Arturas Barysas “Baras” (May 10, 1954 – January 28, 2005) was a Lithuanian “counter-culture” actor, singer, bibliophile, record collector, photographer, and filmmaker, known as the father of modern Lithuanian avant-garde. His works were declared “apolitical and immoral” by the cultural nomenklatura of the Soviet Union.
Baras was one of the most prominent personalities in Vilnius’ alternative culture of the second half of the 20th century. He had become a member of the LSSR Society of Amateur Filmmakers in his school years, and made ~40 short films during his lifetime, most of them between 1970 and 1984 (11 of the films have been lost). Barysas’ films earned critical acclaim at republican and Union-wide amateur film festivals. The amateur film festivals, presenting films under various categories, were popular events in all Soviet Union, as well as in other socialistic countries. Though subsidized by the state, the amateur cinema (an unprofessional art form), was left almost entirely outside the interference and control of Soviet authorities and was a medium conducive for experimenting. Film festivals presented Arturas Barysas and his films to audiences in Moscow, Leningrad, Tula, Tallinn, Riga, Brest, and Bryansk.
Braysas’ films were prized for their metaphorical artistic language, which implicitly mocked the everyday reality of life in the Soviet Union, and peculiar close-up montages. Barysas played the lead role in almost all of his films, supported by non-professional actors, with the action often taking place simply “on the street” as an improvised situations or according to a conventional scenario. In Barysas’s films, the film critic Skirmantas Valiulis traces echoes of American postwar avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren’s theoretical statements about filmmaking, the comic aesthetic of pre-1968 Czech cinema, and Felliniesque humor, yet acknowledges that the Lithuanian filmmaker retains a peculiar style of his own.
Today Barysas’ work is considered to be a part of the Lithuanian cinematic avant-garde and an eloquent reflection of the epoch. In the context of the visual arts, some of Barysas’ films invite a discussion impossible without the concepts of performance and happening.
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