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Ilaria Biotti in collaboration with Anastasia Ryabova, Brian Degger, and Julie Peter
It was a dark and pleasant night when we arrived in Nida, situated on the Curonian Spit. The resort town — often referred to as a paradise — sits on forest-covered dunes that overlook the Baltic Sea. The border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad is only two kilometers away: more or less visible frontier control systems dominate the entire area.
The writing of this text began on the moment opposite to our arrival, that is to say, when we left Nida. It is an eight-handed text written by Anastasia Ryabova, Brian Degger, Julie Peter, and myself, Ilaria Biotti, in a small bus traveling towards the Vilnius airport, after our two-week encounter.
The MigAA laboratory, entitled The Sun Had Exploded Before We Found Out It Would, was hosted in the permanent Nida Art Colony facility. It is a modernist (à la japonaise) pseudo-modular structure, characterized by the abundant use of glass, the transparent lightness providing a sense of comfort to the occupants.
It was in this context and under the aims expressed by the laboratory open call — How does the agency of communication operate within the distinction of knowledge between art and science? — that individual intellects embarked on a process that transformed them into a working group. An introductory exegesis on the history of epistemological thinking by Ian Damerell initiated the laboratory.
From the third day on, our temporary community comprised sixteen artists: thirteen of us as participants (Aistė Viršulytė, Anastasia Ryabova, Brian Degger, Dovilė Aleksaitė, Eglė Bertašiūtė, Henrik Hedinge, Ilaria Biotti, Julie Peter, Lina Albrikienė, Lina Zaveckytė, Maria McKinney, Stephen Fortune, and Vaiva Zemkauskaitė); two, Artūras Raila and Alan Smith, were invited lecturers; and Mindaugas Gapševičius hosted the gathering in the context of the MigAA project. Each artist presented his or her work to the group, unfolding a plurality of themes and concepts that included situated knowledge, residual matter, abstraction within models, speculative history, collective memory, epistemological normativity, otherness, and the visualization of potential networking loops among mechanical elements.
Besides the organized time spent together during lectures, screenings, and discussions, the informal sharing of living and working facilities generated a relaxed forum that encouraged dialogue. This fluid situation activated an exchange of perspectives, shared field excursions, and collaborative (im)material practices. The formal result was a one-day collective exhibition curated by Artūras Raila and Alan Smith. During our bus ride to the airport, we decided to present the exhibition in terms of three main themes woven together: (non)code-sharing, primitive forms of (non)counting, and (non)measuring. In this frame- work, the following is a guided tour of the exhibition:
primitive forms of (non)counting Aistė Viršulytė displayed a private collection of objet trouvé gathered during the two weeks time-span spent in Nida: stones, a feather, a pine cone, a metal coil. She used the objects to construct a personal narrative that revealed a universe ruled by mathematical manifestations.
(non)sharing codes/(non)measuring Anastasia Ryabova looked at the formal appearance of tools belonging to the sphere of construction. She adopted a postmodernist approach to her process. Deconstruct- ing a tool — the hammer — inhibits its function while it unveils and aestheticizes its formal aspects. A series of (non)tools were displayed as canvases on the wall.
(non)sharing codes/(non)measuring Brian Degger let his work settle between form and function. He staged his personal collection of unlabeled tools as a “punk science manifesto” on the window ledge of his studio/shared room. Degger aimed to question the fluid matters that lie between art and science.
primitive forms of (non)counting Dovilė Aleksaitė projected a video loop on the wall documenting a purpose(less) and obsessive act of counting the uncountable: sea waves. Her process was inspired by the human struggle to control and dominate sensitive natural processes. (non)measuring Eglė Bertašiūtė sketched black and white diagrams
in the form of mind maps. The constellations invited the viewer to read a plurality of positions within the communication of a personal narrative.
(non)sharing codes/(non)measuring Henrik Hedinge massaged material spaces like buildings and dunes with his limbs. At the same time he invited his audience to perform the same gestures. Massaging something stimulates a different perception of it. His sequence of performances, documented on video, explored a physical relation between body and form.
(non)sharing codes/(non)measuring Ilaria Biotti screened video impressions of a haunted Nida. By sharing her dystopian perception of a place called “paradise” she engaged the non-verbal, non-conscious dimensions of the experience. Affectivity functions as epistemological signifier: she used it as a tool for measuring space.
(non)measuring Julie Peter’s work aimed to beautify Nida. Her process modernized the forest floor and the trees with geometrical interventions. She presented a photograph of a moss triangle applied to the trunk of a tree. Moss alters and controls surfaces without putting down roots and for this reason it functions — in this context — as a tactile measuring tool.
(non)measuring Lina Albrikienė presented three images and a short text. The photographs documented the room with several objects: chairs, a table, cameras. A text informed us that the images are of the residue left by the group after participating in three different lectures. The room is suspended in three non-defined moments that Albrikienė placed outside of time.
(non)sharing codes Lina Zaveckytė presented a series of working sketches on a table in the intimacy of her room. A found image of a hand-drawn circle that is obscured by blurred dots triggers a series of thoughts. The viewer has access to Zaveckytė’s interior mind-maps, her imagination, and external references related to this image through a series of carefully sketched drawings and texts.
(non)sharing codes Attempts to relate the “self” to the “other” in- spired the work of Maria McKinney. Formally McKinney presented her work as objects and a video installation. In the video, McKinney offers her hand to a jellyfish. This simple ritual of encounter — used in many cultures — probably originated as a gesture of peace to demonstrate that the hand holds no weapon.
(non)measuring Stephen Fortune explored the notion of community space by developing two living systems contained in glass jars. In this case, yeast cells in solutions characterized by different oxygen levels. The inhabitants of the two living communities constantly sought a collective balance by moving up and down in the liquid. Sugar catalyzed their activities, and the lifespan of the cells shorten through the burning (oxidizing) of resources.
primitive forms of (non)counting Vaiva Zemkauskaitė made a final impression of the collective time together as a gift for Alan Smith before leaving. She made a hand-written recipe for šaltibarščiai (a bright pink Lithuanian beet soup). The recipe omitted quantities and specific steps for preparation, instead, it is suggested that a certain meta-ingredient guides the process: love.