Stasiulytė Laura
Born in 1977 in Klaipėda, Lithuania. Already in the very first works of Laura Stasiulytė, a number of key themes important to the artist became apparent, remaining prominent in her later work as well: the nature of ethnic identity and its development and implementation through education and the media, the influence the contrapositions us/them and local/foreign have on interpersonal relationships, and an individual’s place in different language/mentality/ideology systems. In the early works, Stasiulytė employs her own experience as a departure point and visualises her ideas with performative gestures – for instance, she attempts to remember the Lithuanian folk songs or program poems learnt in school and physically carries this “fund of knowledge” around on her back in the form of a display while interacting with foreigners (Intention to Remember, 1999), or desperately seeks to overcome the feeling of isolation, trying to direct the street lamp to her window (Lamp Catcher, 2002). When the differences of languages and cultures encumber mutual understanding, the artist seeks a connection through physical contact: she patiently unplaits the 625 braids on a Senegalese artist’s head, counting them in German (Counting Braids, 2002), unweaves and irons an IKEA rag carpet made in Pakistan (Carpet, 2002), symbolically identifying herself with the factory workers from a distant country and having a very direct contact with a foreign culture through this week-long effort. In her later works, the artist gives preference to the strategy of observation and often strives to completely neutralized her subjective input – for example, employing a surveillance camera (Nadezhda / Hope / Viltis, 2003/2004, Black and White Movie, 2007/2008) or photograph appropriation (The Hutch, 2007). Alongside the mentioned strategy, the research of the socio-economic situation and the system of representations becomes more prominent in her works, which concentrate on things like symbols of the shopping malls’ power and representational forms of corporate events (Gala, 2005), excessively “ethnic” welcoming of foreign tourists arriving on a giant cruise ship (Hailing Ship, 2007), the traces of private lives in the real estate business proceedings (The Hutch, 2007), and the repercussions of dynamic socio-economic changes in personal history (Nadezhda / Hope / Viltis. Five Years Later, 2009). One of the focal points of the artist’s work is language. In her works, texts are read, recited, sung and written by hand: the artist attempts to recite poetry and sing herself (Intention to Remember, 1999) or has a singing boy recount the ordinary impressions of her ordinary day (Everyday Language, 2000); girls met on the street copy their contemporaries’ questions about sexuality, published in the popular Panelė (Young Lady) magazine, in handwriting (From the Life of Young Ladies, 2001); a Russian woman who came to live in Lithuania learns Lithuanian and English aloud simultaneously (Nadezhda / Hope / Viltis, 2003/2004), while the artist deconstructs the ideology coded into an old German language textbook by reading and reassembling selections from the latter (Looking for Brummel the Teddy Bear, 2006); Lithuanians living in London drop by the Lithuanian food store not so much to shop for groceries, but rather to have a conversation with their compatriots in their native language and satisfy the need for communication (Black and White Film, 2007/2008). In Stasiulytė’s works, language is analysed as the central element of personal identity and essential medium of ideology (the artist often revisits her school or adolescent years and explores the ways in which language shapes ethnic or gender identity and worldview), the basis of social isolation or integration (foreign language speakers’ segregation and attempts to deal with it), the facilitator of or impediment to interpersonal relationships (the limits of language/understanding and attempts to push them through touch and gesture). The explorations of language and identity prompt the artist to constantly turn to the themes of memory and time – she remembers her childhood, draws parallels between the present day and the past – for instance, the images from the coast of the Black Sea seen in the 3D stereo slides given to the artist by her grandmother as a present. In the artist’s latest works, ethnic and cultural identity is analysed through the prism of representation forms other than language. Among the things explored are the visual standards of corporate image representations – the “set design” and scenarios of corporate events, as well as the service personnel’s postures, gestures and rules of conduct, contrasted with the order inherited from the old times, represented by the illegal garden-plots squatted by Russian folks right next to the rising new shopping malls (Gala, 2005); shows featuring Lithuanian folksongs, dances and national costumes, which greet the passengers of a giant cruise ship that are about to land in a small country’s small seaport town and simultaneously reveal the ethnic clichés and national complexes (Hailing Ship, 2007); images and texts people employ to sell their real estate (The Hutch, 2007) and a protagonist’s new workplace – an illuminated newsstand she began to work in when the old building of the Monument Restoration Institute where she had been working as a guard was demolished – as a representation of the changing state of things (Nadezhda / Hope / Viltis. Five Years Later, 2009). The artist combines diverse media in her works: video documentaries, slide projections, photography, sound recordings, texts and drawings.