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Gintaras Didžiapetris, Gerard Byrne’s 1984 and Beyond at the Art Exhibition Palace, Vilnius, 2008
Courtesy: the artist and Tulips & Roses, Vilnius.

Reinterpreting reality

by Raimundas Malašauskas

Gintaras Didžiapetris, born in 1985, is the Lithuanian grandson of Douglas Huebler, or so it would seem, since he follows a personal path in choosing not to add other objects to the infinite number that already exist. One can certainly agree with his statement that nowadays, more things are produced than we can possibly understand. The response to this deluge of exhibitions and lectures, books and social obligations is to stop and digest them, trace an order or a theory of one, even starting from insignificant nooks and crannies of history, such as a conversation between two men who never met, dross material culled by chance from the KGB archives. In this conversation, Raimundas Malasauskas explores Didžiapetris’s obsession with absent things, starting with Ninety, a magazine that was born and died at issue #2.


Raimundas Malašauskas: I’ve heard that you don’t read any contemporary publications, neither newspapers nor magazines. So what do you read? Gintaras Didžiapetris: I guess books are records of events that haven’t happened yet. Alberto Manguel said that if we were to collect the world’s memory, what we would get is the world itself.

rm: Aha, you’re reading Manguel. What are you planning to do today? gd: I’ve just come back from a trip. Hope to have a quiet evening.

rm What did you draw here? gd: The lines in the drawing make up a representation of three-dimensional space, which is turned into a real spatial thing when the piece of paper is crumpled and flattened again.

rm: You have said that things remind you of shadows. gd: And shadows look like things. A shadow that casts a thing?

rm: Do you often talk to things? gd: Not directly, sometimes I want a letter to appear instead of a thing (as in Saul Steinberg’s drawings). A letter as a thing. Then that thing could be used to build a new conversation about it or out of it.

rm: Is a shadow the absence of something? For instance, when you leave out a page in a book that is to be printed, does it become the shadow of the page? gd: That kind of page is fascinating to me because it still exists, though not in an evident way; it’s still a part of the book. Just like the shadow that appears when light touches something.

rm: You often talk about something that creates itself in someone’s mind. So a phenomenon or an image that takes shape in someone’s head as a consequence of something you suggested – is it that kind of shadow? gd: Yes, I am interested in structures that we cannot always touch, but that by being placed in a certain kind of order, create a real experience, or by casting a shadow, offer the promise of a thing. I enjoy things that involve books; I’m fascinated by the thought of texts that are printed in this plain kind of form, but that can still present thousands of new modes of perception. So books can be turned into the potential of their own pages. The page that I propose merges with the text simply because it is going to be printed. When the book (or any other kind of content) is not there, I want to create it.

Gerard Byrne, 1984 and Beyond, 2005
Courtesy: the artist and Lisson Gallery, London.


rm: What can you tell us about Ninety magazine, in this respect? gd: I was invited to take part in the “Library” exhibition at UOVO Open Office in Berlin, curated by Adam Carr; the idea was to collect magazines with artists’ projects in them, and even though I had done some things for magazines, I realized I could not just send them a magazine with some artwork of mine in it, because the circumstances in which it would be looked at or read suggested that the contents of the magazine would be ignored (since the reader would be looking for the piece of art). So I decided to reverse this order and create a magazine that didn’t yet exist and contained no artwork, but that would be interesting to read. I invited a couple of friends to help me put together the first issue, keeping in mind that it would also be the last.

rm: Was that issue #99, or something? gd: In the end it was #2, but it would be wiser to say it was the one and only issue. It’s a strange thing, the whole magazine seems to promise a kind of follow-up, but at the same time it’s finished; and by the way, it was never published, it’s very long. I like this odd form of existence, I would like that to be a characteristic of many of my projects.

rm: Just like a conversation in Lukiskes Square in Vilnius? Tell me about that, and please make it shorter than the conversation itself. gd: Well, it’s an artwork that focuses on a conversation found in the Lithuanian state archives. A conversation between two men who did not meet up on a past occasion and are explaining that to each other now, but instead of a telephone conversation, I reproduce the situation within physical space. This work was commissioned by FRAC Lorraine for an exhibition about ways of commemorating history, so what I wanted was to find the kind of content that could be re-enacted between people, completely by chance.

