A programme of short films by Lithuanian artist Deimantas Narkevicius launches the new season of artists moving image screenings. Born in 1964, Narkevicius is one of the most widely recognised Lithuanian artists on the international art scene. He represented his country at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001 and exhibited in ‘Utopia Station’, curated by Molly Nesbit and Hans Ulrich Obrist, in 2003. Much of his moving image work focuses on the period of intellectual confusion following the breakup of the USSR, a moment in which the Narkevicius was formulating his own practice.
Many of his films incorporate archival material. Through skilful editing Narkevicius draws this material into new narratives, most dramatically in the video Once in the XX Century (2004) in which a statue of Lenin is reinstalled and history apparently reversed.
The Head (2007), which follows the sculptor Lew Kerbel as he crafts a giant head of Marx destined for Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz), is entirely made using appropriated film from DDR public access television of the 1960s and 70s, while Energy Lithuania (2000) includes archive footage that recalls the optimism of Lithuania’s drive towards industrial modernity.
The Role of a Lifetime (2003), commissioned by the UK-based organisation Art in Sacred Places for a parish church in Brighton, includes amateur footage filmed in Brighton in the 1950s and 60s. It also features the voice of the radical British filmmaker Peter Watkins, known for his pioneering docudrama films Culloden (1964) and The War Game (1965). This film includes pencil sketches depicting Gruto Park in the south of Lithuania, a sylvan space in which official sculptures that have been removed from public view have been installed to make a kind of theme park to the Soviet era. Intercut with these images, the fragments of amateur footage filmed in Brighton offer glimpses of the English past from which Watkins’s radical practice emerged.
The programme closes with the film Ausgetraumt in which Narkevicius documents a small group of young Lithuanian boys who have just started a band. Pop or rock music has never been fully developed in Lithuania as a means of self-expression, and no one Lithuanian pop musician has reached international acclaim. Narkevicius films the serious aspirations of these young idealists, intercut with shots of their wintertime surroundings in Vilnius.