The Riga Photography Biennial (RPB) is an international contemporary art event, focusing on the analysis of visual culture and artistic representation. The term ‘photography’ in the title of the biennial is used as an all-embracing concept encompassing a mixed range of artistic image-making practices that have continued to transform the lexicon of contemporary art in the 21 st century.

The biennial covers issues ranging from cultural theory to current socio-political processes in the Baltics and the wider European region. Using the format of an art festival, Riga Photography Biennial attempts to record changes taking place all over the world and invites us to collectively interpret them – something we not only need to see but also imagine whilst translating the complicated and oversaturated contemporary visual language into meaningful relationships between our daily reality, the camera lens, historic material, contemporary art, technologies and the future. How has our understanding of photography and image changed because of digital technologies, and how does it manifest itself in the work of art? For the organisers of the biennial these are important questions to present and analyse, whilst at the same time introducing Latvian audiences to leading works of international art as well as the ideas of prominent art theoreticians presented in the form of symposiums, discussions and publications in parallel with exhibitions and performances.

The first Riga Photography Biennial took place in 2016. It was followed by the Off-Year Programme in 2017 focusing on emerging artists.

The second Riga Photography Biennial begins in April 2018 and will continue to run for the rest of the year as part of a wider programme celebrating the centenary of the Republic of Latvia. The programme of the biennial will consist of two parts: exhibitions across several indoor and outdoor venues in Riga, Liepāja, Cēsis, Daugavpils, Tartu (Estonia), and Moscow (Russia), as well as an education programme with discussions, presentations by artists, a multidisciplinary symposium and other activities.

The identity of Riga Photography Biennial 2018 – ‘I Like Your Face’
In the post-internet era when the prospect of becoming a unicorn, cardinal, gourmet, mythical being or Instagram hipster is just a few clicks away, self-awareness and the continuous redefining of who we are in different contexts, how others perceive us, and who we wish to be, has become imperative. The performance of looking and the image have become integral parts in self-representation and communication. On social media we often ‘like’ something – but what does it really mean? What do we see and what is imagined? And what exactly is it that we ‘like’? Just as in physical reality we encounter many ‘faces’ daily, our digital reality is also populated by countless faces that enter our consciousness. Thus the metaphor of face becomes an important part of identity. ‘Face’ as a mask/role we put on every day to communicate ourselves to the rest of the world and ‘face’ as a reality/image we see when we look at the face of the other, which according to a French philosopher Emanuel Levinas is most fragile and vulnerable, and thereby invites us into a relationship with the other. However, is it possible to interact with the other without categorising and thematising – simply by candidly liking? The biennial examines these relationship issues by looking at how human expressions such as emotions, pain and empathy survive in the modern context of technologies, and how imagined belonging to some other reality co- exists with social identities.