rm: But there are billions of people who did not meet up in the past and will never meet up. Are you interested specifically in that, or is there something special about this non-meeting?
gd: The contents of this conversation also change the conditions of the situation I was trying to create – by knowing in advance that I wanted to arrange a meeting between people that happened in the past, I found a conversation that actually had this as its premise – one of the two men is asking the other, “Why didn’t you come? ”, while the other is answering not by telephone, but standing in front of his colleague. Gintaras Didžiapetris, born in 1985, is the Lithuanian grandson of Douglas Huebler, or so it would seem, since he follows a personal path in choosing not to add other objects to the infinite number that already exist. One can certainly agree with his statement that nowadays, more things are produced than we can possibly understand. The response to this deluge of exhibitions and lectures, books and social obligations is to stop and digest them, trace an order or a theory of one, even starting from insignificant nooks and crannies of history, such as a conversation between two men who never met, dross material culled by chance from the KGB archives. In this conversation, Raimundas Malasauskas explores Didžiapetris’s obsession with absent things, starting with Ninety, a magazine that was born and died at issue #2.

rm: Where did the conversation come from? gd: The conversation came from the daily recordings of telephone exchanges for international calls. In these tapes, you usually hear just the gaps between phone calls, or the beginning and end...

rm: How did it get to the KGB? gd: I think that the KGB would record everyone’s international communication. Later the tapes would be erased if they didn’t find anything good in them.

Gerard Byrne, 1984 and Beyond, 2005
Courtesy: the artist and Lisson Gallery, London.


rm: By the way, were the contents of Ninety magazine tailored to its concept? gd: Yes, I pretended to be the editor and invited everyone to think of situations where the beginning coincides with the end. “Happy End Before the Beginning”, the magazine cover announces.

rm: You say somewhere, “I think that now culture should stop developing (or at least not go overboard), and instead find the most creative way to rearrange historical, symbolic and other orders in ways that make modernity take on the features of post-modernity and vice-versa, in a different manner. Because the water keeps flowing”. gd: That quote sounds a little pompous. What I most likely meant was that nowadays people create more than we manage to understand. I need to go to exhibitions or read in order to be as precise as possible in dealing with my own material or other people’s work. I believe that artwork should change other artwork, and to make that happen, you need to re-think it and remember how it works, and argue with it, in the end.

rm: Do you have a favorite example of this kind of artwork? gd: I have plenty, but by other people. If art can inspire, then I say it should at least try to help you learn something.

rm: Is that why you re-photographed Gerard Byrne’s installation at the CAC in Vilnius as if it had been made in the 1970’s? gd: When Gerard Byrne opened the “1984 and Beyond” exhibition in Vilnius, I noticed that the experience and even the message changed to some extent. When I saw the same arrangement of work at the Venice Biennial, it looked different than in the building whose history and architecture I knew so well. The hall, designed for film screenings, made it possible to photograph the installation without the TV sets showing video work, so that the photos – already lost in time – could become the documentation of an imagined exhibition.

rm: You often talk about absent things. gd: Because they do not obscure the world.

rm: You often mention an image that is imagined before it is seen. What is that image about? And do you care about conveying or transferring it? gd: I don’t know, it should look like an exhibition that is first and foremost an exhibition, even though that sounds very simple – people rarely succeed in it. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s movies have this quality –I once read an interview where he said that his goal is to make a movie that would be just a movie. It is also related to classical conceptualism – artwork contains things and words hide something that is not meant to be seen.

rm: For instance, let’s go back to your own classic piece – Konceptas (2006). gd: It is a personal piece about a place where someone is living and that someone else imagines.

rm: I wonder how someone reading this imagines it, without knowing anything about the piece. Is that one of the effects that it has? gd: I guess that Konceptas is a very simple piece that always shows something different than what it wants to reveal. It is like a way of telling secrets by keeping them at the same time. It contains nearly all the elements that have remained important to me.

rm: What kind of things? gd: At this point, one should go back and read the interview from the beginning.
(01/03)

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