Laisvydė Šalčiūtė

Laterna Magica, 2006

New Rules of the Game

What is the best way to disorientate the observer? First of all, to present him or her with something they have never expected. Laisvydė Šalčiūtė has done precisely this: she has shown such ‘angles’ of her work, which an observer familiar with this artist has never expected to see. Šalčiūtė has refused colours and she tells about the mysterious Laterna Magica, the unnoticeable, mysterious side of everydayness through the opposition of

black and white (grey, to be more precise). This marginal space contains everything that is carefully being covered over with masks, costumes, light eff ects and bijouterie. It includes everything that is behind/under the fetishes of everyday life: salacity, greed, infantilism or anxiety. This space in Šalčiūtė’s works becomes something that lies under the external mask: nothing, emptiness. Upon transferring all these latent feelings onto fetishes, the feelings themselves are lost; only the fetish remains: an object that acts instead of me, feels instead of me – another who has become me. And those elaborate ‘amulets’, objects of veneration, which I play the game of life with, remain to me like a small performance. Šalčiūtė plays in her works. This is a personal game, but its characters are known painfully well to everybody, like the characters of The Red Hood. Teddy bears, butterfl ies, hares and mermaids act in the series Children’s Games, Childish Stories. It would seem there is nothing special to illustrate such cute, soft characters of games. Here, however, Šalčiūtė starts the second stage of disorientating the observer: at a closer inspection these childish characters are ‘decorated’ with breasts, framed in quadrangles of female laces and are far from being infantile. They are like certain statues in primitive cultures: small, naively shaped, however, imbued with a huge inner totemic charge. Armed with such childish ‘totems’ women try to

accept the role of naïve, gentle creatures thrust on them. Finally, they start using this by revealing the most characteristic features of their roles. Thus, they successfully navigate on the stage of life without disturbing; only manipulating the ‘performers of the great roles’. Šalčiūtė has been successfully playing with cliché images of women, withdrawing them from the usual context and placing them into the grey emptiness lit by Laterna Magica. This is how any integral narrative disappears and only isolated fragments of the body, phrases and details of clothes emerge. As if these were postmodern dramas; the artist does not develop coherent characteristics of her heroes and constructs her own games, her own players and rules, out of the images of the disintegrated consciousness. However, the artist chooses these fragments extremely carefully, checking the solidity and logic of their inner relationships. Thus a man’s head with refi ned moustache appears above a female corset, a beautiful woman’s hand holds an inscription: NO MEANS NO, and separate body parts are strangled by the ‘sizes’ of impossible slenderness. Šalčiūtė tells snappily about the constant change of women’s roles in the attempt to adapt to the new ‘director’ or a new interpretation of the play of life every time. The third stage of disorientating the observer is the technique of realisation. Šalčiūtė ‘plays’ perfectly at this stage: her woodcuts, printed on canvas and painted over with acrylic prevent from any technical classifi cation.

Laisvydė Šalčiūtė plays according to the rules she has invented herself, and they mystify every observer who sees them for the fi rst time. In the meantime, it is possible to indulge in this purposeless activity, to move to another reality – that of a game – and try to solve new riddles that the artist is asking.

Neringa Černiauskaitė