In his performance, Dainius Liškevičius slices through space with his guitar in much the same way as Bronius Maigis’s knife sliced through Rembrandt’s Danaë at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) in 1985. Meanwhile, in his video performance rolls of Soviet-era film incinerate like Romas Kalanta, the young student who immolated himself in Kaunas town square in 1972. It was in 1965 that the last Lithuanian partisan Antanas Kraujelis, cornered and surrounded in a bunker, put a gun to his head and shot himself. This moment is portrayed in Liškevičius’s huge painting 17 March 1965 / M-Maybe He Became Ill and Couldn’t Leave the Studio in 2012.
What exactly constitutes artistic freedom, and what forms might such freedom take in a totalitarian system like Soviet occupied Lithuania? Whose job is it to re(write) art history, and what form should such narratives take? Dainius Liškevičius has created works dedicated to three dissident revolutionaries. These and other works have been incorporated within a larger piece comprised of fragments of the Soviet era (books, objects, etc.) and contemporary artifacts. The resulting exhibit is Museum, wherein objects from the Soviet period and the artist’s life are combined to create a fictional spatial whole. The figure of the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre walking across the sands of the Baltic dunes in 1965 recurs in various spots, symbolizing a flash of freedom in a restrictive period. The installation Museum excites collective and personal memories from a bygone yet still recent epoch.
Museum is an ongoing artistic research in which Liškevičius interprets, with subtle wit, fairly recent collective Soviet Lithuanian history and recreates it from the individual perspective of a fictional artist, inserting autobiographic elements. Through its atmosphere, which is saturated with everyday objects, Museum also confronts the viewer with the thorny issues of the artist’s relationship with a totalitarian regime, cultural isolation, and the search for Western values both in Soviet Lithuania and the entire Soviet Union.
Within a dense installation (a cabinet of curiosities) created using the language of contemporary art, the viewer is immersed in events of controversial political (?)protest that were initiated in occupied Lithuania and Leningrad by three ambiguous revolutionary figures during the 1960s–80s. Dainius Liškevičius rewrites the history of Soviet Lithuanian art, proposing that these events be interpreted as cases of underground art, political performance, and art destruction that were prohibited in those times and thus did not exist.
Lithuania has always to choose a new place for its national pavilion, and this year it will be located in a garden in a separate house that resembles an underground bunker. The performative opening of Museum as the national pavilion with the raising of the flag is intended to introduce into the international field of art politics the issues of patriotism and an artist’s (political) freedom which Liškevičius reflects upon.