The following interview marks the fourth in HELLO, a series of interviews conducted by Adam Carr that set out to examine different models and approaches of curatorial work today. Each interview, published in consecutive issues, will focus on the work of one individual, concentrating on a single exhibition or investigating a larger span of their work. In doing so, this interview series intends to survey the evolution of curatorial practice, revisit and rethink a particular exhibition, and provide a platform for a younger generation of curators.
Lets start where you started. Where did you study? Did you
undertake any particular curatorial course for instance?
I studied Art History and Theory at Vilnius Academy of Arts. At some point I
went to De Appel curatorial course in Amsterdam.
Was a particular moment or occasion that fueled a desire for you to work as
I was not planning to be a curator. Entering curating was neither a full
choice nor a full accident though. While I was studying in Vilnius I was
invited to work at CAC Vilnius by Kestutis Kuizinas, the director, who read
a couple of my texts in local newspaper called “North Athens”. When I
accepted the invitation I didn’t know what I was going to do at CAC, yet I
was ready to learn to use a PC.
After navigated your way around a PC, what was the first project
you began working on?
For Beauty, Soros Art Center annual exhibition in 1995. We did it with
Sandra Skurvida who lives in NYC now.
What was that about?
The more time passes the more confused I am about what it was about. I guess
to me it was about moments and statements that were stemming from a variety
of temporal perspectives outside of a supposed-contemporaneity, yet being
more alive than “now.” However I am sure for Sandra Skurvida it was about
something totally different. We can ask her.
During 1997, you began working on a project involving
you being dressed in artist’ clothes. This seemed to set a precedent for your
unconventional way of working. Could you tell me a little bit about this early project and some of the ideas behind it?
This project was called “Artist’s Portrait”: I posed for professional camera
of Marijos Nostalgija studio wearing clothes that I borrowed Vilnius
artists’ clothes that Gediminas and Nomeda Urbonas collected for their
temporary boutique at CAC. Afterwards those photos were published as a
fashion insert in local life-style magazine. There you could find the name
of the artist whose clothes I was wearing as well as my phone number on the
page so you could call me and buy it. I think I was interested in the
banality of the glamour as well as not doing anything special except
connecting things that were already there: using second-hand clothes,
advertising industry with its codes, life-style magazine, etc. The idea of
not producing anything myself and “not being myself” made a lot of sense to
me then. I thought if Naomi Campbell was not considering herself a writer
when she wrote Swan, her novel, I will enjoy not considering myself a model
or artist when wearing artists clothes for a fashion mag.
Just going back to something you mentioned earlier – the texts that you did for “North Athens”, were they related to art in any way? This also brings me to mention the diversity of your writing and your work in general – you wrote about Australian pop-starlet Kylie for example....
“North Athens” is a very peculiar newspaper (as you can guess from its name)
- the first text I published there was about streets of the town literally.
The second was a conversation of Plato and Aristotle, and, yes, it was about
art! The text about Kylie didn’t appear in North Athens though. By the way,
after all these years you don’t want to consider her a Londoner?
Within your curatorial work, writing – or perhaps more accurately the idea of – seems to be very key to your approach. For a recent project, centered on the idea of exhibition making by time travel, you blurred the boundaries between ‘text’ and ‘exhibition’.
Could you tell me about this project?
Writing is great because it allows you to think about ‘unwritten’, it allows
you to work collaboratively with other people on the same thing and in a
certain way it always makes me think about writing software (even if I’ve
never writtten a single algorithm.) Why software? I see art as a cognitive
and experiential software of relating things, so writing, especially with
other people, in a kind of ‘open source’ way is what makes sense.
The Documenta N project consisted of 22 proposals made by artists and
curators for any Documenta in a past and future. And even if most of the
contributors went to future, I was wondering if all those Documentas could
be considered as something existing simultaneously, which means that if you
go to Documenta in 1955 and insert your work there (or remove someone
else’s) you may affect what you encounter in Documenta this summer, for
example. So it’s a kind of speculative logic exercise in imaginary realm. It
was also nice to invite people to take part in Documenta that have already
passed thus making it virtually available to anyone to take participate.
