Lina Lapelytė was born in 1984 in Lithuania. Lapelytė’s performance-based practice is rooted in music and flirts with pop culture, gender stereotypes, aging and nostalgia. Their works Ladies (2015), Hunky Bluff (2014) and Candy Shop (2013/2015) were shown in different contexts and locations including the Serpentine Pavilion in London; the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London; the Venice Architecture Biennale; and MACBA, Barcelona. They have exhibited at Kim?, Riga; Rupert, Vilnius; National Gallery of Art, Vilnius; Moderna Museet, Malmo; FIAC, Paris; the Baltic Pavilion, Venice Biennale in 2016; and Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea, among others.
Initially trained as a classical violinist, Lina Lapelytė’s has developed an ongoing interest and research into experimental music, amateur performance, and historical genres.
In The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things (1962), George Kubler advocated that forms of communication are easily separable from any meaningful transmission. In linguistics the forms are speech sounds (phonemes) and grammatical units (morphemes). In neoliberal post-colonial capitalism, these forms are the foundation of liberalism’s implicit language theory of inequity. And in music they are notes and intervals. Lapelytė locates this process of historical determination in the intricate relationship between language, speech and power, by invoking the responsibility of representation and the forgotten words on whose erasure western musical genres are founded. Kubler’s argument that structural forms can be sensed independently of meaning was fundamental in reorganising the canon of art history from a notion of style to that of historical sequence. In this process, while the ‘smaller voices of history’ remained obscured by the canon, logocentric strategies continue at the forefront of discourses on resistance. Intertwined with discourses on resonance and endurance, orality radiates the impossibility of containing singularity, sequence and seriality.
Lapelytė’s performance-based works often engage trained and untrained performers in an act of ‘singing’ through a wide range of genres such as mainstream music and opera, while examining issues of displacement, otherness, ageing and gender. The singing takes the form of a collective and affective event that questions vulnerability and silencing, termed ‘selective hearing’ by the political scholar Nikita Dhawan. ‘Silence has a particular voice’ noted Lapelytė while rehearsing questions on the politics of listening for this catalogue. For their performance Hunky Bluff (2014), Lapelytė investigated the 18th century Catholic tradition of castrating boys to prevent their voices breaking at puberty. By translating the original expressive melodies, known as arias, and rearranging the compositions originally written for male castrati to instead be performed by a chorus of thirteen low pitched female voices, Lapelytė reversed the dynamic of the compositions. In the series of performances Candy Shop (2013/2015) rap songs become lullabies and Status Quo numbers fade into feats of feminist sonic endurance, gestures from well-known West Coast hip hop lyrics mutate into a piece of chamber music and dance class – restaged semiotic overturns of gender hierarchies.
By ‘unlearning’ their classical formation, and internalising the resonating dynamics between visual and sound art, Lapelytė unsettles the passive/active foundation of listening, resonating with Dhawan’s provocation, ‘One who can be silent, is in a position to listen, and one who listens, gives oneself over to the silences in discourses.’