Artists take over Liepaja's navy port

  • 2000-08-24
  • Elina Cerpa.
Tranzit Zero is an artistic workshop crossing the border between art and life. Artists met Aug. 13 to 20 in Sweden and later moved by a Hercules troop transport plane to Latvian port town Liepaja to continue the event. Report by Elina Cerpa.

Liepaja, on the Baltic Sea, is an old city divided into different sections, each of which has its own strong atmosphere where time runs near slow-motion. There are wide green parks, beautiful old buildings, possibly only one painted. Most of them still are not repaired, but people live there.

In 1997 Locomotive International members Carl Bjorsmark of Sweden, Kristine Briede of Latvia and Havjera Garcia of Mexico came to Liepaja's naval port to stay only for a short period, but now they spend most of their time there. They said they were inspired to form Liepaja surroundings and the possibility to make a lot out of nothing.

The pivot and reflecting point from the beginning of this summer have been "The House of Two Admirals" filled with a creative atmosphere with a schedule of different film and photo workshops for children who made beautiful animation films, with absolutely extraordinary photo cameras like a teapot and an Easter egg pot, approaching the quality and artistic value of famous photographers' works shown in some exclusive photo gallery.

Naval port is a small town with housing section in North Liepaja, a former Russian military base with 7,000 inhabitants. Hundreds of people unable to pay rent now have been moved from the center to the naval port where they live all year long without heat and hot water. The naval port is a very wide area that might appear to some as a criminal-ridden, poor place, but people from Locomotive International have found a lot of space for creative ideas. For a while one of the forts became a big camera. They placed a big screen inside one building and projected clearly a picture from the outside. It gave the spectators an opportunity to observe the exterior surroundings from inside a room, and that created an illusion of being inside a camera - an illusion of a photo eye.

The czar-vintage building "The House of Two Admirals" is inhabited by two organizations, Locomotive International and St. Nicholas Cathedral's charity kitchen - letting people have art and soup for soul and body. A highlight for this summer was the Tranzit Zero project where artists from Latvia, Lithuania, Britain, Russia, USA, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Sweden and South Africa came from the workshop on Swedish island of Vickleby to Liepaja with Hercules C-130 troop transport plane.

Liepaja's children guided the guests around the city. Suzanne Nilsson, a documentary film director from Goteborg, said:"I like it very much. Not typical for Sweden because we don't have this kind of places in Sweden. The part of the project in Liepaja I liked better. It was very inspiring. I have a feeling that I have been away from home for a long time, but it's been only a week." At the navy port, artists mirrored a different visual analogy, showing that beauty can differ from the beauty often accepted by society as a standard.

The artists took over one of the big empty block houses, covering one wall with 300 square meters of white sheet. The house has no windows or doors. The air comes whistling through. All five floors hold different art displays. This exhibit is called Subjective/objective. Between Stalin's and Khrushchev's block buildings stand the incredibly large St. Nicholas Cathedral and some rests from Liepaja's fortress.

This is not the last time for such an event and the organizers intend to make a self-contained art center.