Start of Video Art in Lithuania – Unimaginable Things

The exposition Unimaginable Things by Henrikas Gulbinas in the exhibition Encounters (Klaipėda, 1988) is one of the first public presentations of video artworks in Lithuania. In the exhibition, the abstract and meditative, three-hour manually generated video work by Gulbinas was displayed next to the sculptures by Klaudijus Stepanovas and graphic artworks by Romas Klimavičius. The exhibition Encounters and individual experiments by Gulbinas have become one of the reference points when speaking about the origins of Lithuanian video art, whereas Unimaginable Things dating back to 1988 is the piece of work by Gulbinas which has been continuing until today with slight re-editing by the author (e.g. adaptations of his favourite music).

The Best Works of Lithuanian Video Art (1996) - the first selection of Lithuanian video artworks

At the junction of 1970s and 1980s, when the political situation in Lithuania started shifting, artistic activities also acquired more and more forms of self-expression, including the early video art. An artwork could be displayed not only at an exhibition but also in public places; not only as a static work but also as a live performance, an artistic campaign. The selection of video artworks The Best Works of Lithuanian Video Art released in 1996 embraces a decade of Lithuanian video art – from the first film Two Times by Henrikas Gulbinas dating back to 1988 to the video dance Wordplay by Gintaras Šeputis created in 1996. Speaking about her way of compiling the selection, Sonata Žalneravičiūtė, a film researcher and a program coordinator at Skalvija Film Center, mentioned that, “While observing what was happening in the early 1990s, and then, later, collecting the material about the origins of Lithuanian video art for my Bachelor Paper and also searching for video art creators in other cities, I realized that video art as creative expression emerged mainly because of one new technical tool – a video camera. In the hands of artists of different fields, a camera turned into an instrument offering new, unpredictable possibilities to enter unexplored artistic territories. In my selection, I’ve included all the authors from that time, to whom this was one of the most important forms of creative expression. The films revealed multiple artistic languages, forms and a variety of themes and intonations of each artist.”

Activities of Image Studio in 1994–1997

On the initiative of Gintaras Šeputis, a key creator of Lithuanian video art, the Photo Studio of the Graphics Department of Vilnius Academy of Arts was transformed into the Image Studio – interdisciplinary courses or simply a ‘pirate academy’ – in October 1994. Apart from avant-garde cinema or media history, various speciality students from higher education institutions had the possibility to use filming and editing equipment and get acquainted with editing technologies in the Studio. The Studio also housed informal meetings, screenings and discussions often continuing well into the evening hours. During the first years of the Image Studio, student work reviews were arranged at the Contemporary Art Centre. This particular period of the Image Studio shaped the first generation of video artists who studied in Lithuania represented by such creators as Irma Stanaitytė, Jurgita Remeikytė, Vilma Šileikienė, Vygandas Šimbelis, Aistė Lapinskaitė, Paulius Zavadskis, Eglė Gelažiūtė, Marius Kavaliauskas and others. In 1997, the Image Studio was transformed into the Department of Photography and Video Art (the Photography and Media Arts Department since 2000), which has been functioning actively until now.  

Situation Documentaries by Aleksas Andriuškevičius

Painter, member of the group POST ARS (1989-2009) and one of the few Lithuanian video performance creators Aleksas Andriuškevičius started his performing work in the early 1990s. The situations expressed through minimal means and arising out of day-to-day experience are typical of his artworks. Andriuškevičius employs elements of absurd and records everything in a free way with a home video camera. At the centre of the situations – the author and his directed performative, sometimes monotonous actions that turn into abstract, paradoxical rituals. Today, the artistic practice of Andriuškevičius highly reminiscent of avant-garde aesthetics has become one of the paradigmatic examples of Lithuanian video performance.

ATG – Deadpan Humour in Lithuania

The Academic Training Group (ATG) is a group or artists – painters Giedrius Kumetaitis, Mindaugas Ratavičius and Simonas Tarvydas – that functioned in 1992-1998. From the very start, ATG ignored and subverted the boundaries of art genres, canons or spheres; they never avoided a clear, politically motivating and ironic content. Having originally focused only on video art, gradually the artists moved on to create objects, installations. According to Mindaugas Ratavičius, “Our manifesto was that, actually, there never was any manifesto.”1

1Miglė Survilaitė, Humour in Visual Arts: Study on Academic Training Group (ATG). Master Thesis, Vilnius: Vilnius Academy of Arts, 2016.

