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A conversation

with Darius

Mikšys edited in fragments

edited by Michelangelo Corsaro

The following text has been produced during a conversation with Darius MikĹĄys that took place in Venice, on the 6th of July 2011, in a local cafĂŠ. Afterwards, the recording of this conversation has been edited as a series of fragments.

1. - So what is the purpose of our meeting? You want to know more about what? - Ok, as I told you the first time we met, it’s about suspension. When I first came to see Behind the white curtain I immediately thought that it’s a suspended exhibition, it doesn’t find its fixed form and always changes its shape. This white curtain suspended from the ceiling divides the space in two different parts and let the exhibition be unfixed. Also because there is a suspension of choice, I mean, for me, as a curator, this becomes quite involving. A major part of curators’ work revolves around the device of choice It’s about including or excluding, an artist, an artwork, or whatever. So this suspension of choice, because audience can choose the artworks to be displayed, makes things even more interesting. - Yes. And looking deeper you will see that not only audience: all participants, from technical producers to the idea’s authors, were suspended in some way or another. 2. The idea was to construct an art collection with those artists who received art stipends. The collection had to be represented similar to private gallery collections, which are usually to be shelved in some storages, and you can acquire any -5-

of this works to be shown. Otherwise they would remain in the storage. Only in this case any of the spectators could acquire any of the works. 3. You come from this side, as a visitor, and you’re meeting two workers of the pavilion who introduce you the catalogue of the collection. There are similar ones in private galleries or in private collections, they have pdf or printed papers. And you after acquire the work which is being carried out of the storage. The curtain is very practical. 4. The artists proposed the artworks from about the same period they received the stipend. So nobody is in charge of any of significant part of the work. Some tolerance and some collaboration made the best things in this case because there were no strict ideas. It didn’t happen, you know, that somebody said “this should be this, like this”. That’s why I’m saying that the work constructed by itself which is very important in my opinion because the work represents not just one person and probably not those who are in the collection. Since it is national pavilion it always represent the nation. 5. A lot of professional communities in Lithuania are skeptical about this type of stipend - including me - but there is less subjectivity than one can imagine. You can imagine lot of interests being crisscrossed. Also because of this the work came out in this form you see now. 6. It was quite much earlier than this idea came. That was a video art library, the menu of which was situated in the street with a touch screen. Whatever you chose is being projected on


a large screen which is being mounted somewhere in a public space. So people passing by trolley bus, for instance, they may know what’s your choice. The mechanism of the changing and of the display was already clear from earlier times. 7. So the idea was very quick and it came quite early, six years ago. And very simple. It is the same as, to say, Marc Chagall: people are flying. So that’s the idea. The work itself is not conceptual at all. People are flying, in this case, they’re flying to Venice. And for six years that was enough. Later with this idea I applied to CAC, you know, to apply for Venice Biennale. I applied with that idea of Marc Chagall’s flying people, which was short and not very concrete. And then, what happened later was already the concept, which has quite moderate relations to the idea. In your case you interpreted it very interestingly and it has very little of the idea I applied with. So the work started and I came out with the idea of the nation as a person and curator who selects the artists, in this case those who received the art stipend. Some kind of a virtual show which lasts twenty years thus being quite invisible. The collection was the possibility to see this, to see the work of this curator and at the same time to see the work of the audience, especially those being not really introduced to lithuanian art, although they are lithuanian. So the collection had to work like a social mirror reflecting back to the audience something they would otherwise miss or not see at all. 8. So in Vilnius the work was installed before the Venice Biennale. People could come, produce their show, and they finally could see what goes on in Lithuania from that point of view. It had to produce a kind of social mirror or the screen


which would show yourself or your culture from aside. In Venice it didn’t happen because there are a little lithuanian who come so maybe less than one hundred came in this two months. Maybe fifty, not more. Yes it would be fifty, not more. The international audience works in this case as a medium which produces some kind of realization of lithuanian art for lithuanian. The difference is huge in this case because the lithuanian audience is too close, they can’t see that. The Venice show was the only possibility to produce such a collection in order to disapproach and to see. 9. Theoretically you can produce your show. And several shows were produced. By artists and curators, they were spontaneous although we were saying that you could even book your time and invite guests, provide some drinks and we would provide the space and the artworks. Normally it happens the interaction of several visitors, those who are active. And probably those who were not asking to show any of the works they still take part by seeing the works. So this interaction is a complete secret for me and I can only say that it happens. This interaction happens from time to time and it gets one or another form depending on the visitors and on the background of the visitor. Someone quickly ask to remove something, another start to rearrange the exhibition, others are tolerant to anything and they don’t want to remove anything. 10. I wanted you to read this short paragraph by Clementine Deliss which came to my mind visiting the pavilion «Writing in 1915, Carl Einstein, the German theoretician of African art contemporaneous with Walter Benjamin and Aby Warburg, declared that museums were the foundation for living schools. Einstein argued against the idea that works of art from the


