Critics’ Picks

Deimantas Narkevičius, The Head, 2007, 35 mm, color and black-and-white, sound, 12 minutes.

Deimantas Narkevičius, The Head, 2007, 35 mm, color and black-and-white, sound, 12 minutes.


Deimantas Narkevičius

Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb
Avenija Dubrovnik 17
January 10–February 20, 2015

In music terminology, the Italian phrase da capo (from the head) signals the performer to return to the beginning of a score and repeat what has been played before. Taking this term as its title, Deimantas Narkevičius’s most recent exhibition cycles through selections from almost two decades of the artist’s films and installations, beginning quite literally from The Head, 2007. The twelve-minute, 35-mm film draws from found footage of sculptor Lev Efimovich Kerbel and his massive 1971 bust of Karl Marx to question the difference between a monument and a sculpture in a time when the former stood more as a territorial claim than an ideological one. Recognizing Soviet monuments as a means of mobilizing nostalgia for a political system that never truly existed in Lithuania, Once in the XX Century, 2004, plays media coverage of the 1991 removal of a Lenin statue in reverse, so that the crowds gathered for the monument’s demolition instead appear to cheer its resurrection.

“I do it to make it look real,” actor Donatas Banionis confides to the camera in Revisiting Solaris, 2007, which seeks to fill the gaps in Andrei Tarkovsky’s adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s classic novel: “I do what I’m supposed to do, but not as far as intonation is concerned.” Banionis is speaking in character in a reprisal of his iconic role as Kris Kelvin, but he could just as well be describing Narkevičius’s appropriation of stylistic or technical idioms to emulate historical fact. After all, it is intonation that allows for improvisation, even within the most perfect repetition of a score.