“We are dreaming and writing down those dreams on the water”
AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?
PH: We come from Lithuania (although Pakui Hardware was ‘born’ in NYC), where we also studied art and art history. Both of our families were entrenched in the culture, so getting involved in one cultural field or another was almost inevitable. It could be music, theatre, literature or art. It happened to be art in the end. Ugnius graduated from photography and media art studies in Vilnius Art’s Academy, while Neringa did art history in the same school, later semiotics and finally curating at CCS Bard College. Thus we have quite different backgrounds, but it came out quite a productive combination as we both possess autonomous skills that we can share and teach each other.
AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?
PH: In many cases, the works are born from each other (although it might not be so evident at first glance), especially the conceptual/research part of it. As we prepare for a larger presentation, we gather so much material that we have no choice, but to leave something aside, something for the future, otherwise the core idea of the work might get burrowed under a heap of messages. However, the material outcome of each work is dictated by what we try to communicate in that specific piece. This way we choose materials that have rich references or unique qualities, such as transparency, plasticity, tactility. In the end, it often ends so that the materials take over the process and we simply have to follow their lead, listen to what they’d like to tell or what combination they are suggesting or performing. Therefore our work is truly not conceptual as it’s not dematerialized, methodical. It’s quite messy as a process, even if it might look sterile and elegant in the end.
The Host 1, detail, 2021, stainless steel, fabric, resin, glass, 150 x 120 cm | Photo: Pakui Hardware
AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?
PH: Most of all, we enjoy trying out new materials all the time, experimenting with their qualities and limitations, to go against them sometimes. Over the years of our practice, we have worked with a range of them – from heat-treating UV prints to glass, silicone, faux fur or even wasp nests in the very last pieces. Of course, there are materials that we keep returning to, such as silicone, resin, textiles or plastic, but we try not to stay too much in the same place. Perhaps because we are too curious or just impatient.
AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the outcome beforehand?
PH: A great deal of frustration [laughing]. Mostly because we have a certain vision of how the outcome should look like, and it simply never is the case. As we mentioned before, materials are quick to modify your vision according to their character, but it is part of the process in which sometimes (Eureka!) unexpected and beautiful things spring up. These are the most rewarding moments, the moments for which, we believe, most artists still have not left their profession for something less precarious.
The Modern Exorcist,TFAM Museum, Taipei, Taiwan, 2021
AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?
PH: You just feel it! It sounds very esoteric, but at least in our case, this decision is done more by sensing than rationally thinking. You just know there is nothing else to add nor to take away. Of course, there are pieces that you’d like to change slightly after some year (all those stories about painters painting over their canvases!). But in many cases the works we do simply leave our studio and never return – they either keep travelling from a show to a show or end up in storage or (sometimes) a collection. Thus we cannot retouch them even if we’d like that.
AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?
PH: It is quite evident in our practice that we explore the scientific and technological fields quite deeply. Perhaps we find in science what we find in arts – the continuous inquiry into the established order of things. The case studies that we choose in science or technology allow us to reflect on fundamental matters, such as bodies and their transformations, their integrity and their relationship to each other. Science is always just a starting point, however. We always move on with very unscientific speculations and interpretations of what might the new scientific fields bring, often relying on philosophy and critical theory to also contest the habitually optimistic and technocratic approach of science to reality and to how they might (or have) impact on society in general. Another big part of the inspiration comes from the art field and art history, of course, but more about it – in another question-answer.
Extrakorporal, solo show curated by Thomas Thiel, Bielefelder Kunstverein, Germany, 2018
AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?
PH: Mostly artists that experimented with materials (in many cases with new for them at that time), and that explore corporeality in their unique ways: Eva Hesse, Alina Szapocznikow, Lynda Benglis, Heidi Bucher, Joachim Bandau, Anna Mendieta, Louise Bourgeois, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Rebecca Horn, Teresė Rožanskaitė to name a few. We have learned so much from them (are still are just discovering!) in terms of a combination of materials, fragmentation of bodies, transparency, surfaces, elegancy and scale.
AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?
PH: We all know how flawed the contemporary art system is, how convenient it is for art washing, (systemic) abuse and just pure vanity. However, over the past few years, we have witnessed the slow erosion of the status quo of the established norms: museums are forced to check their complicity with historic injustice and make actual changes instead of releasing statements, #metoo wave washed many many (but not enough) figures away from their comfortable positions while the pandemic even made the big art fairs to rethink their shaky power position. However we slap the art world, it is one of the most self-reflective and self-critical fields among the rest. If only those who make a political decision or those who hide their taxes in sunny offshores would inquire about their actions and ideologies as much as the art system does, it might even be a better place to live. Or not! But in any case, once you look at all those people that were treated as simply ‘misfits’ by the general society often end up in the art field, because it is still one of the safest places to be and find like-minded peers.
HESITANT HAND, 2017 | Installation is a part of Citynature: Vilnius and Beyond group exhibition, National Gallery of Art, Vilnius, 2017
AT: What do you find the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?
PH: Daunting – life-long precariousness. Rewarding – not to comply with existing norms, explore ways of how things might be different and to, sometimes, shake (even if slightly) the viewer, either in mind or body, or both.
AT: What do you do besides art?
PH: Ugnius comes from a musical background as well, thus he dives into sonic explorations (mostly experimental, ambient), while Neringa is also a writer, editor and a co-founder of a project space Editorial which she curates with Vitalija Jasaitė.
AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?
PH: This pandemic taught us to limit one’s expectations for the future to the next day. So now we’re not planning, we’re dreaming and writing down those dreams on the water.
Pakui Hardware (Neringa Cerniauskaite) in Berlin Studio.
Pakui Hardware is the name coined by curator Alex Ross (NY) for the collaborative artist duo Neringa Cerniauskaite and Ugnius Gelguda, which began in 2014. The title Pakui Hardware refers to Pakui – special attendant of Hawaiian Goddess, who could circle Oahu island six times in a day. Thus Pakui Hardware is high-speed and brand politics as mythic semio-commodity as well as the desire to transcend the material limitations. Semio-Capital meets materiality. The duo's work spans around the relationship between materiality, technology, and economy. How technology is shaping current economy and the physical reality itself, including the human body. In relation to the velocity of technological development, the matter becomes both an obstacle and a vehicle. These questions are analyzed through such examples as High Frequency Trading, Prometheanism, synthetic biology and new materiality. Pakui Hardware is represented by carlier | gebauer, Berlin