Kristaps Epners

Forget Me Not


The promising 33-year-old poet Miervaldis Kalniņš unexpectedly left the Riga Young Writers’ Association in 1971, took his guitar and headed to roughly the same place in Siberia that had only recently seen the deaths of many deported Latvians. Only a few friends knew the reason: Miervaldis had copied Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago and had therefore come to the attention of the KGB. He ended up leading a brigade of construction workers in the Sayan Mountains near Mongolia for more than twenty years. However, compared to the carefully aligned brick walls with clean joints featured in Soviet press photographs, here we see desolate landscapes with barely standing buildings, more likely to be captured by the bricklayers in Solzhenitsyn’s book, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Kristaps Epners adds: “Miervaldis was a friend of my father, the documentary filmmaker Ansis Epners. While sorting out the archives of my late father, I discovered letters that Miervaldis had sent to him over many years. In one of them there were two fragile Siberian flowers: a yellow wild lily for my father and a blue forget-me-not for me. I received my flower thirty-eight years later.”

Forget Me Not is a thoughtful multimedia installation that tells a deeply personal story of a relationship between two people. It is also a generalised account of painful Siberian memories shared by Latvians and Estonians. Forget Me Not was commissioned by the 1st Riga Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA1), Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More, curated by Katerina Gregos. This exhibition presents the further development of the work, created especially for the premises of the Art Hall Gallery.