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In Jest: Artificial Art
Erika Grigoravičienė
The freedoms of speech, expression and creativity, regained around 1987, were so cherished by young artists and intellectuals that they devoted the utmost energy to their protection. With wit, irony and absurdity they sought to eliminate any possibility of totalitarian ideology and prevent any new restrictions on freedom of thought. They ridiculed prevailing cliches of national identity and changed the rules for public spaces, interaction and the use of media, and heaped scorn upon the art industry that had flourished in the Soviet period. The effectiveness of art as a tool of Soviet ideological propaganda was determined by the persistence of the cult of art that stemmed from European modernism. The "unconventional" artists of the Sąjūdis period wanted to put an end to the myth of art. Their countercultural revolt shares much in common with the conceptualism prevalent between the 1960s and 1980s in Moscow and Eastern Europe (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary), but they were also inspired by classical anti-art movements – Dadaism, Marcel Duchamp (who, under a pseudonym, presented a pissoir for an exhibition, while a member of the selection committee for the same show), and fluxus, the movement against elitist culture started around 1960 in New York by Jurgis Mačiūnas, a former classmate of Vytautas Landsbergis, the leader of Sąjūdis.
The anti-art movement that began in Lithuania in 1988 and lasted several years is today associated with the conceptualism of Gintaras Znamierowski and Donatas Srogis, the "Doooooris" group, and the New Communications School.
In 2011, the art researcher Kęstutis Šapoka organized an exhibition entitled Postmodernizmo aukoms atminti (In Memory of the Victims of Postmodernism) at the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center, showing barely known works created between 1988 and 1995 by Znamierowski and Srogis. The two young men, students at the State Art Institute, were able to create masterful photorealistic drawings but, said Znamierowski, their studies only strengthened their "hatred of any kind of art." Their legacy of conceptualism is comprised of photographed "local performances" (in which artists were the participants, documenters and spectators) and objects, as well as image and text collages and drawings. The performances – small plays of ambiguous meaning – took place in ordinary surroundings and differed little from everyday behavior. For their collages they employed photographs, magazine cuttings and Soviet era postcards, adjusting them in barely discernable ways and adding strange statements to them.
The conceptualists took aim at traditional values: nationalism, religion, family, language, science, labor, while reserving their most consistent ridicule for art itself. The artists remade "trash" and littered the environment with painters' palettes. Seeking "spiritual depression" they visited hopelessly dreary exhibitions of that time and photographed them. They also mocked themselves with their "cynical conceptualism" Postmodernizmo aukoms atminti: Parodos katalogas, sudarė Kęstutis Šapoka, Vilnius: Jono Meko vizualiųjų menų centras, 2011, p. 3. (Šapoka) that was devoid of any of the passion of the national rebirth and was often indecent, emphatically shallow and meaningless.
The informal group "Doooooris" was formed in Klaipėda in 1990 by the painters Audrius Jankauskas, Saulius Kanapeckas, Arvydas Karvelis, and photographers Remigijus Treigys and Raimundas Urbonas (1963–1999). At the start of the decade, they organized several exhibitions to show their collective works, signing them by the name "Doo....ris" (with the number of o's corresponding to the number of creators). In 2008, Eglė Deltuvaitė included these examples of New Art into the program of the first international photography festival In Focus.
The group's name, a drawn-out version of the Lithuanian word for "door," was meant to evoke the band "The Doors," as well as a door from an old building, torn from its hinges and propped against the wall of a defunct nursery school where the painters had their studios. Such doors usually lead nowhere and the members of "Doooooris" considered their work to be clowning around, hiding no deeper hidden thoughts, something akin to fluxus. Mostly, they remade photographs (painting over black and white photographs by Raimundas Urbonas that the photographer had intended to throw away because he felt they were failures). A character in many of the works was a rabbit that soon became a symbol for the group, joined by "a blue snake coiled atop a home radiator, [...] or pink fluid flowing realistically through the carved decorations of a door, an enormous naked girl flying outside the window, and an alien spaceship rising above the barren urban landscape". Agnė Narušytė, Kažkas ne taip: nuo ‘The Doors’ iki ‘Doooooris’“ , in: Klaipėdos menininkų grupė „Doooooris“: Albumas, Vilnius: Kultūros projektai, 2009, p. 63. These collective works seem to "avoid any meaning, [...] evading the missions imposed upon art through deliberate insignificance, plainness, randomness and technical imperfection". Agnė Narušytė, Kažkas ne taip: nuo ‘The Doors’ iki ‘Doooooris’“ , in: Klaipėdos menininkų grupė „Doooooris“: Albumas, Vilnius: Kultūros projektai, 2009, p. 60. Garbage art, kitsch and the absurd were the group's response to the new rules of art management that were increasingly taking root.
