Jaunā Gaita nr. 147, (1) 1984

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JG 147

We begin the articles in this issue with Juris Rozītis', the director of the Stockholm experi­mental theatre group "Mālu ansamblis", analysis of the changing role of culture in the Latvian exile community. Initially, its functions were to show that Latvian society could exist outside the Soviet Union and to hold this society together, preventing assimilation and social isolation. Many times, exile cultural life was supported, not because of its intrinsic worth, but because the community felt a duty to support any Latvian activity. The young generation, however, have lost this sense of duty, and are either indifferent to Latvian culture, or demand that it be as rele­vant to their lives as the mainstream culture around them. The conclusion of this article will be in the next issue.

Painter and playwright Raimonds Staprāns contributes an essay on the essence of art - that it is not technique, nor subject matter, nor style, but that it is a law unto itself. True art cannot be co-opted by any system, for religious, commer­cial or political ends. True art is always against the status quo, because it deals with the "truth that a person wants to find, talking to himself in the dark of night, with tightly closed lips, so that even those closest to him cannot hear him, not to mention those on whom he depends for life, se­curity, work..."

Laimonis Mieriņš sends a review of the Kostakis collection of early Soviet art, which has amazed the world since it left the Soviet Union in 1977. At first, avant-garde artists were full participants in the new Soviet society, and dedicated their art to it. However, they fell into disfavour with the commissars and were supplanted by the "socialist realists", who, Mieriņš observes, were simply conservative painters of the old narrative school and realized on which side their bread was buttered. Many of the avant-garde artists lost their lives in the vicious purges of the 1930's, and most of their work was destroyed either by the police, their families, or the war. From this perspective, the very existence of the Kostakis collection is almost miraculous. Two Latvian artists are represented in the collection, Gustavs Klucis (d.1938) and Aleksandrs Drēviņš (d.1944).

Art editor Nikolajs Bulmanis contributes a col­umn which is, as usual, full of fascinating insights into the Latvian and international art scenes - this time he covers the Street Painters show at the Art Students' League in New York, the Manet retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the essay about Vija Celmiņa in the November 1983 issue of Artforum, Maija Tabaka's visit and exhibition in Sweden this past summer, and two recent shows on early twentieth-century Scan­dinavian art: the "Northern Lights" show at the Brooklyn Museum, about the Scandinavian symbolists, and "The Mystic North" at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which dealt with the influence of Scandinavian art on the Canadian landscape painters known as the "Group of Seven".

In JG 145 we began a series on the future of nationalism. We continue in this issue with Imants Steprāns' view that nationalism, as we know it, was the idea of J.J. Rousseau, and was first carried out by Robespierre and Napoleon. Western Europe had already experienced nationalism, in its extreme form under the French Revolution and Napoleon, with "blood and tears" almost a century before the Latvians were thrown from their cultural isolation into the mainstream of European thought in the last part of the 19'th century. Steprāns concludes that our best alternative, as a personal philosophy, to the state's desire to mold us to its specifications, is that of the "dainas" - anti-centralist, anti-feudal, and revering family, mother and nature.

One of the features of exile Latvian society is the great value it places upon higher education, with the result that the proportion of university graduates among Latvians is exceptionally high. The official reasoning behind this is that educa­tion is not only an individual good; but good for our society as a whole. Māris Bite, in his science column, questions this and points out that well-­educated scientists and engineers are more likely to scatter and assimilate into a system that is able to use their abilities, than to stay with the exile Latvian community, which has no defined role for technocrats and little use for their pro­fessional abilities.

Jānis Apals concludes his series on the exca­vations at Lake Araiši with a description of the livelihood of the inhabitants and the crafts that they practised, such as metalwork, woodwork and weaving. An interesting note is that the cas­tle is being completely reconstructed on its orig­inal site as part of an open-air museum in the Gauja National Park.

The poet Edvards Virza (1883-1940) is honored on his centenary with his poem "Floods of Lielupe" on page 1. The revolutionary activist and writer Linards Laicens (1883-1938) is the second centenarian honored in this issue: Andrievs Ezergailis focuses on the Latvian events of 1917-1918 that convinced Laicens to join the Bolsheviks, while at the same time re­maining a fervent and eloquent Latvian nationalist. Laicens worked in the communist underground during Latvia's independence, but moved to the Soviet Union in 1933 to escape a prison sentence in Latvia. He was "purged" for his revolutionary efforts in 1938. Imants Sakss contributes a biography of composer and music critic Jānis Zālītis (1884-1943), also a centenarian this year.

The literary section of this issue has poetry by Valdis Krāslavietis and Mārtiņš Grants, who are father and son, Valdis Dzilna, Nikolajs Kalniņš and Knuts Skujenieks. Daina Šķēle and Benita Veisberga contribute prose works, while Min­tauts Eglītis continues the memoir series on playwright Spodris Klauverts. The frontispiece is by Ģirts Puriņš, entitled "Composition with New Mexican basalt", and the cover is by Ilmārs Rumpēters. Māris Bišofs sent the cartoon on page 20, and the regular columns by Juris Mazutis and Tālivaldis Kiķauka also appear in this issue.


Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita