Annija Muizule (1992) is a Latvian-born visual artist and researcher currently working and living in the Netherlands. While obtaining a BA with a major in photography from the Royal Academy of Art in Hague, her work underwent a radical shift from telling stories through images to telling stories about how images are made and their modes of existence. Finding herself increasingly confronted with overwhelming amounts of visual information, Muižule began questioning the human capacity to comprehend visual culture. Most importantly, she wanted to know: How visually literate are we, actually? By reflecting on photography as a technology, a medium, and a form of communication, she attempts to ‘un-learn’ and question the lessons photography has taught us.

Images ©Ansis Starks

Annija Muižule, from the series "Joyful Businessmen Throwing Papers and Having Fun in the Office" (2018), ISSP Gallery, Riga.

Riga Photography Biennial award Seeking the Latest in Photography! is at its the third edition. The award was established with the aim of discovering and introducing to the broader public the creative efforts of young Baltic artists who have managed to represent original and conceptually well-developed perspectives on the processes of their time. In 2019, an international jury awarded the main prize to Annija Muižule (LV) for her photo series Joyful Businessmen Throwing Papers and Having Fun in the Office (2018). 

Here you can find an excerpt from Indrek Grigor's essay on Muizule's body of work:


In this day and age, when the number of images produced every minute can be measured in the millions  the sheer scale of our visual culture is quite overwhelming and perhaps even rather scary. It must be worse for anyone who identifies themselves as a photographer. And I would say that it’s rather obvious that there is a sense of uneasiness in Riga Photography Biennial – NEXT 2019 award winner Annija Muižule’s body of work.

An analytical essay by Muižule that appears in the book accompanying her award-winning project Joyful Businessmen Throwing Papers and Having Fun in the Office (2016–2018) starts with her observation that photography, rather than remaining a way of depicting the world, has long been both a substitute for the world and a means of producing it.

One of the reasons why the production of reality has grown to take place on such a scale, Muižule argues, is the rapid increase in access to means of reproduction. The Gutenberg shift was a major change in the way books – which used to be unique manuscripts – were perceived, and photography in turn has gained much from the digital revolution. The difference is that photography has not in the process lost a sense of uniqueness, as this is something that it never really had, but rather seems to have bridged the gap between reality and depiction. Photography has from the start been considered a process for creating exact reproductions of the real, and despite countless retouching scandals and the fact that digital editing suites are now available inside our cameras and phones, photographs seem now more than ever to be substitutes for the real – as becomes apparent when one pays attention to how the impact of influencers’ Instagram feeds on their viewers is critically described.

Walter Benjamin notoriously argued that the aura of the original physical artefact, which had characterized handwritten/copied manuscripts as well as images drawn by hand, was lost in the age of mechanical reproduction. But in the digital age it seems that the central problem is not so much the reproduction as the distribution of images. The images collected by Getty Images, one of the world’s largest stock image archives, do not only lack any connection to authorship but have also become generic clichés that are used by the media as substitutes for the real.

"Joyful Businessmen Throwing Papers and Having Fun in the Office" curated by Inga Bruvere is currently exhibited at ISSP Gallery, Riga as main exhibition of Riga Photography Biennial – NEXT 2019.

On show: 05.04 – 08.05.2019