LIVING MEMORY

Multisensory experience for one person

Part of the cycle of events “Ecosystems of Change”

Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art

Curated by Ieva Astahovska

2021

This research-based performative experience asks questions about the memory of a place and memory’s place in culture, as well as individually in each of us. What does it mean to remember that, which is submerged in the past? How important is a physical place in the preservation of memories? Can our memories, like species of plants, go extinct if they lose their habitat?

Like it happened with alpine butterwort (Pinguicula alpina), a rare carnivorous plant in Latvia that lived on the northern side of Staburags cliff since the last ice age (some 14,000–12,000 years ago). It was its last remaining natural growth. After the cliff was flooded due to the construction of the Hydroelectric Power Plant in 1965 there were attempts to transplant alpine butterwort to Raunas Staburags but since 2008 alpine butterwort is extinct. It currently grows only in sterile in-vitro laboratory conditions at the National Botanical Garden, from seeds gathered in Estonia.   

The genetic information– the memory of alpine butterwort was acquired throughout the experience living within these climatic circumstances, by interacting with other species and the freshwater limestone, which came from the Staburags cliff, is gone forever. Now only a few people bear the memory of Staburag’s cliff.

Remembering is a creative act that involves our imagination, and the way we look at the past largely determines our future trajectory. To imagine an existence that has lost its place and memory sometimes means diving into dark waters where almost nothing is visible.

Scientist Dace Kļaviņa, National Botanic Garden, Latvia

Soundscape by Maksims Šenteļevs

Performer Mingaile Kola

Thanks to Daiga Jamonte and Museum of Botany, University of Latvia for lending the last herbarium of alpine butterwort, collected at the Staburags cliff by Gaida Ābele in 1962 when the news about the construction of HPP was first announced. 

Photos: Didzis Grodzs