Arnis Balcus
Volume 1: Killing Rampage and other photo-stories

6 April - 29 April 2006
Thursday-Friday 12-6, Saturday 12-4

Reception for the artist: Wednesday 5 April, 6-8.30 pm

Four photo-stories by young Latvian photographer Arnis Balcus, showing at Matthew Bown Gallery from 6th April 2006, explore the representation of the female Action Heroine. The stories are a reworking of themes of sex and violence, good and evil, man and woman, culled originally from trash and b-movies, in particular sexplotation and blaxploitation flicks. They invite the viewer to consider important questions of feminist and ethnic discourse; to ponder the limits of still photography; and to consider the point at which photography may cross the line dividing art from other modes of gratification.

Two of the stories, Killing Rampage and The Enemy Within, are exhibited as framed black-and-white photographs on the gallery walls. A third, Mercy Croft is in the form of a 24-page photo-magazine that borrows the comic-book format. The fourth photo story, Four Sisters, is presented as a DVD slide-show.

Together, the photo stories comprise Volume I of a two-part project, the second part of which will explore the representation of men.

The photo stories consist of a series of still images forming a narrative. Unlike the photo stories found in teenage magazines or comic books, the narrative is not specified by text and needs to be deciphered by the viewer. The conventions of continuity and narrative found in the cinematic source material are ironised; ambiguities of identity are introduced; and questions of spectatorship and the male gaze are addressed.

Killing Rampage, an analysis of the power of female sexuality, recreates Russ Meyer‘s Faster, Pussycat, Kill, Kill!, but shifts the action to Latvia (Balcus's home country). The Enemy Within is an all-female, all-black semi-porn lesbian drama played out on the streets of Hackney, where Balcus currently lives. Mercy Croft works with the familiar thriller-polarities of prostitute and policeman; its references are to the video-game heroine Lara Croft and the schizophrenic main characters of the movies Fight Club and The Machinist. Four Sisters has an all-Asian cast and uses montage and goofs to reconfigure conventional character presentation.

The photo stories reflect Balcus's reading of feminist analyses of the Action Heroine (aka Macho Goddess) such as Yvonne Tasker‘s Spectacular Bodies (1993) and Elisabeth Hill‘s Gender, Genre and Action Heroine (2000). They invite the viewer to consider the debate that surrounds the cinematic representation of such women. For example, do they represent a stage in the struggle against overdetermined sexual stereotypes, or are they, with their pronounced sexuality, a "con", merely a form of hegemonistic incorporation?

The presentation of such subjects remains a risky business: for all their formal artistry, Balcus's photo-stories tread a fine line between analysis and voyeurism, art and trash culture.

Matthew Bown Gallery
First floor
11 Savile Row

t. +44 20 7734 4790
f. +44 20 7734 4791


Born in 1978 in Riga, Latvia
Studied at University of Westminster, London (Photographic Studies, MA); University of Latvia, Riga (Communication Studies, BSc)

Solo shows

2005 - Naked, Matthew Bown gallery, London
2004 - Exhibition Hall Arsenals of the State Museum of Art, Riga; Fotogalerie Wien, Vienna
2003 - New Association, chezTGN, New York; Psychological Sexuality, Overgaden, Copenhage; Myself, Friends, Lovers and Others, Giedre Bartelt Gallery, Berlin
2002 - Out and Home, Museum of Photography, Siauliai, Lithuania
1998 - Selbstsucht Macht Frei [colour self-portraits], ASuna Gallery, Riga
1996 - Young People Portraits of Liepaja, club Utt, Liepaja, Latvia

Selected group shows

2005 - Das Land und das Ich, Ausstellungshalle 1a, Frankfurt a.M.
2004 - So weiss wie Schnee, so rot wie Blut, Giedre Bartelt Gallery, Berlin; What is important?, K.Valdemara 3, Riga
2003 - MiteinAnders, Schönbrunnerstrasse 223, Vienna; Adaptation, Rotermann Salt Storage Exhibition Hall, Tallinn
2002 - Sex – social exhibitionism, Railway Museum, Riga; Everything Everyday, Artist’s Project Studio, Vilnius
2001 - Too Close/Too Distant, Stock Exchange Grand Hall, Riga
2000 - Moving Images, The Radiant Light Gallery, Portland Maine, USA; Contemporary Latvian Art Photography, Latvian Museum of Photography, Riga; Can You Hear Me? [2nd Ars Baltica Triennal of Photographic Art], Kunsthalle Rostock, Rostock [touring to Vilnius, Dresden, Bergen, Espoo]
1999 - Self-portrait of Generation, Gallery Russkoje Pole, Moscow; Can You Hear Me? [2nd Ars Baltica Triennal of Photographic Art], Stadtgalerie am Kulturviertel / Sophienhoff, Kiel *
1997 - Fotokunst aus Lettland, Gallery Station3, Vienna; TJN studios exhibition, Kiek In De Kok, Tallinn
1996 - Moment, club Slepenais eksperiments, Riga; Kill your darlings /Moving Art, Edison theatre, Copenhagen
1994 - TJN studios exhibition, Latvian Museum of Photography, Riga

