8th Baltic Triennial of International Art

Contemporary Art Centre/Old Printing House

Europe’s geographic center lies farther east than one might expect; specifically, in the vicinity of the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. It is to this fact that the canny Tobias Berger, Fluxus specialist from Kassel and curator of the 8th Baltic Triennial, owes the title and theme of his exhibition. “Centre of Attraction” dealt with the attraction of the idea of “center” but also with conventional modes of fullness and emptiness, chaos and structure, power and control. As an outspoken fan of biennials, Berger defends this hotly contested format for reasons both pragmatic and symbolic: A biennial generates centers, and thus public attention, even if for just a short while.

A quick tour through the Contemporary Art Centre and the beat-up Old Printing House, where once upon a time Pravda wound its way through the presses, made clear that “Eastern art” no longer exists as a genre. Berger’s model was refreshingly undogmatic, and his investigations radiated in concentric circles from the nucleus of Lithuania, across Scandinavia, Poland, and Belarus, and farther out to Japan, New Zealand, and the United States. On hand were fifty-five artists, duos, and groups, several of whom exhibited site-specific works: Christian Jankowski asked Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus questions on art and politics and projected the answers in the main hall of the CAC using display lights that were part of the country’s stage equipment for Expo 2000 in Hannover. A video piece by Audrius Novickas in the entrance also revolved around the president, who always takes his official visitors, from Chirac to Schröder, on the same tour through the old city, always on the same route, the same routine. The presidential axis continued with Sarah Morris’s film Capital, 2000, which shows Bill Clinton’s helicopter landing in Washington, DC. In the clerestory room, the Swiss artists Hendrikje Kühne and Beat Klein constructed a cityscape out of cutouts from travel brochures; the late Mark Lombardi’s drawings graphed networks behind criminal cases and the collapse of an investment bank; local fixture Deimantas Narkevičius cinematically chauffeured visitors to the center of Europe in just over nine minutes, in the process turning that geographic destination into an ideological site. In the courtyard Monica Bonvicini installed Stone Walls 2, 2002, a steel framework with broken panes of glass alluding to the uprising at the Stonewall, a New York gay bar, in 1969.

In the dark basement of the Old Printing House were videos (Eglė Rakauskaitė showed dawn bathing a Lithuanian market in its rosy light; Asta Gröting presented a laconic observation of the daily struggle for parking spots in Berlin) as well as sculpture (Marjetica Potrč’s reconstruction of a slum shanty was adorned by the younger artists Björn Dahlem and René Zeh with grandiose constructions of miscellaneous materials). Elsewhere, performative pieces full of wit, irony, and a touch of hard-core came from the Siberian Bluenose-Group and the Polish group Azorro, while Pawel Althamer offered social interventions. Conceptual photography by Sean Snyder and posters by Jakob Kolding provided counterpoint to bountiful painting installations (Ieva Mediodia) and computer simulations (Rieko Akatsuka). Franz Ackermann painted a construction fence; Peter Robinson brought his “identity bazaar” installation The End of the 20th Century, 2000; Lukasz Gorczyca assembled postcards of prefab buildings; and Vladimir Arkhipov collected folkloristic everyday objects from Russia. From the distance sounded Ennio Morricone’s beguiling theme from Once upon a Time in the West. The dreamboy in Salla Tykkä’s Lasso, 2000, swung his lariat and an awkward teenager’s heart skipped a beat.

Brigitte Huck

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.