What would you take to a desert island, while the concepts of uninhabited, inhabited, and wasted increasingly depend on the level of global water, boredom and curiosity, cheap transport, demography, or wi-fi signal strength? Do such daily pause places stretch only in dreams, or have they been regulating our online and offline routes for a long time? And what if the exhibition is such a desert island – a utopian place of dialogue, today increasingly drifting between physical and virtual spaces? The artist Tomas Martišauskis starts looking for the third space, where the first two would help form a new one or reform the usual identity of the exhibition, to question its functions. Can the exhibition exist if it is absent, if we are able to see only its photographic shreds of evidence?
In Homi K. Bhabha’s theory, the third space refers to an intermediate, transitional space in which new representation forms are negotiated, cultural transformations take place and hybrid formations are found. To exhibit his works, the artist chose such oases of transit zones – security islands interposed between the active traffic arteries. Deceptively secure urban infrastructure sites, more accurately described by Marc Augé as anonymous “non-places” adapted for temporary transit, become not only references to security or protection issues and relevant migration problems, but also questions on safe (artists’) choices, erosion of gallery spaces, and temporary or accelerated experience of art. This so-called “non-exhibition” by Tomas Martišauskis was created together with the photographer and artist Laurynas Skeisgiela especially for the issue of the online art magazine Artnews.lt, and became part of the landslide of online images, as well as elongated reflections on the lacquered surfaces of passing cars in reality.
In the exhibition, which levitates between the physically temporal and online archived forms, the islands themselves turn into sculptural objects. Isolated but open, limited but autonomous, normative but poetic, safe but anxious, the island territories give a distinctive status to the art pieces placed there only for the photo documentation, simultaneously acquiring a temporary new identity of their own. The new circumstances and older works, metal paving rivets and bismuth crystals, street lights and a photoluminescent reproduction of an engraving by Pieter Jan Saenredam rhyme here like white crossing marking strips. “The Islands” turn into a night-time joke or a dream about an exhibition that never happened.
Objects and materials anachronistically connected on four islands in the city highlight the tensions between instant obsolescence and rapid renovation, centre and periphery, exterior and interior, copy and paste, plagiarism and appropriation, repurposing and functionality, white cube and dark street, waste and accumulation. On one of the islands, like in a mine of untapped resources, the artist plays with metals that reflect street lights, galvanized surfaces, campo del Cielo meteorites and steel anchors masquerading as future urban plants. The strands of chains clotted on a tripod structure flirt with the lines dividing the drive lanes, and camouflage metal patterns compete with a bucket covered in marble lies. After these digs, some of the items were returned to the store shelves, and probably will be used according to their intended purpose someday.
On another island, the artist turns panoramic images of places captured in different latitudes and longitudes of the Earth into equally strange meteorites. The highest point of the Curonian Spit, the port, the forest and a now-defunct gallery, turned into angular spherical structures, meet in the same coordinates, on the asphalt. By turning the interior of the gallery outwards, the artist misleads the gaze and makes us doubt the primacy of the multiplied spaces and images. Meanwhile, on the third island these deceptive strategies return to the story of Laocoön, a Trojan priest who expressed his suspicion that the Greeks’ gift of a wooden horse may be a treacherous stratagem. For this doubt, the Greek goddess Athena sent two giant sea serpents to strangle and kill him and his two sons. In Tomas Martišauskis’ exhibition, the characters of a scaled-down copy of an ancient sculpture defend themselves from weightless sugar and soda serpents, while an enlarged head of a fly is suspended on a galvanized structure.
By manipulating seemingly unfamiliar materials and forms, scales and paradoxical connections, Martišauskis creates elements of fantasy and wonderful lies that could probably be taken to a fantasised uninhabited island. The fourth one in this exhibition – probably the closest to this description, unadapted for pedestrians and unmarked – perfectly accommodated a scale model of an archetypal mountain. The cave within it, with all of its allegories, is illuminated by your computer screen this time. Next to it you can see a cube stacked from the plastic found on the seaside and arranged according to the color of hydrological markings. It is undoubtedly nothing but the Trojan horse of the future.
The artist views these hyperreal places and the works situated in them as narrow but spacious metaphors of artistic processes and tendencies. Without seeking to radically change established or emerging concepts, Martišauskis simply shows that it is important to learn to read and follow the constantly updated road signs to travel safely. But it is equally necessary to question this way of traveling. In this exhibition, the artist continues to consider ways of constantly evolving relations with the world through technology, joking that the recording and capturing of everyday life inevitably becomes a disguise for something. Maybe in this case that something is a physical exhibition.