Lithuanian Pavilion

Ground floor entrance to the Lithuanian Pavilion at Scuola S. Pasquale.

Upstairs in the Scuola S. Pasquale at San Francesco della Vigna, Darius Mikšys’ exhibition Behind the White Curtain asks whether an exhibition can represent a nation and its art scene in a contemporary, globalised context. Drawing inspiration from a seminal survey of Lithuanian art held in 1907, Mikšys has gathered Lithuanian art from the past twenty years and stored it behind the white curtain that divides the exhibition room in two. The pieces are catalogued in thick white books available to the visitor who can then select pieces to be brought from behind the curtain and viewed. The survey Mikšys has gathered comprises artists awarded prizes and grants by the Lithuanian state, so in this sense, the curator is the state and not Mikšys. In pleasing contrast to this bredth and anonymity of the selection, the individual viewer can choose his or her choice and leave the other 170 or so artists behind the curtain. However, one is left with a feeling of artificial choice – what if one wanted to see Lithuanian performance art? Presumably the invigilators could not conjure a troop of performers from behind the curtain. The same problem of representation arises with site-specific and installation art, or artists who may not have wanted their work to become part of the state’s collection. Behind the White Curtain takes on more of an auction house atmosphere in this respect, with the artwork that is most easily transported and comprehendible in a short space of time becoming ‘the best’. Apparently many visitors enquire whether they can purchase the artwork, no doubt as a result of this. 
Behind the White Curtain is fun, and an interesting concept, especially as it becomes performative once activated by the selection of the viewer (an invigilator makes a note of the selection, disappears behind the curtain, and then returns, his white gloves carrying the print, sculpture, video or painting). But the issue of representation – or a lack of representation – is left frustratingly unresolved.