Garden of opinions of fourth-year students of art criticism of Vytautas Magnus Universitywww.kamane.lt, 2010 10 28

"Will you be the Next?". Fragment of installation. Photo by R.Andriušytė-Žukienė

"Four Seconds". Photo by R.Andriušytė-Žukienė

Cycle of photographs "Sixty". Photo by R.Andriušytė-Žukienė

"Fight of the Pontepines with Potato Eaters or Garden of Emptiness No. 10". Photo by R.Andriušytė-Žukienė

Fragment of exposition of "Gardens of Emptiness". “12 Full-moons” on the wall. Photo by R.Andriušytė-Žukienė

Fragment of exposition of "Gardens of Emptiness". Cycle of “Workshop” in the background and “Two Columns for Marking Victory of Feminism". Photo by R.Andriušytė-Žukienė

In brief: Once Balys Sruoga who worked at Vytautas Magnus University used to dispute with himself: he wrote his opinion, then denied it fervently in another text provoking others to join the discussion.

Today the artistic life and its professional criticism hardly meet in reality despite the fact that the number of future art critics is quite high in the academic society. Do they fail to grow? Do they make attempts and fail to break through? Usually they do not even try. Criticism is a really hard activity as its roots as well as fruits are bitter: one has to confront the majority of artists and viewers, inertia and half-art. In addition to professional knowledge one needs temperament of a critic, ambition to create a persuasive text as well as the specific habit of looking at an artwork with an acute eye. Personalities are needed in the field of art criticism as well as in creation.

Even though everybody agrees that art criticism is a separate profession in which art research and journalism meet, it is not taught systematically anywhere. A critic, who should be an active person practicing skills in the culture field, should form in the academic society, should study literature, fine arts, theatre and cinema subjects as well as many others, he/she should participate in the life of culture with his/her texts and opinions as frequently as possible.

It is said that at least ten years of reading and writing is necessary for a critic to mature. The majority of the fourth-year students of art criticism of Vytautas Magnus University started this activity in September and October of 2010. It is probable that some of them will turn into intellectually mature, high-minded art critics analysing phenomena of art relentlessly.

Today they are writing the first reviews of art exhibitions. The exhibition of Eimutis Markūnas “Gardens of Emptiness” open at the Picture Gallery of the National M.K.Čiurlionis Art Museum in Kaunas has attracted attention of even eight future critics. Extracts from the students’ opinions are presented in English.

Giedrė Legotaitė. What do the works of E.Markūnas tell about the contemporary Lithuania and Lithuanians? “Gardens of Emptiness - 1” (2010) is a tangled plane work created from graphite and glue contradicting the definition of emptiness. In the cycle of photographs “Workshop” E.Markūnas seems to think stereotypically: the photographs picture walls of a workshop with many posters similar to pages from calendars with uncovered girls. Isn’t such consumerism the emptiness of the artist himself?

In the installation “Will you be the Next?” the artist develops the theme of emigration touching the topic of deportation marking the rather recent past of our nation. The sound has been chosen for each viewer to find his/her actual theme: it is the sound of wagons that carried people to the Siberia and the sound of Eurostar aircrafts flying to Brussels now.

The exhibition “Gardens of Emptiness” is interesting and intriguing, it touches the senses of many visitors by the themes of exile and emigration.

Vaidė Legotaitė. The exhibition makes one feel in another world, which is incredibly slow. The artist succeeded to create a separate, unreal space in which the visitor feels the taste and smell of emptiness. My personal verdict is that the exhibition is successful; however, all objects of art presented in the exhibition, all notes at the exhibits took one to the garden of emptiness full of senselessness and silliness.

“Two Columns for Marking Victory of Feminism” is a work in which E.Markūnas speaks about the contemporary woman sarcastically. Is it a stone cast to the garden of feminists competing with men or is it simply frustration regarding women making careers and forgetting about their nature to give birth to children?

Justė Stučkaitė. The source of increasing stench is in the centre of the exposition: it is "Fight of the Pontepines with Potato Eaters or Garden of Emptiness No. 10". Chicken feet are lined on a red carpet as in the army parade. The allusion to heroes of the film loved by children informs about the manifestations of the mass consumer consciousness. Still, the relation of the author with these manifestations is not very clear. The Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh painted potato eaters working hard to live. Meanwhile, E.Markūnas compares and contradistinguishes these two completely different worlds. Irony appears, and the strange “fight” gains grotesque meaning. The work shows the battle between values of people of the 21st century and the change of priorities.

