Artist duo Pakui Hardware discuss working together, their new favorite material, and their deep interest in bodies.
Pakui Hardware is the name coined by curator Alex Ross for the collaborative artist duo Neringa Cerniauskaite and Ugnius Gelguda. The two Lithuanian artists have been exploring the relationship between materiality, technology and economy since 2014. Their solo show The Return of Sweetness is the inaugural exhibition of the new EXILE space in Vienna and on view until November 3rd. PW-Magazine met with the artists to discuss what it’s like to work as a duo, what materials they’re currently mesmerized by and their deep interest in bodies. An Interview by Marie-Claire Gagnon.
You’ve been working as an artist duo since 2014. Can you briefly describe how the idea for this collaboration began? I also wonder about what it’s like to work as a duo. What are some of the advantages or maybe even disadvantages you’ve been experiencing over the past 4 years?
In 2014 our collaboration gained its current name – Pakui Hardware. Yet it began much earlier, just in different media and aesthetics. None of us noticed how mutual exchange became what one calls collaboration. None of us thought the constant sharing of ideas, visions, jokes and links would bring us into where we are now. It is still so organic to work together, to build things together and to wake the other person while on a plane to feverishly explain a new idea that came into one of our minds. Now it is difficult to imagine working individually. The biggest advantage of working together, besides packing of course, is the luxury of testing your ideas and visions on another brain. It might be painful sometimes to throw away, leave behind some new proposals, but it’s essential to trust each other to do that. And we do.
What are some of the most important influences and mindsets you both share?
It might sound unexpected, but actually our biggest influences are older generation artists, filmmakers and writers. We’re just in love with the works of Alina Szapocznikow, Eva Hesse, Anu Põder, Renate Bertlmann and many others. We truly appreciate this merge of anthropomorphism of formlessness, softness, the combination of organic and artificial materials, hints to something recognizable in abstract forms that create a sense of uncanny. That is something we always strive for, yet employing contemporary materials and aesthetics, of course.
Your works are made of the most curious materials, from glass to saliva and chia seeds. Which materials do you currently enjoy working with the most and why? Are there any materials that you would like to work with more in the future?
Glass was probably the most curious discovery for us this year, it’s incredible how elastic and yet stubborn this material is! Naturally, we cannot have the equipment to blow glass in our tiny studio and we don’t have the skills to touch the flowing hot mass of glass, therefore we work together with glass blowers in Berlin in materializing the sketches we bring in. Sometimes the forms we’ve imagined push the material and its usual technology to its limits, but that makes it even more exciting. The interest in glass derived from looking at various glass models in natural history and medicine museums, where organs, plants and fauna are presented as crafty made, beautiful glass pieces. As our current interest gravitates around contemporary medicine, glass became the perfectly fitting material to work with. Of course, the glass pieces are only one element in the overall installation, the bodies or organisms we create by combining textile, PVC, latex, silicone, and the chia seeds that you have mentioned.
After your solo show Vanilla Eyes at mumok in 2016, you have now returned to Vienna for a new exhibition at the recently re-located EXILE gallery. The show at mumok was one of your first shows at a major institution and you’ve been exhibiting at both commercial and non-commercial spaces ever since. When you work on a new piece, do you think about the gallery visitors or the accessibility of your work?
There is a big difference between showing in a museum and a gallery. At least there should be, as gallery shows are often expected to be more product based, easier to commodify. However, we were lucky enough to show in galleries that encourage free experimentation or installational settings, making it virtually impossible to sell anything. But we mostly treat galleries, project spaces and museums in a similar manner. For us, it is most important to create certain kind of environments, situations, ecosystems rather than a group of individual pieces. Precisely because of this way of working, we believe our exhibitions might not be the easiest to digest or comprehend - if there is such thing as full comprehension of artworks - but at least the viewers might get a certain sense of what kind of environment they’re entering, how the combination of materials is performing and how each element in the installation is relating to an overall structure. Often this sense is uncanny, something between an allure and a revolt, at least we hope it is.
I saw your Creatures of Habit installation at the Artissima Fair in Turin last year where you were very interested in packaging. In The Return of Sweetness you focus more on showing the inside of things, on »exposed externalized organisms«. How come?
Actually, Creatures of Habit was equally about the bodies wrapped in uniforms as about the uniforms themselves. Therefore, in The Return of Sweetness this interest in bodies not only remains, but literally gets deeper – into the guts. We tried to track how a metabolism, which has previously existed on its own in terms of velocity and efficiency, is being monitored and controlled from the outside. One is constantly pushed to boost ones metabolism, yet at the same time we live in the great nutritional decline where even fruits and vegetables don’t contain necessary vitamins for healthy living. Not to mention the economic divide which allows only a fraction of society to afford organic foods and a healthy lifestyle. We looked how bariatric surgery basically sculpts the human stomach, squeezes it, folds it, removes parts of it. Thus we tried to expose this invasive relationship with organisms, showing its post-natural state in which every molecule is wired for efficiency or is abandoned. Our upcoming show Extrakorporal at Bielefelder Kunstverein takes this interest even further or outward – it looks at how tissues and organs are grown outside the bodies themselves and how humans are trying to hack what jelly fishes are capable of without any effort: self-rejuvenation.
In our last conversation in 2017 you stated that »One cannot simply rely on technology to solve complex social issues; it is first of all a matter of politics.« Would you categorize your works as political?
We strongly believe art does not have to be about politics to be political. In a conversation between writers George Sounders and David Sedaris, Sounders says that the less thematic or philosophical the core of the work is, the better. As soon as you know what the work means, what its moral is, it becomes preaching. And, as Sounders says, »Part of the artistic contract is: no preaching«. Albeit, it is a conversation between two writers, the same contract can be applied to art.