Emilija Škarnulytė

Sunken Cities, 2021
Video Installation, 1h 08min (loop)

Courtesy of the artist

“Who brought you here? Some mermaid archaeologist, some modern undine, some artist-as-siren-as-museum guide.
Qualcuno come onda sonora, solo come cognizione. What cities are sunk deep inside you? Does it matter?”
Quinn Latimer on Sunken Cities, 2021

With her films and installations, Emilija Škarnulytė works on the edge of documentary and fiction. Her enacted narratives witness a concern for the future of a planet exhausted by human activity. By preferring poetry to didacticism, the Lithuanian artist addresses these ecological and political issues through cosmic and geological journeys. “Sunken Cities” literally plunges the visitor into total immersion in the waters of the northwestern shore of the Gulf of Naples, while a mermaid-archaeologist explores the seabed and swims between the ruins of a vanished civilization. We thus discover the ancient city and seaside resort of Baia, the corridors, sculptures and mosaics of a sumptuous Roman empire, washed away by the waters due to underground volcanic activity. However, one might also think of Plato‘s account of the myth of Atlantis, with its descriptions of the rise and sudden fall of this mysterious lost city, the source of a superior humanity: the film calls upon the figure of the mermaid of Nordic legends, and this is no minor detail.  A solitary undine, she moves silently in search (in vain) of other forms of life when everything seems to have disappeared, exploring this disappearance. A game of echoes is then set up between this symbolism and the film itself, with captivating camera movements that highlight a deserted landscape, a meditative soundtrack inviting contemplation, and plunging the viewers into a state of total solitude. The apparent appeasement of the whole gives way to a kind of anxious feeling about this city that has become a relic. And it raises waves of questions: does the work announce the end of other empires in times of climate crisis? What will survive of humanity? What is hidden in the deep waters?

Emilija Škarnulytė, Sunken cities, 2021 Excerpt from the video – Courtesy of the artist