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Kęstutis Šapoka “The Specifics of Conceptual Stratification in the Lithuanian Art System: 1990s, 2000s, 2010s”

7th Garage International Conference: Post-What? Neo-How? Contemporary Configurations of the Former Soviet Space
22 November 2019


Certain aspects of the Lithuanian contemporary art system will be approached using analysis of key conceptual points of the institutional and aesthetic mentality of the 1990s and 2000s, alongside a more detailed look at the art system of the latest decade.

It is noteworthy that the development of a number of basic terms and behavioral practices in the art system after the 1990s was based on the paradoxical principles of reflection and negation or, more precisely, on the principle of reflection-as-negation of the Soviet.

This explains the emergence and establishment of institutionalized oppositions of concepts, such as “old versus new,” “regressive versus progressive (current, contemporary),” “international versus national versus global,” etc. These oppositions have not weakened since the end of the 2000s, but somehow recharged. Finally, the third post-Soviet decade appears to be an era of terminological hyper-entropy, with each term selectively signifying everything and/or nothing. This is not to say terms and meanings coincided in previous decades, but that there were differences in the production of images and the way they marked meaning. This paper attempts to trace the dynamic of transformation of basic terms circulating in the Lithuanian art system from the 1990s to the current decade. Accordingly, this dynamic embraces the issues of the old and/or new lingua franca, revanchism, the ambiguous interconnection between the “non-Soviet,” “post-Soviet,” and “alter-Soviet”, the heritage of the Soros Foundation, and questions of the (un)changing selfhood of artists of different generations.



Kęstutis Šapoka (b. 1974, Vilnius) has engaged in practices that are usually associated with art, curating, and art criticism, but recently, remembering his working-class roots and in solidarity with DAMTP (DAta Miners and Travailleuses/Travailleurs Psychiques), he has chosen to call himself a person who uses various tools to work with meaning or a psychic and intellectual worker, who is at times successful at what he does and at other times less so. He is currently a researcher at the Department of Contemporary Philosophy of the Lithuanian Culture Research Institute. He has published around 300 articles on the contemporary art of Lithuania and was one of the editors of (In)dependent Contemporary Art Histories, a two-volume study of alternative art practices in Lithuanian visual art. Together with Redas Diržys he is the author of Alytaus avangardizmas: nuo gatves meno iki visuotinio psichodarbininku streiko [The Avant-Garde Art of Alytus: From Street Art to a General Strike of Psychic Workers] (2014) and Dailės kritikos (meta)metadologijos metmenys [Essays on the Art Critique (Meta)Methodologies] (2018). He lives and works in Vilnius.

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