Much Ado About Noticing. Prussian Blue Exhibition Review

Published: 19.09.2022
Rosana Lukauskaite
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Photo by Ingrida Mockutė-Pocienė.
Photo by Ingrida Mockutė-Pocienė

© By the author. Read Copyright.

Once you get engulfed by the magic of rhombus, Prussian blue colour and brilliant green medicine, there’s no coming back. You will begin to see it everywhere. A simple explanation for that probably is frequency illusion, also known as the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon (a cognitive bias in which, after noticing something for the first time, there is a tendency to notice it more often). 
Lithuanian metal and jewellery artist Neringa Poškutė-Jukumienė herself has indulged in this innocent frequency bias in her newest solo exhibition Prussian Blue at the Palanga Amber Museum (department of The Lithuanian National Museum of Art).
Yayoi Kusama-like fixation with rhombi in Neringa’s oeuvre is a latest development, that grew out of observation about diamond shape and its role as an (overrated) status symbol. Adhering to the principles of site-specific art, Neringa transforms the chapel of the Palanga Amber Museum into one large rhombus, where a mosaic made of rhombi, inspired by sightseeing in Rome, is repeated as in a sacred circle. The centre of this memetic portal is a mirror – a filler material so necessary for the generation occupied not only with their appearance and self discoveries, but also never-ending speculations about one’s mere façade and its public perception. Because of simple physics one can only see mirror image of someone standing opposite of them. Does that implicate that other’s presence may mean your absence in the field of social stratification?

A good example showing how modern society deals with current events is the great memeification of queen Elizabeth’s death. Some ridiculing, others adoring, most just stating the fact. Although outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins couldn’t have predicted how viral his coined concept of meme would go, strangely enough religious imagery and memes have a lot in common. Differently than other Abrahamic religions, Christianity has not generally practised the avoidance or prohibition of types of images resulting in an active and rich tradition of making Christian themed artwork. But what becomes of the sacrality when it reveals itself in icons (itself a certain class of glorified memes), when it is multiplied in various media platforms? Does the suggestive poster of the Neringa’s exhibition, showing the artist dressed as a female pope, is a sacrilege or rather proof that the remains of the supreme power is still affecting us by the way of visual insinuation? Or does it vaporise itself in the image that, alone, does not pretend to belong to power structures – that you see is simply a female dressed in a white garb and wearing rhombus shaped paper hat? This is precisely the spirit of contemporary condition – now everyone can be a newscaster, conspiracy theorist, researcher, investigator or cult leader. There’s no one truth any more.

Image from the exhibition

Memes of crying Michael Jordan, disgruntled Kermit the Frog, Bernie Sanders with his famous mittens naturally replace the Holly Mary, Jesus on a cross and other iconic imagery thus uncovering the desacralised world we live in. It’s perfectly possible to communicate strictly through memes – the lingua franca of boomers, zoomers and everyone in between. The story created in Neringa’s quantum circle of rhombi can be read like bi discs (a type of circular ancient Chinese jade artefacts) if we keep in mind that from a further perspective of time and space, the accidental invention of Prussian blue colour around 1704 and the memes of 2022 will look like artefacts of the same era. A total illustrative universe – ceaseless circulation of decisions, interpretations, associations, symbols, riddles. These cultural objects trying to outlive each other, transmit and retain information are immortalised in the epoxy resin as insects in the tree resin millions of years ago. Organised savagery is tamed by objects from the artist’s personal life: son’s doodles found trinkets and dead flies from the studio.

The broken crucifix appears on one of the rhombus – a little nod to the series “Corpus” by Ruudt Peters, a pioneering Dutch jewellery artist, who challenged traditional definitions of jewellery by pushing the boundaries of context, wearability, materials and presentation. These challenges seem to still haunt the field of contemporary jewellery. In recent years, the presentation of jewellery has become even more important than before, and this leads to an abundance of not only installations but also small interventions that transform conventional gallery spaces into specially adapted environments. Jewellers have successfully used installations to communicate their jewellery narratives. However, in Neringa’s case, her conscious moving away from jewellery and initiation to installation and video art creates a strange contradiction – jewellery art followers no longer know how to treat her art, while artists from other fields of visual art still look at her latest works with scepticism. Courage to create monumental jewellery installations and have larger-than-life promotional material shows that the artist has already outgrown the small scale and modest position imposed on jewellers in the field of visual art.

Image from the exhibition

So it’s no surprise that Neringa was one of few artists from Baltic states participating in ‘SMCK On Reel’, the first international video festival inspired by jewellery and wearable art. In the exhibition “Prussian Blue” her video pieces ‘Brilliant Green Jewellery’ and ‘Stigma’ explores semantic and physical qualities of the compound known as the Brilliant green (so-called zelyonka), a well-known antiseptic used to treat acute viral illnesses and rashes. In the contemporary world, especially in Slavic countries, brilliant green is used for attacks on political opponents, musicians, and journalists – that is, against people whose opinions do not align with those who are in power. These attacks are revealing because they signal the status loss and impotence: political opposition, the ‘Left’, critical discourse, etc. – so compulsory in the West, is incapable to break the vicious circle of the non-existence of democracy. Power is inherited like regalia, like memes of zelyonka attacks, like common hand signs and actual sign language, like green painted jewellery on wrists and fingers. Criticism and (controlled) opposition still create an illusion of the reality of power. Artist asks if these attacks are still the signs of the insurmountable legacy of post-soviet barbarism or the signs of a new non-aggressive albeit immature tactics of political discourse. Perhaps it’s both.
This exhibition opens up new spaces for jewellery and offers limitless contextual possibilities. Religious icons get a second life incarnated as memes in a theology of visuals when suddenly arisen associations demand the reaction of the public. Emulations, remixes, and further cultural iterations aid in diversifying the manifestations and the purpose of contemporary jewellery. Luckily, Neringa doesn’t have a hard time dealing with her newfound creative freedom, which allows her to push beyond the usual boundaries of jewellery.
 Is the ace of diamonds too sharp or the game with rhombi darts too dangerous? Maybe the new unlocked fear of committing a social faux pas and yourself becoming a meme is much too powerful to be ignored? It’s never too late to repent, it’s never too late to pray to the saints of cyberspace or simply withdraw from this insular Internet culture that has many intellectual traps. Cancel it before the Internet’s outrage machine cancels you. Memes are not always just harmless entertainment – this digital folklore can violate copyright laws, be a tool for malicious propaganda and even destroy the memefied person’s life. Nothing is black or white – occasionally it’s Prussian blue.
The exhibition Prussian Blue by Neringa Poškutė-Jukumienė is on at the Palanga Amber Museum until 16 April 2023.

About the author

Rosana Lukauskaitė
holds an MA degree in Literature and is a Lithuania-based art critic and published author, writing both in Lithuanian and English. She has written around a hundred articles and reviews about visual and stage arts. Her research interests include analyses of media, contemporary culture, artificial intelligence involvement in art, critique on consumerism, the dichotomy of elite culture versus pop culture, as well as the nooks and crannies of postmodern culture in general.


Image from the exhibition.
Image from the exhibition

© By the author. Read Copyright.
Image from the exhibition.
Image from the exhibition

© By the author. Read Copyright.