‘About a habit to use plinths’ (2013)
a project by Saulius Leonavicius

In spring 2012, while preparing my Fine Arts Master’s degree at the Vilnius Academy of Arts I started using an intervention strategy and observing how it works in a specific (discourse, institutional) context. My thesis consisted of modern art definitions and interpretations of the agreements taken for granted in the field of art. Parallel to the theoretical work I studied interventions in specific institutions and works of art. It was an attempt to violate the rules of the art field by creating an opportunity to alter the meaning and significance of an art piece. The interventions took place in the National Art Gallery in April and June. The interventions provoked some tension between the institutions which was later resolved by mutual agreement.

On April 2012 Michal Budny’s solo exhibition “Big Country” was shown in the National Art Gallery (Vilnius). One of the exhibited works was named “Cosmos” – a piece of floor desk placed on a metal pedestal. After ten minutes of visiting the exhibition, I took down the floor plate from the pedestal and put it on the floor. I photographed it and set it back. Soon the security guys were after me and after a short talk I left the gallery.

'About a habit to use plinths' (2012) by Saulius Leonavicius

'About a habit to use plinths' (2012) by Saulius Leonavicius

In June I had to present my Master’s final work and thesis. For that I invited the commission to come to the National Art Gallery. The NAG administration was not consulted or warned about my presentation there. Teachers and the audience had to buy tickets to get into the presentation. In the room named “Open art work” which exhibits the art works of the late XX century (K. Navakas, S. and P. Stanikai, E. Rakauskaitė, A. Raila and others) I invited the audience to surround the work by Deimantas Narkevičius “Too long on a pedestal”. The work consists of two black men’s shoes filled with salt. The work is placed on a white pedestal. With gloves I removed the boots from the pedestal and placed them on the ground. After half a minute I placed them back. After my thesis was discussed by Dr. Giedrė Mickūnaitė and by prof. Arturas Raila. The process has been documented on a phone camera. The work was awarded a 10 point mark. After a couple of days the NAG administration contacted the department of Photography and Media arts in the Vilnius Academy of Arts with the requirement to present an official request for my presentation.

Saulius Leonavicius About the habit to use plinths from Aesthetics of Protest on Vimeo.

Both of these actions led to the conclusion that a work of art most accurately can be defined in the legislative language. In there exists the very stabile understanding what an art work is no matter how vague this definition may be in the art discourse. In themselves simple interventions allowed to easily open chains of cross-cutting agreements that exist under surface of art object, and the means by which the integrity of the artistic field is maintained. It also raised a question where the boundaries of an art work lie when it’s original definition is broken. Is it possible to underline the criteria by which an art work is identified and evaluated, and if no, how is the agreement set that comes out firsthand? Can an intervention be a legitimate artistic act when it brakes the sovereignty of another art work? Can we assess the intervention in terms of visual art? It is this aspect that motivated to use intervention practices – while being in the field of visual arts to manipulate not materials and medias, but certain ideological constructs. In fact intervention itself can not be symbolic, by one aspect or another it has to violate the actual agreements. Intervention seeks to discredit the solidity, stability and independence of an art work and the artistic identity. It is not denial but doubt, which motivates such interventions. Doubt about situations where the art work occurs, doubts about multitudious identity’s of a viewer, perceiver and institution. Intervention has a potential to alter (or expand) the understanding of an art work when instead of satisfying the requirements of art (eg. – legitimacy, autonomy) these are rejected, ignored, altered in their logic. For this reason, we can think about intervention as a post-media art form which alters basic assumptions about an art object and the behaviours within an art field in general. Intervention as a contemporary art practice becomes a deconstruction not only of terms outside of the art piece but also within it. To allow that it has to be granted a perspective which is self-reflective and self-critical.


Saulius Leonavicius

Submitted by Saulius Leonavicius 31st of August 2014.

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