In Canada, they treat you well. They prescribe art museum visits for feel-good therapy. I prescribed these to myself by myself a decade or something ago. And it’s just as good as all the vitamins, gluten-free foods and yoga classes in one. You can expect different packages of these miraculous goods also. There are ones as big as Louvre Museum, or the ones that are very special, very tiny but no less powerful and healthy for you. Just like apiece – a window gallery in the center of Vilnius, presenting a single art piece at a time, captivating your view, letting you enjoy it 24/7. You can’t visit it from the inside, but we found these two creative minds behind the curtains of this 170×140 cm art space, and now we can’t wait for Milena CM and Aušra Trakšelytė to tell everything and much more of what can fit in such a place.
So, where should we start?
Milena: Our creative tandem was born way before apiece. We’ve been doing different projects with Aušra, and after each work we made together, we were thinking about creating something that would have continuity and a particular space. However, life, Berlin, to be exact, separated us for a few years. I was residing and doing other art projects there. But now I’m here, and we’ve come back to our joint activities. Hurrah, I’m fortunate to have such a colleague.
The beginning of the apiece was very unexpected. Subconsciously I had the idea about this kind of gallery for a few years. It was one of my thoughts in Berlin – I wanted to have a studio on the first floor, with a showcase window to display artworks. But what didn’t happen in Berlin, became alive here and way better than expected. We ironically call this place the gallery, on the other hand, it meets all the main technical requirements: exposition space – check, spotlights – check, and that window is 3.3 m height. Amazing.
Aušra: While studying at Vilnius Academy of Arts, Department of Art History and Theory, I had this idea to hold exhibitions in rental spaces in Vilnius old town. In the meantime, when somebody just moved out and new tenants haven’t arrived yet. These spaces are usually on the first floor and have huge showcase windows. I didn’t fulfill this idea, but it partly suits what Milena and I now call apiece.
After Milena “found” the place, we sat together thinking, what is it about and what format should the gallery develop. I remember that there were few title options, but finally, everything became clearer when we chose “apiece.” After our idea had become more crystallized, we agreed that this would be an exhibition space for one-piece contemporary visual art and design objects. We didn’t have any specific date for the gallery opening, so we decided to go along with Vilnius Gallery Weekend at the beginning of this September.
How do you choose what solo stories you want to tell us?
Milena: I think Aušra will be more specific about this question. Not only the concept of the exhibition is vital to us but also the harmony of aesthetics, the continuity of how the new exhibition reflects the previous one, and vice versa. It’s is not a gallery behind the closed door; this is a showcase window; that’s why there shouldn’t be radical visual jumps between exhibitions unless such an idea becomes close to the whole concept.
Speaking of the first exhibition – it was easy to decide what to exhibit. Besides this gallery and other jobs, I develop my project MISSHAPEN – porcelain on-body objects, and I’m always searching for some unexpected spaces where I could display my works. So, after noticing this place, I thought about presenting MISSHAPEN there and only later (like, after a few minutes, (laughing), I thought about a permanent gallery. It is how we started – with one object by MISSHAPEN as our opening exhibition, and it was clear after it that the second exhibition, it’s context will be different. Now on display – Plaster Bust of Socrates With the Beard Shaved by Sculptor by Arūnas Gudaitis. I think we achieved this diversity of the exhibitions while maintaining the visual harmony.
Aušra: The case of A. Gudaitis exhibition is also interesting because the original Bust of Socrates was never shown anywhere before. And this is one of the most iconic pieces by this artist. The fact that the artist trusted us with making the exhibition in our gallery conveys significant importance to us.
We were thinking about artists and artworks we pay a big attention to the specific space. It’s a 170 x 140 cm place after all! A week ago, I shared one artwork with Milena; I’ve completely forgotten about it. It suits the apiece gallery perfectly, so we are coordinating the details of the exhibition with the author now. In any case, most of the ideas come from discussion. We do not tie ourselves only to the artists we know, acknowledged ones, or Lithuanians. We also consider offers we get from the ones who reach us themselves. The most important thing is the common interest and the compatibility of the artwork, the exhibition space, and apiece concept.
Milena: The exhibition space doesn’t limit us, we have many ideas, and I honestly think that these exact measurements will help us to implement the most unusual projects, such as performance art in the showcase window. More than that, we even thinking about organizing a few day’s festival shortly.
Thinking about artists and art professionals, it’s easy for them, but how to reach a simple guy from the street with the solo exhibition?
Milena: I think the situation is completely opposite. It is much harder for an artist to choose that exact artwork she/ he would love to be presented within this space. However, it’s one piece only, so you have to choose carefully and to consider how to express, to tell your story through that one work. Moreover, artists often decide to create a piece for this particular space, so it’s a challenge for both the artist and us. We have to think not only about the concept of the gallery but also about the boundaries that come with the limited space of it. On the other hand, it’s more appealing in working this way, we love challenges.
