In Eglė Budvytytė’s mobile performance Choreography for the Running Male (2014), a group of men jog a route through the city of Sydney. As they trace a path in unison, they carry out choreographed gestures relating to emotions ranging from shame to seduction, along with sequences referencing militaristic action. Here they hide their faces in the folds of their clothing; there they sit daintily, hold hands or crawl through the grass.
The work investigates notions of socialised behaviour that infiltrate public consciousness and, as an extension, public space. Coming from a country with a history of Soviet occupation, Budvytytė’s piece, with its uniform choreography and sound of marching feet, inevitably speaks to mechanisms of social control.
Using the idea of overt emotion, Budvytytė explores the flow-on effect when gendered bodies begin to act beyond expectation. Her cluster of men resembles an army unit or a small mob, but their gestures are poetry in motion and subvert any sense of menace or danger. The work highlights our socialisation around emotional expression, which instils the conceit that men are connected more with the physical body, and women with the heart, or the emotions. Choreography for the Running Male gives credence to the notion that so-called masculinity and femininity are not innate to particular bodies but are in fact performances of a kind, made up of a collection of repeated gestures that reinforce a gender identity. The piece plays with the idea of machismo, pairing it with a public vulnerability and a balletic beauty.
Choreography for the Running Male investigates crowd mentality as well as the dynamics of the relationship between audience and performer, pushing up against the boundary between the two. It challenges the normally static performer–audience relationship, for to fully witness the performance we must run alongside the men, becoming one of the pack.
A graduate of photography from the Vilnius Art Academy and of audiovisual studies from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, Budvytytė’s practice encompasses a wide range of mediums, including video, radio and performance. Her artwork frequently explores how humans relate to our surrounds, as with the video Leap (2009), which follows a group of teenagers who practise Parkour, a form of improvisational movement where the body is used to propel oneself through the architectural environment.
Magicians (2011) is a whimsical extrapolation on the notion of how to do things with imagination and words, a concept that the work itself highlights beautifully. Beginning with a library research trip to learn about mysticism and the esoteric, the narrator goes on an associative journey sparked by imagery she encounters on her travels. Budvytytė’s proposition is inspired by J. L. Austin’s influential text How to Do Things With Words in which the British philosopher stipulates that some words are not merely language uttered, but are actions in themselves. Magicians is a playful, poetic answer to Austin’s philosophical text.
Budvytytė’s work has appeared in a number of exhibitions internationally, including ‘(Entre)Ouverture’, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012); 11th Baltic Triennial of International Art, Vilnius (2012); ‘Beyond Imagination’, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2012); ‘Magicians’, Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam (2011); ‘A Cidade do homem nu’, Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo (2010); ‘My Travels with Barry’, TENT, Rotterdam (2008); and ‘If We Can’t Get It Together’, The Power Plant, Toronto (2008).