Could you perhaps give an example of one of the proposals you received?
One of them is written by Francis McKee in the year 2042, 21 years after his
death in 2021. It’s a proposal for Documenta XX in 2047. At some point
Francis spliced Donna Harraway’s dna with that of Cayenne Pepper, her
favorite animal companion and created Donna Cayenne IV, a highly intelligent
mongrel. This mongrel is supposed introduce a special virus to visitors of
the show which will make them to experience highly syneasthetic visions. The
catalogue for the exhibition will be a mutated tomato impregnated with
historical texts by Timothy Leary, Terence McKenna, Bamba Fausto and others
However some proposals made for the Documenta of the year 2007 as well.
Sturtevant sent two sentences I really cherish “Appearance is temporality.
Not being there is essence.” You probably noticed that she wasn’t in the
Around 2001 one of your first projects took place at CAC in Vilnius – an exhibition by Pierre Bismuth and Jonathan Monk. How did the show come about? What was its eventual relevance for an audience in Vilnius?
I was a big fan of their work and thought that Vilnius art audience needs to
be confronted with more conceptual and witty artistic approach. Thus we
invited them to do a collaborative show at CAC. One day they landed in
Vilnius with huge Siberian fur hats (it was winter indeed), sat in a café
and in a couple of hours produced more ideas than that café seen in years.
To me the volatility and speed of those conversation-woven ideas, resulting
in a show of text pieces, slide projections, performances and “objects to
fill the space” was a very special experience. Also a text piece by Pierre
Bismuth “Everybody is an artist, but only the artist knows it” that we put
on the façade of the museum in Lithuanian became one of the most
controversial and most-debated artworks in Vilnius. People still quote it on
a variety of grounds.
This exhibition leads me to mention a project you developed for Jan Mot
Gallery in Brussels, for which you asked Jan whether any of the artists who he works with had picked up Robert Barry’s “Telepathic Piece” – one of my favourite pieces of all time – which in fact had already found the artist Jonathan Monk.
I definitely share your enthusiasm about Telepathic Piece by Robert Barry.
It was transmitted in 1969 however no one has ever admitted that he or she
has received the piece. Yet if we assume that the message was an
electromagnetic wave transmitted from artist’s brain it is clear that it
couldn’t disappear into a void, most presumably it still reverberates
somewhere. According to Robert Barry “If someone picks it up, then that’s
communication. Someone might pick it up a thousand years from now. Someone
might pick it up five minutes before I’ve thought about it.” And that was my
starting point for this project. When I mentioned it to Jan Mot he got
excited as well and invited me to realise the project at his gallery in
Brussels. Jan thought that Jonathan Monk might have possibly received the
message. We asked Jonathan and he didn’t deny. According to Robert Barry you
never know where the message goes when you send it telepathically. So it
kind of worked on both ends. The exhibition called “During the Exhibition
Gallery Will Be Open” consisted of a radio piece by Jonathan, echoing early
experiments by Robert Barry, a text piece where a description of Telepathic
Piece by Robert Barry was translated from one language to another (12
languages in total) and a photo of dog who might have received a message.
You probably know other mammals have more sensitive ESP apparatus than us.
I have heard of curators damaging artworks - notionally as well as physically - but how on earth did you loose a work by Mario Garcia Torres? You know, I am doing a project about secrets and rumours in the world of art and from the little I know about this incident its seems perfect for inclusion.
It happens not only nationally and physically, but internationally as well. Yet I have to admit that I neither damaged nor lost the work by Mario Garcia Torres, I simply misplaced it. Misplacing is a legitimate curatorial procedure, isn’t it?
How did you misplace the work? Where did you see it last?
Well, it could be that I’ve seen it this morning, but took it for something else. A number of post-cards, fragments and ideas accumulated during our ongoing correspondence with Mario. When the gallery asked me to lend his piece for a show, I had to look into a bunch of stuff.
