The Room of Choice Pasirinkimo kambarys
„It is indeed the human hand which has been the propulsive force of our civilization, in the words of the artist. And its expression is rather wide, since it may mean joy and irritation, it may kill and it may caress“ .
„A. Mončys on the art of Paris, United States and Lithuanians.“
„One more very dangerous weapon of our days is the pointing finger of a man. If to be more precise, it is its minor muscle. Why? Since by pressing one button, I may cut my personal relationship off, I may turn a family into destitute, I may destroy the city of Saint-Petersburg by atomic bom, by means of this finger I may take other peoples‘ lives <...> I may enforce death penalty <...>“.
Throughout the whole history of mankind, the human hand took an honourable place in the art of every nation. Character and personality of a man could be seen in a simple hand gesture as clearly as in his/ her face. The language of gestures used for thousands of years allows to feel huge power of the hand in conveying human emotions. Hands are parts of the human body which, except for the face, are most often used in all forms of art and creation in order to express human feelings. Hands indicate directions, they supervise and instruct. They scream out in pain or rest peacefully, or stay awake. They have different moods, characters and are beautiful in wide sense. Since old civilizations up to modern times people in different societies have known that hands symbolize cultural habits, values and beliefs.
Since human hand is a part assigned to perform an act, it is not surprising that it may manipulate and does so with the human vocabulary. The human hand serves for „catching“ ideas. It not only reveals information but also collects/ takes it. The hand is a symbol of our mood. We bless and greet by lifting up our hand in various ways. Soft laying of hands instictively associates with blessing and among various religious groups means cure of „sick“ and driving out of demons from human body. A person making an oath uses both hands at the same time. Moreover, the hand may condemn and adjudge (the whole nation), may pronounce a curse and express a final decision. When pronouncing a curse, we often point our finger to the enemy. Some hand gestures and body movements used back in old times have remained unchanged or were slightly modified, adapted or appropriated for different stages in history. Today, images that occur in our mind and that are related to gestures used in installation are not identical; they are somewhat different, based on our nowadays experience and worldwide topical events.
„The Room of Choice“ originated while reflecting over current impudent and sorrowful events in our neighbouring country and remembering the history of the Lithuania‘s fights for freedom which unmercifully occur in the background of these events. My aim is to oppose experience and typical gestures of the personalities significant to nowadays‘ understanding of freedom, compassion and love against the evil named above. However, let us start from the very beginning...
„The Room of Choice“ is divided into two parts, left and right. We all know that our brain consists of left and right hemisphere; the left controls our rational mind, whereas the right our emotions and creativity. Doctor Leonard Shlain analysed the impact of left and right brain hemispheres on any turns in history. In his book „The Alphabet Vs The Goddess“, he discussed, how this impact of human brain hemispheres which are so different by nature and the dominance of one of them, predetermined (and predermines today) the way of mankind in various stages in history. As the right hemisphere is active, we are connected to the whole world, we are one family, however due to the activity of the right hemisphere we cannot be integral and beautiful, etc. The left hemisphere is a methodical linear contemplation. The past and the future.
Here, it would be worth mentioning the experience of scientist Jill Bolte Taylor. Having sufferent from a stroke in her left hemisphere, she remained conscious for few hours and described what she felt and experienced during stroke when her left hemisphere was simply „turned off“ in her book „My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey“.
In the left part of the installation – in the drawings made in a realistic way – some of the images impersonating events in Ukraine. In hand gestures of the central figure we may envisage not only the parallels but also the identical equivalent of gestures, at times flashing among the members of the Parliament of Russia and at public speaches given by local „leaders“ of Crimea taken away from Ukraine. Here, I would like to remind of a film, „Soviet Tale“ by director Edvīns Šnore made in 2007. It confirms one more time that two ideologies were and are closely related. What shocks the most is the fact that these ideas are still vital and applied. Not to mention the vivification of the methodologies applied by red and brown hydra in order to ruin other states and to continue their terror. Of course, new users of this symbolism in our consciousness slightly yield to so-called father of gestures, Adolf Hitler. It takes a long time to calm down and to get rid of leaden feeling after having watched and listened to the records of speaches given by A. Hitler. They are emotionally affective up to now. Every prickly syllable and intensity of the speach, methodology of pronouncing make you feel shivering inside. It is rather weird, how A.Hitler explains the origin of the Nazi salute or Hitler‘s salute (Hitlergruβ, in German) in his „Hitler’s Table Talk“: „when I saw this style of greeting for the first time, it was back in 1921. It should be considered as an old custom which initial meaning was „Look, I do not hold any weapon in my hand“. I introduced this salut to the Party during our first meeting in Weimar“.