Selected bibliography

Arndt, Melanie “Arnis Balcus on Arnis Balcus”, Plotki, Berlin, Nr 4, 2003
Auzina, Ieva “Arnis Balcus”, Orbita, Riga, 2000
Auzina Ieva “Desire to be Adored”, Ptjuch, Moscow, November, 1999
Bankovskis, Pauls “Everyone’s eyes are red again”, Myself, Friends, Lovers and Others artist’s catalogue, Riga/Berlin, 2003
Cerny, Katherina “Arnis Balcus – Myself, Friends, Lovers and Others”, Eikon, Vienna, Nr.43/44, 2003
Dietz, Camilla Haseriis “Negaiditas simpatijas – Arnis Balcus Danija”, Diena, Riga, 18 august, 2003
Hanselle, Ralf “Arnis Balcus”, Zitty, Berlin, 14 may 2003
Huttner, Per “Report from Riga”, Creative Camera, London, October/November, 1999
Kalnina, Ieva “Arnis Balcus”, Can You Hear Me? catalogue, Oktagon Verlag, 1999
Kalnina, Ieva “Created to be Admired”, Desire to be Adored artist’s book, Riga, 1999
Klavina, Anda “Arnis Balcus”, Flash Art, Milan, October, 2004
Klavina, Anda “Arna Balcus personalizstade Berline”, Diena, Riga, 19 may, 2003
Kyan, Dmitry “O druzjah i lubovnikah”, Foto&Video, Moscow, June, 2002
Peschke, Marc “Das Gedachtnis der Bilder”, Photographie, Essen, November, 2004
Sandbye, Mette “I virkeligheden”, Weekendavisen, Copenhagen, 4 august, 2003
Sutton, Veronica “Arnis Balcus”, Black and White Magazine, Novato (USA), August, 2000
Steimane, Inga “Seksualais cilveks tomer ir maigs”, Forums, Riga, 15 august, 2003
Tifentale, Alise “Alone with/without yourself”, Desire to be Adored artist’s book, Riga, 1999
Tifentale, Alise “Arna Balcus fotografiju izstedes Lietuva”, NRA, Riga, 8 april, 2002
Tifentale, Alise “Dzive bez vizazista un friziera”, Studija, Riga, June/July, 2003
Therond, Eve “Exposition privee sur rendez-vous”, PHOTO (French), Paris, December, 2003
Upleja, Sanita “Balcus fotografijas majas Bruklina”, Diena, 13 november, 2003
Vejs, Vilnis “Having said A says B”, Studija, Riga, Februray/March, 2002

Albums and artist's books

2003 - Myself, Friends, Lovers and Others, 72 pp., ISBN 9984-19-413-2, Riga/Berlin
1999 - Desire to be Adored, self-portraits 1993- 1998, 48 pp., ISBN 9984-19-102-8, Riga


2003 - Gothenburg, Sweden (by NIFCA)
2002 - Vienna, Austria (by KulturKontakt Austria)
2000 - Kunstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf, Germany

Enemy Within, 1-19
Lambda prints (edition of 5)
20 x 30, 30 x 40 & 40 x 50 cm approx.

Click an image to enlarge

Enemy Within, 20-27
Lambda prints (edition of 5)
20 x 30, 30 x 40 & 40 x 50 cm approx.

Click an image to enlarge

Killing Rampage, 1-6
B/w photographs (edition of 3)
30 x 40 & 40 x 50 cm approx.
Click an image to enlarge

Killing Rampage, 7-21
B/w photographs (edition of 3)
30 x 40 & 40 x 50 cm approx.

Click an image to enlarge

Mercy Croft, cover
24 pp

Four sisters, screenshot
DVD movie