I hadn’t been to Brussels for some time, so I was pleased to walk into ‘Done: Exploring Fatal Holography’, curated by Raimundas Malašauskas, and find several things of immediate interest: The Federal, a new publication by Tulips & Roses; two friends turning a two-sided painting curiously around on the wall; and two Persian carpets, complete with tassels, in a pleasing colour scheme of black and lavender. On top of these floor-coverings lay an arrangement of vintage 3D glasses and books, one of them open to an off-register colour reproduction of a painting by Claude Monet with ‘holographic’ potential, alongside a single shoe, designed to fit either the left or right foot (Elena Narbutaite˙’s The Clifford Irving Show, 2010), and a rather foul-smelling economy-size bottle of parfum homme called ‘Michael Jackson’, given to the curator as a present. To the right: a handful of delirium-inducing seeds of the Nightshade Belladonna plant, contributed by artist Jason Dodge. But these were not an exclusive or independent collection of art objects; they were more like foreplay to the art works found in a narrow hall off the main space, and in the basement below.
The two-sided painting, Sitting Woman, Sitting Woman (2010), was a joint effort by Malašauskas and Italian artist Alex Cecchetti, in which Cecchetti copied a Cubist painting by Lithuanian artist Vytautas Kairiukštis, in the latter’s then avant-garde style. The image of the seated woman bore an uncanny resemblance to the mass-produced images of the Virgin Mary that once hung in the bedrooms of devout Christian families. It was customary to turn these reproductions around after weddings to spare the Virgin the sight of marital conjugation. But, as we’re living in modern times, the Virgin can look. (Hence the painting’s back-to-back presentation.)
The painting and carpet were joined by five holograms downstairs, which, like the show itself, were ambiguously ‘authored’ by Malašauskas (Whose Face Rings the Bell [Mininos, Egis, Egis and Remis I, Darius, Egis and Remis 5], 2011). Each one pictured a man whose eyes seemed to hold and follow the gaze of viewers that walked around him. In addition to these, a portrait of the curator by Alexandre Guirkinger (Raimundas Malašauskas curated self-portrait, 2010) represented by a black-and-white photo of a small timepiece, scarf and porcelain teapot met viewers at the top of the stairs. Guirkinger had originally produced the image (as fashion advertising?) for Hermès, but when turned 90 degrees on its side it bore enough resemblance to a human profile to suit both curator and artist.
The three-dimensional effect created through holography, and the imaginative leap required to see a clock as an eye, are in keeping with the speculative subjects of Malašauskas’s previous projects, rooted in the imperfect sciences, including his ‘Hypnotic Show’ (2008), in which an actual hypnotist assisted the ‘appearance’ of many of the works. On the evening of the opening of ‘Done’, we ate a mixture of lard and mint in a public space on a quiet backstreet near the gallery. Spreading fruit, black bread and vodka over a makeshift table, Malašauskas told the story of a haunted vase that was returned to sender after a series of floods, mishaps and unimaginable events plagued the shows it had been exhibited in. Lithuanian artist Gintaras Didžiapetris, who had included the vase in his exhibitions as ‘an object that had never been photographed’, corroborated the story, as did Zakaitas, who said the vase had been returned mysteriously to him in the post – not to the gallery from where he’d sent it, but to his home address. I couldn’t help but think, as rounds of bread and drinks kept coming in repeated doses: had we been invited to participate unwittingly in a performance? Was this story of the reappearing vase part of Malašauskas’s design? Not least in the way the eyes of his holographic images literally look back at the viewer, ‘Done’ testified to Malašauskas’s ability to make exhibition elements – almost literally – come to life. The beauty of this particular selection of objects and effects was that they engaged even the least participatorially inclined.