Within Construction and Memory
Theoretical background for the concept “Construction”
This research project has three pillars. Firstly, the historical context of Lithuania colonized by the Soviet regime and many Lithuanian families oppressed within the time from 1940s until 1991. The second pillar is the construct as the physical construct but as well as the signifier of the placeness of the memory. The third pillar is the memory and remembrance and embodiment of those.
The first theoretical pillar contains the study regarding Soviet occupation in the Baltics, particularly Lithuania (Butkus, 2007) and the postcolonial memory imprinted in several generations (Annus, 2016; Griniuk, 2020). There is a discourse within terminology if Lithuania was occupied or colonized (Butkus, 2007; Annus, 2016), anyway in the current research, the term of colonization is used, arguing that unlawful overtake of lands and deportation of people who were the lawful owners of their lands, oppression of culture and language is what makes the content of colonization. My standpoint within this research and art is as follows: my ancestors suffered from the Soviet oppression by losing their land to collective farming as well as the violence by the Soviet regime, and murder by the Soviet occupants of those who fought in the resistance. By creating my art, I stand with all Lithuanian families who suffered from the cruelty of the Soviet regime, as well as those suffering from the current actions of the Russian military regime. Current Lithuanian society holds to the post-colonial memory. The term post-colonial memory builds upon the study by Passerini, Trakilović, and Proglio (2020), where they describe it from the perspective of the current societal issues, reflecting on the colonial past.
The second pillar is the construct, both as a physical structure and as a signifier of the placeness of memory. Placeness is a foundational concept for understanding the nuanced nature of place and its implications and refers to the unique and meaningful attributes of specific locations, highlighting their distinctiveness (Seamon, 2008). The idea for "Construction" goes hand in hand with the idea of the artist "wandering nomadically in the knowledge that new cracks will appear" (Brindley, 2014, p.4), not isolated as an individual, but as a part of an ongoing thought process, generating and creating what might be considered necessary at this very moment in this very geographical location. According to Lazzarato's statement, the flow must be interrupted by a stage on which a new type of meaning can be enacted (2015). This interruption opens up a new mode of temporality, and this new temporality begins a creative process. Thus, artists are placed in a cycle of temporalities that shape their artistic practices. These temporalities are the immediate reflexive responses by the artist in times of change. Everything is temporary, and everything is an element in the ongoing process of the present, shaping the future (M. Lazzarato, 2015).
The architectural constructions and sculptures in Lithuania from the 1950s-1980s were of value in the time of their creation and installation in public spaces, and their authors received awards from cultural institutions. In the time of Lithuania gaining independence and later, in 2012-2015, these earlier valued works of art and architecture became narrators of the painful past. My artworks "Construction" reflexively inscribed through painting and printmaking these constructs that were disappearing from the landscape into the new narrative about their disappearance, demolition. Thus, my artworks became the placeness of memory about these constructs. What is the memory that becomes the narrative? Benjamin's definition of genuine memory must include an image of the person who remembers - you cannot remember further than the existence of your body (1932 in 2005). Memory includes your own image. Narrative is multilayered memories, a collection of different memories without your image. They are the belongings of others collected around one body, one construct.
The third pillar of this research is concerned with memory, remembrance, and embodiment, particularly within the concrete human body. As an artist, I work from the perspective of a Lithuanian and view my performances and artwork through that lens. When discussing colonial issues, constructs, and memory, I speak as the narrator, an embodiment of my Lithuanian heritage. For example, when creating artwork about deportations of Lithuanians to Peninsula Kola while residing in the Arctic North, I carry the story of my ancestors and talk from the perspective of my human body in that landscape.
Hirsch's concept of postmemory (2012) describes the memory built on trans-generational narrations, which becomes embodied in the next generation. This relationship between the "generation after" and the personal, collective, and cultural contentions of those who came before is essential to understanding memory. These stories and experiences are transmitted through anecdotes, recollections, images, and events that one grows up with, and are absorbed so deeply that they seem to become lived and felt moments in their own right, an epigenetic inheritance.
Postmemory is transmitted in intimate settings such as the home or family, and memory is history from below. Collective or cultural memory brings forth the stories and experiences of those who are left out of grand historical narratives, contesting, complicating, and disseminating those narratives and their hegemony. Small stories that are affectively felt and transmitted add up to more textured, more granular, and more inclusive visions of the past. Memory must be supplemented with other sources, such as written, visual, aural, and oral accounts. Memories lived and reanimated in family or group contexts become the bases of group identity and belonging.
According to Kuhn's research (2020), memory is built on the narratives of parents and grandparents, and this complex construction navigates from the deeply personal to the societal. In my interpretation, memory is embodied in the concrete body, similar to how I embody my artwork into the authorship of an artist. Through the artistic action, like the touch of an artist, community and history on behalf of which she speaks make the resistance within the artwork embodied (Lannen, 2020) into one artistic authorship, speaking on behalf of many.
The socio-political context in Lithuania is built on past stories, told from parents and grandparents, to my generation, where we still remember some glimpses of the Soviet regime times. For example, I remember the red scarfs that schoolchildren belonging to pioneers would wear, and then their disappearance as I started first grade in 1991. Younger generations will not remember this, but they will have stories told and retold to them. These stories become part of the memory and something one holds onto as a part of their identity and national belonging. Now, as I am in the Arctic North, I am a Lithuanian who connects the softness of the Arctic moss to the stories about the deportations of Lithuanians by the Soviet regime.
The concept “Construction”
The theoretical innovation in this study involves intertwining the socio-political context of Lithuania's history, especially its colonial past under the Soviet regime, with key theoretical concepts like "postmemory," "placeness," and "The Unbody" to explore how the interplay between memory, art, and public space contributes to a nuanced understanding of the past and present societal issues. The key aspect of this research is the examination of the role of art in processes of remembering and forgetting. The concept of "Construction" is founded on the aforementioned three pillars intricately intertwined with practice-based artistic knowledge. The artworks not only offer insights into socio-political history and current realities but are also intimately linked with reflexivity and the techniques of artistic printmaking and painting production. The resulting experience for audiences and viewers is a fusion of memory, personal experience, artistic aesthetics, and reflective processes of the artist, all intertwined with the slow, evolving nature of the creative journey spanning over eleven years of project development. Art has the power to evoke emotions, challenge perspectives, and engage with memory in ways that are unique from other forms of communication. As such, it can be a powerful tool in the construction of collective memory and in shaping public discourse. By using artistic means to explore the connections between place, memory, and identity, this research seeks to contribute to a broader understanding of the potential of art to foster dialogue and understanding around difficult histories.