Paulina Pukytė you have played or will play another note of the anthem | 2020

Site-specific intervention, Soviet-period iron window grill from The Riga Psychiatry and Narcology Center Museum, all notes of the Soviet Latvian anthem played separately in the right order, text on the wall
Audio guide to this piece

The iron grill acts as a gate for entering/exiting the exhibition space. By opening the gate a visitor plays a note of an anthem. The next time the gate is opened, the next consecutive note is played. After all 97 notes are played, it starts again from the first note. It is not clear which anthem is played (that of independent Latvia, of Soviet Latvia or even of any other country—either friend or foe), and it is not clear for what purpose it is being played. In any case, an anthem is an expression of pride: national, political or of a particular group. The grill is designed in the shape of the rising sun (a design common throughout the Soviet Union): a symbol of the promise of the new world, ‘the bright tomorrow’. But a grill’s function is to stop you – either from getting in, or from getting out. It is not clear, which one of these two functions this particular grill has originally had. Here and now you can open the grill: you are free to enter and to exit, but regardless of it you are still stuck – the tune that is played by your action remains the same. Even though you make a different sound each time, you can only play the next note in the sequence, not any other, and the result is predictable: the anthem has been played and will be played. You play it not by conscious decision, but only because you want to enter or exit. What you create/experience is too fragmented to be perceived as a whole, so does it matter? Is it therefore not your responsibility that by executing your right to freedom you participate in something that you would rather not? But you have been warned. Are you being manipulated? Inert? Complicit? After all, can our past be separated from our future?

Paulina Pukytė

Paulina Pukytė is a Lithuanian artist, writer and curator based in London. She writes critical and satirical articles on art and cultural issues, as well as experimental literature, poetry and plays. She makes site-specific interventions, still and moving image and conceptual projects using found artefacts, often employing coincidence and chance. She is also involved in the discourse of public space and commemoration and in 2017 curated the 11th Kaunas Biennial There And Not There: The (Im)Possibility Of A Monument.