Līga Spunde

Artist Interview

April 5, 2020
Līga Spunde (1990) was born in Riga, Latvia. Her works are often created as multi-media installations, where personal stories are intertwined with constructed fiction. By creating a broad and, at the same time, a finely crafted thematic network, her works include references to different times and symbols. The accuracy of the interpretation and the newly-made context becomes an extension of personal experience, revealing proverbial truths. The works are created using a variety of materials and media.

Hello Līga, we're so glad to have to on De:Formall. Can you start with telling us a bit about your background and your art practice?  

Thank you for having me! I was born and raised in Riga, Latvia, during a time when the country was going through a major ideological shift, which consequently altered its value systems and beliefs.

In the 90s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, people were eager to import, discover and consume capitalist ideas. These changing circumstances have had a big influence both on my personality and creative practice and the way I expand my personal experience by interpreting it with elements from the West.

Many of my works are based on my personal experience. My emotions and experience are authentic and powerful sources of inspiration from where I develop fictional and symbolic stories.

I started my education in arts at a very classic arts college, where I studied mostly painting and drawing of still life. Then I got admitted to the Visual Communication department of the Art Academy of Latvia, where I completed both my BFA and MFA. These studies developed my understanding of a conceptual approach to art and the power of ideas in its many forms. While studying there, I went to Belgium several times to gain additional knowledge and experience. In Antwerp I studied at the installation department and increasingly got into experimenting with materiality.

Your work ranges from video, digital print, installation, assemblage, to sculpture. What are your favorite parts of being a multidisciplinary artist, and how do you decide on medium for each piece of work? Is there medium you want to try next?

In my works, the content and the idea determine the medium. If I’m working on an installation that consists of several elements, I always try to find the best and the most accurate solution for each one of them. I think it helps to enhance the power of the installation as a whole. The most exciting thing about being a multidisciplinary artist is the opportunity to always try something new, to do something you’ve never done before. Discoveries are my favorite part of the process. If I’m lucky, they become a completely new visual language which allows me to express my ideas even more precisely. I constantly learn something new, I’m not afraid of trying out materials and methods, even if my competence is limited. In my view, trying is the only way you can move forward.

Right now, I’d like to work on the idea of creating various sculptural screens; likewise, I’m interested in continuing my work on digital illustrations – there’s a lot more to be discovered and done in this area.

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What is your relationship with technology and the internet? How do they affect your work?

From an early age I’ve spent a lot of my time on the computer playing various video games or just surfing the web. I spent my adolescence in various chat rooms and forums, getting to know the diversity of the digital environment and people. During this time, I really learned a lot about the world and the variety of virtual manipulation. Overall, it was a slightly scary, but also a very exciting time in my life. It certainly has impacted my perception and the way of thinking, my ability to see events in a broader context and to find similarities in the most unexpected places. Technology and the internet are still an important part of my work and everyday life, and sometimes my experience with them is referenced in my art projects.

Can you tell us more about ​"When Hell Is Full the Dead Will Walk the Earth" ?

This project is based on a true story that has had a big emotional influence on me because it happened with someone close to me – my sister. It all started like this: a year and a half ago in an office in Riga half of the staff got fired without any warning. Afterwards it turned out that for several years these people had maintained a secret hate chat where they humiliated, stalked and gossiped about their colleagues. The contents of this chat revealed that the perpetrators had hacked their colleagues’ bank accounts, social media accounts and emails, where they obtained sensitive and private information. The most alarming aspect of this story is the fact that their actions were not limited to virtual mobbing – the chat revealed that the perpetrators had regularly drugged their colleagues’ food causing various allergies and physical discomfort. But the culmination was the planning of one colleague’s murder.

I saw this situation as surreal. I couldn’t stop thinking about it – why are people doing this? I tried to understand the motives behind these actions and got interested in hate as a form of entertainment and the phenomenon of toxic relationship. I decided to create a project where I cover different elements related to this topic.

The installation includes references both to martial arts and William Hazlitt’s collection of essays “On the Pleasure of Hating”, Disney’s animation “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Tom and Jerry”, “The Sims” video game, the scandalous “texting suicide” criminal case and other elements.

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What is your process like? Can you walk us through how you tackle a series of work from getting the inspiration to production to completion?

