This section of the portfolio - Mediated Playground - is based on the earliest artistic practice of the artist in media arts and covers a period seemingly from 1996 to 2002.


Questioning major societal changes in the initial artistic period of Das Vegas creation, he examines the freedom of choice and technological advancement. Vegas premiered with the first initiatives of video artists in Lithuania to explore the medium in his artistic practice. He was also working in various other video art contexts as a premier live audio-visual performer and in theatre settings on the visual performance stage.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the peaceful revolution of Lithuania, and the human chain of the Baltic Way - all this was present in the period. The focus was on the radical capitalist paradigm shift from the former communist regime to Western society. This shift strongly affected the artist to rethink the underlying societal values. The change from Marxist ideology and society in the former Soviet Republic of Lithuania obliged the artist to critically reflect upon important societal aspects. Radical alterations in a very short period of time introduced new structures and values which resulted in exponential economic growth, constantly increasing speed of life, mediated environments, expanding coverage of technologies, the establishment of force, synthetic drugs, growing consumerism, kitschy and plastic commodities. Such development both on political-economical and paradigmatic aspects substantially intertwined with the artist's critical approach to the art world and originated in the artworks shown below.

The works in this section are a new viewpoint at a complex paradigmatic situation of the period through the lens of playfulness. It is an artistic exploration and research of and through the concepts of play and game and an artistic investigation of playfulness and new media techniques through interactivity and interdisciplinarity.





---------



Toys and Games

Interactive media art installation with 8 monitors, 2 cameras, a bunch of toys, ready-made appliances, 2001. The project is placed on the chess-pattern floor and imparts possible rules within a metaphorical game. The integral parts are presented on the site and irresponsibly laid out like chess figures outside of their squares on a chessboard interface distinctioning between game rules and a disorderly play.

The project is a practice-based Master thesis in the Vilnius Art Academy, Lithuania. "It is the most artistic work within media art practices in Vilnius Art Academy" - the Rector of Vilnius Art Academy A. Šaltenis (professor in the painting department) announced in the disputation at the defense ceremony. "I do not see any order and creativity here, it's just a messy dispersion and nervous distraction" - shortly contradicted another professor of the painting department Povilas Ričardas Vaitiekūnas and was instantly followed by massive laughter and applauds of the surrounded audience. The project was shown as a final work for MA degree in the media art department of Vilnius Art Academy and reaped diverse reviews separating 2 contradicting ends in the field of arts: contemporary and new-mediated notions opposing traditional and academic viewpoints.

The referent Evaldas Stankevičius, a deputy director of the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius (CAC), enacted a performance - Loop Reference - at the defence ceremony. According to an institutional critique in academic surroundings, repeatedly read the same short theoretical text several times (the idea was to loop the reference as long as possible) till he was shut down by evaluation committee members. The reference was written on a highly theoretical level involving deeply academic articulation values and following many international words and critical overviews on abstract issues but around the thesis and art project topics and institutional criticism.

More on institution critique series

The thesis was published as an accomplishment of the practical work and the theme, the book's layout was designed in regard to the playfulness and engagement of a reader in playful interactions. Eventually, the final practice work and the thesis were graded with the highest grade regardless of the tradition of academic discourse.

--



Rotation

The art project with live performances and video installations has been presented in several art residencies: Copenhagen, Denmark; Bern, Switzerland; Lithuania; etc. The complex technique was developed to produce endlessness and extremely mediated scenery over the rotational movement. The project started in 1999.



--




Just Play It

A short video art film and looped video installation with a sequence of a playing hand from behind the camera with serious technological widgets in an unpredictable way: making music from a typing keyboard sounds, desperately drawing with desktop icons, scratching DVD plate, etc. It becomes a rhythmical music video piece for those who do not understand the technological interface and invites the tech-geeks to try it out at home. Solo exhibition at the artist-in-residence at Wellen project, Shwellenmatteli, Bern, Switzerland, 2001.



--




RGB Poetics

Digital simpatico, visual narrative effects, 2000. Initially, the video sequence was exhibited as a media art installation, later the visuals were performed at live audio-visual performances of the artist, also found under his VJ Render portfolio. Digital production with overlaying VHS aesthetics.

One of the performance venues was "East Impact" at Yubileiny Palace, Saint Petersburg, Russia; other shows were performed in various venues like abandoned electronics factories, decommissioned hotels, art residencies, galleries, art academies, art and music festivals, in Germany, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Sweden.

Still images of "RGB Poetics" are below at the bottom of this page.

--




Keep Smiling!