past possessed a kind of material and sentimental immortality. Instead, he wanted to nurture an intellectual lifeline between the museum and the research institute. The greatest strength of a collection, he wrote, lay in its mobility. In other words: in the intentional act of switching the position of exhibits back and forth between analysis, interpretation and public visibility. The itinerancy of objects would encourage rigor, make people look again, understand better what they saw, and take apart what they believed or assumed. Collections would reflect the extremes of intellectual explorations and exhibitions would speak of human experience and knowledge. If not he claimed, museums would become nothing more than “preserve jars”, and “anesthetize and rigidify into a myth of guaranteed continuity, into the drunken slumber of the mechanical.» 11. This is my part in it I think. Because the work involves a lot of collaboration and competences, as I mentioned earlier. One thing is that while you skip your references you’re allowed of course to evolve other possibilities. 12. There are statistics. We keep statistics of acquired artists and it says nothing because you never know why that artwork was chosen to be displayed. 13. Many parts of the work led to the idea that it should be self constructed rather than being projected and after being constructed. In this case the control from the artist, from the curator, and other active parts is only when something should be done necessarily. So my part was the text in the catalogue except for that text we made with Kęstutis as an interview and the text for e-flux which is normally being done totally not by the artist.


And what else? I doubt I remember anything, I just remember the work was quite intense so I didn’t see my direct results in that. 14. Well, the restriction of not intervening would be the same intervention. So it was… kind of an organic collaboration, I would say, and moreover for most of the time I wasn’t living in Vilnius for the time the collection was collected. I came to the end when the rehearsal of the show already was being installed in Vilnius. I was working remotely. I was calling, and making a lot of calls, and writing the texts. 15. We didn’t really invent anything in this case. Except for only one part, nobody really took active part in this. This is in some cases as nobody’s work because there is no persons who made final decisions. I’ve been interested in the outcome of appropriating all the outcomes. I was playing with this idea one month ago in Finland. That was the show where I was trying to produce nobody’s work, which would inquire liberal states where the people agree with something but still they’re not taking a great part in it. So in this case, if you have several actors in a situation you get some results which don’t belong to anyone, fully. 16. I worked in there for one month, I didn’t felt myself elsewhere than in Lithuania. It’s like, you know, coming with those huge cruise liner: you’re at home while you’re in Venice. Well, I never came with the cruise liner to Venice. It’s hard to tell that cruise liners are home but it depends on how much time you spend there. So one month is enough to feel at home. And the pavilion and the collection itself became a very very immanent

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part of myself. 17. The attempt was to remove any context. The artworks could be displayed more efficiently or more attractively to those who represent this artworks, to the artists. So the context was only the nation, in this case the curator. 18. There’s no other curator than the state. Of course, as the author of the idea I hold some responsibilities in that. That’s why I’m sitting here. But this doesn’t mean that I’m in charge of doing some things which are normally accepted behind a curator. Curatorial decision is usually based on something curator chooses and in this case only the state does it. The state was the curator. For the state selected the artists, I’m not saying that it projected the vision of the show but, again, the artists collaborated in this case with the state, proposing the artworks. 19. The role of the curator is the selection of the artists. And in this case the curator is the state, who choose. The board consists of six people and the members of the board are changing all the time. Not necessarily year by year but they are quite different. Probably each year, every board is quite different from each other. Some of the artists who are in the collection at least once were board’s members. 20. - Which is the gap, the difference, between the art supported by the state, as you displayed it, and all the one which is not - all the lithuanian artwork which are not in the pavilion for this reason? - This is the difference between bad and good artworks. It appears that in this case the bad and good artworks, if we can assume that