“Gardens of Emptiness” of E.Markūnas baffle the viewer. A question appears: what is the position of the artist who has created all this? Does he look at the fruits ripened up by the civilisation ironically (this time) or does he think soberly about the vices of our society and decode its state in forms understandable to us? This is how I understand the idea of the exhibition: we often are witnesses as well as actors of events taking place in the “gardens of emptiness”.

Miglė Klusaitė. According to the author of the exhibition, “Gardens of Emptiness” are related with loneliness, death of nature, sadness or nostalgia, spiritual and intellectual desert, a bit of light and space. However, it is hard to understand what rather different works created in diverse techniques have in common after viewing the exhibition. It is a pity that the exhibition offers no annotation presenting the author, his works and generalising the exhibition as a whole. One shocking detail is that texts written by the artist contain many grammar mistakes; the lack of commas and Lithuanian letters embarrasses the viewer.

Tomas Petkevičius. Thework exhibited in the centre of the hall "Fight of the Pontepines with Potato Eaters or Garden of Emptiness No. 10" is the most shocking. Chicken feet are rotting and spreading unbearable stench. The idea is rendered rather well, but the form of presentation causes unpleasant emotions and raises questions about the ethical side of creation.

I cannot state that I enjoyed the exhibition; however, the impression was strong. Some objects of the exhibition reminded of funk art, which tries to draw attention to some actual problems of the society by shocking it.

Still, some works seemed to have been included into the exhibition only due to the fact that space had to be filled up: the drawings “2006.01.11 – 2006.05.16” and “Topographic Cut” hardly match the context. Their relation to the idea of the exhibition is unclear.

Erika Tuomaitė. The description of the photography series “Sixty” speaks about fragility, impermanence and unavoidable death. The image of constantly sad and dissatisfied Lithuanian appears in the head. Meanwhile, the description of the following work “12 Full-moons” speaks in categories Sigmund Freud. I tried to relate the description with things I saw, i.e. prints of the bum; still, I found no links between the idea of dreams of S. Freud and the human bottom. In the photographs of the cycle “Workshop” the artist wanted to show the attitude of the consumer society (his own?) towards the woman and human being in general.

E.Markūnas succeeded to make the viewer stop and dip into thought. However, the theme of consumerism and emptiness is escalated so loudly and frequently nowadays. Despite this fact, the artist has achieved his aim: he has provoked a reaction, emotion, which is one of the main goals of an artist in general.

Vaida Krolytė. The works of E.Markūnas try to shock; still, does this shock help us to look at the showed problems otherwise? The means chosen by the artist cause nausea to a man who is not really interested in art. On another hand, the clearly shown truth and the understanding that the truth we do not want to see is expressed by objects shocks the viewer. Even though the thirteen exhibited works are not related by one technique, they are related by the symbolical meaning.

Lina Bieliauskaitė. Although the author speaks about loneliness, existential searches and loses in the texts presenting the exhibition, the works (installations, photographs, paintings) hardly reflect these things.

The installation "Fight of the Pontepines with Potato Eaters or Garden of Emptiness No. 10" attract the eye and look impressive. The note complains about the emptiness of the society, but the artist shows nothing new. Even Kaunas has seen meat exhibited in the gallery.

The photographs of the series “Workshop” tell that signs of mass cheap culture are used here. A question arises why so much space and time is allocated in the Lithuanian art world to the part of the society which reads Vakaro Žinios and which does not visit galleries most probably.

“12 Full-moons” is twelve rather big photographs of bums. The note containing the name of S.Freud explains why the bum was chosen as a symbol. And, even though I was not charmed by the chosen symbol, I liked the visual look of the work.

Stopping at the work “Will you be the Next” (2009) I want to ask: how long can we speak about the theme of emigration and the Siberia?

Descriptions of works contain many grammar mistakes, which seem absurd in a public place. Should one believe that mistakes also have some meaning?

Eimutis Markūnas is not guilty that his attitude to the world does not correspond to mine; still, being a visitor of the exhibition I remained “hungry”.

Prepared by the lecturer of VMU, Department of Art Criticism,

Dr Rasa Andriušytė-Žukienė

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