“Vodka is a volatile sperm of a nation. It is a shock, an aggression, an epileptic attack, a blow below the belt. Vodka culture is the culture of spasm and hysteria. It is happiness through nausea and disgust. No one in his right mind can claim that vodka is tasty. This is why it is gulped, not sipped. It is only the uncultured West Europeans who sip vodka, which shows their lack of understanding of vodka culture.”
Igor Pomerantsev (quoted in Borders Up!by Vitali Vitaliev,1999)
Klaipeda Art Exhibition Hall is pleased to present the first ever exhibition by the internationally recognised Australian artist Danius Kesminas in Lithuania.
Kesminas’ exhibition, Vodka Sans Fronti-res, derives from the recent discoveries of illegal underground pipelines pumping vodka into Lithuania. There have been no less than 6 such vodka pipelines uncovered and, in the brief period since Lithuania’s admission to the European Union, the phenomenon has escalated. The most recent discovery took place in April this year when a 150 metre–long pipe running under a river and across the border between Belarus and Lithuania was uncovered in the town of Ei<i<k>s before the “aqua vitae” began flowing. There have been numerous such reports by reputable news agencies like this one by Reuters (10 December 2004):
“Lithuanian border guards have unearthed a three kilometre pipeline for smuggling in moonshine liquor from neighbouring Belarus. The thin plastic pipeline, buried a few centimetres underground, ran under several roads, along a riverbed and ended next to the home of a Lithuanian citizen. There was no news of any arrests. Moonshine vodka from Belarus is sold on the black market in Lithuania, undercutting prices of legitimate
alcohol that have risen sharply since the Baltic nation joined the EU in May.”
The centerpiece of Kesminas’ exhibition is a “vodka pipeline organ”. Made from plastic sewerage pipes, the organ resembles the Lithuanian folk instrument, skudu*iai, but is monumentalised and mechanised in the Soviet manner. This automated PVC pipe organ has fallen “off the (distillation process) wagon”; the end product is not the liquid hard–currency of vodka, but music. Air is pumped into the pipes by a revolving barrel, which regulates the valves of the organ to play a traditional Lithuanian drinking song, Gerkit Gerkit, Broliukai (Drink Brothers, Drink); proffering the hair of the dog for a post–communist hangover.
Demonstrating that vodka does not recognise political borders, Kesminas has produced a detailed “Dipsomanic” map of Lithuania and the surrounding regions of Belarus, Russia, Poland and Latvia, disclosing the location of the vodka pipeline network, the regions of distribution, the converted clandestine distilleries and the buildings that receive and distribute the contraband.
In association with the London–based architectural–visualisation studio HayesDavidson, Kesminas has prepared a photo–documentary suite of vodka pipeline situations. These 23 photographs reveal the illegal pipelines–to–oblivion in diverse Lithuanian locations.
The exhibition also addresses the periods of alcohol prohibition in Lithuania. Kesminas will show paintings based on posters from the 1930’s promoting abstinence and a bust of the Lithuanian “teetotalitarian” bishop, Motiejus Valan*ius (1801–1875).
Danius Kesminas is well known to audiences in Klaipeda where he has performed with his band The Histrionics and presented a solo concert at the Tabako Fabrikas. In 2004, with the collective Slave Pianos, he presented the opera, Two Lives in Flux – and Vice Versa based on the correspondence between George Ma*i#nas and Vytautas Landsbergis (who performed the piano in the work) at the National Drama Theatre, Vilnius.
Kesminas has regularly exhibited and performed concerts throughout Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Holland, Denmark, France, Spain, UK, Russia, Czech Republic, USA, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia.
Vodka Sans Fronti-res has been realised with the collaborative assistance of Dave Nelson, Fiona Whitworth (HayesDavidson), Marcus Fajl, Tina Atic, Greg Richards, Nick Girling, Darius Vai*ekauskas and Antanas Kesminas. An essay by Start Koop accompanies the exhibition.
This exhibition was made possible with the generous support of The Australian Lithuanian Foundation (ALF).
Danius Kesminas is represented by Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney, Australia.
For further information please contact Darius Vai*ekauskas at
Klaipeda Art Exhibition Hall
Auketoji g.3, LT–91007 Klaie>da
Tel: +(370) 46 314446, +(370) 615 49470
Gallery hours: Wednesday to Sunday 11.00–19.00
Bootlegged vodka will be served at the opening
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