Krista has a longstanding interest in architecture, particularly urban environments. Her past work has dealt with low-income housing complexes and modernist architectural ideals, and has drawn from ideas by Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Soviet architecture, as well as the phenomenology of space. She is fascinated by the language of spatial relationships and by the effect of architectural forms and structure on the psychology of the human environment.
Her cultural background as an ethnically Latvian/Lithuanian artist informs this interest. Her parents spent several years after the end of World War II in displaced persons (DP) camps in Germany before they were allowed to emigrate to the United States. Their childhood memories of architecture were of temporary structures, appropriated from their other (often military) uses to house tens of thousands of post-war refugees. The artist’s connection to this history has made her acutely aware of the impact of politics on architecture and, in turn, on a people’s daily life experience. Ideas of home and dislocation have always been compelling to Krista as the child of immigrant parents who arrived in the United States as refugees.
In ‘Bayreuth I’ (part of a series), the artist sets out to retrace and re-imagine this history of dislocation. Her family’s displacement is part of a long history of uprooted people for whom the idea of ‘home’ was undermined by political agendas beyond their control. They had always described these housing solutions as temporary; the artist never expected to see these buildings still standing. But after intensive archival research, she was able to locate, visit, and photograph many of the actual buildings on the sites of former DP camps in Germany.
Today, the buildings offer no hint of the tumultuous lives of the post-war refugees who were stuck in a stateless limbo with no idea about what the future might hold. To better understand and honour their struggles, the artist turned to archived copies of the plea letters the Baltic refugees sent to the governments of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Page after page, they beg for food, bedding, and medical supplies and attempt to explain the dire fate that would await them if they were repatriated to the Soviet Union. Krista merges these painful accounts with the photographs of a DP camp building through a process of laser-burning, resulting in an echo of the traumas of war the refugees endured. The words of the letters now form the complete image as a lasered, transparent metal panel superimposed onto the photograph.
Eventually made entirely of lace-like text, the building grows fragile, inseparable from the precarious lives it housed. A composite of the artist’s own experience and the fading memories of her parents and their generation, each of these layered pieces recalls the very contemporary struggle that surrounds present-day refugees. Drawing from personal and familial experience, Krista sheds light on the often unheard, ignored voices of thousands of displaced individuals whose idea of ‘home’ was compromised by political agendas.