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Lukashenko On Water (A Project by Redas Dirzhys)
Журнал Umělec
Год 1999, 2
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Lukashenko On Water (A Project by Redas Dirzhys)

Umělec 1999/2

01.02.1999

Umělec | project | en cs

During last year’s River and Communication project, Redas Dirzhys launched a gigantic portrait of the Byelorussian president Alexander Lukashenko into water of the Nemunas river near the Lithuanian city of Alytus. The size of the portrait reached 250 sq. meters and for this reason, it had to be first constructed on a bridge above water and then slowly launched into the river. A portrait of Lukashenko was not chosen by accident as he is a well-known media personage and a leader of an almost totalitarian country in Europe. As such he plays a very particular role in current media environment.
Originally, the portrait made of bamboo sticks was supposed to flow in water and slowly gradually dissolve to small parts. An accident, however, thwarted Dirzhys’ plans and the entire construction of the portrait collapsed into water while being launched from the bridge, taking with it one of his assistants helping with the project.
The accident gave the entire project a new dimension and later accelerated the debate it had provoked at the beginning. While the first day of the River and Communication project was quite well attended, the day after Dirzhys’ accident only artist and their assistants were participating. A viewer who recorded the previous day’s accident on his camera was immediately addressed by local newspaper which devoted eight pages to the report on the project plus many photographs. The entire event even made it to the pages of national dailies thanks to the accident.
It was very interesting to compare how the incident was reported by local and national media. Regional press considered the accident a main event of the previous day, running photographs of the wounded assistant and disappointed Dirzhys on cover pages. National press, on the other hand, were satisfied with brief information on crime pages. There occurred even some amusing coincidences as one national daily paper reported of the project on its regional pages but information about the accident was placed on its crime pages without any link to the other story.
In any case, the entire country was fully informed of the project, however unsuccessful it turned out to be, only thanks to its sensational meaning. In fact, more people have been informed about this event than is the case of any other cultural projects.
This case then shows how a certain type of negation of art, or virtual art if you will, may work, what strength mere imagination may hold (such experiments have already occurred - e.g. description of a painting that does not exist in real). Perhaps the unrealized Lukashenko had much more impact as political art than as an esthetic portrait flowing on the water. Maybe it did not occur to Dirzhys himself how much stronger work he may have created by having the dictator collapse. But maybe he will never tell us into what extend it was speculation or an accident.




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