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Žilvinas Landzbergas. From the series To my Homeless God, 2013. Photo: Arturas Valiauga

On the way to the 57th Venice Art Biennale 0

Three questions for Ula Tornau, one of the curators of the Lithuanian national presentation

Artist Žilvinas Landzbergas will represent Lithuania at the 57th Venice Biennale with his installation “R”; the piece reveals mesmeric realities that blend Nordic scenery and imagery with the white cube space of the distinctive Venetian building of Scuola San Pasquale (San Francesco della Vigna, Castello 2786).

“R” is for recall, record, relate, refer, resemble, respect, ray, radium, rhenium, romantic, real and rhyme. RA, as in astronomy, mythology, medicine, chemistry, music, seafaring and more. “R” is the most complex letter of the alphabet; it integrates the entire spectrum of geometric shapes and meanings spanning the boundaries of both the rational and the imaginary.

As the artist describes it by himself: “”R” is interesting as a sculptural shape that has settled, crystallized into a clear structure during the time. It is a letter that embraces basic forms – a circle, a triangle, a square – and a straight. These forms are primary elements of architecture and sculpture. It is a part of Western cultural font, which was being hewn into marble during ages. It differs from e.g. Persian font, which was formed by painting with a brush on ceramic surfaces. Greeks and Romans had a forged writing. Their every brick or tile is a tombstone, perpetuatin a memory, monumentalizing a moment, synthesizing and stylizing forms of nature.”

Žilvinas Landzbergas. Drawing with the project title R, 2016. Ink on paper

What should an art enthusiast be aware of in order to best understand this artist's work?

“R” is the title of the work for the Lithuanian pavilion because in Žilvinas Landzbergas’ artistic vocabulary, “R” is the most integrating structure – he uses it often due to its ability to express diverse appearances, functions and meanings.  

The cultural references used in the artist’s works are transferred into the phenomenological experiences of his particular installation architectures: the use of light and sound, casual modern materials (paper, cardboard, resin, glass and wood), illusionary surfaces, and found shapes. “R” is a total spatial installation that largely works upon the body and on the senses, so it requires a bit of the viewer’s time to contemplate and observe it fully.

What was the first impulse that sparked the idea for this work? What was the artist's source of inspiration?

The drive behind this work was largely inspired by Žilvinas Landzbergas’ ongoing thinking about the outcomes and habits of modernity as internalized in contemporary culture. The artist has been interested in this subject for several years, and has been addressing it both in his artistic practice and in his practice-based PhD research. Some areas of critical interest for him have been the modern focus on rationality and its outcomes unfolding in the fields of ethics, art and architecture; and the modern domination of the analytical with its imperative to decompose, dissect, polarize and functionalize, and its impact on the the concept of the body and on the construction of modern space, perhaps often going together with a certain disenchantment and simplification of the world. If this is seen as providing very partial and unified tools for seeing the world, Žilvinas is suggesting to re-enchant it through an integrating rather than critical method, which also includes the body, the intuition, the collective memory, and the imaginary. He tries to unfold this through his total installations based on the astonishingly universally recognizable structures of fairy-tales, in which archetypal elements, collective memories, and the artist‘s social reflections and personal insights are combined to form immersive spatial narratives.

Žilvinas Landzbergas. Crown, 2015. Photo: Andrejus Vasilenko

How would you comment on Žilvinas Landzbergas' work in the context of the unifying theme for the 57th Venice Biennale – VIVA ARTE VIVA?

The theme is all-embracing; I would take it from the point of view of Žilvinas’ work as an emphasis on the imaginary and its underestimated social function.  

More about the artist:
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