Dainius Liškevičius‘ (b.1970, Kaunas) Museum, which will be opened in one of Venetian gardens as the Lithuanian national pavilion, is a fictional museum that is based on true and autobiographical facts. The multi-layered collection that has been put together by the artist works as an elliptical time loop. It simultaneously takes us back to the recent Soviet past, questions the present, and projects our anxieties on to a future that is full of cultural and geopolitical tensions. Museum is essentially a one-off piece of artistic research, but it is not only relevant in exploring the depths of the Soviet totalitarian regime. It is also a possible model for dealing with present-day hegemonic powers, and their impact on the public discourse and the freedom of the artist. We can also interpret Museum as a new kind of patriotism, which rethinks the new democracies’ national myths, and their attempts to create legitimacy for a contemporary nation-state. The presentation of Museum as a national pavilion is a transgressive act, which turns it into an institution with greater authority than museums normally have.
The non-hierarchical spatial arrangement of works by the artist, combined with everyday Soviet objects and artefacts, engages the viewer in at least four parallel and overlapping stories. They deal with artistic freedom and freedom of speech in occupied Lithuania, the USSR at large, and the world today. Within a dense installation (a cabinet of curiosities) created using the language of contemporary art, the viewer is immersed in events of controversial political (?) protest that were initiated in occupied Lithuania and Leningrad by three ambiguous revolutionary figures during the 1960s–80s. Dainius Liškevičius rewrites the history of Lithuanian art, proposing that these events be interpreted as cases of underground art, political performance, and art destruction that were prohibited in those times and thus did not exist. In his vision of Lithuanian (art) history, revamped with subtle irony, the artist offers an unexpected version of the archaeology of objects. Here, every object has both a personal and a collective history that conveys the signs of the times, and allows us to travel in time. Within the space of Museum, Liškevičius’ own life story intertwines with those of dissident revolutionaries and idealised cultural figures (such as Jean-Paul Sartre), further erasing the thin line between subjective and objective forms of storytelling.
- Dainius Liškevičius, Museum, installation view from first show in National Gallery of Art in Lithuania (former Museum of Revolution), 2012. Photo: Arturas Valiauga. Courtesy of the artist.
- Dainius Liškevičius, A psychotherapeutic drawing. Continuous project. Self-portrait.Photo: Arturas Valiauga. Courtesy of the artist.