School Watch: Sink or Swim: Discovering New Strokes in Education at POST in Riga

School Watch: Sink or Swim: Discovering New Strokes in Education at POST in Riga

e-flux Education

March 25, 2022
School Watch: Sink or Swim: Discovering New Strokes in Education at POST in Riga
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Sink or Swim: Discovering New Strokes in Education at POST in Riga
by Corina L. Apostol

The group of creatives behind POST—artist, writer, and educator Kristaps Ancāns, art historian and curator Ieva Astahovska, philosopher Artis Ostups, literary critic and musician Jānis Ozoliņš, artist and curator Kaspars Groševs, poet Kārlis Vērdiņš, artist Armands Zelčs, and artist Amanda Ziemele—have created a free educational and artistic platform that sustains the micropolitics of collectivity and democratic aesthetics and politics. They write, draw, photograph, build, and film every day to fulfill their artistic and cultural mission and share their knowledge and experiences with the public in exhibitions large and small. POST’s tutors and students are primarily concerned with art and civil society and culture’s capacity to reveal what was once unseen or to help audiences see society from a different perspective. POST and similar programs in Eastern Europe are vital as they represent an evolution from both socialist and post-socialist educational models while critiquing Western canons and subverting the idea of “catching up to the West.” Given its unique geographic and cultural position, POST actively questions artistic and historical processes, engaging propositions to imagine alternative scenarios for a changing world. Such scenarios are grounded in knowledge of one’s own context, of living and working in an unstable society and region of Europe, where state powers have changed dramatically and one must build a foundation on shaky ground. POST was designed with the foresight that “normality” or “stability” may never be achieved in Eastern Europe or Europe entirely and that these conditions may be altogether illusory.

I first visited POST in September 2021 at Ancāns’s invitation. Housed on the top floor of the former Faculty of Biology Building of the University of Latvia, a grand Russian imperial neo-Renaissance complex from 1898 in need of repair and renovation, POST was aesthetically and conceptually removed from the art academy and its tidy neo-Gothic building and traditional curriculum. Inside, walls were hung with portraits of the biology faculty’s former dignitaries, and cabinets of butterfly and geological specimens, taxidermy, and elaborate scientific equipment lined its corridors. Occupying several rooms undergoing renovation, POST had intermittent electricity, no internet, no equipment, and barely any furniture. But then as now, Ancāns and his colleagues were welcoming and generous, filling the space with their own energy, palpable and electric. Their commitment to making POST a reality was as unmistakable as the sophistication of their thought. While their practices and personalities appear very different on the surface, over the course of my interviews with them I found their similarities run very deep, especially their philosophy of art education. Most of the core tutors were academically trained in Latvia, but they found after years of studying still lifes that life around them was anything but static. Latvia changed dramatically following the dissolution of Soviet Union in the 1990s and the integration into the European Union in 2004, and as artists, poets, and writers, POST’s tutors have tried to engage with these developments, always aware of how art education’s context might shift and how its possibilities could evolve.

For the founding members of POST, culture is the answer to many of the questions brought on by the pandemic and a means of negotiating entry into the post-pandemic era and the sense that there is no “normal” to return to, as, at the time of writing, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine makes clear.

Read more about POST on School Watch.

School Watch presents critical perspectives on art and academia. Featured profiles, surveys, and dialogues consider education in fine art, curating, and critical theory, as well as the ideas and conditions that influence practice.

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