Photo: Kanepes Kulturas Centre, Riga.

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Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, formerly the Red Latvian Riflemen Building, (Photo Hana Vojackova)

R-Lab Riga Workshop March 31

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Nick Dines in front of an image of Piazza Plebiscito  (photo Anna Maria Furuland),

For Dines, “public memory is always contested,” or as Dines sees it, memory can only exist when it is challenged. There can be no such thing  as closure. For Dines, this is not necessarily a problem, but rather a healthy condition in which the public is required to constantly negotiate and interpret the meaning of history in relation to shared experiences. Dines presented a number of examples on divided memories, beginning with the story on San Miniato, the Tuscan town, where a bomb explosion killed sixty some odd residents inside the main Cathedral during a battle between entrenched German soldiers under siege by the approaching Americans.  The commemoration of this event resulted in a succession of plaques, each contradicting the other, as the town sought to establish the true culprits behind the tragic event. That those guilty were found in the end to be the allied forces and not the Germans as originally suspected,  did not change the  fundamental interpretation that was skewed against the brutal German occupation.

As Dines would point out, the San Miniato story would be more about establishing a commonly shared memory then about establishing an absolute truth.

anna maria nick 1xxPiazza Plebiscito with car-park. (Photo Anna Maria Furuland)

In his next example, Dines focused on one specific public space in Naples, Piazza Plebiscito, a large and anomalous outdoor forum from the Napoleonic period that became the site for playing out class conflicts. The Piazza was frequently used for mass gatherings and public spectacles, ’s but by the early 1950s was transformed into a huge carpark. While the carpark initially represented a step towards the city’s modernisation the point that Dines was concerned with here was “habitual memory,” the way the space would continue to be used despite changes to traffic, parking, no-parking, public urinals, strikes, etc. Piazza Plebescito belonged to a different category of public memory wherein the grandiose scale of the architecture could not disrupt the daily uses by the  public, especially when that involves the kind of street rituals and customs that transcends class and social status. ..

In another example, Dines focused in on a city that didn’t officially exist, a make-shift squatters town in Southern Puglia that was home to a sizeable population of sub Saharan tomato pickers. Named Le Gran Ghetto by the inhabitants themselves, this self built city represents an aspect of Italy’s dark heritage, that is to say an instance where immigrant workers find themselves making their own world, their own history, yet this immigrant condition, so similar to what Italians themselves would experience some 100 years in the past. The neglect and informality of the city was nonetheless greatly appreciated by the population itself, whose poverty was lived with a certain degree of dignity. When the squatter town was burnt to the ground, the question was raised about the capacity to narrate these dark histories and the urgency with which to do so, especially as these segments of the Italian society were absolutely vital to the Italian economy.

r IMG_9532 sWindow, Riga (photo PTL)

Riga_Victory Monument Victory Memorial to the Soviet Army, Riga, 1985. (Photo Nick Dines)

Riga_rustic Academy Sciences Latvian Academy of Sciences, Riga 1951-1961. (photo Nick Dines)

r IMG_9527 sMarkt place, Riga ex Zeppelin Hangers (photo PTL)r IMG_9533 sMetal siding detail Riga, (Photo PTL)r IMG_9535 sWooden House Riga, (Photo PTL)r IMG_9546 sView from the Latvian Academy of Sciences Roof terrace Riga, (Photo PTL)gabrielle Iwelumo IMG_8578Russian flea market, (Photo Gabrielle Iwelumo)

R-Lab Riga Workshop March 30


Viesturs Celmins discussing the KGB Headquarters memorial in Riga. (Photo PTL)

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREfrom WIKi: “The Black Door”, a memorial at the former KGB building on Stabu Street in Rīga, was unveiled in 2003. The memorial, designed by artist Glebs Pantelejevs, is a half-open steel door and a commemorative plaque.[3] (Photo PTL)

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Ieva Astahovska, discussing New Hanza City in Riga, a commercial development that is publicising itself as based on the idea of Riga the historic Hanseatic city.  The site, a “swamp” once populated by small kitchen gardens and pastures, will also feature the Museum of Latvian Contemporary Art, designed by London architect David Adjaye. (Photo PTL)

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Workshop location: Kanepes Kulturas Center

Hotel Albert Riga

R-Lab Riga Workshop March 30-April 1


Wednesday 29 March: Departure to Riga from Stockholm: 17.00 and arrive in Riga 11.00. Check in at the absolute latest 20 min before departure Let’s  meet at 16.15 at the ferry terminal in Värtahamnen/Hamnpirsvägen 10.


Dinner on board is still an open question.

Thursday 30 March: Arrival in Riga time 10:00 am, check in at the Albert Hotel.

13:00 Meeting at  Kanepes Kulturas Center

14:00-17:00 –Ethnographic safari of memorials,  and other contested public sites in Riga... Conducted by  Viesturs Celmins.

17:00- 19:30  Meeting at the Kanepes Kulturas Center for Day 1 Workshop


Nick Dines, Urban Anthropologist. TALK: Contested Memories in Contested Spaces, 3 Tales from Italy.


