Danius Kesminas

Article Works Merits Projects www
crossroads:
history, irony
genre(subgenre):
Music (pop, rock)
Visual Arts (Film, painting, performance, sculpture, video art)
region:
Australia and New Zealand, Europe, Baltic
country/territory:
Australia, Lithuania
created on:
October 6, 2007
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since October 7, 2007. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
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Article

Never mind the Pollocks

Is Danius Kesminas a Gotthilf Fischer of the art business? Wherever the Australian is living he seems to found a band and is presently involved in three of them which, in linking art ancient and modern with rock cover songs, draw parallels between high art and pop at the cost of the art circus.
One of his concept-art (heritage) rock-cover bands is the Histrionics, whose name refers to pathological showing off and which sounds rather like ‘history’, which indeed plays a big role in many of the band’s texts, where art history’s stars and motifs appear with rock and pop hits as objects trouvés in Duchamp’s sense. Thus the band performs a ballad dedicated to the scandalous British artist Tracey Emin and sung to the penetrating sound of Roxanne from the Police: ‘Tracey / Named the men you shagged in a tent site / Those days are over / Now you sell your body for the limelight /Tracey / Your blood-stained knickers are so trite / Sell soiled sheets for money / On Charles Saatchi’s YBA satellite.’ And to music from Dreadlock Holiday (10cc) the Histrionics play an homage to Rirkrit Tiravanija, best known for his cookery installations: ‘I don’t like Rirkrit, no, no / I love him, yeah /I don’t like your bean curd / Don’t mean no disrespect / I don’t like your tofu / If this dish is an art object.’ So the band becomes arty in portraying artists and critical in posing theoretical and juristic questions: ‘You want to use appropriation / Well, you know, we all want to change the words...’ (to the melody of the Beatles’ song Revolution). Since the Histrionics perform in suits in Pollock’s drip optic, one of their tours was called ‘Never mind the Pollocks’ and they may easily be dismissed as show-offs, but this overlooks the fact that their texts often hit the bull’s eye and are a form of art criticism, as when they refer to video art: ‘The focus is blurry / The close-ups are wobbly / The editing is ghastly / Looping projections /Banal confessions / For 30 minutes sessions...’

Another band founded by Kesminas, this time with art students in Indonesia and called Punkasila, is quite different and literally makes venues unsafe by playing on masterly hand-finished mahogany instruments in the sights of automatic rifles and clad in combat suits. Since the lyrics are based on ideological acronyms and abbreviations typical in Indonesia, the band’s first CD was called ‘Acronym Wars’ - a plucky statement to make in a state marked by ideology and the military.

Being an Australian of Lithuanian origin, Kesminas has a special interest in George Maciunas, who was born in Lithuania and died in New York in 1978 after founding Fluxus. Especially the scurrile contact between Maciunas and his former school-friend Yytautas Landsbergis (later the first president of Lithuania after independence) is echoed in a third band project, the Slave Pianos.

Maciunas and Landsbergis wrote to each other, especially in the 1960s, Maciunas as a Lithuanian emigrant to New York who had founded Fluxus and kept on having new plans for exporting this new form of concrete art to the Soviet Union, and Vytautas Landsbergis as a Vilnius musicologist known for interpreting Ciurlionis. The correspondence between these two heroes, said by Nam June Paik to be mini giants, together with Fluxus compositions and food (Vodka jelly), diary extracts, manifestos, dances, games, art and non-art find their way into the antiphonic acoustic theatre Dissident Consonances run by Kesminas, Rohan Drape, Neil Kelly and Michael Stevenson. Even Vytautas Landsbergis has appeared personally with these Australian artists, but their musical works celebrate not only Fluxus but also other ‘heroes’ of art history like Bas Jan Ader (‘The Strange Voyage of Bas Jan Ader), missing since trying to cross the Atlantic in 1975, and John Cage.

Kesminas is currently working on art and music crossover projects and also in classical fields of visual art like installations, graphics and video and is open to inspiration from current events, which have led him for instance to research into a more or less sociological and ethnological project Vodka Sans Frontières (2005) about illegal vodka pipelines running under his fatherland Lithuania to avoid customs duties and bribes. By now he has revealed nearly the whole network, which curiously tallies with the sites important for Fluxus, including a pipeline running under the house where George Maciunas was born and one under the official residence of Vytautas Landsbergis, showing how intoxicating artists and art may become in their commitment to flux and free enterprise.

Even the vodka project is multimedia with music in particular playing a notable role in the form of a vodka organ - a huge musical clock made up of vodka, a vacuum cleaner, plastic bottles, crates and tea-chests and able to play Monteverdi’s ‘Zefiro Torna’, George Maciunas’ favourite piece.

Author: Harald Olkus

Works

GROUP EXHIBITIONS (SELECTED)

