“Everyone needs to eat and occasionally present flowers. For both you need money. I don’t have money because I don’t have a job. Help me find a job and you’ll be presented flowers.”
Dainis Vucēns, classified ad (translated to English) placed in the Russian language newspaper Angliya printed in England (April 2012).
The classified advert is a free space, one in which desires are disclosed. It is a space of direct need (whether this manifests is another thing entirely). For the immigrant landed outside their mother country, the classified ad offers a point of reconnection to the culture they have left; offering a simulacra of something known. Dainis Vucēns placed his advert in the Russian newspaper Angliya as a pragmatic act, as its UK circulation far outstrips that of any papers in his native Latvian tongue. An unexpected collision between art and life occurred with artists They Are Here, recognising this advert as a poetic act, a work fully formed and awaiting a response. This commenced a micro-narrative that now runs as a live research process, as They Are Here replied to Dainis’ advert and Dainis responded. Speculative meetings were arranged through which a mutual agreement was reached, that the collective would engage in finding work for Dainis in the hope of one day being presented flowers.
The resulting documentation from these meetings has been presented in two process based exhibitions - the first at Centrala: a project space that provides support and training for Central and Eastern European communities and the second in Redbridge Central Library. Integral to both exhibitions is the connection that both spaces offer migrant communities, at a time when incoming populations are subject to continued hostility in a host country that is becoming adverse to free movement. Documentation, diary accounts from meetings, images researched from conversations and snapshots taken by passers-by manifest themselves on the wall in Centrala and in vitrines at Redbridge. Questions present at the commencement of their dialogue show a concern with how to document Dainis’ presence, which are craftily resolved through the insertion of portraits by Thorsten Wulff of Lawrence Weiner, who brings a mythological presence to an unexpected role.
Evident throughout the documentation is an ongoing journey undertaken by strangers; the working through of questions of trust, ethics and expectancy are present for both parties. Dainis’ contribution to the exhibitions has moved beyond that of subject into that of a collaborator, bringing a DJ set to Centrala and a series of photographs documenting his life to Redbridge. These actions flesh out his presence, focus on his life with his wife Iveta and the quality of life they share. An increasing sense of the shared precariousness of work, migration, and conditions of life in twenty-first century London began to take form in the dialogue developed between They Are Here and Dainis. The work articulates a parity of conditions, through acknowledgement that fiscal and locational instabilities are echoed in the lives of artists.
Pass through the silent study area at Redbridge Library, where the air is thick with concentration and optimistic hope at the end of the academic year. In an adjacent room the archive charts the tributaries running into the Thames. The library is home to the divergent lives and languages that make up our cities, a space in which the subjects contained in the vitrines that house ‘I’ll bring you flowers’ is not uncommon. In the final vitrine sit a series of photographs taken by Dainis that depict his home life, wife, cat and spring blossom with a precision not dissimilar to William Eggleston. In one of the photographs he stands in front of a flower stall, arms open and smiling, issuing a knowing invitation for further exchange.