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ZOO Photography

ZOO Photography
Kaunas. The Last Decade of the Soviet Era

An informal group of photographers who were dubbed "the predator section" by their friends would sometimes gather in the photographic laboratory of Kaunas Zoo, which was situated near the predator dens; but ZOO is also a broader reference to the isolated work of the new generation of photographers which was not appreciated at the time. Arūnas Kulikauskas, Gintautas Stulgaitis, Visvaldas Dragūnas, Giedrius Liagas and Saulius Paukštys employed photography for a constructive activity, for modelling their own artistic worlds. Distancing themselves from a direct reflection of the Soviet reality, and de-emphasising the visual content, they spoke about what lay inside them, and sought to show the reality as they knew it, and not only as they saw it. Kaunas-based artists who became active in the 1980s consistently implemented a programme of denaturalisation, de-psychologisation and de-idealisation. The new photographic vocabulary, which expressed a postmodern view of the world, reflected the radical change of values and the shift from a traditional to a conceptual approach to the artistic object.

At the time, the dominant paradigm was that of the Lithuanian school of photography, which had cultivated a concept of the basic principles of photographic work (its means and objectives) based on documentalism; thus, the new Kaunas wave remained peripheral for a decade (not only during the Soviet period, but also during the first years of Lithuania's independence), and was simply later forgotten. Individual artistic experiments, often perceived as symptoms of inner psychological discomfort and conflict with the social environment, actually had a more common origin, while the group's original mode of expression, which appeared destructive, had a firm conceptual base. Due to the strong entrenchment of the photographic tradition, the "predators" failed to win an equal position, but they managed to resist assimilation, since photographers like Vitas Luckus, Algirdas Šeškus, Alfonsas Budvytis, Vytautas Balčytis and Remigijus Pačėsa had at least partially paved the way to recognising this concept of photography as a legitimate one.

The works by Arūnas Kulikauskas, Gintautas Stulgaitis, Visvaldas Dragūnas, Giedrius Liagas and Saulius Paukštys exhibited in the 11th hall of the National Gallery of Art have been borrowed from the authors or their families, with assistance from the Kaunas section of the Lithuanian Union of Art Photographers.

The exhibition is curated by Margarita Matulytė and Ieva Mazūraitė-Novickienė