The exhibition I was invited to participate in is dedicated to mental health and is held in Latvia in the summer of 2023 at the Pauls Stradiņš Museum of the History of Medicine. This is the building opposite the Russian Embassy in Rīga, whose facade from March 2022 features a huge poster of Putin against a blood-red background, with the lower part of his head depicted as a skull.
The author of the painting, Latvian artist Krišs Salmanis, made this portrait for the cover of Ir magazine on March 3, 2022, and in the magazine, the photo is supplemented with the caption: “What you sow, you will reap.”
The Museum of the History of Medicine is located in the first house on the street, which since March 2022 the Riga City Council has renamed as the Independence of Ukraine Street. This decision was made in gratitude and support for the heroic struggle of Ukrainian people against military actions initiated by the Russian Federation on the territory of the state of Ukraine.
Approaching the museum, each visitor meets "face to face" with Salmanis’s Putin, and going up to the fourth floor to the hall where my performance takes place, visitors can see the Russian flag in the courtyard of the Russian embassy.
When, during the preparation for the performance, I first visited the museum, I did not want to look out the window through which I saw the flag of the country that kills my fellow citizens, so I closed my eyes.
Listening to the rhythmic beating of my heart, I suddenly felt an almost forgotten sense of security. I was still standing literally in front of the embassy building of the country whose military occupied my home, but the rhythm of my heartbeat gave me a sense of security.
This experience reminded me of the sense of security that a welcomed child feels in communication with their mother. Therefore, I wanted to immerse the visitors of the exhibition in an emotional space, reminiscent of what they have experienced while being in the safest place in their life – in their mother's womb.
Having created a place for them, in which there are no external stimuli, difficulties, and unwanted counters, I propose to join the "Heartbeats" performance as a collective experience of healing fears via sound.
According to the reviews of some participants at the premiere, which took place the other day, I found out that I had become a hostage to the image of an "artist about the war."
I am Ukrainian and the audience frankly admitted that they could not relax during the “Heartbeats”, being in a constant state of readiness for some kind of “war experience”. Other visitors shared that the performance puzzled them with questions about how their children deal with their parents' stress during the war and how it will affect their lives in the future.
For me personally, the experience of performance taking place on the edge of my emotional security border gave me an understanding of the fears of people living in Latvia, a country that has experienced Soviet occupation and borders Russia. The war is unfolding in front of their eyes, every day they meet refugees on the streets of their cities, and as a Ukrainian, I can not only ask them to understand me but also ask them how they have been feeling lately.
I hope that my experience of gaining a sense of security, which I share during the performance "Heartbeats", will help the inhabitants of the Baltic countries to cope with the stress of war. Even though it last only for 10 minutes, they will be able to get a feeling of complete safety and care, the same feeling that I, a Ukrainian woman, am being donated by Latvia.
More details of the performance program are at: https://www.mvm.lv/en/what-s-on/events/exhibition-