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Akademinio pasiruošimo grupė
About the Group
 
  • A group of creatives of video art, installations and conceptual art.
  • The group was active from 1993 to 1998 and led intensive creative activity from 1993 to 1994.
  • Members of the group are: Giedrius Kumetaitis, b. 1969, Mindaugas Ratavičius, b. 1970, Simonas Tarvydas, b. 1968.
  • They all graduated in painting from Vilnius Academy of Arts.
 
About the Artworks
The work by “Academic Training Group” must be viewed with suspicion. It is still difficult to distinguish when they are joking and when they are being serious. In 1992, while still studying painting in Vilnius Academy of Arts, Giedrius Kumetaitis, Mindaugas Ratavičius and Simonas Tarvydas established a group called “F-FC” (“Funny Face-Club”), however, as soon as they began to establish themselves in the ranks of famous artists, the name was changed to “Academic Training Group”.
 
The name of the group is an ironic hint to the traditional image of the artist, where the most important artistic skill is considered to be academic drawing and the ability to draw realistically, rather than critical thinking. In terms of the creative process, the artists were most concerned about mental activity (wit), rather than the painter's craft or technical sophistication. Therefore, “Academic Training Group” stopped painting for good and instead took interest in what was still new back then – video art, installation, objects, video performance and the like.
 
As we look at the video work Once more (1992), we are presented with screen projections of different paintings. Against the background of intense metronome ticking, one notices that the image is projected upon a body which as if brings alive every projection of artworks. For instance, the work of Italian baroque artist Michelangelo Caravaggio depicts wine-making god Bacchus, astonished at a fly that had landed on his left eye. In another projection, young Francesco Maria della Rovere, painted by Italian Renaissance artist Rafael, catches a flying fly with his mouth and eats it. The last projection is a portrait of a woman in Renaissance style that suddenly comes alive only to release a jet of water towards the viewer. Thus, these everyday scenic miniatures accompanying each of the portraits in the video are obviously comic. In the absence of an interconnected general narrative or cohesive dramaturgic concept, the mise-en-scène of the works criticize static works of painting and remind of contemporary interpretation of tableaux vivants.
 
Likewise full of wit is the group's video work Aidi aidi, depicting famous stage singer Stasys Povilaitis (1947–2015). Against the background of heart-shaped coloured plastic flowers, “the king of hits” sings and dances, while being intensively dragged into all directions using montage. Don't be surprised if the work reminds you of a music video – it was actually conceived as one for Povilaitis' song by the same title. The group even participated in the first Lithuanian competition of commercial videos. However, the work was not presented in the contest, as both Povilaitis and the organizers of the contest found the arrangement by “Academic Training Group” unacceptable. Povilaitis took exception at the kitsch aesthetics reminiscent of French photographic duo “Pierre et Gilles”, while the organizer did not understand it. Why is that?
 
Is it possibly because in this piece, the well-known stage singer is found in an unusual setting? Is the sudden and rhythmical arrangement of the work too comical? The stage star, ever so popular since the Soviet times, became in this work not only a symbol of mocking the olden days, but also an icon of immortal pop mindset. Using pop means – television style and kitsch aesthetics – the artists criticized what they thought to be obsolete, old and no longer interesting. This piece laughs at all that is pop using pop's own devices.
 
In many a case inspired by the media or everyday life of the time, the members of “Academic Training Group” used modest works of simple structure and expression to critique their own milieu. By using humour, the artists expressed their critical doubts and sought to ask debatable questions as to how one should evaluate one or the other current issue, problem or situation of the time. The group's works, frivolous and often reminiscent of a joke at first glance, reveal something rather different upon closer inspection; namely, that the frivolous language of the works was used to criticize serious phenomena of the society of that time, or simply to mock the traditional expression in painting. This is also evidenced by the artists' statement about the duality of jokes: “There is a grain of truth in every joke. A joke makes the truth easier to accept and easier to “digest”.” So, in the group's work, humour became a means to explore the lived period and the surrounding reality, and to express its absurdity. The function of humour is to criticize the social and political situation of the time and to oppose well-established truths, unambiguous imagery and stereotypes within the society.
 
“Academic Training Group” existed between 1991 and 1998. In its last years, more and more often only two of its members, Giedrius Kumetaitis and Mindaugas Ratavičius, were active. As of 1998, the group's activity is considered not as creation of new works but rather as a journey of old ones. According to the artists, the breakdown of the group was determined by natural changes in life:
family life, relocations and other jobs with permanent income.
 
Miglė Survilaitė
All works by this artist
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