An Interview with Benas Staskauskas

Benas Staskauskas is a Lithuanian artist living in Reykjavik, Iceland since 2013. After attending various art schools across Europe, Benas developed skills and interests across a handful of creative media, ranging everywhere from fashion design to performance to sculpture. Eventually, this hybridity of creative interests informed his current focus of jewelry, rooted in a distinct conceptual vision. Polina Bachlakova recently caught up with Benas about his creative vision, the synthetic and the Dadaist, and his plans for the future.

Polina Bachlakova: You’re a Lithuanian jeweler based in Iceland. How do you feel your identity as a Lithuanian individual is reflected in your work, and how do you feel your surroundings are reflected in your work?

Benas Staskauskas: Here comes a lot of identity issues which perhaps I’m unable to answer, but the ones I could see in common are this melancholic taste in color expression and shapes. Also quietness. Another aspect which is quite common is complete passion and a lot of time spent working on a piece/in the studio—no matter what it takes, just trying to make it all ’till the end. I think in general I can’t stand identifying myself specifically in this context, that’s a very arbitrary thing. Surrounding—that’s the most important issue. It enables or eliminates all ideas’ growth; and in this case, nature has this point.

PB: What themes do you consciously (or unconsciously) express in your jewelry?

BS: Mostly it’s all about daily situations and a lot of philosophy afterwards (in the first step of making a piece). Then comes the second part of the work—remaking the story and developing it into the sculptural piece. Looking for the right materials, scale and techniques. I’m always concerned before actually making a piece—is this going to end up as just a waste? If so—don’t do it, or use a different media of expression.

PB: You went to a few art schools. Do you feel that the jewelry you make is your artistic expression, or do you draw a line between art and jewelry?

BS: Of course there is a line between jewelry and art, even though nowadays art is very much about the material. For example, painting you could rather call a “smart design” as a name of art as such, and vise versa. It’s all about just trying to make things work, and if it doesn’t—perhaps it needs some radical changes.

PB: In your latest collection, you merge the synthetic with the organic. How does this union express your larger feelings and perception on the contemporary world?

BS: For example, the computer as a tool—some guys are working on web design, some people are just chatting and sharing daily situations, and some are making incredible music. What I’m trying to say is that contemporary world is very flexible in all senses and this is a beautiful thing when you can see what the human is capable of making and where are those limitations. In a world of materials, there’s all this history of how things are evolving.

PB: You describe your collection being about Dada, yet you also describe valuing synthetic materials more than the natural as being central to your work. In my view, synthetic materials often represent the commercialization of much of the contemporary world, especially the monetary and social regulations that drive mechanical production. Therefore, Dada is in direct contrast to the synthetic: Dada is driven by radicalism, rejection of societal norms, anti-systemic practices, etc—it is against the systems of the synthetic. Given that, how do you see the values of Dada supporting the values of the Synthetic in your work instead of clashing?

BS: You are right: the Dada movement was against that what we see now. This first collection of rings, “Dada Peak pt.1″, was exactly about mechanical production, commercialization and capitalism and reaching its peak. My link comes here of making each and every single piece unique and individual, where usually such a link is achieved in nature or accidentally made by man, i.e. where no logical explanation is used to achieve the final result or a certain detail. This collection’s role of synthetic was via the structure of organic and natural forms. In “Dada Peak pt.1″, I talked a lot about synthetic materials (as plastic) that should be more valued just because it is super hard to dissolve or just simply to get rid of this material. Since its molecule is produced synthetically, the only option is to recycle, which means you won’t get rid of it—you must make another object out of the same material. Meanwhile with organic materials, it’s the opposite: we value it more, but not always in a very efficient way. Synthetic material is not an enemy, but perhaps it came too fast to completely understand what it is.

PB: You worked in multiple media before starting jewelry, and you are also a sculptor. At what point did you start to feel that jewelry would satisfy your creative vision?

BS: In fact it was the opposite. After high school I went to study jewelry design and with years it evolved into something that stands more as a small-scale sculptural object than design. I’m always concerned whether I should call myself an artist, designer or technologist—I think that’s a very complicated mixture of it all and I try not to call myself somehow specific in this case. Ironically, I’m looking forward to evolving this jewelry project into other medias and still keeping the line of calling it “jewelry”.

PB: You describe objects as a sociopolitical statement. What kind of sociopolitical statement is expressed by the objects you make?

BS: Each and every single piece has its own statement, its own story. As a socio-political statement and tool of self-expression, it is your own body and how you use it. A jewelry piece is a trigger point: an extra color, language, or match which lights up sometimes never-thought-of landscapes.

PB: What’s coming up for you in the near future?

BS: There are a lot of things that have to be sorted out. Mainly, it’s all about creative issues and the platform for showing works. Now I’m working on a new collection as a continuum to the first one just with a use of more uneven shapes and raw materials. I’m also looking forward to other objects: in early autumn some necklaces will be revealed as well as some other pieces. Also, I’m involved in a few side projects where I’m making props, experimental music and other stuff, but more information will come in the near future.