And speaking about our spectator, he gets the possibility to see the exhibition unlimited by time or any other conditions. This was the initial goal of the gallery in the first place – unlimited exhibition possibilities speaking of both time and the audience. Also, the visitor (or a passer-by) can always dig for more information about the artwork or the artist because we follow the requirements that are common to most of the exhibitions. We provide the spectator with the information about the artist and his piece in the showcase window, the annotation on our website, press releases, and so on.
Aušra: I think apiece is a provocation both to an artist and the spectator. We believe that one piece can be a trigger for the spectator to check out the artist and get more information about his art, or maybe even to find out more about contemporary art in general. The artwork becomes a teaser that is needed and meaningful in nowadays context. The artwork presented in a non-traditional way can provoke people who are not interested in art. It is also recommended to see the exhibition in daylight and at night – it’s a 24/7 working gallery, after all!
And what solo pieces by yourselves you wish could be these teasers and inspiration to dig art deeper?
Milena: I already had my apiece exhibition. MISSHAPEN is one of the most important projects I’m working at the moment, so this is with no doubt the solo show I had in this gallery.
Aušra: I’m closely related to (contemporary) art, but not an artist myself. As a matter of fact, since July, I acquired the identity of a creating artist. To be exact, for the year, I adopted it from artist Juozas Laivys. Though I didn’t create any particular piece yet, the fact that I’m living a life of an artist and we are making the gallery with Milena, I’m planning on creating one artwork and presenting it at apiece, which perfectly suits this idea.
Living life of an artist, running a gallery, curating, creating – how do you usually love to meet the creations by others?
Milena: Berlin was the place where I had this luxury to see so much art, and I was doing it very intensely. I‘ve changed my routine back in Vilnius. I am a rear guest at the exhibition openings now. But I always visit it later. And I do it with Aušra. As I remember in Vilnius it was always like this, maybe because we are very close friends, usually we’ve been visiting exhibitions together. And now it is even more interesting to go to the exhibits, not only to observe our cultural field but also to do research and to think about how we could adapt some artwork or artists in our gallery. Last month was a real success for me. A great exhibition of Gintaras Makarevičius works is going on at the gallery ”Meno Niša.” National Gallery of Art impressed me with the architecture made for Antanas Sutkus exhibition. And the retrospective of Valdas Ozarinskas creations at Contemporary Art Centre is just mind-blowing. So, Vilnius is a non-sleeper, use my tips, visit exhibitions – there is much to see.
Aušra: Actually, it’s not easy for me to “like” art, especially visual art, because it’s my profession. On the other hand, I love movies and theatre a lot, these are a real pleasure because I’m not trying to analyze and give some context to everything I see. Vilnius cultural life with all the events is intense. You can get different cultural experiences, basically every day.
Milena: Speaking of cultural experiences, if the readers are interested in where do we spend our time, I will be happy to share Vilnius hot spots with you: my latest discovery – Church Heritage Museum, presenting sacred art. Editorial projects – art office always presenting exhibitions with good content. Still a secret spot for many – AUTARKIA, a day center of artists led by Robertas Narkus, and Delta Mityba which serves a real quality food under the same roof. Cultural initiative – Empty Brain Resort, a bit more distant from the city. Punk club SKYLE aka XI20 at the back of Kablys club. Love bar – if in need of music on Wednesdays or in need of a good cocktail anytime. And the last but not least – National Opera and Ballet Theatre, which I’ve rediscovered recently. The ballet scene with the works of young artists is astonishing and the Process ballet is a must to see.
Coming back from all the cool-cultural-inspiring places in Vilnius back to apiece, if it would travel, where to?
Milena: The only question I gave my thought to. I thought about where did I find myself the happiest. I love Lithuania a lot, but the heaven on earth for me is Sweden, and there is this little old fishermen town Lysekil, on the coast of The North Sea. Nature there is gorgeous, all rocky, and colored in orange. And five years ago while climbing into the mountain, when you think nothing else but the peek is awaiting, you run into this small house. One that looks just like apiece to me now. In the middle of nowhere. And there I would probably show a piece by one of my stars of contemporary art, researcher and inventor Julius von Bismarck – The Punishment. An older work by him, not that common to his other inventions. The artwork in which aesthetics is so close to Romanticism, huge scale nature views (sea, mountains, mountain lakes) and the artist (extremely small compared to nature) holding a whip in his hand and punishing nature to the total and ridiculous physical exhaustion. The work was originally exhibited as a video. Dorothee Elmiger, the Swiss writer, wrote and recited a poem that highlights the rhythm of the whip. Her piece referred to 480 BC when the Persian King Xerxes had ordered to punish the sea by whipping it for destroying a recently built bridge during a storm.
Aušra: For me, apiece is a project made exclusively for Vilnius. The fact that Milena came back to Vilnius and the idea was born here is the entirety of circumstances, crystallized and put into form. And if I had to leave to another country or city, I have no doubt; I would start creating new ideas and realizing new projects.
Now that you know a few pieces about apiece, you are more than welcome to visit the gallery, remember in daylight and at night. Find the Bust of Socrates and try to imagine where the beard of the poor old man has disappeared. Discuss it with a stranger passing apiece (Didžioji str. 38, Vilnius). Dig (art) deeper.