esmaspäev, juuli 02, 2012

AB cubed presents: Šelda Puķīte x Andrus Lauringson

Andrus Lauringson Happiness 2009 (website of Andrus Lauringson)


Before I start my essay about why Andrus Lauringson`s work caught my eye and mind, I must tell a short story. Approximately one year ago I had to interview Latvian artist Evelīna Deičmane1 about her exhibition Burt Nieks which was held from June 17th to July 10th in the international artists residence Künstlerhaus Bethanien exhibition hall in Berlin.2 The exhibition was just freshly opened but I had no opportunity to visit it. So, the questions about the exhibition were built on a few comments, sketches and photographs that for that time was something totally new for me. So now, after a year has past, I'm back in this situation. The story must be created from sketches, photo fixations, resources from internet and comments given by the curator and the artist. I still wonder whether such a review type is similar to archeology, a peculiar form of information collage or necessary interpretation of the game watcher from great distance.

Andrus Lauringson (1978) caught my attention with his peculiar humor and socially critical look at things, places and people. He has a good ability to combine and organize ideas and themes with the help of daily and cultural signs. Also I must say that I have always believed that artists who have studied different kind of fields, thanks to the interdisciplinary nature of the experience, can create both formally and substantively more interesting works than those who concentrate on one thing. Andrus Lauringson in this case is a prime example. He has studied psychology at the University of Tartu, media arts and graphic design at Tartu Art College and interdisciplinary art at Estonian Academy of Arts. I must say that Lauringson`s name was not totally unknown to me, because he has participated in the group exhibition Bad Joke #2 at the Riga Art Space curated by Johannes Saar in 2008. It was the same year when Jaan Toomik had a big solo show Invisible Pearls (16.05-15.06.2008) in the same exhibition hall. Lauringson also participated in a group exhibition Sculpture and Palimpsest curated by Kirke Kangro at NABAKLAB, Riga. So in a way we have met before.

Exhibition poster for Sculpture and Palimpsest (Nabaklab)


New media, using video, sound installation and everyday objects, dominates in Laurigson`s works. The artist also uses installation and witty collages, which have a lot of characters from the era of postmodernism and prove its vitality and continuity in the 21st century. The artist acknowledges the fact, that he is still looking for one style or theme to which he could linger longer, but I will try to draw the outlines of Laurigson`s art anyway. As I have seen only two exhibitions with his works I chose to analyze only specific works out of exhibition context.

Lauringson undeniably has a sense of humor which can be felt both in his works and in communicating with people. Maybe it is better to interpret this humor as light irony, games which at the same time expose the dark sides of reality. The artist describes one or another of the following choices of subject matter as the itch. Mentally it's like having the pleasure of scratching where it itches (instead of still scratching when the itch is long gone or just randomly scratching, hoping to meet an itch). The "itch" for me can be something that I read, hear or see, that gets stuck in the back of my mind.3 That's exactly how the work Casino (video, 2006)4 was born. In the video we can see the sign of the gambling house with the title “Casino”. The title is pronounced with a record of two children's voices, thus pointing to the dangers of addiction that threatens not only us but also the future generations. Lauringson uses the visual language of advertising, giving the pretty light object its real, unmasking meaning. Using the text is nothing new in the art scene. It comes from the era of conceptualists, for example Bruce Nauman`s shiny inscriptions, and maybe even earlier, but Andrus`s game with child voices makes the effect. The work was shown at the exhibition New Wave at Tallinn Art Hall in the year 2007.

Andrus Lauringson Reply / Replay 2008 (website of Andrus Lauringson)

In the interactive sound installation Reply / Replay (2008) the potential viewer / listener / participant of the art work is involved against his will. The artist has installed recording and the speaker system in some house to record the street noise and talks of the humans passing by. With the delay from one to two seconds from the original noise, the recorded material repeats with the help of the loudspeaker. I think that this is the work in which the artist`s interest towards environment and people around him shows the most. Just like in the work Casino, Lauringson makes the art piece an instrument to get observers` attention and reassess daily routine, habits, living system. Reaction is probably the goal of this playful campaign, reaction formation to something as mundane as street noise.

