“What is an artwork today can be something else entirely tomorrow” – picked by the curators from an interview with artist David Bernstein, this sentence is the starting point of the XII Baltic Triennial. Held in the premises of the Contemporarty Art Centre in Vilnius, the event strives to be experimental and unexpected. Accordingly, you’ll be able to find art in the form of Robertas Narkus and Bartos Polonski’s pot of boiling Fanta; cleaning your shoes on Mikko Kuorinki’s “Truck Carpets”; or “piece of self-titled artist(?)” – a hideaway reserved for relaxing or stimulating your own creativity.
To put it simply, in this edition of the triennial the entire building of the CAC has been turned into a massive research laboratory. All of the architectural work was created by Andreas Angelidakis, who used all of the old materials from the warehouse, thus breaking down the boundaries between exhibition space and the backstage, while nodding to the adjacent Art Povera exhibition.
The entrance of the exhibition hall is occupied by heaps of mycelium (fungi) via Nomeda ir Gediminas Urbonai’s “Psychotropic House: Zoetics Pavillion of Ballardian Technologies”. The artists allow everyone to take part by experimenting along with the scientists, artists and architects in their creation, therefore sharing the responsibility of creating. Similar concepts are also carried out throughout the entire event, and at times it’s even hinted that in the future art will create itself independently from artists.
Sleek spoke to the triennial’s curator, Virginija Januškeviciutè, about the idea of “Baltic”, the global nature of this event and the Soviet legacies in art.
Sleek: this edition will focus more on the Baltic region. Which are the themes are being explored?
Virginija Januškeviciutè: The idea of the “Baltic” arrives to this project from several different directions: one being the legacy of the triennial itself, another – the specific art practices, scenes and approaches that I found intriguing in the Baltic region. However, these same approaches may be relevant or present in other places too (and I think they are). And finally the Baltic as a name of the environment that “we” inhabit, a name borrowed from the sea (or the other way round?) that has stuck to various concepts, identities, agreements, definitions over time. The Baltic became one of the scales to be tested and test other things against.
For Post Brothers this became an occasion to develop a series or talks on the underwaterness as a political and economic metaphor, “Nothing but Waves”. For the “Baltic Pavilion”, a project created for the 2016 Venice Biennial of Architecture, this is an occasion to test their research-to-date about the very real infrastructural commons between the three Baltic states, although the notion of “Baltic States” itself often appears to be an outdated concept, a relic from the Soviet times, seemingly inadequate given the current political realm. For Margarida Mendes and Jennifer Teets the project gave a chance to record a large portion of the voice archive for “The World in Which We Occur”, a series of phone conversations inspired by the “World Question Centre” by James Lee Byars.
Many of the triennial’s contributions are also looking into the possible futures that relate in one way or another to the Baltic region – weather in terms of material culture, climate change, science and education; or they otherwise build a critical distance to our immediate environment, at the same time firmly inhabiting it. This environment includes art and what’s expected of it: the whole project is built around the idea that the notion of art changes in time, and every press release starts with the same statement, “what is an artwork today can be something else entirely tomorrow”. In the Baltic context the statement gains some site-specificity – for instance, the triennial draws attention to (or rather, aims to ignore) the split between visual or applied arts, inherited from the Soviet nomenclature and barely shifted since.
Given this years regional focus, how does the Triennial link to the rest of the world?
One of the guests, Jaewook Lee, who spent a few days here during the opening week put it quite nicely: “An interaction is always a local event, while the synergies on this light event are not local at all”.
Who are the artists you’re most excited about in this event?
The event in Vilnius, although eventful, will only last six weeks, but another one will open in Krakow in late November, and another yet – in Riga March 2016. I very much look forward to see the project and its separate parts develop, wave-like, throughout all these iterations, until it finally dissolves after the final gathering on an Estonian island in the Baltic sea in the summer of 2016.
Text by Dalia Mikonyte and Dovile Daunoraviciute
The 12th Baltic Triennial takes place at CAC, Vilnius until 18 October 2015