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we’re able to produce this division, they produce some kind of a system, a structure, which cannot be brought apart, or cannot be brought apart easily. Because these artworks are linked by some kind of magnetism and bad cannot go without good or vice versa. In the other case, if you leave the system and look for art, you wouldn’t get bad artworks. I’m not saying that in the collection there are bad artworks, it’s very personal of course, but I do here only some kind of equation which is, I believe, that mathematically could be proved that in such a collection as this, being represented in the Lithuanian Pavilion, should be some bad artworks. Otherwise the system would fall apart. In another case, in curated exhibitions, you can hardly get the good equilibrium, I would say, or equilibrium made on any kind of basis. We were discussing the importance of bad works in national galleries once. Because the bad artworks are not simply bad. In most cases they are better than good ones. They do emanate something the good artworks are incapable to do. 21. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this movie, Abba: The Movie. There are a lot of shots of Abba’s audience. Imagine that that audience could be different, Abba’s audience is very different. This is not the best looking people and this made me think: can this show that bad artworks are like Abba’s audience? They’re opening a way… you wouldn’t expect that kind of thing from good artworks. I’m just making the proposition that there are some bad artworks in the show, in the collection, while the artists represented themselves with their best artwork. So this is not about an evaluation of the artists, about what is good and what is bad. The artworks are always good, but sometimes they are bad. This equilibrium between bad and good I think is sometimes necessary for the show but I’m not insisting on it.

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22. One of the most pleasant things of going to the pavilion is the possibility to choose. Because generally the possibility of a choice is already a power. Even related to economical reasons: you go to a gallery and it’s very embarrassing to ask to see works which are in deposit. You associate that action with having money to potentially buy. Or the power in museums or exhibitions where you have to be a special, a different person in order to see other works that are not displayed. 23. - It could be also an economic model, about the choice, a democratic choice that was impossible before. It could be a reflection of a capitalistic… - In this case rather socialistic. Although is mixed medium in this case. Imagine two political system matching… 24. Freedom of choice is very important. You would feel very differently in both states: the one which restricts you to something and the one which allows you something. 25. Ethically this work is also problematic. This is appropriation of the artworks from my side because it doesn’t matter how I feel personally on my side. 26. One of the most interesting aspects is that I could not classify your role anyhow - curator, artist spectator, organizer, producer. I could not, and of course I would not, classify your role with any of this labels. 27. - Another thing which was quite interesting to me was the issue of how to display the works. From installations which

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are displayed partially to performances which are represented by their video documentation and so on. - There were discussions with each of the artists. Not all of them but I was doing phone calls, communicating by e-mail. Also the artists were involved. I was trying to encourage artists to give the full scale installations. Even if not displayed properly, they would still be representing some material or some information and knowledge about the show. Of course a lot of documentation is being shown. A lot of artists weren’t convinced with that. So less than half of the artists didn’t show up in the collection, for various reasons. But I think in this work it’s not possible to not participate completely because by excluding yourself you produce something, the void for instance, instead of the object, which is also the outcome. 28. - I do have some work I would like to buy. The idea was given by some visitors constantly asking for the prices of some works. I was of course trying to connect the visitors to the artists. - The catalogue and also the display mechanism somehow remind the shop. You could feel like a customer who sits in a shop and have things displayed in front of him. - For me it’s closer to the pinacoteca or the library but of course in any case you don’t have that kind of catalogue, which is of course maybe closer to the TV shop catalogue. 29. - How did you decided to use the images of the catalogue, I mean, did you photographed the artworks… - Yes, they were photographed specifically for this catalogue. In order to give the impression of the equal space they had in the exhibition. Just because of the catalogue’s life after the show. - I thought that to use the catalog as a tool to select works means

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that it has a very big part in suggesting a direction to visitor’s interpretation of artworks. It is a very strong point of view. So maybe the authorship is shifted in this kind of medium, the catalogue. - But I only meant, saying that there’s no authorship, I wanted to say that there’s no solemn authorship, or author. There is no author who is better than others. 30. - I was thinking about the catalogue as some iconographic resource after the show, because the collection is temporary and it will disappear in a few months, you know, not to lose something. The attempt was to produce the best visual for that, and that was the catalogue. - But it quite interestingly becomes a tool for the exhibition, something that you need to make the exhibition happen. Catalogues are usually made as souvenirs from exhibition, while in this case, I would say, it is essential for the exhibition itself. - Yes. It has two functions. You necessarily need to have a guide to the collection and then of course there’s the virtual representation of the show. No other meanings of the catalogue. I was trying to skip as much texts as possible. The ideal version of it would be with just the works: no title page, no colophon, nothing. It didn’t happened. - Why it didn’t? - Well, that was… I didn’t insist. Well later, thinking about catalogue’s life after the show, I understood that some small introduction should be produced. So that’s why the text at the beginning of the book appeared. But it wasn’t planned as an intro for the visitor. 31.