The project is an endless video collection of smilies in the entire set of variations in various everyday life situations. A visual journey searching for kitsch appearances through a volatile mediated movement and video language but within a pulsating vibrancy of choice. It resulted in monotonously zooming in and out, like a soporific wave delivering a lullaby. Video art installation and film produced in the period of 1999-2000. Exhibited at Shwellenmatteli art residency, Bern, Switzerland, 2001.
--




In Army Of Lovers

Video art film and media art installation, 1998. Playful usage of video technique and mercurial camera work, vibrant and lambent visual effects, constantly changing different toys on diverse bedsheets' backgrounds. Also released as multimedia DVD at Abflug label.

Second Abflug release presents Verhaverbeke Krzyzosiak on the audio side and Vygandas Simbelis on the video side. Verhaverbeke works in the field of ambient-based guitar experiments. Subtle noisescapes of clicks and crackles stand as a great background for the five tracks of guitar tones and gentle strumming. As with the first Abflug release the visual side is the most abstract part. Controlled by Lithuanian artist Vygandas Simbelis the video titled "In Army Of Lovers" presents different toy dolls jumping on camera close-up. The soundtrack sounds like field recordings of a continuously running reel containing sounds of percussions as well as human noises. As the movie develops echoed sounds appear and the sound spectre turns from minimal to a more varied expression.

by Vital Weekly, number 393.

1998 - Vilnius Art Academy, Vilnius, Lithuania;
2001 - Chess Hall, Vilnius Art Academy, Vilnius, Lithuania;
2002 - Pixelache Festival 2002, Helsinki, Finland;
2002 - Automaten Bar, Berlin, Germany;
2002 - Welcome, Intro Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania;
2003 - Sauna Bar, Helsinki, Finland;
2004 - ISEA2004, 12th International Symposium on Electronic Art, Stockholm, Sweden, Helsinki, Finland, Tallinn, Estonia;
2004 - Abflug release, Intro Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania;
2004 - Koneisto festival, Helsinki, Finland;
2005 - Berghain, Berlin, Germany;
2006 - Balticoco, electronic arts festival, Intro Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania;
2007 - Electronic Pioneers, Intro Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania;




--




Non-Stop Digital Smile

The research examines at that time little-known Digital Smile, later known as an emoticon (like ;) ). An emoticon or emotion icon is a pictorial representation of a facial expression using characters—usually punctuation marks, numbers, and letters—to express a person's feelings or mood. This originated with ASCII expressions and this type was used in the Non-Stop Digital Smile research and art project.

The Non-Stop Digital Smile project takes it further with not only a letter (character) but takes a design into account and provides a significant difference (change of mood) with a font (typeface). The art project examines the digitalization of facial expressions and emotions, the technologisation of human aspects of communication within ordinary media technology in contemporary society. Monotonous repeated and looped scrolls and clicks of a computer mouse in one of the monitors refer to a seducive movement of a finger. After following such a never-ending repetitive movement, staring at a glitchy technical loop (accompanied by broken glitchy sounds of a doll), somehow opens up our computational consciousness in understanding our robotic behaviors and following ourselves on the algorithmic logic at work with computers. A similar monotonic movement is on display on a larger screen showing a typographic mixture of smooth transits of bits in typefaces, fonts, signs, characters, and eventually digital emotions and moods. The division between digital and human expressions is introduced through the differences between emoticons and human emotions. Semantic transitions from signs to emotions and meanings are embodied in this lively, and somewhat satirical, installation.

The technical use of media and technology is nonetheless important in its transitional state to the entire content of the work. It brings digital and analogue and a mixture of both. The smilies a produced digitally on a computer and released via analogue TV screen, the miniDV is also a controversial format as the signal is digital however recorded and stored on tape.

Media art installation Non-Stop Digital Smile.
Two looped videos, monitor and miniDV video-camera monitor, doll, doll's sound; Copenhagen, 2000.

2000 - Media School exhibition, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen, Denmark;
2001 - Toys and Games exhibition, Chess Hall in Vilnius Art Academy, Vilnius;



--



Not Here Not Now

Interactive media art installation Not Here Not Now engages the participant in an interactive play between the TV screen and an empty picture frame. Two squares are metaphorically connected to each other through their common shape the square of TV set and the square of the picture frame. The participating viewer takes control via a remote toy car both running it live inside the frame area and at the same time virtually on the screen. The interactive installation is accompanied by an immersive video projection with a teddy bear toy being filmed hanging steadily fixed to the camera but restlessly moved in space.

Single-channel video projection of teddy bear toy, TV monitor displaying car toy in a frame, camera capturing the frame, camera light spot, wooden art frame, remote toy-car, and car remote control. Vilnius, 1999.

