Emilija Škarnulytė

Emilija Škarnulytė (b. Vilnius, Lithuania 1987) is an artist and filmmaker.

Working between documentary and the imaginary, Škarnulytė makes films and immersive installations exploring deep time and invisible structures, from the cosmic and geologic to the ecological and political. Her blind grandmother gently touches the weathered statue of a Soviet dictator. Neutrino detectors and particular colliders measure the cosmos with otherworldly architecture. Post-human species swim through submarine tunnels above the Arctic Circle and crawl through tectonic fault lines in the Middle Eastern desert.

Winner of the 2019 Future Generation Art Prize, Škarnulytė represented Lithuania at the XXII Triennale di Milano and was included in the Baltic Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale of Architecture. With solo exhibitions at Tate Modern (2021), Kunsthaus Pasquart (2021), Den Frie (2021), National Gallery of Art in Vilnius (2021), CAC (2015) and Kunstlerhaus Bethanien (2017), she has participated in group shows at Ballroom Marfa, Seoul Museum of Art, Kadist Foundation, and the First Riga Biennial. In 2022, Škarnulytė participated in the group exhibition Penumbra organized by Fondazione In Between Art Film on the occasion of the 59th Venice Biennale. Her numerous prizes include the Kino der Kunst Project Award, Munich (2017); Spare Bank Foundation DNB Artist Award (2017), and the National Lithuanian Art Prize for Young Artists (2016)), and she was nominated as the candidate for the Ars Fennica art award 2023. She received an undergraduate degree from the Brera Academy of Art in Milan and holds a masters from the Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art.

Her films are in the IFA, Kadist Foundation and Centre Pompidou collections and have been screened at the Serpentine Gallery, UK, Centre Pompidou, France, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York and in numerous film festivals including in Rotterdam, Busan, and Oberhausen. Most recently she concluded her tenures at Art Explora and Cite des Art, which occurred on the heels of another significant residency at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture. She is a founder and currently co-directs Polar Film Lab, a collective for analogue film practice located in Tromsø, Norway and is a member of artist duo New Mineral Collective, recently commissioned for a new work by the First Toronto Biennial.

Contact: skarnulyte.emilija@gmail.com

Absolute Dating

Laser and sound / duration 7 min / 2021 / at the 13th Kaunas Biennial
Sound: Jokūbas Čižikas

It was a Deep Time. I was born in the dark. I grew up surrounded by wet stalactites and stalagmites. The sweaty water scrolled over our bodies, continuously. There were echoes. I knew all of my neighbours – from the times when the tectonic plates made love and the tropical palm forest was becoming a temple of fossilised columns. I have never seen that forest, because I was living in the dark.

Once, during that whole Deep Time, golden shadows wandered over my skin. I saw torches made from canes, growing outside the cave. Each stick burned fast. An artificial warmth, never experienced before, was slowly covering my skin in ash. Creatures wrapped in wool were sliding on their knees, passing under my hips, crossing my elbows, touching my neck violently with their cold and moist hands.

There was a lot of smoke. They were scratching my skin with coal and clay. It did not bother me much. And soon they left. Only to later return. Covered in metal shells and acting differently this time.

They cut my skin and took samples. A cold wind began to circulate in my tiny open wounds. They measured me. According to their parameters I can grow ten centimetres within one thousand of their years. I know what it all means. I have lived through it from the moment they exposed my parts to daylight. I watched their rituals. I was their roof, their bed, their bath, their slave and their protector. A cultural stratum was accumulating on my scars, like a tissue. Look, look the dust is growing! I am the child of tectonic plates, erupted with speed and satisfaction. I am also a flow of lava.