Who requested the loan?
Elodie Royer and Yoann Gourmel for the exhibition Le Spectre des Armatures they curated at Glassbox in Paris.
Has the piece disappeared completely to never be found?
No, it didn’t. I am sure one day it might show up as something else or even as itself in different circumstances.
Have you misplaced any other artworks?
No, no one else has requested yet.
Perhaps the most monumental project you have been responsible for to
date is the Baltic Triennial, BMW. At CAC, the exhibition withheld a very particular exhibition design -- mostly dominated by black and white. I wondered firstly in connection with this if you could tell me to what extent does the design of an exhibition play in your work and another question, related to the Triennial, what were your curatorial aims with this show?
Pivotal to the exhibition was that it existed over two venues, the main one being CAC and a 24 hour venue at the ICA in London. What was the decision to take the Triennial over to London and return back to Vilnius with it the following day?
There was a lot of movement with BMW indeed, even one of our openings took
place on a charter plane carrying the cream of artworld from Lyon to
Istanbul. Unfortunately neither Sofia Hernandez Chong Cuy with Alexis
Vaillant, the other two ghost-curators of BMW, nor me could join the trip.
Instead we sent a doppelganger of Gabriel Lester who gave the longest speech
in the altitude of 10 km. We also aimed to create a clone of BMW in Vilnius
and present it at ICA in London in order to explore this twin-relationship.
Also British Airways was one of our sponsors, so we had to go to London.
BMW project drew on Dracula strategy, i.e. reluctance to be transparent,
exposed and categorised. As soon as you apply it to exhibition making, which
is known for its quest to expose, identify and define, you end up in
contradiction. So we took this contradiction as a premise and shared it
among 50 artists working in similar vein whether in terms of strategies or
areas of interest. They ranged from shadow networks, magic and hidden
coffins to informal economies and rumours. Two projects of invited artists,
Valdas Ozarinskas and Arturas Raila, helped to create the architecture of
the exhibition. Valdas proposed to create shadow-walls of an existing
architecture of CAC, which meant replicating existing structure in a light
and temporary material. Arturas invited local experts of geomagnetic field
of Earth to visit the building to CAC and to map the flows of energy
circulating there. Those two pieces were combined together to create the
overall display of the exhibition: the shadow walls would intersect on the
spots of strongest energy flows (it is actually ages-old tradition to
position a to be built-house according to the flow of electromagnetic
fields.) So purely geometric concept of Valdas merged with a more mystified
geoedesic concept of Arturas and his collaborators. Two different logics
were working at the same time.
I think often you can extract the algorithm of design from artworks
exhibited in the show. Of course, we couldn’t bring this whole enterprise of
CAC Vilnius to ICA in London, so there we focused on time aspect instead. 33
Hours Baltic Triennial consisted of multiple flows of information, events
and activities taking place in the span of 33 hours. It was
super-compressed, chaotic and accelerated event. One of our slogans for BMW
was to disappear as fast as possible, but I think we could have done it even
faster than in 33 hours.
Could you describe the artistic scene in Vilnius and any significant changes it has endured during your time of being in and out of it?
One of my favorite quotes of Deimantas Narkevicius about Lithuania dating
back to mid 90s is: “In Soviet years it was a farthest territory in the
West, now it’s a farthest territory in the East.” I think part of this
statement can still apply to a present situation. Vilnius moved from place
where Kim Philby, the former British KGB spy would come from Moscow to drink
coffee in more European setting, to the setting of 70s New York or Robin
Hood’s England. In a way that’s what I always liked about Vilnius - its
elasticity in playing a variety of roles whether they are coming from
history or from Hollywood. It is a highly psychogeographic place. Before
1989 no one in Berlin or London would use “Vilnius scene” as a figure of
professional speech, now they do, and that’s perhaps one of the crucial
changes you are asking about. The art scene is very tiny, but dense enough.
If you know the right network you can experience great moments of
unpredictability, mysticism, speculation and individualism there, which
thrives even under a threat of normalisation.
