Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art,
Contemporary Art Information Center of
the Lithuanian Art Museum
Solo exhibition of the prizewinner of the Hansabank Art Award of the Baltic Countries. Hansabank continues its cooperation with the Estonian Center for Contemporary Arts through a comprehensive arts support program. Until 2003, the art award was conferred only on Estonian artists (Marko Laimre, 2000; Ene-Liis Semper, 2001; Marko Mäetamm, 2002). Starting in 2003, nominations were received from all three Baltic countries (the 2003 Award Winner was Lithuanian artist Artûras Raila). Gints Gabrans‘s works are based on an analysis of power and the values of mass media.
Back to Infinity
Glowing TV and computer monitors, the rig-tone melodies of mobile telephones that interrupt our silence and conversations, the wireless Internet: our space is packed with various waves, not registered by our eyes, which are familiar with only a small part of the light spectrum. Thus, we live in an invisible world. This is the starting point for the installations by Latvian artist Gints Gabrans presented at the Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius.
Seeing and understanding have been related for time immemorial; people even say ‘I see’ instead of ‘I understand’. This lies at the heart of the Renaissance drawing and the meticulous construction of orthogonal lines meeting at a single vanishing point to imitate seeing from single point perspective. However, everything got complicated in the 20th century: it became apparent that seeing apprehended only a small fragment of the world. Therefore, to see already means to be restricted: by distance and a singular point of view. Seeing may give only a subjective and incomplete understanding, but the illusions of clarity created by vision hinder us from ‘seeing’ this.
This is why Gints Gabrans is trying to disturb this sense; he destroys the preconditions of clear sight and creates optical deceptions. Not so that we could have extreme experiences (like being drenched in the grey rain of late autumn), but so that we would doubt the objectivity and veracity of our sight, would hover for a while in the unknown and open other channels of perception. For instance, our eyes tell us that the huge gate built by Gabrans, titled “Passing through the walls”, is dead closed with a blank wall of frosted matt glass. However, it is possible to walk through it and ‘burn’ briefly while rupturing the beam of light. To create this illusion the artist needed many different things: a mechanical smoke screen, building materials, projectors and thorough handwork, because the slightest deviation might destroy the illusion. And what is this all for? Is it only to surprise us a little? Or, do these ‘special effects’ help us pass into what the symbolism of the gate suggests: somewhere between two spaces of a different kind? Maybe, one could pass into the world that exists, never visited, parallel to this one that does not have a name — move from daily life to the space of art, light and even faith?
There is no answer: the artist does not help either with titles or with explanations. The direction and richness of experience depend on the package not so much of knowledge, but of sensitivity brought by the observer to the apparatus; from the ability to grant greater significance to a single moment (after all, you only pass through a virtual wall) than the ‘common’ sense busy with routine allows. Also from the readiness to negate the visible wall by bisecting it, by the means of an action to open what looks closed – the invisible world, usually inaccessible, becomes apparent. The viewer has, in fact, to open the gate.
This is much easier in case of the installation with the mirror work titled “Parallel space” in which the reflection of those present in front of it slowly disappears. Of course, this is also a simple trick well known to illusionists (I will not betray its secret so as not to destroy the suspense). It is possible to see it just this way. But mirrors have always taken minds and imaginations to unknown territories: a mirror is also a kind of gate, only to a space that no device can reach or test. Let’s remember what Alice was doing ‘behind the looking glass’ or the suspicious and unpleasant doubles that inspired Freud to write his text about the uncanny, which blurs the border between good and evil, imagination and reality, being and non-being and makes the demons of the unconscious public. The ability of the mirror to imitate life precisely and reverse it has been the subject of reflection and the source of mystic experiences forever and a day. The idea of photography was also born from mirrors as the dream to preserve the reflection, peal it off and put it into the archive of memories.
Vanishing and transparent human figures are a well-known phenomenon in photography. For a pragmatic eye they mean only that the exposition has been long and the impatient subject stood up and left before his image could be firmly fixed. From a quasi-materialist point of view, he or she has left less of their molecules on the print than they might have, and remain not fully appropriated by photography. However for those who tend to lift the obvious layer of photography and explore what is hidden under it (as behind the mirror) those imperceptible shadows have always meant more: they are messengers from the world of spirits, following us everywhere and never withdrawing (what photography shows is ‘objective’, the ‘truth’). Similarly, the mirror placed here by Gabrans should transfer us to the magically spooky ‘other’ side (of the mirror, photography, reality, life) at least for a while.
If not, then there is also the mirror cylinder “Generator”: producing a space that does not leave any points of reference, in which reflections merge into infinity. People say that it one could go mad inside it: it is simply obligatory to test this statement. In any case, after having crossed two gates we are already in the mirror itself: as much as it is possible to get into it by the means of light and cumbersome materials. Perhaps, Alice had a chance to experience more picturesque adventures, easier to narrate and tug at our attention, but that mirror was fictitious. Whereas Gabrans brings us into a real physical mirror, thus at least a little bit acquainting us with infinity and that immense world of physical waves that exist around us – invisibly.
Perhaps through his work, the gate, the vanishing reflections, Gabrans finally brings us into the realm of eye itself? The eye is also a mirror in a sense: when light passes through its lens it produces an inverse reflection on the retina. Yet is it possible to expand the power/understanding of seeing while inside the mechanism of seeing? Or when other perspectives have been cut off and we have penetrated the ‘I of seeing’, has the possibility of seeing from a distance, and ‘objectively’ been lost? No, the special effects of a parallel world do not take us to this direction. Instead, having passed through the gate, we should forget physics and plunge into metaphysics, and consider that our presence inside something like an eye changes something in our head.