The New Communications School (NCS) was an institution created in 1991 by Ernestas Parulskis to disseminate artificial art. He had already heard about the rising global media technology revolution and the arrival of the internet, while personal computers were still nonexistent in Lithuania. As has often been the case in history, members of the NCS "network" experimented with new communications models based on future technology by turning to old media – the postal service, poster stands and art exhibition halls.
The virtual school's "deans" and "rectors" often visited the Graphics Department of the Vilnius University Library. When the art researcher and artist Linas Jablonskis was appointed its director in 1988, this repository of graphic art and its offices doubling as reading rooms became a gathering place for other artists and intellectuals. Parulskis was a frequent visitor and, as he recalls, the NCS was born during a cigarette break in a Vilnius University courtyard. Other frequent visitors included graphic artists such as Rimtautas Gibavičius, Audrius Puipa, Rimvydas Bartkus, and Giedrius Jonaitis, the painters Vytenis Jankūnas and Linas Liandzbergis, photographers Gintautas Trimakas and Saulius Paukštys, and art researcher Herkus Kunčius, who later became a renowned author. All of them participated in a postal art project initiated by Jablonskis: sending unique improvised envelopes and postcards to each other through the mail, sometimes even carrying imitation stamps, and later marveling that these forgeries actually reached their addressees. In 1989, Kunčius and Liandzbergis completed projects called Bendravimo menas (The Art of Communication), where they were walking around the city, sitting in cafes and speaking about art, and Sekretai (Secrets), which consisted of hiding various beautiful objects under a glass buried in the ground, in the spirit of a children's game popular in Soviet times. Visitors to the Department's offices also participated in the living tableau photography sessions of Audrius Puipa.
One NCS project in 1991 involved hanging notices on poster poles announcing "the Arrival from America of Saulius Paukštys" (an unknown young photographer who had visited his relatives abroad for one month), or hanging posters about concerts by, and exclusive interviews with, a fictitious band called the "Committee for Moral Control."
An important part of NCS activity was staging witty thematic shows in established art exhibition halls. In 1991, Jablonskis organized an exhibit at the 91 Gallery (now called "Akademija") entitled Kiškis, morka, labirintas (Rabbit, Carrot, Labyrinth). He sent potential participants a "model" – a photograph of Trimakas with a young lady's bottom, instructing participants to remake the image using three required elements: a rabbit, a carrot and a labyrinth. That same year, Parulskis held an exhibition at the same location called Vampyrai (Vampires), where Liandzbergis and Džiugas Katinas used syringes to extract the blood of art researchers; while in 1992, at the Langas Gallery, he organized a show called Teacher's Whiskey about the relationship between drinking and education; and in 1993, at the Lietuvos Aidas Gallery, he brought together a group of painters calling themselves "24", a parody of a previous exhibition with the name "48". In 1992, while serving as Deputy Director of the then Vilnius Art Exhibition Hall, he curated an exhibit entitled Netikras menas (Artificial Art) guiding visitors through a winding tunnel to view a gilded pile of excrement. At the end of that year, after the conversion of the Hall into the Contemporary Art Centre, he organized an amusingly obscene show called Pornografija (Pornography). One of the exhibit's participants, Giedrius Jonaitis, an artist known for his designs for Lithuania's currency, showed a work displaying a new variety of Lithuania's temporary post-Soviet banknotes featuring copulating animals.
In 1993, Parulskis turned over the NSC to Saulius Paukštys who, shortly thereafter, unveiled a monument to Frank Zappa in Vilnius.


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Sources and links

Agnė Narušytė
„Kažkas ne taip: nuo ‘The Doors’ iki ‘Doooooris’“
Klaipėdos menininkų grupė „Doooooris“: Albumas, sudarytoja Eglė Deltuvaitė, Vilnius: Kultūros projektai, 2009
Postmodernizmo aukoms atminti
Parodos katalogas, sudarė Kęstutis Šapoka, Vilnius: Jono Meko vizualiųjų menų centras, 2011
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