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satikšanās / the encounter

When I was going to give birth to my first child, I took my camera and tripod to the hospital. The self-portraits and videos I took became the source material for the exhibition «The Encounter», as this work is my attempt to understand and remember the process of childbirth. I have turned the video into enormous amount of freeze frames in order to research the choreography of the face and body orchestrated by physical pain. Video frame sequences along with the large scale self-portraits  were exhibited in ALMA gallery in autumn of 2023, curator - Astrida Rinke. Exhibition has received generous public attention and several press reviews. Please see the images and installation shots in the image gallery and scroll down to read the text about my creative process. 

It happened at the end of the summer of 2022. In preparation, I went to Lamaze classes, read a bunch of articles, joined several pregnancy chat groups, and, of course, tried to live as healthily as possible. I mentally prepared myself for a natural hospital birth without anesthesia. In the last weeks of pregnancy, I became slow and heavy, eagerly awaiting for the whole thing to finally begin. On the night before the expected due date, I was in serious pain, and when I arrived for the check-up in the morning, the doctor insisted that I go to the hospital as soon as possible. There, it all lasted only three hours – amniotomy followed by very painful contractions, then the urge to push and the stumbling to the delivery room. Next, I heard the midwife`s voice, saying that the baby wasn`t feeling well and instructing me to breathe correctly, while all I wanted to do was cry out; it was already too late to take the anesthesia… Then, an incision, a little pressure on the abdomen, and my baby girl was out before I even realized it. Then followed the delivery of the placenta and the stitching. The midwife said that I had lost quite a significant amount of blood, so it was best not to go to the shower alone. Finally, an hour of contact with the little miracle… So, I`ve managed to list the key moments that shaped this event. But how did I feel in all of this? What did my body do? Do I struggle to remember the details because a whole year has passed? Actually, I don’t recall having any vivid memories even just the next day – for some reason, my brain was refusing to convert this intense experience into easily accessible files. It`s a good thing I had brought a camera with a tripod to the maternity ward. I set it up in the room shortly after the breaking of the water. At the very beginning, I managed to take a few self-portraits. Soon, the intensity and frequency of the pain increased. A few times, I pressed the remote trigger and then switched to video mode to ensure nothing would disturb me while focusing on overcoming the pain. When I was moved to the operating room, the father of the baby remembered to grab the camera, but it only got turned on after the baby was already born. The next morning, I woke up with severe pain in my back and chest – during labour, my intercostal nerve got compressed, and the stitches were also terribly painful. It was difficult to move, but the baby needed feeding, and I had to try to get up somehow. That`s how my determination to record the first days in the hospital faded away.  December, I finally mustered the courage to take a first look at the recorded material, and gradually I began to study it closer in the hope of gaining a better understanding of what I had experienced.

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