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Monday, 15 July 2019

An abandoned house, an abandoned life

Dievs Daba Darbs by Vika Eksta  is a book about a house in the woods that has lain empty for years. It's a book about Eksta's trips to the house, and the things she finds there. It's about the woman who used to live there, who died (alone), whose belongings,  clothes, and  keepsakes Estra discovers on her trips to the forest. 

And the house is very much in the forest. It's dark and it's surrounded. In summer there is foxglove and fennel and birdsong, in winter there is dankness and solitude and cold.

Eksta photographs herself in this house. She puts on the clothes of the woman, she undertakes the chores every woman who lives in these woods must undertake, and as she does so she photographs. There is wood chopping, sugar pouring, lightbulb changing, clothes washing, fruit picking and child caring. There are slippers and old shopping lists, a pram,  all photographed in a  kind of rough and ready way, with the rougher images being the most successful in creating something very poignant. When we don't know who is in the picture, that sense of Eksta becoming the woman in the house.

It's a modest book. It's made like a schoolbook, with prints stuck onto  the lined pages and then photographed. At the back there's a diary detailing mostly photographic details, but also some notes on the isolation of the place. 

But what makes the book interesting is this found house and this process of becoming this woman, of taking on her home (if only for a few hours), of being in this backwater, of feeling the weight of the past, the land, the forest, the isolation, the cold flow into the present. That's the mood of the book, and that's where the weight lies, in the being of this woman whose presence comes through Eksta's interventions in the remnants of her domestic life. 

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