- The ever-changing exhibition is being photographed

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and documented. The process of photography should intervene in the show. - Did you plan it to be documented and photographed? - No, I didn’t plan anything. We came out suddenly with the idea that the work should be shown. Kęstutis then said “Ok then we do this curtain, we could carry them behind the curtain” 32. I remember in my art school a teacher of composition talking about art practices where the art is being produced while the art is behind the wall. The same pleasure you probably experience while you’re in the lobby of a cinema: not having it yet or not even wanting to see the movie, having a coffee or a drink in a cinema lobby. When the movie starts you hear something and you get this particular state of the mind. When you’re not getting the movie you have in fact definitely that. You are getting the movie or something from the movie. 33. I didn’t have aim. I had an idea. The concept was only methodology to bring idea into the form we have. So this form and the idea are the most abstract and the concept works only like technical tool for doing that. I even would say that the concept is less important or less interesting in that case. Because the work is not conceptual. The idea was not conceptual, you know, saying that these people go to Venice is only the idea, it’s not the concept. In order to produce that idea you have to conceptualize it. So the concept of the social mirror came out. But the connection with the idea is very conditional because ideas never become concept and vice versa. Concept is always smaller. As a methodology for bringing ideas to life that’s good, but it can’t replace the idea.

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34. I imagine some kind of a hierarchy where the idea is always higher than the concept, accepting that the concept is only the technical tool to bring the idea, to show it, and to produce the idea. For one idea you can have limitless number of concepts. And probably one outcome... or several outcomes. So social mirror and public as a medium, they are tricky and probably they worked. I’m not saying this is bad but this is only one of the concept. There could be more. One of the concept is your. 35. Sometimes it happens. Using this political analogy, the times when you have a shift of the government, the times when you have temporary government or temporary institutions. They act in a quite suspended state. In my case it would be this: it is temporary and it is suspended. I hope this is temporary. 36.

In any case the collection will disappear within that time.

37. Sometimes the exhibition tends to fall apart very quickly, sometimes not, but sometimes it falls apart immediately. And visitors are not sensitive to that kind of things. Entropy works within minutes and it goes into nowhere. You get bits of something you were seeing as good and in half of an hour it becomes absolutely messy for a long time. Because following the principles you still can’t fix it in a particular way. So it is changing all the time and not always is really good. 38. - There’s an entropy audience-produced - Yes, audience-produced - Artificially produced - Naturally maybe

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39. I was trying also not to convince people or not to produce a kind of political movement to support the idea of the collection. Everything was left on its own. I was more or less a spectator, which is not good. 40. I didn’t try to escape the context, that’s why my name is on the work. I doubt this is fully possible. It has a bad effect. It affects badly the artists, it affects badly the cultural context. 41. I was minded for some time, for a short time, to remove my name from the catalogue. I was already in colophon so there was no need to write “a project by Darius Mikšys” on the title. And in my opinion the book would represent a more universal source of information in the future by being less personalized. But I agree that in the case of a show it is better when someone’s in charge. 42. It’s also good for me, this type of experience, being responsible. Once I was visiting, just after the academy, I was visiting an employment office and they were giving me a test that was plenty of that kind of questions like “do you like responsibility?” The psychologist was saying not to think before answering and I couldn’t, so I answered “no”. Because normally who would write otherwise? Well that was not true. My answer was totally obsolete and I didn’t get any job. Which was probably good because I wouldn’t be an artists. By default people like responsibility a lot. At least I didn’t met a lot of people who didn’t. For instance in this production team, in CAC, there are a lot of people who like responsibility more than me. Partly because of this the work was quite successful.

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43. I took responsibility to reject some works being proposed for the collection. Those artists who were dealing with the collection itself. They would produce a new work, they would not represent any relation with the stipend, and they would interpret the collection itself which in this case put the other works in a complicated position because the interpretation would produce some kind of hierarchy. I had to take responsibility to reject them and to propose other works but they didn’t agree. Two artists at least are not in the collection because of that. I don’t know if I was right to do that. They didn’t propose any other work although I knew they could. 44. Thinking about responsibilities and a work by nobody it came into my mind the story of Odysseus on the Island of Cyclopes when he’s trapped with his men in a cave which is the home of Polyphemus, a kind of savage one-eyed giant. Well when Polyphemus asks Odysseus his name he replies he’s called nobody. So when he blinds Polyphemus with a big flaming stake, he starts to cry out for some help from his friends yelling that Nobody blinded him. 45. There is contradiction between the idea of nobody and responsibilities. In this case responsibility lies in producing this nobody.

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A conversation with Darius Miksys edited in fragments