Neither Horse nor Tiger
 Sometimes in order to describe something, it is necessary to reflect not on the presence of something or the obvious, but how it is framed or what is not seen. In photography, both what is depicted in the picture and what is left outside the frame are equally important. In other words, everything that arises in the viewers thoughts when looking at the pictures is important. In order to express what these photos are about, it might be more important not to mention what you cannot See there, but what can be seen. It is common to think of photographs as an "open window" to another time and place, as an object that evokes sentimental feelings about the lost past and the inevitability of death, even if the viewer has not been present in any way in the making of a photograph. In the photographs, we strive to see many special moments of various natures, or, more precisely, even the most banal everyday moments in the photographs gain additional meaning and the potential to be meaningful to the casual viewer. The seemingly simple syntax of photographs challenges us to quickly and easily decode their messages, but unfortunately, behind this veil of simplicity lies the trap of meanings conjured up in the viewer's own imagination.
China is one of the largest countries on Earth; it has the largest population in the world, the second-largest economy, the largest army with significant geopolitical ambitions in Asia and the world as a whole. It is also one of the rare countries still influenced by the communist ideology. News headlines in Western cultures often present China in a less than flattering way: human rights violations, labor camps, ecological problems, militarization, one-party dictatorship, etc. My images do not prevent anyone from thinking about all of the above. However, the intention behind them is not to reproduce the sensationalist and totally dull visual rhetoric typical of photojournalism. Perhaps the visual language applied in the photograph is used in a way that does not reveal, but rather surprises and provides the pleasure of viewing, even in those situations where the depicted reality is repulsive. The nocturnal city landscapes of sparkling skyscrapers become less desirable when one was to examine them more closely and notice the crumbling holes in the walls of buildings that have occurred in the spirit of communist construction, using poor-quality materials or due to builder negligence. Partly demolished private houses next to new building areas where the last inhabitants of the social hells still live. The only watering option for the well-maintained and weeded gardens is the dirty, tar­like water running the adjacent ditch. Dancers, whose romantic intimacy often ends on the same evening as the end of the regular evening exercise session in the shadows of some newly constructed building's fence. Unfortunately, the paternalism of the photographic language denies access to the reality, and leaves only one's imagination. After a series of trips to China from 2013 to 2017, I do not think I have become wiser about its culture, everyday life, sociopolitical activities, even though I really had both the desire and the time to look at, to see and think about the place and the people in it. In my opinion, the real way to discover the spirit of place and time is to be able to see the special in the simple and mundane, which is also the basis of these photographs.
How does one tells about a place that only exists in imagination? Everything there seems to be just like everywhere else – estranged high-rise neighborhoods, cheap beer in suburban cafes, parents with children in parks, youth having a picnic on the beach on s warm spring evenings, and the city as usual ends with a gravel road and a cluster of dusty bushes. Yet there is something different about it. “Different” meaning without arrogant exoticization and dramatization, with no surprises but simply different. Like walking, when a new scene around the corner presents itself, it is neither better nor worse than the previous one, just different, and you are prepared to accept it as a home for a shorter or longer moment. 
Despite the presence of sound and video, fundamentally all artwork in the exhibition are photographic. They are intended to be static and in all of their being strive to remain that way. Like photographs in the project, the sound generated by the recording — the cascade of sounds from rehearsals in the corridors of Shanghai Conservatory — is a static capture of the sound environment without the intention of creating a piece of music. The sound most accurately reveals the distinct Chinese environment in which more or less recognizable themes from different cultures and eras have mixed in apparent confusion allowing it to surprisingly organically pulsate and evolve on its own.
As in any story, accidents play a certain role. Photo film exposed by airport X-rays, broken camera shutter, unexpectedly enjoyable pizza in a secluded cafe, cold coffee from a roadside kiosk, broccoli of uncertain origin for breakfast, banned New Year's Eve fireworks. and many other moments that left their mark on these pictures, but are not present in them. 
2013 - 2017 / All works are archival pigment ink prints on rag paper, sizes variable (ed 5+2AP)

Title: Neither Horse nor Tiger 
Director: Alnis Stakle
Camera, Sound, Postproduction: Alnis Stakle
Experimental | 4K | Colour | Runtime: 25:44 | Aspect Ratio: 16:9 | Latvia | 2020

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