– Autumn/Winter 2015

Navigating Through Chaos with Artūras Raila

Lolita Jablonskienė

Artūras Raila, Roll Over Museum, 2004, four photographs, four cars and a video guide, details. Pictured left: owner Vytautas Stakauskas with modified Volkswagen Scirocco 1984; pictured right: owner Ričardas Žilinskas with modified Volkswagen Scirocco 1986. Photographs: Paulius Mazūras. Courtesy the artist and Modernaus meno centras (Modern Art Centre), Vilnius

For my generation, 1989 was what 1968 was for an earlier generation.
— Alexander Alberro1

By beginning with this quotation, I appear to be putting my account of the Lithuanian artist Artūras Raila’s practice into a globally recognisable time frame. In fact, the epigraph was chosen for almost the opposite reason: to cast some doubt onto the assumption that landmark historical events (also those that are still vivid first-hand memories) have universal connotations. Although many of his generation would probably agree with Alberro’s statement, it means rather different things to them, depending on where in the world they live: in North or South America, in Western or Eastern Europe, in Asia or Africa. Even if we live at what is supposedly the centre of an interconnected world, we witness constant collisions between ignorance — including the misapprehension of others’ lack of knowledge — and profound understanding of the processes or individual events occurring at a given time. I believe that 1989, just like 1968, really means different times (a distinct combination of

  1. Quoted in Terry Smith, 'Contemporaneity in the History of Art: A Clark Workshop 2009, Summaries of Papers and Notes on Discussions', available at http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/17595/1/32-97-10-PB.pdf (last accessed on 22 June 2015).

  2. In Lithuania, where Raila lives and works (as do I), 1989 was the year when the Movement for the Reconstruction of Lithuania (founded in 1988 and better known under its shortened Lithuanian name, Sąjūdis) was officially registered. This organisation was the driving force of the national liberation movement. It won the elections to the Soviet Lithuanian parliament (Supreme Council) in 1990, and initiated the declaration of the restoration of the country's independence on 11 March 1990. 1989 was also the year when Raila graduated from the sculpture department of the Vilnius Art Institute, which, after a students' strike at the end of 1988, was reorganised into today's Vilnius Art Academy. Today Raila works there, as a professor in the department of photography and media art.

  3. Artūras Raila: Roll Over Museum (artist's book), London and Vilnius: IBID Projects and Lithuanian Art Museum, 2005, unpaginated.

  4. T. Smith, ‘Creating Dangerously, Then and Now’, in Okwui Enwezor (ed.), The Unhomely: Phantom Scenes in Global Society, Seville: BIACS, 2006, p.120.

  5. Raila's 'love' of intertextuality was made public in his 'footnotes to footnotes' text '2 × 2', in Lolita Jablonskienė, Duncan McCorquodale and Julian Stallabrass (ed.), Ground Control: Technology and Utopia, London: Black Dog Publishing, 1997, pp.48—61.

  6. Ibid., p.23.

  7. Simple People, at Contemporary Art Centre (CAC), Vilnius, 19 July 2012.

  8. Artūras Raila, ‘Primitive Sky, Presentation’, in Mindaugas Gapševičius, John Hopkins, Žilvinas Lilas and Vytautas Michelkevičius (ed.), Displace: A Migrating Art Academies Compendium of Ideas, Vilnius: Vilnius Academy of Arts/Interdisciplinary Artists’ Association, 2014, pp.490—91.

  9. Stephen Wright, Towards a Lexicon of Usership, Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum, 2013, pp.3—5.

  10. A. Raila, Antisportas, Vilnius: Ciklonas, 2013, p.199; also available at http://www.raila.lt/antisportas (last accessed on 22 June 2015).

  11. Ibid., p.198.

  12. Ibid., p.207.

  13. Jacques Rancière, Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics (trans. and ed. Steven Corcoran), London: Continuum, 2010, p.140.