Interaction with the changing realities
Gintaras Makarevicius was born in Lithuania in 1965 and graduated from Vilnius Academy of Arts in painting. He lives and works in Vilnius, making films, visual art installations and other works. In conversation with Erika Grigoraviciene, he discusses his artistic practice and the themes and subjects of his films. Makarevicius has shown his work widely and been selected for prestigious artists residencies in London, Switzerland and Italy.
Lithuanian artist Gintaras Makarevicius was born in 1965. A graduate in painting from Vilnius Academy of Arts, he is recognised for his visual art and film works. He has a varied interdisciplinary artistic practice, including film documentary, video, installation and performance, drawing and making objects. He has exhibited widely including Manifesta4, European Biennial of Contemporary Art in Frankfurt 2002, Art in General in New York, World Wide Video Festival in Amsterdam 2003.
Interviewed by critic Erika Grigoraviciene for the catalogue of ‘Changing Society’ exhibition at Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt am Main in 2002, edited extracts of the conversation illustrate the artist’s position and concerns:
Erika Grigoraviciene: Objective and subjective definitions of art change fast. What functions does artistic practice play in your present life?
Gintaras Makarevicius: It’s closely related to life – social communication, psychology. Throughout the recent ten years we have all changed significantly, the ‘artistic truth’ has changed, the understanding of reality has changed too. It is namely due to the fact that reality became so important to Lithuanian artists of my generation. The task of artistic practice is to define one’s interaction with the changing realities – everyday world, emotional, social and artistic reality.
EG: It is no secret that you, as many artists, make your living by doing different ‘commercial stuff’. What do you think about an applied function of art: how is a function of psychic and social design different from other applied functions?
GM: I don’t know, but pure art will always remain meaningful for me.
EG: But what do you mean by ‘pure’ in this case, if it has a purpose – self-realisation, identity definition, or something like that? Does it mean art, that no one pays for?
GM: Speaking about the perception of works, some of them are dominated by form, aesthetics, others – by ironic (caricature) content or social criticism, some works become an object of transient fascination, temporary highlight, others remain for a long time. The ‘purity’ of a work, or its metaphysical quality, is an ability to get into an interactive contact with the spectator, wake up something in him, the existence of which until then he did not suspect, though not a physical shock.
EG: You have filmed interviews with Lithuanian writers for Lithuanian national exhibition at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Was this work – a special commission – in any sense essentially different from projects devised on your own? Are writers, intellectual elite, any different from characters of other projects – grave diggers, former workers of Soviet plants, street bums, etc.?
GM: I wouldn’t have taken this commission if it hadn’t seemed interesting to me as an artist. This was a certain anthropological research, analogous to other projects. I don’t find the social status of filmed people important. What is important is that people finally reveal their ‘natural’ shape. Writers differ from other characters of my films in that they are individualities, distinguished by their self-reflection, and this self-reflection is expressed very articulately.
\… Makarevicius then talks about his recent film ‘The Pit’
GM: The theme of this film is one of those themes which you don’t choose yourself, it chooses you. Throughout the entire year – four seasons – I kept filming the graveyard in my home village, Semeliskes. Here my close relatives are buried. It was the dramatic deaths of these relatives that prompted me to create this film. The experience of some else’s death makes you feel shock, distress and at the same time – concerns that are becoming routine. Each time you have to organise the funeral, make arrangements with grave diggers etc. Deaths of close people have become so real to me, like food.
EG: Western culture and art construes death in a macabre way, whereas the ‘iconography’ of grave diggers is dominated by a banal motif – their cynical attitude towards death. But your film is not about that. It’s about time, constant recurrence, everyday routine.
GM: The theme of time is most important in this film. This is why I chose a traditional scheme of four seasons of the year. Death is directly related to time. Death defines time. Meanwhile, the occupation of a grave digger is very interesting. Grave diggers also have to be business people – take care of finding commissions, and also – good psychologists – a sort of artists and architects. Digging of a pit is just as everyday an activity as any other.
EG: Despite such a semantic and emotional devaluation, ‘The Pit’ is very affecting, I would say, shocking. The film’s key phrase – a quotation by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
GM: I found the quotation later, in the last stage of the film’s creation process. It perfectly revealed both the essential concept of the film and the intention of its creation. People are overwhelmed by meaningless passions because they reject death as a tangible, positive reality. ´Death is positive, because it is real. The end is the real life.´
Gintaras Makarevicius was born in Lithuania in 1965. He studied painting at Vilnius Academy of Arts (1988-94) and works in visual arts and film, including documentary, video, installation and performance. He lives and works in Vilnius, Lithuania where he supports his ‘pure’ art work with other commercial art, design and film work. He has been selected for several prestigious artists’ residencies in Europe.
Exhibition / Installation,
Documentary Film Festival, Vilnius
Stage design, Vilnius
Exhibition / Installation,
1998 ´Position and Strategy´, Performance, Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart
1997 Kellertheater-Installation, Kunstlerhaus Boswill, Switzerland
GROUP EXHIBITIONS (Selected)
Exhibition / Installation,
2003 World Wide Video Festival, Amsterdam
2002 ´Geschichte(n)´, Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg
2002 ´Changing Society´, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt
2002 ´Public Relations´, Central House of Artist, Moscow
2002 Manifesta4, European Biennial of Contemporary Art, Frankfurt
2002 ´The Baltic Times´, Gallery im Taxispalais, Innsbruck; Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb (2001)
2001 ´Looking for Mr Fluxus´, Art in General, New York
2001 ´Self Esteem´, Lithuanian Art 01, CAC, Vilnius
2000 ´ArtGenda´, Helsinki, Finland
1999 ´Begane Grond´, Utrecht, Netherlands
2002 Metal, London
1998 Civitella Ranieri Centre, Italy
1997 Kunstlerhaus Boswill, Switzerland
2001 State grant of the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture
1999 Soros Foundation Grant, Lithuania
1997 State grant of the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
(20 April 02 - 16 May 02)