Agne Bekeraityte / Stand as freedom is standing
June 2016 Interviewed by Christiane Monarchi
Agne Bekeraityte (b.1993 Marijampole, Lithuania) is a London based artist using photography. Bekeraityte received her BA Photography from the University of the Creative Arts in 2015, where her final project was awarded a Photomonitor commendation.
Bekeraityte is a constructed image maker who tells the story through her subject, and in a constructed space. She has worked with Lithuania’s recent history, in particular the resistance to occupants of her homeland. The work discussed in this feature, “Stovėk kaip stovi laisvė” (“Stand as freedom is standing”) presents her tribute to those people who fought for cultural and political independence; in this series she has created an abstract interpretation of individuals being trapped within political and cultural repressions, but silently fighting for today’s freedom. Below, Christiane Monarchi asked Bekeraityte more about the background to this project.
CM: I’m interested in your referencing the recent history of your home country Lithuania, in creating sets and mood to convey narrative in your image. What was your starting point for considering the type of visual imagery you wanted to construct in ‘Stand as Freedom is Standing’
AB: I was always intrigued by the way an artist manages to express their thoughts and ideas through minimal representation. While covering quite a sensitive topic I wanted to take that minimal presentation idea and own it in my way. With this project I am not talking about one event specifically, I wanted to create something completely free from real references or hints to the viewer. I wanted to create spaces that translate my ideas through light and shape but not through real objects or something that would tell you the story straight away.
Construction showcases the closure, the struggle and emptiness. It presents the subject being lost within the situation, in this case lost within historical circumstances. How does it make you feel when you stand in a dark, concrete, surrounded space? I want my audience to explore my imagery and question it. Why is there this construction? Why is the subject trapped?
CM: Could you tell me more about the physical sets, and what it means for the models to interact in the space? One could read them being trapped, or even being buried, but also very alone.
AB: My created spaces are the abstract representation of both physical and emotional traps. Sometimes being held from your own history and culture is harder than being stuck in a physical trap. My use of physical sets is my visual translation of country, its culture and any individual being stuck within historical circumstances. My subject is anyone who stood in that situation, anyone who felt trapped not just physically but also emotionally. Sets and the structured light closes the person within the space, which makes the viewer aware of an unpleasant situation. The subject is lost within the structures. The individual is alone, as we all are. We are alone to stand for our decisions, for the way we are. Yes, individuals do come together in order to achieve goals. Nevertheless, everything starts with one individual.
CM: Looking to the historical narrative of this series, could you tell me a little bit more about what the title means to you?
AB: “Stand as freedom is standing” (lith. Stovek kaip stove laisve) is a Lithuanian freedom song. It was originally a poem written by Lithuanian patriot and poet Justinas Marcinkevicius. It is a song that comes after our national anthem. It is the song that crowds were singing 25 years ago while standing in front of soviet tanks (January events). It is the symbol of freedom and a united nation. Every single Lithuanian will understand my project highlights as soon as they read the title. It is a song we all know by heart, it is something we would sing at school, something we would use as a synonym of our fight for independence.
CM: In staging the models, it seems as if the faces may be purposefully obscured, to focus instead on the body, and recalls documenting a performance. How do you guide the models physically to enact the composition?
AB: The model is not placed within the centre of compositions, as he is supposed to be just a part of the construction, a little part of the whole history, he is lost within construction and the negative space. The identity of models is purposely obscure. There is no specific event or one person I’m trying to present within my project. I am talking about a tribute to everyone who participated on our way to independence. I had several models working with me for this project. Every one of them was introduced with my story and my historical background. I asked them to interpret it, show me a trapped subject; I asked to engage with the physical set, to visualise a physical and emotional fight against the system.
CM: Do you think you will explore your personal and national history again in future projects? What are you currently working on ?
AB: I am a proud Lithuanian who always talks loud about my nation’s history. I want to talk about it, I want to showcase my little but brave country for its history and be one of those who create its future. At the moment I am actually researching for my new project which is contextually related to “Stand as freedom is standing”. Looking back to my history, talking with Lithuanian youth, trying to identify my generation, finding locations and spaces that highlight the uniqueness of my country. In addition, this project is going to cover an even wider topic, we are looking to talk not just about my country but also about Latvia, the Baltic sister. It is a collaboration between me and my friend, Latvian artist, Elvija Vitola. I hope to be able to tell you more about this project in near future.
CM: Thank you Agne and we look forward to following your projects with interest.