Like water, it splashes everywhere

Weronika Trojanska


To introduce The Deep Splash (an internet art platform initiated a few years ago by Justė Kostikovaitė and Johnston Sheard), it is easier to speak of it in terms of what it is not. It is nothing like an online exhibition, a curatorial project, a website with artists’ videos, a network of Lithuanian cultural émigrés, a database of artists’ interviews, or an internet art channel. What is it then? The Deep Splash – refusing to be pigeonholed within a common understanding of digital art projects – is all these things at once, and maybe even more.

Initially, it was planned as a platform with artists’ interviews, somewhat of “a mixture between NOWNESS and TateShots”, presenting various ideas and motivations of Lithuanian artists living abroad. “I wanted to capture how they feel there,” says curator and cultural manager Justė Kostikovaitė, but “it’s not easy to make an interesting interview, especially with visual artists; not all of them like to speak (…) and I couldn’t really afford to travel with the project,” she adds. Rather quickly and naturally, it “became a different thing”. “There is an agency behind it, but on the other hand, all the videos are not connected. They are more like a constellation,” explains curator Monika Lipšic, who has also joined The Deep Splash team. 

By now, has assembled more than thirty various video entries by (and about) Lithuanian émigré artists (such as Emilija Škarnulytė, Eglė Budvytytė, Lukas Brašiškis, Jonas Lozoraitis, and Daiva Tubutytė, to mention just a few) and “their friends” (for instance, Jenifer Teets, an American curator, writer and performer based in Paris who has been to Lithuania many times). 

The platform aims to capture and document ambitious, daring and relevant contemporary artistic expressions that are in line with both current global critical thought and the economy that we live in. But at the same time, we are very conscious that nationalistic identity is kind of a hard subject,” says Lipšic. Pointedly, one of the recently updated videos, The Nation State is an Outdated Concept, with cultural historian and cultural sociologist Eglė Rindzevičiūtė, addresses exactly what its title says – it covers how we have all been seduced by the unsound idea of a nation being our most natural habitat.

For those who have at least a brief understanding of the Vilnius or Lithuanian art scenes, The Deep Splash offers interesting material as it travels through the many different stories of people who are not directly associated with each other. Some of the works are a collaboration with Johnston Sheard (known as Sandi Sirocco), who made most of the films (e.g., the ones featuring Vytautas Jurevicius, Jonas Mekas, and Robertas Narkus). The selection of the artists is fluid. The main criterion seems to be “an interesting personality, interesting path, or interesting approach”, explains Kostikovaitė. Not all of them are well known, “so it kind of harks back to Lithuania, but it works in a different way since the subjects are living abroad,” she adds.

If one were forced to place The Deep Splash within a category, “archive” would be the most appropriate. It’s a collection of diverse, contemporary voices of Lithuanian artists, with a content that can be shifted and consumed in many ways; it consists of both a curated selection and things that have organically accumulated over time. The only apparent structure seems to be the main webpage’s visual grid of rectangular tiles with videos and lines between them.

“There are so many creative ideas and people who cannot be simply captured in the format of a video. Things fall and you can reach them, but not through the medium of a website, and not through the medium of video,” says Monika Lipšic, who last year was invited to curate The Deep Splash show at the National Library of Martynas Mažvydas in Vilnius. The exhibition-constellation Dausuva (inspired by Kazys Pakštas concept of Reserved Lithuania) included everyone who had by that time appeared on, as well as additional artist who presented physical works and their own reflections on the quasi-migratory aspects of artists and artist colonies. 

Both The Deep Splash and the exhibition touch upon the subject of migration within the Lithuanian art scene. “I think that Lithuanian artists, and the Lithuanian people in general, like to go abroad to see things; they’re kind of suffocated by their own surroundings, so they need to go out in order to come back,” says Justė Kostikovaitė. Although Lithuania is not a big country and has an equivalently small art scene, percentage-wise, the number of artists emigrating from Lithuania to other places (usually Norway, the Netherlands or the United Kingdom) is much higher than in other Baltic or Eastern European countries. “Proportionally, we are more active in going abroad to study or to just spend some time away from home. Maybe that’s why I thought that it would be a good idea to document this phenomenon,” adds Kostikovaitė. 

Nowadays an online platform seems to be naturally the best way to document the transient nature of contemporary migration. Content put on the internet can circulate freely and it is accessible by everyone at any time, all around the world; on the other hand, the amount of information out there is very much at the point of over-saturation, so the decision to add more has to be done very deliberately. “Some videos should be made into smaller snippets (…)”, points out Justė Kostikovaitė, because “the average attention span is not even one second. And you just scroll over everything. You just scroll endlessly. The key is to get into this scroll. The key is to be in this sea of scrolls.” 

Despite this apprehension, The Deep Splash is successfully growing and there are plans to expand the creative team and broaden its artistic perspectives (including the organization of an artists residency this summer). “I think that right now is the most interesting moment for the archive of The Deep Splash. It has started to accumulate, and it gives a really nice and, at the same time, a very distorted perspective of who the Lithuanian (or any other culture’s) émigré is,” says Lipšic. “I would like to see The Deep Splash as an outgrowth – something that affects you or something that is very abstract feeling, but at the same time, does have its own marketing value.”