Augustas Serapinas is interested in the socially engaged and non-material practice of previous generations of artists, such as the one that emerged around the time of his own birth. The early 1990s saw the rise of the ‘relational’ approach to practicing art with, for and through other people. This could also be a good definition for ‘curating’, another term dating from the same period. His experiments with social interaction start from an openness to the encounter, which, as philosopher Alain Badiou points out, differs from experience because it is always based on improbability. The encounter (as a possibility, an act or, if we like, a manifestation of free will) is also fundamentally opposed to the notion of identity (which essentially regulates sameness) and certainly to its instrumentalisation as identity politics.
Yet Serapinas is not exclusively concerned with the non-material and inter-personal. He has also busied himself with the discovery and construction of ‘secret spaces’: pockets of subjectivity carved out of the rational infrastructure that society tries to build for itself.
Following such projects as By the Illuminator (2013, a site for meditative loneliness inside a drain pipe under a highway next to a river in Vilnius) or Secret Space in the National Gallery (2014, a hidden and inaccessible coffee-break room in Lithuania’s National Art Gallery) Serapinas has collaborated closely with Georges Uittenhout, M HKA’s chief technician, to identify hidden, forgotten and unused spaces in the museum. As a result, Serapinas has cut a hole in one of the walls in the exhibition halls on the ground floor, allowing the public to enter a narrow, long and very tall shaft.
In preparation for this time-consuming action, which adds no objects to the exhibition (if we don’t count some small alterations to the space made for reasons of health and safety) puts the museum itself on display as a place with secrets, Serapinas studied the history of the building and its immediate surroundings. The Antwerp South area was redeveloped in the 1870s and ’80s and was a transport hub with docks and a large railway station until the mid-1960s. Part of his visual research material (made available by the Heritage Library Hendrik Conscience) is published in the catalogue. (AK)