Originally trained as a sculptor, Narkevičius mainly works in storytelling, using film and video to explore history from a current and subjective point of view. Once in the XX Century is based on video documentation of the removal of a monumental public sculpture of Lenin in Lithuania in 1991. The artist acquired footage from the Lithuanian National TV archive and from a freelance video reporter in order to have a two-camera perspective on the event. These images of the figure hanging above the crowd with his hand raised have been broadcast hundreds of times by CNN and other news channels over the last decades as a symbol of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the failure of Communism. In this film, editing shifts into manipulation: it looks as if the crowd is preparing for and then celebrating the erection of the sculpture. The demise of Eastern European socialist regimes at the end of the twentieth century led to the removal of many such monuments, taken down by either the state or the people themselves in hope for a better future. For many this hope has not been fulfilled. Narkevičius’s historical reversal ironically points to the repetition of scenes in history, with regard to the longing for or denial of certain political and economic systems.
Gallery label from Performing Histories: Live Artworks Examining the Past, September 12, 2012–March 8, 2013.