While still lingering on the topic of irony I want to invoke two other Andrus Lauringson`s works - Mud Spa (2009), which was exhibited during the summer art festival Pig's Skin in Haapsalu, and Happiness (2009). Mud Spa is an installation made of a massage table on which you can find mud and in the mud instruments of non-traditional medicine. In this ingenious way mud turns from the medicament to the curable object. Another work with the change of the roles. The inspiration for this work was due to large amount of mud spas in Haapsalu. Question is how healthy this mud really is and what does it actually present?

Andrus Lauringson Happiness 2009 (website of Andrus Lauringson)

The game elements of everyday objects is also present in the collage series entitled Happiness. The artist takes pictures from magazines with some kind of sportsmen and just like a naughty child, joins them together with everyday objects transforming them into funny mutants. This work certainly raises associations with Salvador Dali`s mustache to the Mona Lisa lip, or other artistic activities that transform or spoil the creation of other persons to deny standards or stereotypes. Maybe from the historical point of view dadaist school can also be pointed out here. In this particular case one of the young Latvian artists Kristiāns Brekte come to my mind with his exhibition Trophies at Riga Art Space. Some of his works were created like self made comics made up of collages of run over frogs.5 Of course Andrus Lauringson forms his messages with much gentler materials.


Andrus Lauringson is not just a joker. Each of the composed collage, put together installation or mounted video is designed to establish a system of signs for the sake of the particular message. Each of the selected items, places, sounds and, possibly, even colors has a certain place and role in building the story. Operating in such manner, of course, one of the most rewarding source material will be everyday objects as they are coded in advance to create the impression, which can then be reconstructed or let to grow, creating new connotations.

For example, in the work Capascope (2007)6, which was displayed at the Tartu Art College and Tartu University Painting Department graduation show Crocodile Ate Bear's Honey, at Tartu Art Museum, the artist uses one of the Spanish Civil War symbols, Robert Capa's Falling Soldier (1936) in his interactive installation. This is not about the photo as a strong, dramatic documental evidence, but rather as a possible falsification. See, since 1970s, various experts expressed doubts about the photo`s documentary nature, any more than the visible soldier`s identity. The artist, instead of using the symbol, uses the question of its reconstruction.

Andrus Lauringson Procession 2010 (Artishok)

The work Procession (2010), which was shown at the exhibition The Revenge at Tallinn Art Hall, the meanings` change is more evident, without requiring specific knowledge. The artist shows a procession with people dressed in Estonian folk costumes. The shift is in the fact that all the people in the video are black. This gives a whole new meaning to the national parade. The question is about the itch (using the artist`s vocabulary). This deconstruction of the typically Estonian can point to the conflict of races and nationalities, maybe immigration issues, or thoughts about the existence of the nation. Interesting how many interpretations this work can create while at the same time it can just be a joke.


Lauringson is keen on such artists as Santiago Sierra, Maurizio Cattelan and Aram Bartholl who are all related to him with the interest in the everyday life, different mass culture aspects and creating witty solutions with just the right amount of criticism.

The artist in his answer to the question about his future plans says that maybe he’ll make a full return to psychology and open a therapy based on his artistic practice and maybe he'll call it scratch-therapy. Or Itchy & Scratchy.

Šelda Puķīte is an art critic and freelance curator based in Riga. She defended her MA degree in art and cultural history at the Art Academy of Latvia, analyzing the plastic language in Latvian painting of the Soviet period.

AB cubed is a preparatory essay series for the III Artishok Biennale where X young Baltic and Scandinavian writers have chosen for their gesture of courtesy X young Estonian artists who have caught their eye with a witty personal exhibition or an absorbing work of art in a group show in recent years. Artishok tests experimetal editorial practice and self-inititative readiness in the art field with the series, giving writers the opportunity to take the initiative - but also the responsibility - and do one chosen artist a favour. The writers do not receive honorary for their work whereas the suggested artists automatically get an invitation for participation in Artishok Biennale in the autumn. Read more...

1 Evelīna Deičmane (1978) - Evelīna Deičmane graduated from the Latvian Art Academy's Department of Visual Communications in 2007. She has taken part in several notable international art exhibitions, such as the 15th Sydney Biennial (2006), the 2nd Moscow Biennial (2007), Manifesta 7 (2008) and the 12th Cairo Biennial (2010). Together with the artist Miks Mitrēvics, she represented Latvia's pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennial in 2009. More:
2 More:
3 Quote from the correspondence between the author of this text and Andrus Lauringson

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