Jaanus Samma explores how moral conventions and notions of national authenticity are constructed within the discourses of power. Working at the intersection of history, ethnography, and museology, he seeks to queer national heritage and broaden perspectives on identity formation, offering alternative ways of contextualizing the past. In Riga Postcards, Samma envisions the Latvian capital as a utopian Soviet gay vacation destination. The installation depicts a 1970–80s travel fair stand that advertises Riga as an alluring backdrop for gay tourism and leisure. This project is a collaboration between the artist and Latvian historian Ineta Lipša, drawing insights from the personal diaries of Kaspars Irbe (1906–1996), who provided detailed descriptions of Riga’s local queer subculture. Irbe’s diaries meticulously chronicle this clandestine world, including cruising spaces in the streets, parks, and toilets of Old Town Riga, as well as Jūrmala Beach. The diaries vividly describe the experiences of gay visitors from neighbouring Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Russia, drawn to Riga for the promise of anonymity the city could offered.
Work in the exhibition: Riga Postcards (2020), installation, digital print on silk, metal stands, flower arrangement Courtesy of the artist and Temnikova & Kasela Gallery