Wednesday, 5 August 2015

A proper English forest

In this second part of his interview for The Homeless Library, artist Andris discusses the pressure to conform, in Latvia where he grew up - and the reasoning behind his escape plan.


You see I'm here (The Booth Centre homeless centre) I'm troubled person. 

As soon I was born, able to walk, I remember we were on our own me and my second brother. We were playing with other kids ourselves. It was in my country Latvia, in Talsi, not in city centre in countryside. Parent not around much. In Soviet Union, everyone had to work - if you didn't work three days you went jail. Maybe you managed to hide a day, but yes. Steal a pencil from the Soviet Union, death sentence - property of the government. I like Marx he's good but as soon as Stalin came in he fucked up everything. If you didn't work cos you need money you're gonna steal. With my mum it was like that, milking cows, half hour away. With my dad he was always away. My father was always working on a tractor, ploughing harvesting the cereals...

Nothing really happened. That shade of colour I can tell you I remember it as yellowish-grey very white and grey, dry. Everything was very cubed, shaped. A bit like low resolution. Everyone knew when you left school you get a job. Simple like that, not sophisticated. It had a shade. It's a damnation, a down, a system. None trusted to no one, not even family members. You could talk about things and next day "Cheka" (secret police) is coming and you're going to be sent away somewhere you're fucked. You gotta run away. 

Schools we were restricted. Being told not to use left hand for writing - learned to write with my right but I'm left handed. I was forced to write with right hand. Loads of other things. I was a kid I can't give you a solid opinion. In schools we had corporal punishment stuff like that. Strict. All about politics.

I was in Latvia, we were occupied by Russia. And ruled by Russia, but called Soviet Union. We had no freedoms couldn't give our opinions. If your opinion was for the Soviet then you could tell your opinion.

My case no money no chance to get job. OK, job but paid half a week pay for full month. Even less. Always not enough. That's why I left I decided I don't need to spend my talents for someone who will never appreciate what I do. First time when I came here to UK I was 21 something like that. Financial situation forced me, nothing else. I have never been supported by my own family; convinced I was daft and ugly. 

I had a job awhile and I simply just left. I was working very hard excessively. Like a lumberjack. Imagine eight hours lifting heavy weights. Eight hours. I was about three times stronger than I am now. When you go in a gym you work to make a shape, when you do a job you use all your body to make the job easier, it's not about making a shape. 

I really wanted to go in university. But I realised I was forced in lowest level where you're forced to steal, rob. Loads of effort, purposeless. Got registered in Facebook and saw pictures of England and decided yes I'd like to make a trip here, do fishing...I'm from countryside I love nature, that's why I love to see different types of forest. In Poland I've seen forest. Then I went in Germany it was even more beautiful, different pines with long needles. Big cones, like a grenade. I would like to see different plants, make into art and put on wall. 

To get out I was hitchhiking. Just because I needed a job and got no money. I got over the border, one lorry driver took me over. When I came in Northern Ireland it was frustrating, everything opposite way, traffic system and all. I had no English language. First months was very difficult, I was developing language and simply learning. 

I had a picture of English forest, looks scary, freaks you out a little. I enjoy that sort of thing... I would like to see a proper dense English forest cos they're like jungles. In Poland I was going in woodlands, covered in leaves, crawling plants. Morning Glory everywhere a proper bloom. Beautiful. I like mountains very much. 

What I will do is take one or two weeks and gather natural berries. No supermarket will compete with my ones picked by hand in my own kettle, with sugar the amount I think. This morning I found one cherry tree and I climbed up and started eating. People looking at me, thinking is that poison?

(Signing permission form) I sign this to say I sell my soul! It's true, you got me. A giraffe running away from a lion becomes a lion when it is eaten. It's an exchange of energy. We are all matter, energy. It amazes me. I sleep under one archway and sometimes it's like that. Hunters. I'm thinking in my sleeping bag questions of life, nothing else.

Andris Lauva was interviewed for The Homeless Library by Phil Davenport at The Booth Centre, July 2015. All videos by Andris Lauva, all rights reserved. To see more YouTube work by Andris go to his YouTube channel. (NB These video works were made independently by Andris Lauva, not in arthur+martha workshops.)

The Homeless Library is a project devised by arthur+martha to document the heritage of homelessness using interviews, artworks, poetry. It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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