by Valentina Valentini
October in Vilnius; sweet, sunny autumn with warmth in the color of the leaves, from yellow to red, and storks’ nests on the roofs. Suddenly, the temperature changes, the light becomes gray, it’s cold and windy (but the heating won’t be turned on until November - a government decision). On Sunday, the 9th of October, the political elections were held, without any apparent clamor. A young intellectual, when asked to give an evaluation, replies that he is indifferent to politics, that they don’t touch him and his personal endeavors, his life. Monday we learn that the social-democratic party won. As Minister of Culture, the ex-director of the Lithuanian Philharmonic (the pride of Lithuanians) was appointed - a man who had been the agent of Rostropovich, who had spent several years in Europe and is approved by the intellectuals, who expect good things from him.
A Klapeida, una cittŕ distante 300 Km da Vilnius, che si affaccia sul mar Baltico, si č svolta la seconda edizione del Tinklai, II International Short Film Festival ideata da un giovane regista lituano in sintonia con Sarunas Bartas: forte presenza, naturalmente di opere dei paesi baltici, ma anche dall’ex-Yugoslavia, dalla Grecia, ecc. A chiusura del festival, l’ultima proiezione avviene all’interno di una stazione di osservazione ornitologica dove lo schermo č collocato in una delle reti allestite per imprigionare - transitoriamente - gli uccelli che emigrano verso i paesi caldi. In questo caso a essere catturati - dalle immagini - erano gli spettatori.
In Klapeida, a city 300km away from Vilnius, which overlooks the Baltic Sea, took place the 2nd edition of the Tinkai, II International Short Film Festival conceived by a young Lithuanian director in tune with Ćarunas Bartas: naturally, a majority of works were from the Baltic countries, but also from ex-Yugoslavia, Greece, etc. At the end of the festival, the last projection was shown inside an ornitologic viewing station, where the screen was placed in one of the nets put up to temporarily imprison the birds which emigrate towards warmer countries. In this case, the spectators were the ones being captured.
In Vilnuis, at the Contemporary Art Center (CAC), the exhibition set up by Dainus Lićkeviĺius was presented as part of the project Parallel Progressions (existing and non-existing works) in which 6 video presentations designed and made specifically for the basement of the CAC by 6 young artists from Vilnius are shown. The themes, writes curator Raimundas Malaćauskas, are “the non-identity of self, the confines of imagination, culture and political identity, sex with the UFOs, the role of the artist in society and his double, autobiography and technologies, everyday life.” And more. Artists and critics justly took repossession of the historical past, constituted by the Fluxus movement and of one of its most vital founders, the Lithuanian George Maciunas, to whom from 1997 a permanent exhibition was dedicated inside the CAC which exhibits works from the Silverman collection of New York. In fact, the hypothesis behind the project Parallel Progressions, emphasizes the dematerializing aspect of art; that is, the idea of a fluid artistic practice. The term “parallel progressions” taken from musical terminology, writes the curator, refers to the procedure used to elaborate two themes together and, in particular, to the heterogeneous artistic practices which have been legitimized. In short, even in Lithuania the video suffers a minority complex and looks for strategies to coexist with the major artforms without being labeled alternative or conflictual.
At the recently inaugurated Italian Institute of Culture in Vilnius thanks to the hard work of director Ostelio Remi, a presentation of a cross of video works by Italian and Lithuanian artists was given. The Lithuanian selection, organized by Audrius Mickeviĺius and presented by Lolita Jabloskiene, director of the Contemporary Art Information Center in the Lithuanian Art Museum in Vilnius, integrates, after two years, the selection proposed in Visibility Zero, in Rome. As Lolita Jabloskiene wrote in the brief text of presentation, the video in Lithuania “has been a sudden explosion which manifested its different possibilities and variety all at once ten years ago, after the fall of the political and cultural barriers which was followed by a wave of radical artistic renewal”.
In 1994, the “Department of Photography and Video-art”, as it is now called, was formed at the Academy of Vilnis, animated by such artists as Gintaras Ćeputis. The Lithuanian video d’auteur, in its first years of life, had the opportunity to confront itself at a number of festivals, like the Baltic festival, while the form of video installations was experimented later by a group of associated artists under the collective name “Academic Training Group”. Naturally, even in Lithuania the video more visibly exists under the form of installation, more often through the initiative of the Center of Contemporary Art of Vilnius, than as a single channel video transmitted by the TV, projected in the galleries or in the programs of videoteques. The relationship between video and television, explains Lolita Jabloskiene, is not antagonistic, nor are there alternative channels which transmit video works, but some authors work professionally for television channels. There is, however, a distinct separation between video and cinema because of both the conservative attitude of directors (who are used to the traditional system of cinema production using film and edited in moviola) and the absence of instruments of pre and post-production. In considering the works shown in Vilnius we’d like to single out a few features that to us were significant. In a conceptual-performative predominant trend which is part of the video form in all its latitudes, the musical component stands out and is given an expressive and constructive role - and demonstrates that music in the Lithuanian culture is of primary importance. It is sound, like electronic images at their best from Paik to Viola which converses with images, which constitutes an important theme - as in the video by Gintaras Ćeputis The large Bathrooms (1988) in which a contrast short/tall, hieratic/prosaic is created between the ridiculous shapes of the nude bodies of the bathers and Baroque church music. Allowing that by an obliged choice the technology used by these authors is poor, one which does not permit the utilization of digitalization in the images, it must be underlined that we find ourselves face to face with a real world which exists and is observed, registered and transported on monitors, not with synthetic subjects created at the computer. The classic polarity between a concrete object and an abstract shape composed of lines, colors and movement can be found in the video by Henrikas Gulbinas Two Times where immobile sheeps alternate with the globe/ball which unravels in threads of yarn/colored lines. Irony and melancholy are tones and atmospheres, colors and pictures, inscribed in other works seen - both treated in a light manner, neither biting nor mournful - the former suffused in the short video by Paulius Zavadskis, 8pm Europe (1999) where the author is ironic about the perverse attraction that TV exercises on West Europeans (“TV is watching you”); the latter flutters in the good video by Audrius Mickeviĺius, Piscis (1996), in which Gregorian chants accompany images of antique buildings with friezes and ornaments, horses and soldiers in uniform, beaches and nude women, cities which are reflected in the water; with everything crumbling and washed by a memory which surfaces and erases at the same time.