The pointing finger having condemned hundreds of thousands, millions of innocent people before, also does it now, on one or another side of a conflict. Thus, I guess that you would easily recognize the owner of aviator glasses... The „iron fist“ appeared in the installation in the result of the idea which is still vital (and still being developed in a single-minded way by some of the actors) about restitution of Great Russia, while feeling proud of the bloody control system of I.Stalin. In this regard there is nothing else left but to feel sorry that no image created by any artist will ever be able to express that horror, anguish and humiliation, adynamia experienced by the „liberated“ countries. The whole bloodstained image is enframed by two „little green men“ (this year, these little men came to the Russian pavilion in Venetian bienale. And decided to stay there for a while...). These little men were opposed with the army of the Eastern neighbour which intruded in Lithuania in 1940 and which was of a poor and disordered appearance: „Soldiers did not have normal boots, they were wearing tarpaulin-boots, their trousers at the boots were wrapped with a cotton band, instead of a jacket they were wearing a shirt of some poor fabric, shape of their hats reminded of a raven with a long beak in front of which a pentagram was shining“. These „little green men“ are well furnished and keeping in constant touch.
The right part of the installation is a setoff to the bloody left one. These are the gestures of the personalities significant to the nowadays worldwide history. There is a sign of Christ‘s blessing in the very center and on the upper part. The three fingers of Christ mean the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The hand is directed towards the left where there is a group of other three people with the little men safeguarding them on the sides. This sign also means incarnation; similar signs are also used in other religious traditions. In another modification of this sign, namely the crossed finger, allowed the early Christians to recognize each other at the time of their persecution. With the use of this sign, I also pay attention to other persecutions which were fervently executed during the occupation and the postwar Stalin‘s totalitarian regime.
The raised fist soaked into consciousness is a symbol of unity and support. It was also used while striving to express strength/ solidarity, challenge/ disobedience and resistance. In this context we should remember Nelson Mandela who founded a movement dedicated to sabotage and to use the guerilla warfare tactics in order to stop apartheid. This sign was used in Old Assyria as the symbol of resistance against violence.
The „Triangle of Power“ (Merkel-Raute, in German), so-called „Merkel diamond“ is a hand gesture which is one of the most recognizable gestures in the world and today is concurrent with the current German Chancellor. A. Merkel is one of the politicians very actively working in order to stop the bloody conflict in Ukraine. Unfortunately, Chancellor. A. Merkel and US president Barack Obama (other hands with one gesture characteristic to his speaches) more and more often are involved into the ranks of the indulgent. Despite anything, these two bright personalities today are the symbols of hope. We could only remember, how similar hopes ended in Lithuania, while partisans were waiting for the West to come... I would like to believe that we will not dance to Russia‘s tune by means of any diplomatic forms.
The hands put in prayer, asking for peace are the hands of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) who for many years has been in the Tibetan Government‘s exile. Since 1959, as much as over 1 million of victims is calculated, for which the Chinese communist aggression against the nation of Tibetans is considered liable. As the agression has continued up to today, 136 Tibetans have already burnt themselves to death protesting against the repressive politics of China since 2008. Tibetans call his leader as the precious stone fulfilling wishes, believing that the God of infinite compassion ready to lead the nation to happiness is incarnated in his personality.
All the gestures of the right side of „the Room of Choice“ are combined with the embrace. This is the exchange with positive energy among one and more people. Sometimes, the embrace and the feeling of love of another person is sufficient to comfort a man or so that he/ she starts recovering. The embrase is the way to share the energy, when rejoicing or grieving, in dark and bright times. The embrace creates connection immediately which cannot be expressed in any words or images, they allow a man to feel safe and secure. Pope John Pau II also loved to embrace people and this distinguished him from others.
I do not think that I am sufficiently competent to assess these events, however as the person who grew up in free Lithuania and listened to the stories and thoughts about the postwar period from my family members, I cannot remain indifferent to what is happening at a rather close distance now. I can neither remain indifferent to often speaking that a martyred and a torturer, a prisoner and a warden could very easily exchange their places during the resistant fights. Only degraded traitors, the conscripted and other assiduous servants lead by some motives could and did that fervently. Young men and women who went to the woods, knowing that they might never be back, lead by the vision and values of the Freedom, although suffering huge torment, never betrayed their Brothers.
As a young artist I am aware of my incapacity with this installation and this video work to even partially remind of the inhuman extent of falsehood and chilling experiences encountered by people of the Baltic countries, Ukraine, etc. On the other hand, it is difficult to express, how deeply, otherwise than in childhood and adolescence, I am shattered by recollections of the Expatriates and the Fighters for Freedom, the Lithuanian Residents‘ Genocide Volume I, the Lithuanian folk military – historical songs, etc.
I hope you would agree that more and more pieces of art activating the politics of our memory may appear in the horizons of the modern art which is now rather fragmented and deformed, often oriented only towards the self. This painful experience helps us in our studies, work, creation and love as well as reminds us, in the words of John Paul II, that:
„Wealth of the nation is its people. <...> Everyone, keeping vigil for the sake of truth, since it is indeed the truth which determines our love“.