VICTORY PARK by Arnis Balcus

By in Books on 12. January 2017

Victory Park

An avatar walks into a bar… Or so the joke begins. Incarnating a protein cocktail, an alien sex worker, the sultry scent of a chrysanth and geopolitics, it is as much biographical as fictional, as immediate as foreign. An avatar of this kind is like a bottle rocket, a catalyst that can make a mob explode, regroup and occupy the nearest shopping mall. The punch line never comes: the figure of speech attains shape and hits a passerby right in her right eye.

The avatars of the past were statues embodying glory and power. In modernism, erecting a monument became a gesture of colonising the future. Modernism was preoccupied with progress and velocity, breaking down the next moment to one possibility and halting other possible courses of action. Columns, pedestals and arches were supposed to cement time in place. But what if a sculpture, altogether with its artistic quality and physical materials is, politely put, poor? What if an effigy goes through history like an avatar through a proxy server, compressing its voxels, putting a blurring mask, compressing again, and finally selling it for bitcoins? Is the once protected future simply becoming spam?

The future gets unclogged, released from concrete rubbish that was once called realism. Repressed options and possibilities are now free to happen together at the same moment, in different places around the world, but mostly on TV and computer screens. Through opaque victories and progressively worse defeats, politics turn into an NSA affair. The rebels crawl out of the bushes and fall from the clear sky in transparent layers like snowfall in front of a monocular observer.

Arnis Balcus’s photobook Victory Park focuses on a particular location in the Latvian capital of Riga, a park with a complex history overlaid with the policies of former regimes and cumbersome social realities. This photographic work is more than just documentation or research material – the spontaneity of the shots and the juxtaposition of the images in the book creates an impression of an artistic experiment carried out in-situ.


Photographer Arnis Balcus (b. 1978) is based in Riga, Latvia. He has BA in Communication Studies from University of Latvia and MA in Photographic Studies from University of Westminster. In most of his photographic work he examines Latvian identity, historical taboos and social-political agendas. His most recent solo exhibitions include “Victory Park” at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow (2014) and “Beyond the Blue River” at Fotogalleriet[format] in Malmö (2015). He is also the editor-in-chief of “FK Magazine” and co-organizer of Riga Photomonth.

Bookdesign by Tom Mrazauskas

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