element of wit and play in contemporary art is a consistently broadly used technique, and, to my mind, Ivars Gravlejs makes jokes, moreover at times rather black and perilous ones. 'Everything is bad', and it's much healthier to comprehend everything just as nonsensically lightly, as life and death in Tarantino films. And that's what Gravlejs does, using his privileged position in the microscopic Latvian arts context. In this situation, by privilege I mean higher education in the field of photography, which should be accorded extraordinary authority in the field (it must be borne in mind that the great majority of photographers and photographic artists across the generations in Latvia have no academic education whatsoever in this field, merely hobby groups, photo clubs, lectures, seminars and attendance at summer school). As Ivars Gravlejs is the person, about whom Andrejs Grants specifically spoke, in 2002: "Gravlejs, in fact, is in one of those extraordinary situations, where someone from Latvia could get a bachelors degree in photography". The quote can be found in art historian Ieva Lejasmeijere's article about the non existence of education in photography in Latvia 'Gaidot Gravleju' [Waiting for Gravlejs] (Studija, No. 22 (February – March), 2002 – pg. 50). 

Six years have passed, Gravlejs has gained both a bachelors and a masters degree in photography, and it could be said that the promise has now been fulfilled. However, in a completely different image, to that which was possibly expected by all of the followers of traditional fine art photography, who interpret the image itself as a detached work of art which stands on its own merits, which has significant and transcendental aesthetic qualities, punctum, conscience, 'a deciding moment' and similar noble attributes. One of the few professionally educated photographers in 'little Latvia', denies the intrinsic value of the photographic image, and furthermore does it in an extremely spiteful and poisonous manner. For example, the author has published an absurd series of 'tips' in the newspaper Kulturas Forums (2005-2007), about how one should and shouldn't take photographs ('check that the camera's lens cap has been removed' and other similar tips). He has asked strangers he has met in the street to take his photo and then exhibited it as his work ('Excuse me, could you please take a picture of me?', 2005). He has shown the elite of Riga's artistic life a fragment of a pornographic film on his mobile telephone, and filmed the reaction (video artwork 'Mobile', 2007, exhibited in Riga at the exhibition 'Mobile Museum', 2007, and 'Bad Joke', 2008). And, finally has made fun of all amateur photographers – technocrats, by exhibiting a collection of images of photographic cameras created in collaboration with Russian artist Avdey Ter-Oganyan in a programmatic show 'The Medium is the Message? Latvia's contemporary photography' (2008).