„Festival Franco-Balte d’art video“

“Festival Franco-Balte d’art video” is the first festival of France and the Baltic States that lasted for three years and was organised by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1992 – Riga; 1993 – Vilnius; 1994 – Tallinn). The following Lithuanian artists were among the participants of the festival: Aleksas Andriuškevičius, Laimė Kiškūnaitė, Džiugas Katinas, Gintaras Šeputis, the Academic Training Group (ATG) and etc. In 1993, the festival was organised at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius. The latter event not only enabled the local artists to learn more about the works by foreign creators but also marked the beginning of video art as legitimate and relevant form of creation in Lithuania. The author of the best artwork selected during the festival was granted with the possibility to reside in Paris for a month. The segment presents the work Proportion (1992) by Džiugas Katinas and Linas Liandzbergis shown in the programme of the 1992 festival in Riga.

Creative Work of Karla Gruodis and Feminist Excursus

In 1996, film critic and curator Sonata Žalneravičiūtė compiled the first selection of the best Lithuanian video artworks. The movie X Beats per Minute (1996) by artist Karla Gruodis was among the fifteen selected pieces – the only work by a woman artist on video tape. The author of this artwork which highlights the relationship between maternity and woman’s body, shaped the foundation for the discourse of feminism in Lithuania: in 1995, Gruodis compiled the first Lithuanian anthology of feminism Feminist Excursus: The Concept of Woman from Antiquity to Postmodernism, conducted a cycle of seminars on feminist theory at Vilnius and Pedagogical Universities. However, as art critic Linara Dovydaitytė observes, “The educational and artistic activities of Canadian Lithuanian Karla Gruodis, who returned to her mother land, is more of an exception rather than a rule in the context of 1990s.” [Kultūros barai, 7/8, 2018]

Tomas Andrijauskas: Music, Friends, Nihilism

Video art creator, photographer Tomas Andrijauskas started experimenting with cine film in the seventh grade of secondary school, when he attended Šiauliai Children and Youth Club Kibirkštis. Before the admission to Vilnius Academy of Arts, Andrijauskas had already worked at Šiauliai Television and cooperated with director and producer Remigijus Ruokis, together with whom Andrijauskas made a music video for the song Control Shot (1995) by the band SEL – one of the greatest hits of Lithuanian music at that time. The artist has also worked with such bands as BIX, Exem, Lemon Joy, Biplan and etc.; his music videos have often been evaluated at national level. The works by Andrijauskas stand out not only for their link with alternative music or ‘rowdy’ style, but also for the attention toward his most immediate surroundings, i.e. colleagues and friends.

Creative Work by Aurelija Maknytė, VHS as Ready-Made

Having originally used VHS tape as a means of filming, Maknytė eventually employed tapes in her continuous project VHS Studio: Ways of Storage and Usage of VHS Tape Archive (from 2009 until now). A part of this project – the collection of over 3,000 VHS tapes from a once flourishing video rental shop Eliksyras in Vilnius (1998-2012) – was exhibited at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius and Kim? Contemporary Art Centre in Riga. VHS Studio also includes the tapes accumulated by Maknytė’s father where he recorded his favourite films and TV shows as well as her own tapes that were often re-edited, recorded over and, thus, used for the birth of new artworks. For example, her work Recording (2003) is an archive of the then popular television show SMS Entertainment. This Maknytė’s film shows live broadcasts of ‘chats,’ ‘online dates’ and reveals the popular communication forms from the near past.

Television of 1990s – Zorro TV Project

According to Šiauliai-based video artist, painter, production designer, member of the band Žuvys and co-founder of the Medusa Art Gallery in Vilnius Paulius Arlauskas, the Lithuanian television of the 90s is the most original and continuing Lithuanian video artwork. In the opinion of one of the creators and hosts of Zorro TV – an experimental TV show dedicated to culture, shown on Šiauliai TV in 1999 – the early Lithuanian television served as an alternative space for experimenting; the then Šiauliai context was very favourable for that and there was no generally accepted ‘format.’ Subsequently, this was substituted with the emergence of the first commercial television and the boundaries of political correctness shifting in time.

Laura Stasiulytė. Search for Identity in Video Art

In her artwork Intention to Remember (1999), Stasiulytė is filming herself seated at the kitchen table and singing Lithuanian feasting songs. Both the length of Stasiulytė’s work and the length and number of the songs depend on the memory of the film character – the songs last only as long as she manages to remember them. This work and other works of the artist contain no explicitly expressed irony or nostalgia for the past. They are open and, at the same time, refer to ethnic stereotypes, aesthetics and language as ideological means. While looking at the characters or rituals in Stasiulytė’s films (the counting of the Senegalese artist’s braids in German in Counting Braids (2002); or the national welcoming of foreign tourists in a cruise ship in Hailing Ship (2007)), at least several unofficial stories of the people living in the country where the action is being observed unravel in parallel.