Established,
2007
2007 Saloon at Moscow Biennale, Moscow, Russia 2004 A Constructed World, VCA Gallery, Melbourne, Australia Concern, Cemeti Art House, Yogyakarta, Indonesia and VCA Gallery, Melbourne, Australia 2003 This was the future…Australian Sculpture of the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s + Today, Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, Australia 2002 Elvis has left the building – Urban Legends, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth Cultural Centre, Perth, Australia 40 Jahre: Fluxus und die Folgen, Kulturamt, Wiesbaden (curated by Rene Block), Germany 2001 The Broccoli Maestro and The Strange Voyage of Bas Jan Ader, Chamber Operas by Slave Pianos, Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen, Germany Wiederaufnahme – Retake, Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen, Germany The Broccoli Maestro. A Chamber Opera in Two Acts for Six Voices and Six Players. Libretto by Slave Pianos, presented in collaboration with Chamber Made Orchestra, North Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne, Australia Burnout 2001: art meet street meet, a Ben Morieson project, Docklands, Melbourne, Australia 2000 Uncommon Worlds, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia Non-Objective Brass, Slave Pianos with The Burley Griffin Brass Band, National Galley of Australia, Canberra, Australia Slave Pianos, 4th Sergey Kuryokhin Festival, Leningrad Palace of Youth, St.Petersburg, Russia Rent, Overgaden, Copenhagen, Denmark, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, Australia 1999 What Your Children Should Know About Conceptualism, (with Michael Stevenson), Neuer Aachener Kunstverein and Brandenburgischer Kunstverein Potsdam, Germany The Queen is Dead, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland Toi, Toi, Toi, with Michael Stevenson, Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany 1998-2000 Close Quarters, Contemporary Art from Australia and New Zealand, touring exhibition; Monash University Gallery and ACCA, Melbourne, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Canberra School of Art Gallery, Canberra, Govett-Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin and Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand 1998 Strolling, the art of arcades, boulevards, barricades, publicity, Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Melbourne, Australia 1997 Art=Advertising, Robert Lindsay Gallery, Melbourne, Australia 1996 The Expanded Field, with Callum Morton and Anna Nervegna, 200 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Australia Room of Circles, RMIT Gallery, Melbourne, Australia 1995 5.25.41 (curator and participating artist), 41 Gold Street, Collingwood, Australia P.S., with Alexandra Bertram, University of Melbourne gallery, Melbourne, Australia 1994 john doe, 200 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Australia 1993 (un)authorized duplication, 200 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Australia 1992 Globality, installation with Basis, 183 Collins Street, Melbourne, Australia Subterror, with Natalie Jeremijenko, Spencer Street underpass, Melbourne, Australia 1991 Incendiary 14.09.91, installation and documentation in collaboration with Basis, 41 Gold Street, Collingwood, Australia

SOLO EXHIBITIONS (SELECTED)

Exhibition / Installation
2007 Embedded with PUNKASILA, Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney, Australia PUNKASILA – Conspicuous Objects, Kedai Kebun Forum, Yogyakarta Indonesia 2006 PUNKASILA band project Cemeti Art Foundation (CAF), Indonesian Institute of Art, Yogyakarta, Indonesia 2005 Vodka Sans Frontiers, Klaipeda Art Exhibition Hall, Klaipeda, Lithuania Museum Fatigue, Silvershot, Melbourne, Australia 2004 The Histrionic Heretical Missionaries of Conceptual Art/Rock Evangelism present Museum Fatigue CD Launch, Cherry Bar, Melbourne, Australia Konzeptuelle Kunste Karaoke, The Farm Brisbane, Australia 2003-2004 Never Mind the Pollocks – Here’s The Histrionics, Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney, Australia 2003 Flogging a Dead Source, exhibition launching The Histrionic album ‘Never Mind the Pollocks’, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany Pretty Flagrant, exhibition launching The Histrionic album ‘Never Mind the Pollocks’, Kjubh, Cologne, Germany International Studio Programme, Künstlerhaus Galleries, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany 2002 Preview of the histrionics forthcoming CD, single performance, Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen, Germany Hughbris, Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney, Australia 2001 The Broccoli Maestro and The Strange Voyage of Bas Jan Ader, Chamber Operas by Slave Pianos, (with Michael Stevenson, Rohan Drape and Neil Kelly), Malksten, Düsseldorf, Germany. 2000 Daily Practice, (with Michael Stevenson), ACCA, Melbourne, Australia, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, Australia, Artspace, Auckland, New Zealand Slave Pianos Internationale Biennale 2000 – Songs of Life, (with Michael Stevenson, Rohan Drape and Neil Kelly), RMIT Gallery, Court House Hotel and ACCA, Melbourne, Australia Slave Pianos, (with Michael Stevenson, Rohan Drape and Neil Kelly), China Art Objects Gallery, Los Angeles, USA, Lovers, Melbourne, Australia The Compromised Economy of Desire and Fear, with the Slave Pianos Collective, The Public Office Carpark, Melbourne, Australia 1999 Slave Pianos (with Michael Stevenson, Rohan Drape and Neil Kelly), Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney, Australia !! Emancipate the dissonance!! (with Slave Pianos) Lombard/Freid Fine Arts, New York, USA 1998 Logos (with Ben Morieson), Adelaide Festival, Memorial Drive Tennis Centre, Adelaide, Australia 1997 TRANS, with Pat Scull, h., Melbourne, Australia Kiddies Kube, Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney, Australia 1996 Live Injection, 1st Floor, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia The Expanded Field (with Callum Morton), 200 Gertrude Street, Melbourne, Australia Hot Property (incendiary event with Ben Morieson), Avondale Heights, Melbourne 1994 False Day, Studio 12, 200 Gertrude Street, Melbourne, Australia 1993 Playing Field, 41 Gold Street, Collingwood, Melbourne, Australia 1992 Pure Difference, 41 Gold Street, Collingwood, Melbourne, Australia Speculum, 52 Provost Street, North Melbourne, Australia

Merits

2002
Künstlerhaus Bethanien Studio Residency, Berlin

1993-95
Studio residency, Gertrude Street Artist’s Spaces, Melbourne, Australia

1991
Heidelberg School Art Award

1989
Nexus Designs Traveling Art Award for Sculpture

Projects

This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

New York

Exhibition, Film Programme, Music, Conferences

(23 August 07 - 04 November 07)

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