Iveta Gabaliņa is a photographer and lecturer, the ISSP Gallery Program Manager. She studied photography at the Bournemouth Institute of Art, as well as obtained a Master’s degree in Photography at the University of Aalto, Helsinki. She has received several internationally significant awards, including C / O Berlin Talents 2013, The Burn Magazine Award and the CDS Documentary Photography Award.
Iveta Gabaliņa’s video work Karen will be presented during the Riga Photomonth. The video was made as a conversation with the artist’s 11-year-old son about the virtual world and various games. The child’s language is filled with countless English words and jargon used in games, and the artist is forced to admit: “It just seems that it would be easier for me to understand a child born in the 15th century than my own.”
Where did you get the idea for your project?
Most of the ideas for the works come from interacting with my daily life, interests or issues that have hurt me in one way or another. Right now, my son’s inevitable sinking into the world of the screen is the reason for my sleepless nights. Naturally, I am also trying to solve this issue creatively.
How do you think the children will remember this COVID time?
Children are very different and I would not like to generalize this question. My son will remember this time as a carefree staying at home, without the need to get up early in the morning and eat breakfast at a set time. I admit that remembering his relationship with his parents will not make his memories so nice for the simple reason that his parents restrict his apparent freedom by reminding him of the need to wash, eat and go outside.
What was the most difficult thing for you at this time?
I am used to organizing my activities independently. I like to work from home, so this time did not make a big difference in my daily life. In addition, I am a mother of a three-year-old with all the responsibilities and worries that come with it. However, I will not deny, the numerous Zoom lectures and meetings are tiring, especially in communication with students. There is a lack of opportunity to just look at each other sincerely. My overwhelming challenge is the ability to attract and maintain an interesting, respectful relationship with the child sitting at home. I often consider the idea of homeschooling if a similar situation happens again in the next school year.
What inspired or helped you overcome this time the most?
I will not say anything original. All self-help practices have been known for a long time, all you have to do is practice them. Every day to tirelessly stick to a strict but very pleasant routine – get up early, go to bed early, consume food within reason, walk a lot – best in the forest. This year, cross-country skiing was a great alternative, choosing one of the forests near Riga. A little 15 minutes of meditation and an equally short exercise is also an integral part of my daily routine, just like a sauna once a week. I am a very typical representative of my generation who diligently follows all the trends of a healthy lifestyle. All that is left is listening to podcasts, instead I still prefer a book in a tangible form. And I have a garden that is slowly starting to wake up and demand more and more of my attention.
What project are you currently working on?
I have been researching Latvian sauna ritual practices for several years. It could be said that, empirically, I myself have become an active user of sauna. As part of the project, I tried to look at this phenomenon from different points of view – from ethnographic, mystical and also scientific. Incidentally, regular sauna visits have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases or, for example, Alzheimer’s. I have photographed both traditionally in black and white and using thermal cameras. I also tried to find out what these sauna practices really mean to me, until I came to the conclusion that the sauna is a place of transformation. It is an environment where a person learns to accept and love himself – first through the acceptance of his body and later by expanding this sense of acceptance in a much broader worldview.