1998 - spooky cellar room exhibition, Vilnius Art Academy, Vilnius;
2001 - Chess Hall exhibition, Vilnius Art Academy, Vilnius;

--




Birutė ne bitutė, kiškutis ne Kęstutis

Birutė ne bitutė, kiškutis ne Kęstutis (poetic translation: Barbie is not a bee, rabbit is not Robin). Children are talking in solid words while adults are in diminutives. Slide installation, 1999.

One of my favourite and highly inspirational texts of that period, and pretty provocative work on issues I had been working on then is written by sociologist Neil Postman - "The Disappearance of Childhood"” - reflects the artist. Postman's thesis argues that children are being robbed of their innocence, their naiveté, and even their ability to be a child. He contended that in our world, we ask children to embrace mature issues, themes, and experiences, long before they are ready. Children are sheltered from adult secrets, particularly sexual ones. Certain facets of life - its mysteries, contradictions, tragedies, and violence - are not considered suitable for children to know. The language of adults and children - including what they address in life - has become the same. It is virtually uncontested among sociologists that the behaviour, language, attitudes, and desires - even the physical appearance - of adults and children are becoming indistinguishable. The project “Birutė ne bitutė, kiškutis ne Kęstutis” investigates the disappearance of boundaries between childhood and adulthood in a visual and linguistic ways.

1999 - produced for and exhibited at the Espresso Virtualis exhibition, Arka gallery, Vilnius, Lithuania, curated by Audrius Mickevičius.

"Vygandas Simbelis' slide installation "Birutė ne bitutė, kiškutis ne Kęstutis" mediates gallery visitors with opposite meanings between image and text, then people are called in diminutive words and animal-toys in human names"
From the major Lithuanian art magazine "7 Art Days".

--




"+" (Plus)

The video art film called "+" (Plus) was a second artist's release in video art medium. It is a visual journey from Plus (+) sign in the title to the credits ending in Minus (-). The video starts with a collection of pills in a visually appealing bright mood and after sequential changes and evolutions in the qualities of pills, ranging from vitamins to drugs, an optimistic atmosphere vanishes to bring a more psychedelic trance atmosphere of magnificent soundscape and colourscape of abstract vibrant colors and music.

The movie was edited by Jonas Mekas, one of the major artists and organizers behind the FLUXUS art movement, founder of Anthology Film Archive in New York, and who has often been called "the godfather of American avant-garde cinema". Accidental editing took place in New York while Mekas had been reviewing the movie. Production and editing in 1997.

1998 - French-Baltic-Nordic video and new media festival “Offline@online”, E-media center, Tallinn, Estonia,
1999 - Exhibited at Projekt Moments, Zimski Salon 1999, University of Ljubljana, Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

--




Are You For Me

Driven by the feminist and encompassing media theory the project brings contrasting sides and critical points of adulthood and childhood. The project emphasizes the feminist stances in regard to naïvety and innocence and focuses on the protection of the most vulnerable members of society. Raising questions of equality, freedom of choice, and early maturity, the project exposes a clash between the most sensitive social issues and destructive media strategies through the rules of power.

The common daily objects borrowed from the adult world have surrounded a pretty innocent girl, wherein at the end of the film, she personally complains that she is not a girl. The artwork unfolds within a conceptual framework: "Who are you for me?" - "I am not a girl for you".

The disturbing mixture of childhood and adulthood is shown via contrasting objects of children's toys and sex toys, mixed sounds of child-girl voices and adult woman songs, sharp objects and adult content, and bright contrasting colors in the background. The innocent girl is a ballet student of choreographer A. Cholina filmed at the National M. K. Čiurlionis School of Art in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The very first video-art film by Vegas Šimbelis. Color, sound film, 3'28", VHS, 1996.

1996 - awarded with the Prize of Public Fond in Franco-Balt video art festival, Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania;
1997 - exhibited in Šiauliai Art Gallery, Šiauliai, Lithuania;
1998 - Mykolas Žilinskas Art Gallery, Kaunas, Lithuania;
1998 - released in the collection of premier Lithuanian video art films on VHS, The Best Works of Lithuanian Video Art - the first selection of Lithuanian video artworks, curated by Sonata Žalneravičiūtė;
1999 - Lithuanian Art 1989-1999, Ten years, exhibition at Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania;
2001 - Never Skip Intro exhibition, former Pravda printing house, Vilnius, Lithuania;
2004 - Intro Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania;
2006 - Balticoco, electronic arts festival, Intro Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania;
2018 - Non-devised Matters, screening of digitalized premier Lithuanian video art collection, Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania;
2019 - published online in the Independent Cinematheque video art collection. Link to the film on Cinematheque website;







-----------------

Below screenshot images of "RGB Poetics", 2000:




RGB poetics, video, 2000 


RGB poetics, 2000 


RGB poetics, 2000 


RGB poetics, 2000