Much has been said about the curator vs artist issue. What has not seemed to be discussed however is what currently constitutes these two roles in an ever-expanding shift of practices, of thinking and activity. I am playing devil’s advocate here, but if somebody said were to say that you were an artist who curated, or used the ‘medium’ of curating, would this be a problem for you?
Since this debate is inwards-looking, it can hardly open things up. No
doubt, there are smart people who can develop great ideas within this
scheme, but I personally find it difficult to oscillate between role A and B
all the time instead of let’s say moving from role A to role D to role M or
role DM (if appropriate), etc. I think the debate is stemming from a
museological art apparatus programmed to maintain conservative notions of
‘artist’ and ‘curator’. Isn’t it far more exciting to analyse the work of a
producer of culture (whether its a someone who considers himself a ‘curator’
or an ‘artist) in relation to, let’s say, work of speleologist or venture
We seldom had those issues at work at CAC Vilnius where we had to invent our
own modes of operating instead of inheriting them from highly labor-divided
society. Although its not entirely true either: when I was doing CAC TV
project in Vilnius I always had fun introducing myself as a TV producer, but
art-world people still keep on referring to me as “a curator of CAC TV.” It
makes me think that Ed Wood was a curator too!
Could you tell me a little about your position as ceo of the
estate of john fare? I thought your first venture in this role – the exhibition you produced for gb agency in Paris – was extremely impressive.
My position at John Fare Estate is as undefined as a few other people who
are involved in it as founding members. The Estate is not a strictly
for-profit venture, it functions more as a club (women are welcome!)
dedicated to preserving and presenting the legacy of John Fare, a Canadian
artist who de-capitated himself in the 60s as his final performance.
According to John Fare, “Dying is art like everything else”. Yet his estate
is not so focused on dying. We are more interested in exceptional and
paradoxical while the mission of the Estate is to support the improbable,
incredible and inadequate. When gb agency in Paris invited John Fare Estate
to curate a show in the gallery, I took part of the curatorial job. We
invited Gabriel Lester to become an avatar of John Fare for the duration of
exhibition while other invited artists contributed not only pieces to be
exhibited in a gallery, but also pieces to be activated or internalised by
Gabriel Lester as a part of his ongoing performance as a ‘face’ of John
Fare. For example, Darius Miksys proposed for Gabriel sometimes to cut his
ongoing performance 30 % shorter as a contribution of Darius Miksys. And
Gabriel did a several times.
I know that you recently left CAC to embark on a journey into the
world of freelancing. To what extent do you feel that this has led to change in your
curatorial approach, if any....
I’ve spent enough of time at CAC to leave it with a lot of good emotions
about being there and enough "curatorial models.” After doing all those
resources-heavy and time-consuming mega-projects in Vilnius like 24/7 Wilno
- Nueva York, BMW, CAC TV and living at CAC Hotel for 3 years (it was a
fantastic period though!) I was interested in scaling my processes down,
making it more precise and more selected user-oriented. For example, with
CAC TV you almost never knew where your content went. It’s a bit like with a
telepathic message by Robert Barry. So i was interested in working in more
filtered networks whether it was a private gallery, a publication or a
Perhaps there is not much space left to discuss this but how did CAC TV begin?
I guess it’s a subject for an interview far lengthier than this one, maybe
we can just leave it saying that it began in 2003.
What are you currently working on? What shows are upcoming from you?
Besides working with students at CCA in SF I remain entangled between public
institutions and free-lance projects. I started to work as one of the 3
curators of Artists Space in NYC. Together with Joseph del Pesco and
Meredith Johnson, the other two, we are aiming at rewiring the position of
the institution in artistic community of NYC as well as public
consciousness. Talking about consciousness from another perspective: A
Hypnotic Show is a project I am trying to conceive for Jessica Silverman
gallery in SF, the idea is to consider the brainspace as a key medium of art
and to realise a few pieces proposed by artists in a séance with a
hypnotist. I think it’s also time for John Fare to produce another last
(originally published in uovo magazine)