What's a Girl Like You Doing In a Place Like This

Mixed media installation, animation, photographs, objects 

Latvian National Museum Of Art, Riga, Latvia
7/10 – 19/11/2017

Group show together with Monta Andžejevska, Vents Āboltiņš, Katrīna Čemme, Krista Dzudzilo, Reinis Dzudzilo, Kaspars Groševs, Indriķis Ģelzis, Jānis Klaučs, Ģirts Korps, Maija Kurševa, Ieva Kraule, Andrejs Lavrinovičs, “3/8” , “F5”, Darja Meļņikova, Anta Pence, Ojārs Pētersons, Kaspars Podnieks, Krišs Salmanis, Alise Sondore, Klāvs Upaciers, Evita Vasiļjeva, Oskars Veilands, Lidija Zaneripa, Brigita Zelča-Aispure un Armands Zelčs
Curated by Ojārs Pētersons, Līga Marcinkeviča, Maija Kurševa

The title of the project “What’s A Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This / Part I” comes from a cheesy pick-up line that could potentially become an issue of a lifetime. The question is flirtatious as well as implies unwanted judgement about the girl, and her incompatibility with her surroundings without giving more information on the problem. The contrast between the girl and the place is the main issue of the piece. Searching for a similar feeling of disconnect in my memory, I found characters from childhood movies like “The Gremlins” and “Space Jam” to be perfect prototypes for the project.

The project “What’s A Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This / Part I” is formed as a mixed media installation, based on a fictional story about a girl who works as a set-designer for fantasy movies. The story and the objects include elements from real life situations intended to make the scenes more adventurous. The project is envisioned in three parts and would result in a set-design / exhibition of a kitchen where the video piece “What’s A Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This” would be shot.

The Kitchen, digital drawing

The Microwave, polyester resin, steel frame, projection film, animation

The Fridge, polyester resin, photography, prints, paper, plastic swords, wood, steel frame

The Emotion Thugs, digital drawing

Photo by Justin Schultz

The Gremlin, Coloured polyester resin


What's a girl like you doing in a place like this / PART I / The Fridge

It happened in May last year, when my computer overheated and the phone went crazy – for the first time ever it decided to ask me “What would you like to do?”, and repeated this question many times every day, thus becoming a sort of electronic inner voice, which almost teasingly made me realize again and again that I really have no idea what I would like to do.

Anyway, the movie was finished and the last day of filming ended with a wild party. After eight months of hard work, the creative team and the large cast were partying in the local pub in Berrington, which was reserved for the after-party. An impressive pyramid of champagne glasses towered in the center of the room, groupies, who seemingly had come out of nowhere, were dancing on the bar counter and the director was kissing with the make-up artist’s second assistant on the couch. If all goes well, the movie will be a blockbuster – like a hybrid between Space Jam and The Ghost.

I spent most of the evening chatting with the rest of the design team – we discussed the special effects and the fact that the more we worked on the scenography, the less we fit in there. Nevertheless, the experience gained over these eight months combined with the expensive liquor and soft drugs worked its magic. Shortly after midnight I got overwhelmed by irrational sadness, cried a little, called a taxi and went to my flat alone. In a week I had to leave the modest flat I lived in during the making of the film, but I still hadn’t found the next project. It made me feel uneasy.

When I got to the flat, I fell in the bed with all my clothes on and fell asleep.

It was the middle of the night – around 3:30 – when I woke up from a loud bang in the other room. I held my breath and unnoticeably flinched. I listened attentively and heard a sort of whistling, then – a muffled squeak of the floor and finally – from very far off – the sound of a string snapping that seemed to come from heaven, fleeting and bittersweet.

I was sure that someone had broken into my flat. I remember wondering whether one can send texts to emergency numbers.

Not having found the answer, I overcame my fear and gave out some sound – I think I said “hello”. No one answered. I stayed in bed for a moment, then summoned my strength, got up and stepped into the dark kitchen. It seemed that no one is there, but the night, the stress and the vanishing dizziness from the recent party didn’t allow me to fully assess the situation. I calmed down a bit and gropingly moved across the kitchen in the dark to turn the light on, but then I suddenly slipped and fell on the floor, painfully hitting my back and head. Instantly a cold liquid of unidentified liquid soaked through my nightdress. I immediately got up and, while in a state of temporary insanity, ran across the room and turned the light on.

There was no one in the kitchen, but in the middle of it – in a large puddle –, lay my fridge that had fallen over. I froze in horror once again. It was obvious that the fridge couldn’t have fallen over on its own. Overcome by fear, I called the police, but suddenly remembered the wet nightdress and hung up the phone to get the wet piece of cloth off my body. I was completely certain that the liquid in which I had fallen was the poisonous freon – a substance which, similarly to mercury used in thermometers – was deadly and toxic when coming in any contact with human skin. I ran into the shower and scrubbed my back with a pumice intended for heels. Finally I dried myself with a towel and, after coming to my senses, I called the police again.

The police was moderately unsympathetic. The morning came and my life went back to normal. I didn’t find the next project, so I decided to rest for a while. I accepted the fact that the fridge case will remain unresolved and subconsciously started to blame its falling over on mystical creatures – mythological Anglo-Saxon beings. Somehow it seemed much easier to find supernatural, not realistic explanations, and, after all, it suited the overall situation – the film I had been working on definitely was something between Disney, sci-fi and a horror movie.

About six months later I received an official letter for the Berrington police: they had detained a man who, according to them, was guilty of breaking in my and several other women’s homes. In the photo that was attached to the letter I recognized a guy that I had briefly met at the after-party. I think he was one of the extras they hired from the local acting school, and his role was to pretend he’s real while covered in make-up that included a gelatin forehead, emerald contact lenses, latex scales and silicon ears. Back then he – noticeably drunk - came up to me and slipped a small piece of paper in my hand that said: “What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?” I remember that I smiled and turned away in silence, but, bizarrely, this question had a reality-check impact on me – I remembered my phone that still hadn’t gotten approval to one of the offered options. The piece of paper he gave me was a faded and glossy photo of a sunlit waterfall, the size of a business card. On the back of the photo he had written his phone number. I didn’t call, of course.

It turns out that freon is relatively low in toxicity and its main property is inertia – total lack of activity, total inability to bind, inability to dissolve in water or other polar solvents. When released in the atmosphere, the molecules of freon advance the depletion of the ozone layer.

It isn’t poisonous, but regardless of where I am, since that night ozone above my head is constantly and gradually depleting. I’m like a computer which sends deathly information to an ozone satellite 24/7, and it reflects back to Earth with double intensity, thus even in the nicest days, wherever I go, damaging plants, causing cell disintegration, increasing anxiety, stimulating inflammation in the eye mucosa and killing the animals and microorganisms that live in the upper layers of water.

A month and a half ago, among other useless papers, I found a souvenir left by the intruder – the small piece of paper with a waterfall photo and a 10-digit phone number. I entered it in my phone and, after a brief moment of doubt, pressed the call button. A sexy robotic voice announced that this number doesn’t exist. I felt relieved, closed my eyes and, remembering what Amanda – our film’s clapper – once told me, visualized a waterfall, similar to the one in the photo. Back then she said: “Every time I don’t want to meet, hear or see someone, every time I feel sad or threatened, I visualize a calm and clear waterfall, which separates me from the outside world like a heavy and invisible wall.”

Text in collaboration with Klāvs Mellis