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Kaunas Biennial: Deimantas Narkevičius video work "Revisiting Solaris"

Date: 7 June 2019 00:00 - 29 September 2019 00:00


M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, V. Putvinskio St. 55, Kaunas


In his screen adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s science fiction novel Solaris (1971), Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky conspicuously excluded the final chapter of the book in which the main protagonist, Chris Kelvin, returns to Earth after his mission to investigate uncanny encounters with extra-terrestrial intelligence. With the video work Revisiting Solaris Deimantas Narkevičius invites Kaunas-born actor Donatas Banionis to reprise briefly his role as the psychologist-cum-space traveller and play out this final scene. Narkevičius intercuts the filmed material with photographs taken in 1905 by Lithuanian national painter Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis of the Black Sea, the same spectacle that inspired Tarkovsky’s filmic rendering of the oceanic surface of Solaris.

Revisiting Solaris in stop shot –  D. Banionis and D. Narkevičius

Yet instead of negotiating the eerie rooms of Tarkovsky’s spacecraft, a visibly-aged Kelvin now passes through a series of architectural settings. Each of these chiefly liminal spaces—doorways, staircases, passageways, and foyers—evokes a different and specific strand of recent Lithuanian history. Modernist interiors with austere geometric design elements articulate the radical optimism with which Lithuanian national identity was quite literally constructed in the early half of the twentieth-century. However, other scenes filmed in the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius (now the Museum of Occupation and Freedom Fights and home to a part of the Lithuanian National Archive) reverberate with the trauma of the arrests, deportations and executions of the Soviet regime. The video culminates in a conflict between Kelvin and the artist Narkevičius, who appears in the film and is chastised by his real-life wife for his provocative behaviour.

As we witness Banionis slip in and out of his role, and the boundary between life and art begins to fray, Narkevičius asks which actors are at play in the construction of so-called historical truths? How does a nation deal with individually-embodied traumatic episodes when constructing an intergenerational collective memory? Is omission of the past a responsible strategy for the design of the future? And what role do artists and other cultural producers play in the construction of these narratives? Although the work offers no definitive answers to these questions, Revisiting Solaris makes us acutely aware of the spectres of the past that silently shape the socio-political realities of the present.

Opening hours: Thursday 57 p.m., SaturdaySunday 124 p.m

Video: Lithuanian spoken, English subtitles
Duration: 18 min