I think that the precise formulation of the idea is the most time-consuming part. Often my works are an intense emotional reaction to a given situation, therefore my first task is to clearly understand my position on what has happened and what I’m trying to say with my work. The next step is defining the visual side of this message and the elements needed to make it complete. Usually I dig into the topic and try to find similar stories, events or elements in various cultural-historical contexts. It is very exciting – trying to understand how something I feel or think looks like.

When I’ve planned the elements of the installation, I try to find the best way, medium or format that allows me to implement my idea. I usually do various technical experiments with digital opportunities and physical materials. If I sense that I can’t do it on my own, I often ask my friends for advice and then together we look for a way to carry out the idea. In my creative process, the production of the artwork is usually a very intensive but a relatively short phase. During this phase I’m open to improvisation, which usually brings surprises.

We really love the aesthetics of your digital prints, they are simultaneously retro and futuristic, super flat and unapologetically 3D. How did you came to this unique aesthetic, and how are they created?

Thank you, I’m very happy to hear that! I arrived at this aesthetic via experiments. It happened when I was living in Brussels and I didn’t have access to technical workshops or studios where I could work on creative discoveries. Back then my only tool and space for creative work was my computer, so I increasingly used the digital environment for creating new artworks. People are usually rather surprised when they find out that these prints were designed in Photoshop by drawing characters and repeating the 3D simulation effect for a ridiculous number of times. It’s more simple than it looks, but it takes time and patience.

How does writing play a role in your art practice?

I’ve always been attracted to unbelievable stories – rather historical events and ghost stories than fairy tales.  At one point I realized that I find myself in strange situations more often than others and I started to write about these situations in a private blog, which over time developed my ability to reformulate what has happened and share my personal experience.

Quite often my work is based on a surprising but true story that I interpret symbolically, by involving existing elements from pop culture and historical or religious themes. This strategy helps expand the message and to distance myself from getting too personal, all the while not losing the dynamic and power of the original story.

I often include written text in my projects, but in the context of art I feel more comfortable when I work with someone who writes their own version of my story. Texts that are included in my projects are often key to the true stories on which they are based, even though the characters and circumstances have been changed.

What are your thoughts on artwork and its title, and how do you title your work?

In my opinion, the title of an artwork is another platform for getting its message across. It can be a quote which is not directly related to the artwork you’re seeing, but maybe in this particular combination it gives new meaning and shifts the viewer’s thoughts. I really like playing with titles. It’s similar to underground hardcore band names in the 2000s – the name length usually isn’t an obstacle, if it accurately reflects the feeling conveyed by the message. A good title can be really important in making the artwork a success.

What is your studio like? Do you have studio rituals that get you in the zone? If so, what are they?

A few weeks ago I started working in a space that slowly is becoming my new studio. It is a beautiful, medium-sized space with high ceiling and a view to a park. My new studio is located in the building that was formerly the building of the Faculty of Biology of the University of Latvia – that’s why there’s a special atmosphere and a slightly chemical aroma. It still is rather clean and empty, but since it is my space – not for long.

Feeling comfortable in the studio is very important. It’s important that working and being there is pleasant and that there’s enough space for my thoughts. When I got my new studio, I carried out a ritual – I burned a​ juniper twig​ to smoke out all the dark corners while wishing that this space becomes a place for new and good things. But in my everyday life my ritual is a cup of black coffee and a notebook. I believe that by writing and asking questions to myself I arrive at the best ideas.

What are you working on these days? Are there any upcoming projects or exhibitions?

Right now I’m trying to organize my current projects and fix up the new studio, but this year I’ll have several exciting collaborative projects for which I’m planning to create new works. Those will be both digital prints dedicated to the stream of consciousness and experiments with new materials and reflections on the topic “Being safe is scary”. I have a feeling that this will be a very good year!

Do you have any bad habits? How do they affect your daily life?

Of course, I have several bad habits, for example, I don’t like calling strangers. I always have to summon my strength to do that, so I try to avoid it every way I can and ask someone else to make the call for me. Luckily I don’t have such problems with emails.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us? Any fun facts our readers can learn about you?

Thank you for the opportunity to tell more about my work and the process behind it.Thanks to all the readers for their interest and time!

P.S. Once a numerologist told me that the sum total of my name and personal data is missing the number 7, so I don’t have a guardian angel. She suggested I take up a pseudonym. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

More of Līga Spunde:  ligaspunde.com  |  @ligaspunde