Today’s national and global situation will not allow us to forget the times when, both together and individually, we experienced a period of personal and social stagnation. We have shut ourselves inside our homes and temporarily suspended all our IRL (In Real Life) activities. Some didn’t seem to have been affected by the pandemic at all – they got on with their work, only in a different location. Meanwhile those who found themselves in the state of professional idleness had to embrace the benefits of spending time with their families. Yet even sceptics had to acknowledge that social networks were not exactly the ultimate evil that incorrigibly corrupts human interactions. It became evident that, in some cases, they offered if not the only way, then at least a highly important way to maintain our contact with the world and thus keep the notion of society relevant.
Benas Šarka is in fact one of those who managed to get on without having been affected by the pandemic: the latter did not seem to have had any impact on his work. At least that was the impression I got from his Facebook feed, where he kept sharing the photos of the personally significant locations – a project he had started a few years ago. Remigijus Treigys seems to have followed a similar path. The visual conversation these artists began on social networks in 2018 (it all began with the project “Deeper than Midnight“), and, in the hindsight, it turned out to have served as an introduction or preparatory work for the times of pandemic and lockdown. Even long before the restrictions of lockdown, these two artists were already actively researching the new ways of communicating on social media. By uploading the photographs on Facebook and addressing them to each other, they were testing their connections both literally and metaphorically. During this visual exchange on Facebbok, over one thousand photos have been put on display. After starting out as a personal fad on social media, the process lasted for a whole year and a half. The mutual exchange of images occured every day at midday and midnight. Their visual conversation attracted many followers. Some were passive observers, other active commenters, while others still were contributing with the pictures of their own. Later on, this online conversation between Benas and Remigijus has been published as an album-box with 124 photos. According to the Polish art critic Agnieszka Wołodźko, this was a clearly successful way of remaining creative in what otherwise were highly unfavourable conditions of social isolation, with one’s creative research being put on constant public display (online). And we must note that this was already a ‘thing’ even before such a necessity even existed. Without wanting to sound too speculative, today “Deeper than Midnight“ looks like an omen.
Today it might also seem that one of the prophetic moments took place two years ago when, during Remigijus and Benas’ show in a gallery space, the visitors were asked to wear gloves and overshoes upon visiting the exhibition. Back then, the aim was clearly not to protect from the corona virus, even though it is likely that the latter was already lurking somewhere. On the one hand, the authors aimed to protect their photo prints. On the other, the perceiver himself got protected from art: art assistance remained a sterile experience to him. Today things like social distancing, avoidance of physical contact, masks and gloves are completely customary. Is it already time for the overshoes too? We’ll see. Meanwhile, the authors are not offering any physical contact with their prints, and we are safe to observe their creative processes online. This way, we stay safe and the prints – unscathed.
Last summer, upon resuming their visual communication online, the artists took a slighly different direction. Even though the basic principle and the location (Facebook platform) of their visual exchange remained the same, the topic itself became open to improvisation. There is no time, it disappears. Perhaps this was supposed to have happened because, two years ago, by immersing themselves so completely into the “Deeper than Midnight“ project, they deliberately got lost in time. Today these authors are even freer: no longer tied to a particular time of the day, although with the basic rhythm of the daily exchange intact. Each day either Remigijus or Benas upload a picture on Facebook and start a conversation about time. Meanwhile the other party prepares and uploads a visual response. The commenters are welcome to join in here too. Both texts or images are expected in the comments, although such contributions are sparce. Well, obviously, because #thereisnotime.
The pictures are taken with the same handy tool – mobile phone camera. Remigijus and Benas’ collaborative visual communication remains a ritual of the daily image gathering. Here they also find a place for their poetry to go with their midday and midnight revelations. The format of their interaction remained unchanged yet it got complemented with some additional meanings. Their exchanges still revolve around the everyday and its ever-present poetry, although this time the aspect of time itself really comes to the fore. They are now focusing on that which does not exist – i.e., the temporal differences themselves: how different conditions draw different experiences, and how we have different interpretations of the notion of time. What changes when nothing changes? After all, today, as we attend to the jobs that have piled up over the lockdown, a minute is still comprised of the same sixty seconds, just as it was before the quarantine. However, in Benas and Remigijus’ case, the notion of “there is no time“ implies much more than that. Sometimes the time goes in a familiar way – it disappears into work, daily chores, and the permanent chase and grind. In other cases the idea of a disappearing time acquires a literal meaning: as the fundamental non-existence of time. There is no time just as there is no present, past, nor future; we only have what is right in front of us.
It is difficult to tell what other far reaches of meaning and sense these authors will stumble upon in their future journeys. They prefer to remain spontaneous, free, and without a plan. Although still mutually interdependent, art and life are fused into a single whole and wrapped in an increasingly loftier sheets of time. They juggle the elements of this original formation until the physical and virtual boundaries as well as the conventional notions of time disappear completely.
The project “There Is No Time“ will go on until the end of this year. Starting with September, each month will be followed with a presentation of an individual part of the digital photo album with the photography of B. Šarka and R. Treigys, and the texts by D. Ruškienė (publisher: “Kūrėjų sąjunga“; images: Remigijus Treigys and Benas Šarka; texts: Danguolė Ruškienė; editor: Vladas Balsys). The project is sponsored by the Lithuanian Council for Culture.