Museum

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Museum, exhibition view, Venice Biennale, 2015
 
Museum
by Dainius Liškevičius
  
 Lithuanian Pavilion in 56th Venice Biennale 
6th of May–30th of September, 2015
Garden of Palazzo Zenobio, FONDAMENTA SOCCORSO, DORSODURO 2596, VENEZIA, 30123, Italia
 
Artist:
 
Curator/Commissionaire:
 
2nd Commissionaire:
 
Producer:
Daina Pupkevičiūtė
 
Consultants:
art historian dr. Agnė Narušytė, curator Ūla Tornau, Franciska Zolyom (Director of The Museum of Contemporary Art Leipzig / GFZK)
 
Architect:
Rokas Kilčiauskas
 
Designers:
Laura Grigaliūnaitė, Sandra Straukaitė, Aistis Baltušnikas
 
Architecture partners in Venice:
 
Organizer of Lithuanian Pavilion:

In his performance, Dainius Liškevičius slices through space with his guitar in much the same way as Bronius Maigis’s knife sliced through Rembrandt’s Danaë at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) in 1985. Meanwhile, in his video performance rolls of Soviet-era film incinerate like Romas Kalanta, the young student who immolated himself in Kaunas town square in 1972. It was in 1965 that the last Lithuanian partisan Antanas Kraujelis, cornered and surrounded in a bunker, put a gun to his head and shot himself. This moment is portrayed in Liškevičius’s huge painting 17 March 1965 / M-Maybe He Became Ill and Couldn’t Leave the Studio in 2012.

What exactly constitutes artistic freedom, and what forms might such freedom take in a totalitarian system like Soviet occupied Lithuania? Whose job is it to re(write) art history, and what form should such narratives take? Dainius Liškevičius has created works dedicated to three dissident revolutionaries. These and other works have been incorporated within a larger piece comprised of fragments of the Soviet era (books, objects, etc.) and contemporary artifacts. The resulting exhibit is Museum, wherein objects from the Soviet period and the artist’s life are combined to create a fictional spatial whole. The figure of the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre walking across the sands of the Baltic dunes in 1965 recurs in various spots, symbolizing a flash of freedom in a restrictive period. The installation Museum excites collective and personal memories from a bygone yet still recent epoch.

Museum is an ongoing artistic research in which Liškevičius interprets, with subtle wit, fairly recent collective Soviet Lithuanian history and recreates it from the individual perspective of a fictional artist, inserting autobiographic elements. Through its atmosphere, which is saturated with everyday objects, Museum also confronts the viewer with the thorny issues of the artist’s relationship with a totalitarian regime, cultural isolation, and the search for Western values both in Soviet Lithuania and the entire Soviet Union.

Within a dense installation (a cabinet of curiosities) created using the language of contemporary art, the viewer is immersed in events of controversial political (?) protest that were initiated in occupied Lithuania and Leningrad by three ambiguous revolutionary figures during the 1960s–80s. Dainius Liškevičius rewrites the history of Soviet Lithuanian art, proposing that these events be interpreted as cases of underground art, political performance, and art destruction that were prohibited in those times and thus did not exist.

Lithuania has always to choose a new place for its national pavilion, and this year it will be located in a garden in a separate house that resembles an underground bunker. The performative opening of Museum as the national pavilion with the raising of the flag is intended to introduce into the international field of art politics the issues of patriotism and an artist’s (political) freedom which Liškevičius reflects upon. 

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Mmaybe he was ill and could not leave the studio
 
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Blot. Video performance, 10 min. Camera Vydmantas Plepys. 2001. The title of the work is borrowed from the Soviet-period animated children’s film We Are Looking for the Blot or Klyaksa in Russian. The main protagonist, the anti-hero of the film, travels across the album of the painter’s best drawings, smudging everything on its way. Two characters in pursuit of him run into a black man on the island and take him for the Blot.
 
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A pop-art bookshelf with four objects: bronze monkey – a spice rack, aluminum holder for hanging coats, black three-way electrical plug, ballerina figurine. Bought it in a flea market in 2010.
Above: fragment of a compositions of labels of alcoholic beverages from the socialist Eastern Bloc. Made from an anonymous collection.
 
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The Monument consists of an easel the artist bought while in the 7th grade at school, a folding travel chair, a desk lamp left by a lodger at the home of the artist, and two books: Henri Perruchot "The Life of Van Gogh" (Vilnius, Vaga, 1978) and Lionginas Šepetys' "An Outline of Modernism. Analysis and Critique of the Main Tendencies" (Vilnius, Vaga, 1982).
 
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Exhibit
 
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The film Free Time. 2012. Camera Vilius Mačiulskis. 16 mm film stock, 10 min.
The film starts with the figure of a man walking against the wind across the dunes at Nida; this is an allusion to a famous photograph by Antanas Sutkus taken in Nida.
in 1965, which represents the iconic image of Jean-Paul Sartre. The walking hero in the film finds a beret – the aura of an artist. His journey ends at the Museum of the
Revolution of the time, which now houses the National Gallery of Art (2009). During the Soviet period, art was often understood as one of the ways to spend free time.
The film is dedicated to the memory of Bronius Maigis’s political protest, carried out on the 15th of June, 1985, at the Leningrad State Hermitage Museum.
 
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 Patriotism. 
In front: Five-storey House No 43 on the 25th Anniversary of the LSSR str. in Kaunas. Model. 2014. Scale 1:43. Constructed by Tomas Martišauskis, Antanas Dubauskas, and Dainius Liškevičius
Behind: Tourist map of the Lithuanian SSR, Vilnius, 1969.
A Dolphin's Drawing, executed by the dolphin Glorija at the Lithuanian Maritime museum, gouache on paper, 2008.
School map of Scandinavia and the Baltic States. Made in Riga by the Cartographic Factory in 1952.
 
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Five-storey House No 43 on the 25th Anniversary of the LSSR str. in Kaunas
Five-storey House No 43 on the 25th Anniversary of the LSSR str. in Kaunas. Model. 2014. Scale 1:43. Constructed by Tomas Martišauskis, Antanas Dubauskas and Dainius Liškevičius.
 
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A video performance in the memory of Romas Kalanta
A part of the exhibition in the memory of Romas Kalanta, consisting of a video performance (7 mins, 2010); object "A Cross"; the ash from the performance, performed at Kaunas Municipal garden, near the location where Romas Kalanta set himself on fire in 1972; top: cultural magazine "Nemunas" (1996 no.12) with the photo from the performance "The Weather Vane" (dur. 5 mins.) Dainius Liškevičius performed in 1996.
 
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 Art Destruction in the back Library in the front
 
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Mother
A no longer functioning radio set Selga. Riga factory. From the cellar of my mum’s five-storey block of flats.
A bookshelf. A detail of my mother’s personal collection of books. Shell. A popular detail in Soviet home interiors.
Mum’s shoe. Paper, pencil, 1982. The drawing A Chair. Pencil on paper, Kaunas, 1982.
A chair. My childhood chair from our five-storey apartment block in Kaunas.
Beret-Aura (hand-made). Object, 2011. Neringa. Bronze relief. A similar one used to hang in my house.
 
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An exhibition guide in front of the Museum
Throughout the whole duration of the "Museum" installation in Venice, there are exhibition guides working. They are specially trained to help enter the contexts and the hypertexts of the exhibition which might be difficult to read when one first enters through the door. 
All of the guides are wearing specially designed robes by fashion designer Sandra Straukaitė, ideated along with Dainius Liškevičius according to the models worn by museum guides during the Soviet period.
 
Photos by Arturas Valiauga