Reflection on the digital art cycle and the aims of university galleries
By Phd candidate and visual artist Marija Griniuk
The University of Lapland, Finland
In the last two years all educational institutions in Northern Europe have experienced a transition to the digital means of communication with students and audiences. During this period, I have conducted an internship at VDU (Vytautas Magnus University) art gallery “101” in Kaunas, Lithuania, which gave me internal insights into this unique and challenging period of time for art students. I could combine these insights with my previous experience to exhibit live at the galley “101” with the project “My cousin comes back from the war” (2015).
This reflection explores the aims of the art gallery in the current times, consisting of the program, developed by the curator Margarita Žigutytė, which is focused on collaboration with the emerging as well as established artists from Lithuania and abroad.
While working with the students, similarly as the art galleries at The University of Lapland, the art gallery “101” completes the artistic cycle, creating dialogue about the students’ works produced in the studios during the study semester. An artistic cycle is described by the art critic, and scholar, working with the theme of the university located galleries, David Burton (2006), as completing the studio-based process and, during the exhibition, giving insights into new studio-based works.
The artistic cycle in the digital times is divided into the studio-based practice (in the lock-down period in the students’ home studios); and the presentation in the digital space. A digital exhibition space in its process of development does not differ from the exhibition on site, as it involves development of the theme, exhibition design and publicity of the event. So, both student projects and projects with the emerging or established artists go through a similar process during the exhibition planning and realization phases.
The artistic cycle in the case of the student exhibitions is completed in similar ways, whether it is live or digital, but for the audience the experience of the artwork is crucially different (Lepouras, G., Katifori, A., Vassilakis, C. et al., 2004). The audience cannot experience the materiality of the work, exhibited in the digital space. So, the feedback from the audience to the students might differ greatly, depending on if the works were experienced live or virtually.
Since April 2020, VDU (Vytautas Magnus University) art gallery “101” has started to work in a virtual space. It collaborated with various platforms for realization of the projects in the wider perspective of the digital venues, such as collaboration with Palanga Street Radio and Kaunas Artists’ House. Collaborations with the different cultural institutions is an excellent way to attract a wider audience for virtual projects. The gallery also invited the Nordic Art Academies’ representatives to collaborate, exemplified by the collaboration with Agnė Jokšė, a student of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Denmark.
The projects realized in the period of the last year are “Attempts to be more kind“ (in lithuanian “Siekiai būti geresniais“) in the format of the art residency by Lieselotte Vloeberghs and Els Dillen, “Letters to Zoja” (in lithuanian “Laiškus Zojai”), curated by Rokas Vaičiulis and a soundart project “Walk & Talk” by the artist Agnė Jokšė, among many other projects. They represent the variety of approaches to artistic work – from publications to performance and sound art. It is interesting how artworks traditionally seen in a gallery are adapted and unfolded to the audience in the digital space, for example the performance artworks.
In 2020 and 2021 successful work of the gallery “101”, which has adapted to the constraints set by the global pandemic, reflects the world-wide innovation within university-based galleries, where some of them have moved fully to a digital format and are contributing to the digital art cycle only, while other places have both physical and digital exhibitions. Virtual art spaces have been the dominant channel for art communication for the past year and they are undoubtedly here to stay. One of the core learning issues for the students is to gain experience on how to collaborate and be active under the current conditions, as the professional artworld is always turbulent. Learning is bound to the environment in which it occurs (Falk and Dierking, 2000) – in the current situation in 2020 and 2021, the elements of the old context of the art cycle should be bound and adapted to the new way of artistic production.
Lepouras, G., Katifori, A., Vassilakis, C. et al. (2004). Real exhibitions in a virtual museum. Virtual Reality 7, 120–128. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10055-004-0121-5
Burton, D. (2006). Exhibiting Student Art: The Essential Guide For Teachers. New York , NY: Teachers College Press.
Falk, J. & Dierking, L. (2000). Learning From Museums: Visitor Experiences and the Making of Meaning. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.
This blog entry was written as an assignment for the course TUKO1111 Writing in English, offered on a regular basis by the Graduate School of the University of Lapland.