Ph. D. Remigijus Venckus
media artist & critic
The Evolution of Male Nudes
I have been known as an artist who authored the first male nude photo exhibition ‘Between Us Males’ at the Photography Gallery in Panevėžys, opened in 2009. Although the conceptual text specifically raised the problem of a deromanticised or eliminated image of the male body in today’s cultural products rather than promoted a gay man’s body, the observer could see body images of homosexual males being shaped in lyrical aestheticized compositions specifically. One could gain sight of hidden references to homosexual love and intimate touch of the two sex partners concealed from a casual gaze. Numerous reflections in Lithuanian press not only demonstrated public outrage or admiration for the works but also opened up a number of ulcers in Lithuanian social discourse. The controversial exhibition was repeated in 2010 at Kelmė Regional Museum, and once again in the Panevžys photo gallery in 2017.
The art critic and curator Pawel Leszkowicz became interested in nude photography and invited me to take part in the international exhibition ARS Homo Erotica hosted by the National Museum in Warsaw (Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie) in 2010. My personal creative style was presented and considered at the evening of artistic creation review later held at the Museum. The video Love (2009, 00:05:23) drew much attention and received much applause. The exhibition curator noted the abundance of existential problems in photography and video art whereas attractive and erotic bodies were intentionally arranged in daily, figuratively unsightly, environment that was neither intended for nor typical of them. Homoeroticism highlights legal issues relevant to the naked male body in a homophobic culture. Here the body becomes a tool for both identifying visual lusts and the masculine form and questioning sexual identity and tolerance. Participation in the given events did not get a fair amount of media coverage in Lithuania probably because of the prevailing homophobic attitudes in the population of Lithuania.
In 2013, I presented my personal exhibition ‘I am Another’ („Aš esu kitas“) opened as part of The Baltic Pride for tolerance. Next year saw the exhibition ‘AnOther’ at the gallery of Maria Curie Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland. The last male nudes exhibition was delivered in 2017 at the Photography Gallery in Panevėžys.
Ph.D. Remigijus Venckus ‘Warning! Open Hole’ 2018
How to Understand Photography
The style of Remigijus Venckus’ photography is not easy recognisable but quite impressive. His each new collection gives more questions than answers; thus, criticism has become more complicated for many researchers and critics. Philosopher and a photography critic Jurgis Dieliautas (Šiauliai University, Lithuania), a friend of the artist, has been watching all the exhibitions of R. Venckus since the first biggest show in his hometown (2007). J. Dieliautas says that R. Venckus knows the history of media and successfully has been applying the methods of video art in photography. It can be seen especially in the exhibition ‘Amnesia film’ (2014), where the author has exposed a series of similar shots in one line, which produces an effect of quasi moving images.
The critic of photography, Assoc. Prof. Ph. D. Tomas Pabedinskas (Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania), is of a similar opinion as J. Dieliautas. He argues that the method of R. Venckus’ creation is a test of media adaptability, which shapes the main distinctive feature of the artist’s visual language (2012).
Ph. D. Remigijus Venckus ‘Intersecting Lines.Berlin’ 2015, no 31-2
However, J. Dieliautas has noticed that artist’s experiments have been getting much attention for a pure form all the time; he has not been seeking to create only beauty and glamours photos (2014). R. Venckus has mentioned in the press, that he was sick and tired of the amount of images, which are surrounding us throughout the mass media lately. In conclusion, the artist has created ‘A Blank Screen’ cycle (2014) and suggested that those images could be understood not only as an invitation to visual discussion about pure concepts and art forms, but also as a provocative question of human memory.
With reference to memory, art critic, collector, curator and publicist Ričardas Jakutis has noticed that memory is a most important subject to artists, but not all of them are ready to think deeply and admit it. He has mentioned that Venckus has been bringing back the phenomenon of memory into the arena of critical and visual thinking since his first experimental photo exhibition in 2013.
Male nudes is another very important topic in R. Venckus’ artistic activities. In 2009, after the first big exhibition of male nudes, Dovilė Vanagaitė (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan) drew attention to the fact that the photographer wanted to express social problems not focussing on the artistic composition or aesthetics in the works, thus provoking our liberal society with male nudity. The relations between the men in the images are an expression of libido, although it might have many other meanings. In the western culture, the male is active: he usually controls the woman and performs leading roles in society; however, nowadays, changes are being introduced. The male is depicted in a similar position to that of the female, which seems to be passive and losing his traditional manhood. The author is one of the first artists in Lithuania who presents the works of such content, he has started a long way towards understanding and a more open approach.
