|A Desolate Place (Solo Show), Kaunas, 2012
“I have not tried to write the history of that language, but rather the archaeology of that silence.”
a desolate place is like a forest after winter, when you enter it
A psychiatric hospital operated near Kaunas Town Hall Square until 2019. The abandoned dilapidated buildings were given to the Kaunas Faculty of the Vilnius Academy of Arts. In the same year, the entire Department of the Visual Arts was moved to the unrenovated premises.
Working in the premises of former psychiatric hospital and every day crossing over a sill which not all mental patients were once allowed to cross, passing by old corridors with peeling painted walls and working in blank rooms – former wards on whose walls inscriptions like ‘women’s section’, ‘aminazine’ and such can still be read – I felt the aura of things past, which is no longer sustained in the present, doomed to chance and decline, finding itself in an intermediate state, which is the experience of any abandoned building, of a desolate place.
The placement of a psychiatric hospital in the former palace of the Dukes, during Soviet times, had disastrous consequences for the building and is a metaphor for the general contempt shown for true history, during that period. However, the patients settled in the premises and the physicians who worked there all considerably influenced the building along the years.
Yet another new occupancy in the former psychiatric hospital, the Art Academy, did not effect the premises a lot (perhaps the contrary). That does not differ from other desolate houses where, instead of human beings, birds and other creatures live – wasted spaces, no longer renewed, unprotected and nevertheless marked by their visitors.
In this exhibition, sites are shown as they are – dull, not idealised, not prominent – mimicking what happens to abandoned buildings, which simply continue to exist.
I began to observe how the aura of the past affected the brains of those who worked there, and the all-pervading smell of drugs became more and more oppressive. This external neglect strongly correlated with internal, spiritual nihilism – in the collective of employees felt helplessness, mutism, underestimation of people, discrimination against women, hard-to-explain hierarchical relationships, suppressed individuality. Suppressed freedom.