Artwork analysis starts with a visit to a gallery, the viewing of the exhibits, and the interpretative understanding of their meaningful volumes. All that happens after having travelled the road from the idea of the exhibition to its implementation.
How are artworks selected? How does the process of communication between artist and the curator of the exhibition take place? A long and complex sequence of actions which results in a specific work of art standing/hanging/lying in the gallery is no less interesting than the art object itself. We are talking with Bronė Sofija Gideikaitė about the systems, factors, actions, and standards to be kept in mind when preparing exhibitions.
–Your creative work is inseparable from your personal experience. After four years in a managerial position, you chose bureaucratic systems and their clashes with the bias and irrationality of cultural information as your creative activity research field. How was the topic born? What experiences led to its emergence? Which thematic aspects are of special interest for you?
– When one belongs to a system which co-ordinates the exhibition as a whole, one can view both the artist’sand his creative activity movement trajectory from the other side – to watch the processes like Google maps where any detail can be increased or highlighted. I pictured myself shackled by the existing global standards, ratings, and the significance of representing somebody in the context of politicised and socially engaged culture.
In that case, a bureaucratic system becomes rational, as it performs actions to ensure the presentation of an artwork, while the process-related cultural information is questionable, because it cannot be measured in any systemic units. It is irrational.
As employee and artist simultaneously, I responded both to the emotional vibrations of the cultural field and performed the function of a cultural worker, i.e. as a unit of an organising system, I had to stay cool and rational when coordinating the operation of the system itself (as cultural things had to be sorted out and standardised).
The above mentioned system is based on ratings, a certain construct of the mutual institutional agreements, which acquires sense solely in the use of the product – in our case, the art and the artist, regardless of what he considers himself to be: an anarchist or an expressionist, a designer, an engineer, or a specialist of media arts. The system finds it more important how much you are useful and necessary to it than whether you actually exist.
– The topic in question is also reflected in your most recent exhibition Guiding System. The characters and the forms of their communication, promoting the instability of the hierarchised bureaucratic systems, is the basis of the installation exposition defined by you as a natural experiment. Its process, changes, and outcomes depend on the audience activity – its physical actions in the exposition space. Does the audience’s influence on the existence of the artwork leads to its completion or to its continuity?
– The audience is a must, because through artworks I am developing a dialogue with the exhibition visitors: I talk to them about their roles. An artwork is like a mirror which reflects the role of the audience as an exclusive part of the art process, i.e. the logistics chain (idea-artwork-sponsor-critic-viewer-exhibition space, etc.). Viewers are like dominoes which, when one adequately arranges them and pushes one of them, all fall down, however, in a predetermined direction. We are talking about the power of communication which has a certain direction, a cultural one. Paradoxically, even in the absence of the audience, my artwork works, as it, even though not activated by the viewer’s movement, sends a message – at the time communication does not take place – which is also a part of statistics, while the latter is a vitally important fragment of the above-mentioned logistics chain.
– The audience forges a personal contact with your artwork and, step by step, in a clearly defined area, follows the sequence of events (word puzzles). The artwork and the viewer in a confined space of the gallery exchange information. Do you seek to collect and store the information? Or are those only short-term encounters without specific expectations?
– The process is constantly changing and continuing. Each new artwork or exhibition are adjusted, given the viewer’s responses – his expectations. He is allowed to change the conception of the future artwork that he does not even know about as yet. Paradoxically, in the implementation of the future projects, I, like a far-sighted manager, have to guess what the audience may want. In the algorithms of logistics, the dreams coming true, the future and the present run both in parallel and in opposite directions. Maybe step 18 made by somebody in some segment of the chain prevents step 4, however, after step 64 we again find ourselves at the beginning of the game.
An encounter without expectations means actually seeing oneself making a resolute step from a certain perspective which is, unfortunately, set by the system. That is not pessimism. That is a liberal economy that has always existed, regardless of our expectations.
– Four words on a scoreboard are no longer mere combinations of letters, they turn into emotions, gestures, glances, movements, and thoughts. The format of the message sent by you returns in non-format, i.e. interpretation, reflection. The emotional experience gained in an encounter with the artwork as if pulls the rug from under your feet: one doubts the systems and those responsible for the systems – everything becomes fiction. Did you actually aim for that?
– You are right. I sought to tell a story about an artist’s road which can be visualised even in the way it is implemented in the installation: the objects shine, blink, and invite, and simultaneously remind one that all that is temporary. All our mutual relationships are temporary, as tomorrow they may be re-arranged. Even the emotional scales accompanying relationships tend to change. Nothing is real. Reality is only projected. Deep inside we all know and understand this, however, we yield to the suggestion of the surface – to the image, we refuse to dive deeper since we protect ourselves. After all, if we got to know the art creation process management structure, we would be disappointed. Therefore fiction, as well as faith, leaves hope. What kind of hope? Of meeting again in a better and safer place – in a quality-advertised art creation meaning (and in my case, in another, improved exhibition).
