Pakui Hardware | That Operating Table Has Certainly Known Resiliency 

Via Issue 191, Fresh Cuts

Written by

Bennett DiDonna

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Pakui Hardware. "Inflammation” (2024). Casted Aluminium, Glass, Rubber, Stainless Steel, Beeswax, LED light, 68.9x16.9x7 Inches. Courtesy: The Artists and Carlier | Gebauer (Berlin/Madrid). Photo: Ugnius Gelguda.

Neringa Černiauskaité and Ugnius Gelguda of the Lithuanian artist duo, Pakui Hardware, have just returned from installing their new exhibition, The Burn, in Madrid. It’s a cold day in Vilnius, though not as cold as the small Alaska town Černiauskaité mentions, where the new season of True Detective takes place—a series they’ve been catching up on in a rare moment of downtime. This has been a momentous year for the pair in their decade-long collaborative trajectory, which has included a much-lauded solo exhibition, Inflammation, at the National Museum of Art in Vilnius, a curatorial appointment at La Casa Encendida in Madrid, and most recently, having been named to represent Lithuania at the 60th Venice Biennale this Spring.

We quickly dip into their curatorial stint in Spain, connecting the dots about a former FLAUNT featuree, Monia Ben Hamouda, whose work Pakui Hardware brought to La Casa Encendida. “It all started very unexpectedly,” Černiauskaité explains of their curatorship in Madrid, “it was the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, so when they invited us, we were in a strange position, because we really didn’t know how [the situation] was going to develop, and if we needed to flee the country.” This moment brought the notion of ‘resilience’ to the forefront for the duo. “Addressing that term shaped the curatorial concept,” Černiauskaité explains. The resulting program, Reclaiming Resilience, which ran through January, explored the idea of resilience in response to dysfunctional or unjust systems as not an individuated idea, but as a collective phenomenon.

Pakui Hardware. ”Inflammation” (2023). Lithuanian National Museum Of Art, Vilnius. Photographed By Ugnius Gelguda. 

In their own practice, Pakui Hardware explore connections between the body, the economy, and technology—with its promise and plasticity—through striking sculptural installations. Futuristic operating rooms, metal, glass, and wood form something both familiar and otherworldly. Organic and inorganic materials take shape, creating immersive scenes and environments, sometimes brash and dramatic, others disorientingly fragile and sterile. In their latest body of work, Inflammation— sculptures which are featured in their two current exhibitions, as well as the Biennale—the duo create cast aluminum intertwined with bloated glass hot-spots or “inflammations,” which mirror the human nervous system.

Like much of the theory embedded in Pakui Hardware’s output, Inflammation draws from a deep well of sociomedical analysis, notably Rupa Marya and Raj Patel’s book Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice. “They use the idea as a way to speak about chronic inflammation or chronic disease as the aftermath of everything that was inscribed in your body,” Černiauskaité explains, “Not only during your lifetime, but through the lifetime of your parents, and your ancestors.” Inflammation is the “response to unhealthy conditions” something that is experienced in the present and amassed through previous generation’s “traumas and the history of oppression.” Taken a step further, we can see the effects of inflammation on not just the health of human bodies, but communities, social structures, and the planet.

In many ways, this approach to the body has informed the duo’s interpretation of the upcoming Biennale’s theme, Foreigners Everywhere. “We want to emphasize the idea of ‘foreigners’ as being more about foreign bodies,” Černiauskaité considers. “So it doesn’t have to be a human body. It can be a bacterial body. It can be a virus. It can be planetary bodies... Instead of building immunity systems around bodies, to think about interconnectedness and porosity of bodies and understanding that no immunity system will defend you.” Instead of trying to thicken one’s borders, Černiauskaité continues, “You should rethink your relationship with what surrounds you and what is part of you.”

Pakui Hardware. “Inflammation” (2023). Lithuanian National Museum Of Art, Vilnius. Photographed By Ugnius Gelguda. 

It is with nuance and a holistic sensibility that Černiauskaité and Gelguda have considered their own nationality as Lithuanian and what that means in the context of the Biennale. “The identity of Lithuania and its pavilion is always evolving... It’s really so different from what it was 20 years ago,” Gelguda explains. While a host of nations have permanent Pavilions in Venice, which house their programming, Lithuania does not. Instead, it organizes a new location every two years, this iteration at a former baroque church, which had been closed to the public for nearly a decade. Rather than feeling pigeonholed, “We’re really trying to open up more paths and weave more connections to the general public,” Černiauskaité shares, adding that the international audience of attendees bring with them “their own histories and life stories that might resonate in a very different way than we imagined as well.”

Along with a team of architects and curators, Pakui Hardware’s work will be featured alongside the painter Marija Teresė Rožanskaitė’s (1933-2007) figurative, Soviet-era medical works. Speaking on the physicality of the church Černiauskaité and Gelguda explain, “The space has kind of a nice sense of abandonment, of dereliction.” A historic site, work will be mounted within the space without touching the walls of the church—“an architecture within architecture,” as Gelguda describes it. Along with an internal landscape, lighting choreography, and a newly developed sound piece, the duo’s sculptural installations will engage with Marija Teresė Rožanskaitė’s paintings, which will be mounted on lightboxes throughout the space.“It’s not going to be something separate, something foreign, but it’s very [much an] internalized body of work.” Despite being chosen as the Pavilion’s featured artists, the duo are quick to acknowledge through their own vernacular, the many people and parts they are bringing together.

On a closing note, and with this ideal of duality in mind, I have to ask about their dynamic as an artistic duo. “It’s very painful,” Černiauskaité laughs. While the intellectual rigor is clear in Pakui Hardware’s practice and work, so too is their self-awareness and wry wit. “It’s difficult,” Gelguda pauses, “I guess not difficult, but more intense than we thought [at first]. It takes 24 hours sometimes, not arguing, but actually in dialogue about something.”

While there are many collaborators or collectives in the art world, pairs of this nature are quite rare. “A lot of people would really like to separate what tasks we do. They imagine one person is doing more theory and the other is doing the art,” Černiauskaité explains. “But it’s really not like that, especially in the studio. It’s almost like a game; one person sets something up and then the other removes something.” Embracing complexity and nuance both in their practice and work, Černiauskaité adds as a final remark, “You discuss and then you change. It’s very dynamic in that sense—you really can’t say or trace back who did what in a very organic way.”

Pakui Hardware. “Inflammation” (2023). Lithuanian National Museum Of Art, Vilnius. Photographed By Ugnius Gelguda. 

Written by Bennett DiDonna.

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Flaunt Magazine, Pakui Hardware, Issue 191, Fresh Cuts, Art