Žygimantas Augustinas. Sirenes et Pax (Sirens and Serenity)

Exhibition Time: 26 01 2024–25 02 2024
Opening: January 26  |  6:15 PM
Meno Parkas Gallery (Rotušės sq. 27, 44279 Kaunas, Lithuania)


SIRENES ET PAX
( Sirens and Serenity)

In his exhibition Sirenes et pax, Žygimantas Augustinas juxtaposes two completely different things that share the same name. The equal sign is put here between the mythical sirens and sirens as sound-emitting devices.

At first sight, this juxtaposition may seem like a joke, yet the author urges the viewer to stop and see what descriptions of our times can be derived from this equation.

We can begin with what the mythical siren and the siren as an object have in common. Both emit sound. In the myths it is intended to lure, while in reality it warns. Both sirens are related to danger. Mythical sirens are themselves a danger that one should beware. These half-women, half-birds kill seafarers with their song. Real-life sirens warn about imminent danger that one should hide from. The danger that the universally familiar siren alarm announces is unambiguous. It constantly blares in our neighbour country where falling missiles destroy people’s lives. And the only aim upon hearing the sound emitted by sirens, on both sides of reality, is to survive.

Yet artist Žygimantas Augustinas steps aside and integrates a mythical element into the danger alarm sound wave, asking not what has happened, but how and why, and what should be done about that. For this purpose he conjures a kind of dystopian space where a couple silhouettes of mythical sirens emerge – ancient Greek and a contemporary one envisioned by Margaret Atwood. In both cases, the sirens’ luring mechanism is based not on the visual aspect (beauty), but on what is being said. In one of the best known epic poems, Homer’s Odyssey, the sirens promise the protagonist wisdom and knowledge. They can professedly reveal to him what was and what is to come. If Odysseus, already forewarned, had not been firmly tied to the mast, his journey would have ended right there. Curiously, sirens only claim to know everything. Do they really, though?

A few millennia later, the siren uses a different vocabulary in a poem by Margaret Atwood. She calls for help, desperate to leave her siren role behind, and asserts that the one she addresses is exceptional and has singular power to help her. Like a catchy advertising message, her call hits the contemporary human’s most vulnerable and unquestioned spot – individuality and uniqueness. However, unlike in Odyssey’s case, no supernatural power forewarns the siren’s addressee that giving in to this idea is mortally dangerous.

Surrounded by all these sirens, we find ourselves in what seems like a dead-end. We cannot plug our ears with beeswax, tie ourselves to a pole, renounce the idea of our exclusivity, and hear no sirens. Enter the third character of the exhibition – the audiophile. He enjoys the sound itself. He is concerned not with what is being played or said, but with how. If he was Odysseus, he would be listening to the sea waves. If he is a contemporary individual, he will notice how beautiful the siren’s shape is, how soothing a voice can be. How pleasing it is to look, ignoring the words, and thus survive.

 

About the author

Žygimantas Augustinas was born in 1973 in Lithuania, and currently lives and works in Vilnius. He studied at Vilnius Academy of Arts, Florence Academy of Art, and the Art Students League of New York. In 2015 he defended his doctorate in arts. Since 1998 Žygimantas has been actively participating in group exhibitions and has held more than twenty solo shows in Lithuania and abroad.

The artist’s installations, painting works and drawings are distinguished by captured public sentiment, humour, and ironic fictional stories. The installations often put an emphasis on the presentation of works as well as sound, light or smoke effects, while the drawings and paintings display affinity with European fine art of the 16th–18th century.

Žygimantas Augustinas’ works were awarded at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2002 and were acknowledged by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania as the best professional art debut in 2005. In 2018 the artist won the Best Drawing award of the XVII INTERBIFEP competition held at the International Portrait Gallery of Tuzla (Bosnia and Herzegovina), while in 2021 and 2022 he was distinguished as the author of the best display and the best installation at the ArtVilnius international art fair.

Works by Žygimantas Augustinas are included in the collections of the Lithuanian National Museum of Art, Noewe Foundation, MO Museum, Lawin, and private collectors. He is a professor at Vilnius Academy of Arts.

 

Author of the show: Žygimantas Augustinas
Curator: Akvilė Anglickaitė
Composer: Ramūnas Motiekaitis
Sound engineer: Antanas Dombrovskis
Poetry: Margaret Atwood
Voice: Sophie Durand
Graphic design: Pijus Burakas
Consultants: Skaidra Trilupaitytė, Jurij Dobriakov, Paulius Garbačiauskas, Thibault Noailly

Thanks to: Inga and Algirdas of Sonnenburg LT, Ieva Augustinienė, Margaret Atwood.

Translated from Lithuanian by Jurij Dobriakov

 

The exhibition is a pilot presentation of the research “Image and Sound as Tools for Controlling and Relaxing the Human Psyche”.

The exhibition is supported by the Lithuanian Council for Culture, Vilnius Academy of Arts, JSC Sonnenburg LT electronic sirens, Lithuanian Artists’ Association, Meno Parkas Gallery.