Exhibition “Decolonial Ecologies: Understanding Postcolonial after Socialism”


Participating artists: Linda Boļšakova, Maija Demitere, Vika Eksta, Anna Griķe, Inga Erdmane, Diana Lelonek, Family Connection, Maria Kapajeva, Haralds Matulis, Francisco Martinez, Anna Shkodenko, Darja Popolitova, Viktor Gurov, Līga Spunde, Rasa Šmite & Raitis Šmits, Aurelija Maknytė, Olia Mykhailiuk

Curator: Ieva Astahovska

The exhibition Decolonial Ecologies: Understanding Postcolonial after Socialism was organised by the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art and displayed at Riga Art Space between 2 November 2022 and 15 January 2023. It featured an extensive programme of artist workshops, discussions and talks.

Through the lens of the climate crisis and environmental history, the exhibition explored the complex relationship between colonial past and postcolonial present, and the lasting repercussions of imperialism in the Baltics and neighbouring regions.

Decolonial Ecologies looked at postcolonialism and decolonialism beyond the scope of the geographical bounds of the Global South. In the Baltic States and the former Soviet bloc, decolonial perspectives are a key tool to analyse and comprehend the remaining impacts of colonialism and imperialism decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its aim at reestablishing its past hegemony have reignited the need for decolonial discourse in Eastern Europe.

By confronting us with our past, Decolonial Ecologies also made us look at our relationship with the environment and the domination we exert on nature, shedding light on our need to reframe and rethink local ecologies, outside colonial and capitalistic influences. 

The participating artists explored the following questions: How can revisiting the past help understand and work with contemporary political and environmental crises? How can ideas and practices for alternative ecologies create new approaches to environmental solutions, renewable energy development, biodiversity, and the shared ecosystem between humans and nature today and in the future?

The exhibition Decolonial Ecologies was part of the series of activities titled Reflecting Postsocialism through Postcolonialism in the Baltics, which addressed entangled relations of the past and present in Latvia and the Baltics through the prism of the current ecological crisis, environmental issues and nationalism. The collaboration with the participating artists in the exhibition began with a public programme of artistic research “Ecosystems of Change”, which took place in the urban environment in Riga at the end of 2021, as well as with the LCCA Summer School “Postsocialist Ecologies“.

The exhibition is part of the project “From Difficult Past Towards Shared Futures“, which the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art is developing in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, OFF-Bienniale in Budapest, Museum of Art in Lodz and Malmö Art Museum within the framework of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.

Decolonial Ecologies is part of the project Islands of Kinship: A Collective Manual for Sustainable and Inclusive Art Institutions.