Ieva Astahovska, Curator, Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art. “The New City: Wallstreet of Riga, “Cemetery Tram” and Contemporary Art

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20:00 Dinner together in town.

Friday 31 March:

Open Morning for exploration of Riga.

13:30 Meeting at Riga Central Market

Visit TBA.

17:00 – 19:30 Meeting at the Kanepes Kulturas Center for Day 2 Workshop

20:00 Dinner (TBA ???)

Saturday 1 April

Open day.



Stina Hagelqvist KKH

Peter Lang , KKH

Daniel Urey, Fargfabriken Baltic Dimensions

Workshop Institutions,  Participants, Speakers, Contributors, Riga

Dina Suhanova, Associate director of Architecture and Design Department


Durbes iela 4, Kurzemes rajons, Rīga, LV-1007, Latvia

Inga Lâce, Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art

Ieva Astahovska will be talking  about a new highly controversial speculative  development that will include the new Latvian Contemporary Art museum in the area of New Hanza.

recommended links:

Workshop Participant, Speakers, Contributors, International

Nick Dines is an urban anthropologist and historian and is currently a visiting fellow at Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute (Florence, Italy). Since the late 1990s his research has explored contemporary urban change and the politics of memory in Italy and the United Kingdom, focusing on diverse themes that range from public space and regeneration to migration and cultural heritage. He is the author of the monograph Tuff City: Urban change and contested space in central Naples (Berghahn, 2012) which draws on extensive ethnographic fieldwork on regeneration politics and everyday conflicts in the historic centre of Naples.

Ieva Astahovska is an art scholar, critic and curator. She works at the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, where she leads research projects related to modern and contemporary art from the socialist period, and her long-term interest is in issues of post-socialist and East European contexts. Her recent projects among others include the anthology NSRD. Juris Boiko and Hardijs Lediņš (2016), exhibitions Archeology of Kinetics by the artist Valdis Celms and restorer Ieva Alksne (2016), Visionary Strutures. Form Johansons to Johansons in Brussels (2015) and Riga (2014) and the rsearch project and essay collection Recuperating the Invisible Past (2010–2012).

Viesturs Celmins is a social anthropologist, whose research focuses on infrastructure, public space and communal life in the cities. Between 20013/2014 he  co-orgranized the “City Seminar” series at the University of Cambridge. Recently he contributed to the making of the Baltic Pavilion for the XV Venice Architecture Biennale and starting 2016, he is one of the program directors at the RTU International Summer School in architecture. Viesturs was a Fulbright Scholar at the NSSR (2007) and is currently completing his PhD thesis in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge

Södertörn University Research Group.

Annika Öhrner, Dan Karlholm and Johan Hegardt

Project title: Art, culture, conflict: transformations of museums and memory culture in the Baltic Sea region after 1989

A research project funded by The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies, Researchers: Dan Karlholm, Johan Hegardt and Annika Öhrner, at Södertörn University.

Time run: Jan 2016- Dec 2018.

This project aims to map, analyze and interpret transformations of exhibitions of culture and art at museum institutions, art spaces and memorials around the Baltic Sea from 1989 until today. Key questions include how discursive narrative structures about the nation, its culture, history and identity were changed ideologically and in terms of communication and mediation. Based on the critical discussion regarding international, transnational, Nordic, Baltic, European and global identities we inquire into the role played by art in historical museums, on cultural sites as well as in art spaces proper. Through a quantitative foundation in the form of a database we hope to discover new structures, connections and patterns within this region that will enable us to proceed to qualitative analysis of a number of the exhibitions covered. The material derives from countries within the former Soviet Union (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), the Communist bloc (Poland), and two Western nations (Sweden and Finland).

The “fall” of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union soon thereafter inaugurated a new era for the Baltic countries as well as former Eastern Europe. In addition, all of Europe, with its global relations, was effected. Sweden and Finland became EU- members in 1995 followed by the Baltic States and Poland in 2004. The financial crisis of 2008 had severe impact on the latter countries and many developing projects were slowed down. The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has increased the pressure on the Baltic States but makes it urgent to develop new strategies for the entire Baltic Sea region. Russia’s current political aggression actualizes the democratic breakthrough years around 1989. Museums and memory culture constitute symbolically charged loci of the social changes and renegotiated national identities that took place during this turbulent quarter of a century.

Our theories are drawn from the recently concluded EuNaMus-project (, from where we also adopt but modify search variables for our database. The East Art Map and Piotr Piotrowski’s research on the art history of post- communist countries and his proposal of a transnational “horizontal” art history are key departures, as well as narrative discursive strategies developed to study exhibitions derived from Bruce Ferguson, Mieke Bal and others.


Workshop Participants R-Lab:

Juanma Gonzales

Joanna Sieradzka

Isabel Löfgren

Leire Mesa 

Ela Celary

Vesna Rohacek

Marta Gil

Anna Maria Furuland

Marios Salatas

Simon Fagéus 

Gabrielle Iwelumo 

Hana Vojàcova