Ph. D. Remigijus Venckus ‘At the Grandmother’s Village’ 2013
R. Venckus is surprisingly open sincerely converting the complexity of artistic expression into the simplicity bordering on minimalism; wiping out the limits of artistic reflection in the post post-modern age of the XXI century.
Prof. Ph. D. Sabahudin Hadžialić
After D. Vanagaitė’s essay based on male nudes photography, R. Venckus was invited to take part in the international exhibition ‘Ars Homo Erotica’ in the National Museum of Poland in Warsaw (2010). The curator and critic Prof. Ph. D. Pawel Leszkowicz mentioned the reason why R. Venckus’ and other artists’ works had been included in the show: the aims of the exhibition was scholarly and educational – to examine the tendencies of queer art in the context of art history and of current politics and societies (2010).
Communication professor and famous Balkan poet Ph. D. Sabahudin Hadžialić has noticed that R. Venckus is surprisingly open sincerely converting the complexity of artistic expression into the simplicity bordering on minimalism; wiping out the limits of artistic reflection in the post post-modern age of the XXI century. But, as every art, through exploring the (un)known, sets some new boundaries of presentations that are yet to be discovered, the author’s game in art from the beginning to the end of human appearance is nothing but a simple representation of what is and what is not supposed to exist. His colours, within one and another form of presentation (the colour of diversity and / or black-white movement) are nothing more than the reality of the moment paused with the lens of the artist, which spreads satisfaction on us, observers (2017).
Ph. D. Remigijus Venckus ‘Warning Open Hole’ No 15, 2018
The art works of male nudes has been objectively criticised by the media artist Assoc. Prof Dr. Rimantas Plungė (Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania). He keeps watch of the retrospective of male nudes exhibitions, with photos presented within a period of the latest 15 years, R. Plungė noticed that young artists often have enough big power, but they lack experience and knowledge, they can’t understand and briefly explain what they are creating at present. The opposite situation is found among in the older generation of artists: they usually understand what they create, but they don’t have enough power to realise their ideas. Venckus’ case is totally different, he knows and understands what he is doing, besides, he still has huge power to create more images which could engage our gazes for a long time (2018).
The power in creation usually arises from the studies of culture and arts. Thus, Assoc. Prof. Ph. D. Agnieszka Zawadska (Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Poland) has drawn attention to the models’ poses: male nudes have been created in the same way as in classical western pictures, but the environment is not prepared for that kind of poses. It is a challenger for viewers who are trying to understand Venckus’ irony (2014). R. Venckus himself has mentioned for many times to the press that he is creating different rebuses, which is easier to guess with some dose of irony!
The critic of communication and creativity Jovilė Barevičiūtė (Vilnius Gediminas Technical University) mentioned that in the art of R. Venckus we can feel the rising traces of Being, where we can find the shades of irony, corporeality, lived-body and experiments in moral confrontation with sexuality and faith.
Replacing the Photo Documentary
Ph. D. Remigijus Venckus according to Zeno’s ‘A Friend is Another I’.
For the last few years, I have been thinking about a phenomenon of a human being, and I found the answer: being a human is finding yourself in social interaction all the time. Thus, the comparison of similarities and differences between you and your partner(s) can help us not only identify ourselves but also figure out something you haven’t noticed in yourself – ‘another I’.
The biggest philosophical questions of our civilisation are who I am and who is ‘another I’. From time to time, the question leads me beyond the stereotypes and induces me to come up with new photo or video ideas. Lastly, with the questions in mind, arises a scheme of personal thinking reflected in the following important stages: firstly, creation is another form of thinking; secondly, when I create, I think about myself first; thirdly, when I analyse myself through creation, I verify the social interaction between me and surrounding people(s).
However, my art has been tracing the relation(s) and relationship(s) between others and ‘another I’ in all of my artistic life. Thus, art signifies my different social roles which disclose not only human connections, but my complicated relationship(s) with ‘another I’ in the partner(s) becoming my friends.
In conclusion, with reference to my conception of a friend, the photo documentary helps me to be friendly with my ‘another I’ in another person to expand a circle of strangers I come across on the road of my life…