I wasn’t able to meet with Evaldas Jansas when in Vilnius, however I watched a number of his video performances, recordings of performances, and films at the Centre for Contemporary Art. I was really disappointed not to be able to meet the artist, because I was struck by the sincerity and depth of his work, and the very visceral manner in which he engages his body in his performances. For example, in an untitled performance from 1997, he subjected himself to being tarred and feather – although in place of tar, honey was used. The artist was stripped by his friends, had his mouth taped up, following which he was covered in honey and feathers. In In my Own Juice (1998), the artist draws blood from his own arm and transfers it to himself by then sticking the needle in his butt. A film/video performance, The Way Home from 2000, documents the artist on a night out drinking at the pub, and the journey home in his inebriated state. The point of view of the camera is from the artist’s body, and so the film provides the viewer with the experience of a wobbly and chaotic night of revelry. Finally, in Short Anthology of Meaningfulness (2003) the artist, with his foot tied to the floor, continually tries to run away, his body snapped back by the rope when he reaches its end.
In his films, he explores a variety of issues, often involving people on the margins. For example, in Prick (2001), he examines the everyday life of drug addicts, featuring interviews with them about their lives and their habit. And in Personal Code (2000) he probes an idiosyncrasy in Lithuanian law. A recently enacted law means that in order for a child to leave the country, they need to have permission of both parents, even if one parent is absent, for example, through divorce or abandonment. While the law was created to eliminate child abductions, it creates difficulties for single parents, especially single mothrs. Some have found ways around the law, for example, unmarried women will bring men in off of the street to sign the papers. Another option is for the father to renounce the child. Evaldas unabashedly draws attention to the absurdity of these laws by filming the interaction between a government official and a woman trying to take her child abroad on a trip. Finally, in Apology, the artist records an event when a convicted criminal goes to a ministry office to apologize for his crime, which enables the punishment to be annulled, if the victim agrees to officially forgive him.
As an artist who seems to feel himself on the edge of society, his work captures this sentiment, both in himself and in others, and brings the attention of society to those on the margins. It is the brutally honest and sensitive manner in which he frames both himself and his subjects that makes for very powerful and moving works of art.