Photoreportage from the opening of the exhibition "Parallel Projections"
The Lewben Art Foundation, recently established at 6-12 Bernardinų St. in Vilnius, has launched its first exhibition, thus marking a new phase of the building. This building is one of the oldest remaining houses in the city, dating back to the 15th century. It belonged to the Vilnius Chapter from 1669 to 1940, and since 1972 has been used for public purposes as the Sanitary Education House. Having changed its appearance a number of times, the building enters the context of the exhibition as a paradoxical experience of the relationship with the past - a past now given meaning by contemporary artworks.
The exhibition presents site-specific works of three artists, Vladas Suncovas, Tomas Daukša and Linas Kutavičius, and starts a dialogue with the historic building and its surrounding territory. With the latter having retained its 18th-century volumetric and spatial composition, a new narrative is being constructed, made up of the different structures and elements of the period. The works displayed on Bernardinų Street (by Suncovas), inside the building (by Kutavičius) and in the courtyard (by Daukša) embody a parallel state and a progression of the future. In other words, they interpret the losses of the past and project the processes of the future, drawing chronological, topographical and typological parallels.
Kutavičius’ installations Light Forms, permeating the spaces of the second floor, take us back to the 1820s, when the interior of rooms was dominated by green, pink, yellow, light blue and orange shades. The interactive installations of yellow, red and cyan lights are thus displayed according to the characteristic colour scheme of the rooms listed in the room inventory of those years. In this way, the building standing on one of the most picturesque streets of the Old Town is transformed into a colour palette.
In the same rooms, ornaments and fragments of monumental paintings uncovered by the restorers on the walls and ceilings become an independent part of the exhibition and a juxtaposition of chronological layers. The murals, reminiscent of different periods, and Kutavičius’s light installations meet as a dynamic and multifaceted expression in space.
Daukša’s approach to historical knowledge, loss of artefacts and cyclical time is typographic, using the object - a fountain - as a system. “The fountains I’ve created are like fossils, remnants of old knowledge that is unknown to us,” says the author.
In this piece, these “remnants of knowledge” are data about a well with a roof, a water pylon and a water supply system that was planned back in 1934, but not installed until later, that all used to stand in the backyard. In these cracks of “knowledge”, the artist highlights several important aspects. First of all, our limitations and our perception of something as alive are inseparable from the circulation of water (in the general sense of the word, of liquids). It seems like the fountain is a convincing illustration of the unstoppable loop of life. Secondly, the motif of the fountain opens up an urban and economic scenario of the work: the purpose of fountains is not only decorative, but also related to prestige (they reflect luxury and sometimes even status). Although the active life of fountains in Lithuania is quite brief (they are only used during the warm season), they decorate the central squares, avenues and parks of almost every city and larger town. Moreover, despite not providing any economic benefit, fountains are, by a strange custom and an old tradition, “fed” with money by people (the Trevi Fountain in Rome alone raises over a million euros a year). Finally, besides the aforementioned formal and symbolic themes of the fountain, there is also its iconic significance, with Marcel Duchamp’s urinal (The Fountain, 1917) at the forefront, and the infinite discourse of contemporary visual art in the background.
Thus, by drawing on this ambiguous allegory, Daukša’s piece Bearded Fountain of Joy shows how our systems of vitality, knowledge of history, cultural and economic capital operate in a closed circle.
Suncovas’ topographical work Nardinai combines architectural systems and archaeological research, with the author reactivating the space in new ways by inserting an object into a narrow cross-street. The height of the work is equal to the earliest pavement layer measured from the current street tiles, and the harmonious upper plasticity of the object echoes the tile roofing and structures of the surrounding buildings.
Diving into the structures of the terrain, the features of the environment and the peculiarities above and below the ground, the artist constructs an object of small-scale architecture or spatial sculpture. Or is it an experimental piece of exterior furniture?
Suncovas’s works are characterised by attempts to be two different things at the same time, various combinations of artistic movements and methods, associations of ambiguous purposes and images. This modular piece is no exception, where the downward gable roofs of the houses and the upward-lifted pavement meet in the middle.
By filling in the gaps of the historical narrative, the exhibition offers a new interpretation of its segments (“real” facts), thus guiding us in the direction of a progressive multidimensional future. The spectrum of the works on display, their modes of perception, diverse expressions and disciplinary formations reveal the complex beauty of the parallels of time. The artists’ works, as a way of getting to know and exploring the space, become a pretext for a new phase in the life of the building.
Exhibition will run until 1 October
Photos by Rytis Šeškaitis