art 2001/2

Dalia Kasčiūnaitė. Prieškarinė Palanga’2001.
Fotografija, 90 x 75. 2001

Gediminas Akstinas. Performansas Horizontas
Orūnės Morkūnaitės nuotrauka

Making Sense of it All?

by Alenka Pirman

September 10 – 22, 2001

Day 1, Vilnius – Palanga
The end of the season seems negotiable here. Ieva and some other citizens persuade the bus driver to keep the summer schedule. Dagmar and me are the first to join Anders at Dailė. We are stoned by the plates in our room, etc. We keep sighing: Wow! We rush to see the sea. And we are stoned again. Me by the horizon, Dagmar by the quality of the sand, I guess. We lunch with Dalia, a lady who laughs when you ask if she’s the national prize winner. In the evening we meet the rest of the group. Total blind date!

Day 2, Palanga
After the Dailė-tour it becomes clear that we are to spend our days in a decaying once-upon-a-time-state’s-care-for-the-Artist monument. Nevertheless, we are grateful when a pile of extra blankets appears discretely on the corridor.
I guess every country has a modernist (or two) who spent most of his life in Paris and later on donated all the works to the homeland to become infinite. I guess every country also has some generation-specific thinkers, philosophers who didn’t write and thus became a myth. And in the Antanas Mončys Museum I get hooked on the Justinas Mikutis’ (life) stories as interpreted by Arūnas.
In the afternoon the BBC World News joins the symposium. Åse says she feels safe up here in Palanga but right now I’d rather be at home.

Day 3, Palanga
Rain. At one point we find ourselves exhausted by the BBC brainwash. Somebody gathers enough strenght to switch off the TV. In this historical vacuum we start talking about our work. As if this is the only sensible thing to do at the moment … We talk about our past projects and current beliefs. Also how this is connected with our everyday-life routine (survival). Everyone is so attentive and curious. I tell two stories: first on the travesty-fundraising ‘piece’ based on criminalistics; and second on the hundred golden toothpics.

Day 4, Palanga
First Dagmar feels like beeing in a Thomas Mann’s novel but later on pronounces Dailė a sanatorium. Now what? Escape? Story-hunting? I rent a bike and head for north. I pass Šventoji and cross the Latvian border. I stop in the first settlement by the sea. Very lonely place. I notice wooden houses full of colorful recycled decoration: plastic bottle-tops, helmets, traffic signs, etc. An old toothless couple and a barking dog live there and they allow me to walk around. I take a few pictures and admire the place. Ah, this is how I want to live when I grow old! On the way back, close to Palanga, I notice a beach sign: WOMEN-ONLY. Strange, haven’t I seen something similar before? …

Day 5, Palanga
… I get my film developed and examine the photos – and there he was! A MAN-ONLY beach sign nailed on the façade of the toothless couple’s house in Latvian Nida. I have a story! Seaside romance … Now what?
At night Farhad starts the discussion on the definition of art. The fact that we have been drinking a lot doesn’t make the question less significant. What is art? Apart from claiming that art is defined by the context, by the art system, we are unable to provide any other universal truth.

Day 6, Palanga
I walk to the WOMAN-ONLY sign again. I decide to simply nail a photo of the house with the MAN-ONLY sign there.
While in Vilnius people are watching Pina Bausch we in Palanga take over the Dailė’s kitchen. Andrea and Juha cook. We are honoured by the presence of the two masters who made the beautiful relief on the back wall of the dining room. It also turns out that some will have the privilege of comparing the romance in real time&space with the curatorial metaphor.

Day 7, Palanga – Nida – Palanga
A day off. Indeed Thomas Mann was close enough!

Day 8, Palanga
The time runs slow today. Five more days to go. »I want to go home« is a common expression. We dine with the association’s officials. Expectation is in the air. I realize that we have been handed over the responsibility to deliver the results. I think how artists are perceived (and percieve themselves) as hens laying golden eggs. Whatever we say, touch or make will be so easily acknowledged as art. Do I have the right to fail? Uncertainty and contingency rule the world. So far I know I have only been able to “lay a golden egg” three or four times in my life. I can’t bluff myself and there’s no need to bluff the rest of the world either.

Day 9, Palanga – Žemaitija – Palanga
A trip dedicated to religion. What the hell?

Day 10, Palanga
I isolate myself from the colleagues, alcohol and food in order to execute my plan. I don’t feel stupid when I have to walk for 40 minutes to get back there; I don’t feel stupid when I start nailing the photo and the hammer echoes all over the forest there; I don’t feel stupid when a local woman passes by and I try to explain in a mixture of Slavic languages what she is looking at ... but I feel stupid when I take a picture of what I have just done! Namely – everything (our discussions, thoughts, beliefs in art) became so meaningful in Palanga. I remembered the discussion on the definition of art. Most people agreed that it is impossible to provide one. So – if I don’t know what art is, why the hell am I taking picture of a private gesture on a public place? Maybe this is only a sentimental act and has very little to do with art? But if I provide the photo (=evidence!) to Birute this will be a very pretencious act stating that this, in fact, is art. Uh. I don’t know what to do.
On the way back I accidentaly pass by the Gedeminas’ performance on the beach. My colleagues have joined him. I step in the line too and gaze at the horizon. Everything fits into its place. The men are silent, the girls chat. I know that at the same time Aija and her daughter sit in the dune somewhere and keep drawing the sunset.

Day 11, Palanga
Most of the time we seem so pleased with being here and spending (wasting?) time together. How come that such slow days bring such intense experience? (As Birute has already predicted: “Seaside affair changes common time count for a while.”) Since this is the first symposium I have ever attended, Orūne warns me that I shall not expect the others to be alike.
Per and Arni join us in the evening and after the artist-ran-space-slide-show we fall into an endless loop of talk about the art system. Welcome to the real world!

Day 12, Palanga
The day of the opening. We have delivered the works after all. I am not able to provide the evidence on my act though. I would be contradicting myself. Birute is patient: “You are giving me a lesson now.” I realize this is what it is for me, too – a simple lesson on the role of documents in our work.
The evening is dedicated to the celebration of our accomplishment which at the same time feels like mourning over its end. Even Antanas Mončys, the modernist, was totally stirred up! At one late point Arūnas recites Mandelštam to me. Later on I share this with Åse. She is indignant: “He did it to you, too?”

Day 13, Palanga – Vilnius
The good times are over, says Farhad. Back to normality, says BBC!