–In the research field, the bipolarity of hierarchical systems becomes important which simultaneously supports and destroys them. How do you sort those systems: do you appeal to the majority opinion or do you develop your own evaluation criteria? Is the bureaucratic field of culture and its actors important to you because you are an artist?
-In the bureaucratic field, the criteria are generally no more important than the remaining parts of the creative logistics. They simply have to be named and defined for the algorithm to work. Both the concepts of destruction and support acquire meanings in the process of their discussion. As the steps of the very system which develops something, they are neither positive nor negative and, in accordance with the need, they can acquire any meaning which, in turn, will be neither good nor bad. Nobody can ever come up with the final conclusion that step 15, to destroy, was the right decision, and step 16, to create, was a wrong one. Because the moves continue as long as at least two players are staying:
a) anyone who presents something and seeks a dialogue;
b) anyone who can receive the information about it.
All the actors are important to me only because they operate in my creative field and affect it. Were I not a representative of the art field, I would probably fail to notice those actors or would not even suspect their presence, and my relationship with them would be different.
– How do you choose the means and forms to express the conceptions of your works? Are you looking for a close relationship with the research field or, on the contrary, you choose the means to create contradiction between the content of the object/installation and the visual expression?
–I look for an appropriate texture of expression. Most of all I like the reverse side and the pulled out guts, therefore, I prepare wires, chips, and other materials. The expression has to have not only the visible, but also the reverse sides. One does not need to deliberately create contradictions. My chosen strategy allows me to compose the same things, differently treated by the art audiences. The perception of an artwork is like a Möbius strip. There is always only one surface, however, each of us sees it in our own way.
– You say that an artwork is a function of public administration, logistics or an official standard, or a procedure. Cound you please comment on that?
– Before an artwork reaches, in the viewer’s opinion, its usual place – an exhibition hall, the author or his representatives have to take care of a number of different organisational things which finally stay behind the scenes.
And what about the very organisational process turning into an artwork? Usually the presentation of an artwork requires a lot of organisational work: the agreement on the exhibition time and space, reservation of flights and hotels, photo sessions, etc. In each stage, one has to make concessions and to compromise until finally the artistic idea acquires a practical format. A well-told story about the idea becoming an artwork can itself become a great work.
– You have won the scholarship of the Republic of Lithuania Ministry of Culture and participated in international exhibitions, projects, and biennials in different countries: in Lithuania, Denmark, Iran, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, Hungary, etc. In the analysis of multiple bureaucratic systems, hierarchical tiers, and standards in creative activity, what does this evaluation mean for you? Is it a step up the career ladder?
– Formally speaking, evaluation is part of the art logistics chain which can lead to an opportunity of changing things in its another part in accordance with one’s own wishes. The evaluation of the bureaucratic system ensures a certain art standard of the artist, which could be sold with significant guaranty later. The system itself can promote an artist or block him, depending on its chosen algorithm steps. Each one has to describe their wishes, desires, and requests, and then act in accordance with the received instructions. If you try to rely on the same methods in another system, not adjusted to your steps, your programme will not work and you will get frustrated, depressed, or experience a creative or physical death. Evaluation means an opportunity of choice and the guarantee of its implementation.
–You participated in the jubilee 10th Kaunas Biennial, where the curator of the main exhibition Threads: A Phantasmagoria about Distance was global star Nicolas Bourriaud. You presented your work „The TRIP“, an installation exposition of needleworks of the people you had met telling about the countries they had not been to. That is an important and meaningful evaluation.
– I am happy that the phantasmagoria of Bourriaud in Lithuania started as early as in 2012, when I was helping in the implementation of an international project Prestige: Phantasmagoria Now that Bourriaud presented in Klaipėda Cultural Communication Centre. As it turned out later, the idea to invite the curator to visit Lithuania became important and meaningful for Lithuanian culture, leading to the development of the Kaunas biennial. Thus, threads through distance really work.
– Brone Sofija, and why do we need art?
– Art is one of the languages of human communication. That is a system of codes-symbols that allow a certain category of people, unrelated by age, nationality, religion, and the like, to understand each other. Art plays the role of a converter in the cultural information chain of perceiver and receiver: it allows to share and exchange information gradually, at certain levels that regulate the flow of information. Those are cultural, social, political, and other aspects, which, in turn, perform the role of insulation that protects artist from the public and the public from art, just as a wire is protected by its plastic, coloured shell. Otherwise, we would have bare electrical wiring, a lot of fire, and an open life. We would hardly wish to feel naked and transparent, reactive and oversensitive to the environment. Therefore, most people see and perceive art as the coloured outer wire insulation, i.e. they identify the value and the meaning of an object with its function. In the sense of art logistics, we get a bureaucratically correct, however, meaningless statement which makes it clear that a simple cable exhibited in my work has to be made only of plastic (without the conductor inside it that we do not see, i.e. it as if does not exist), and in the formal sense, it is kitsch, i.e. the surface of the highest value and a zero-value content. We need art to help us to establish a correct balance of values in our lives.