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Elina Brukle | 16 November, 2021
Inspired by the ancient Latvian masking traditions, the Métamorphose limited edition gift collection is all about transformation. The adorable creatures and miraculous events were brought to life by artist Katrina Neiburga, who created four short films where the power of tradition and its full-blooded energy is reimagined in the context of contemporary living.
The Métamorphose characters. Masks by Evelina Deicmane. Photo: Julija Prohorenkova
Katrina Neiburga. Photo: Arturs Kondrats
Tell us about your work on the short films. What are they all about?
K: The filming took place in my countryside house. At some point, I realised that all these stories come from my own life — they are real, documentary events. For example, the one in the forest. As a child, I hoped to fall into a pit, and my life would change. I had a vision that I would run through the forest, fall into a pit, and when coming out of it, everything would be completely different. It’s like anticipation about the other side, where everything is unusual and much more interesting.
The event by the sea is also real. I buried myself in the sand, when it was terribly hot, and then I used shells and bentgrass to decorate myself. The miraculous creature did not emerge from the sea, but I had a feeling that something like that could happen. Someone could come and meet me, when I’m like that… So beautiful (laughs). Transformed.
“At some point, I realised that all these stories come from my own life — they are real, documentary events.”
It is some kind of mystical documentary that interests me. These moments in life, when you actually encounter miracles of some kind, can open up completely different horizons for you. And it seems to me that I always use my experience more or less, as my imagination is not so wild to invent something new.
Do you think that these miracles happen to everyone?
K: Definitely. The only question is to what extent we notice them. You can create your own reality, I am absolutely convinced of that. If you are fully open, everything is possible. The most ordinary day can turn into a total miracle.
What do festivities mean to you?
K: Well, I am actually the queen of festivities (laughs). I really enjoy celebrating things, and organising all kinds of celebrations is my favourite pastime.
It is like a ritual that helps you live on. Like others are living from one trip to the next, I live from celebration to celebration. Waiting is a cool thing.
Photo: Julija Prohorenkova
“These moments in life, when you actually encounter miracles of some kind, can open up completely different horizons for you.”
What do you require to have a party?
K: The key is to figure out what could be special and to invite people. I really enjoy it. I like to set the environment, and to surprise with different things. For many my birthday party has become an expected event. If there is no party, everyone asks — why? — because my birthdays are usually splendid and crazy. So, I organise everything and usually disappear around midnight, leaving everyone, all those people, to celebrate there.
When watching the films, I drew parallels with the mythological notions — here, a crane appears, now what does this image of a crane mean? A woman peeling apples and heating the oven, possibly expecting a child…
K: The crane is actually a stork! A stork disguised as a crane.
Even better. I remember, the task of a crane was to come and peck the hosts, which symbolised fertility for the next year. It would be an attempt to explain this moment. But maybe all of it should be grasped more intuitively?
K: Well, absolutely right, because you’ve come up with a whole new story. I had no idea that this character could be expecting a child, although, when watching it again, I noticed that yes — there is some kind of mood there. It just happened on the spot. It was more like an intuitive event that turned into a story. Definitely a story of your own.
Was there anything that surprised or particularly pleased you in this masking tradition? Something worth borrowing today.
K: The most vivid memory is the metaphor of putting your hand in the oven. That it’s like putting your hand into another world, the afterlife. We used this motif in the third episode. In my countryside house I often heat the stove myself, and my hands get stained with soot. Ever since I learnt about another world in the mouth of the oven, when sorting logs or looking at the flames, I somehow always remember it. And what if someone grabs me by the hand (laughs)?
“If I think about it, I often really pretend to be someone else and try different roles in my works.”
The celebration is largely related to the ritual you mentioned. What role do you give it?
K: I have quite many different rituals, and some are my secrets. But I try to ritualise my daily life very much. Largely also due to the pandemic. Many people have grasped the feeling that they want to be masters of their time and decide for themselves how things will go.
You can think of some cool event every day. To organise an event to watch the shooting stars. To meet your family for dinner. To recite a verse before going to bed.
It all somehow holds the everyday together. There is no one and only true and right way to live, but for me personally it helps a lot — if there is something you can cling on to, not to lose the foundation under your feet.
The Little Man. Mask by Evelina Deicmane.
Photo: Julija Prohorenkova
“Sometimes it’s like psychoanalysis through art — standing face to face with things that bother you. Fear, for example.”
How do you use roles and masking in your own life and creative work?
K: I think that I am very true in life. I have also heard it from people around me. I don’t use masks in my daily life, but I am a chameleon, who changes. I communicate with people a lot. I play different roles. But it’s more like adapting to situations, because I know that it is going to be more cool that way.
If I think about it, often I really pretend to be someone else and try different roles in my works. Sometimes it is like psychoanalysis through art — standing face to face with things that bother you. Fear, for example. I remember a recent work Mierinājums (Comfort) , While working on it I tried to live through my fear of death, and I really healed myself to some extent. It is unbelievable, but I got better. Everything I experienced along the way — meetings, conversations and listening to different worldviews — led me to taking life easier. Took away some heaviness, served as a course of psychotherapy.
Photo: Julija Prohorenkova
“I’ve always thought that the most important thing is to live an interesting and passionate life.”
In your art, you often work with yourself, your visual image. You subject yourself to different experiences. Do you challenge yourself on purpose, or does it happen naturally? Well, most of us wouldn’t get into a beaver’s cave — although might even want to.
K: Of course, I always have to push myself. Also to communicate with people. Even though it feeds me, it’s always a bit uncomfortable at first and I feel afraid. Whether you go to talk to someone in garages, to the hairdressers, or drive to the countryside to seek the truth. But once you’re in the process, adrenaline takes over. And that is how I like to feel. You have that catch and then you think — yes, yes, yes! You are in that beaver’s cave, you have overcome the coldness, the inconvenience, the insects. You’re in there. And after you have got out, it is clear that now you can sneak into any cave. There are no more boundaries.
I’ve always thought that the most important thing is to live an interesting and passionate life. To make it happen, I cannot stand still.
And the last question — what would you like to receive as a gift?
K: It doesn’t matter to me exactly what is being gifted. It should be a true surprise. The most boring thing is if you know and anticipate what the gift is — no matter how big and special it is, the surprise, excitement and joy of the moment disappears. Yes, I want surprises.
Watch all Métamorphose episodes here.
More about Katrina and her art: neiburga.lv.
Katrina Neiburga and cameraman Rolands Briedis. Photo: Julija Prohorenkova
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