One of Akee’s aims is to promote the actualisation and reflection of themes and images related to the countryside in contemporary culture. Thus, in the spring of 2023, Akee Space for Culture organized an open call for artists to create a public sculpture at Akee territory inspired by the topic of scarecrow.
From the text of the open call:
The history of scarecrows and scaremongering is long and inseparable from agriculture. The Egyptians are believed to have been the first to use scarecrows, as early as 3 000 years ago, when they wove tunics on reeds to scare quails away from wheat crops along the Nile River. The ancient Greeks used to erect wooden statues of Priapus, the god of fertility, in cultivated fields, both to scare away birds and, presumably, to bless the harvest. In some indigenous peoples of North America, men would sit on their own platforms and shout to scare away birds and animals approaching their crops. The first scarecrows used in North America and Europe did not necessarily resemble the anthropomorphic straw-stuffed figure wearing a hat that became popular later. They may have been constructed from animal skulls and decaying products, erected in fields in spring and burned after the autumn harvest festival, with the ashes well fertilised.
In the past, the function of human-shaped scarecrows may have been not only to scare away birds, but also to mark who owns the territory. The tradition of hanging dead bodies as a warning to stay away goes back a long way – for example, the ancient Romans used to leave crucified prisoners hanging in public as a way of disciplining the local population. Early hangings may also have been substitutes for human sacrifice, like a crucified man sacrificed to the natural world in place of the living, to satiate nature and protect the farm from loss and evil spirits. However, scarecrows, or scarecrows, have always embodied different cultural, mythological, religious, occult or superstitious imagery in one way or another. And regardless of their cultural roots, scarecrows the world over have had a specific task to perform: to frighten and scare away.
Before the consolidation and industrialisation of farms, in Lithuania as elsewhere, the scarecrow was a frequent tool of the farmers and a manifestation of the creators’ inventiveness in the reuse of household materials and objects. Over time, with the advent of alternative pest-scaring technologies – pesticides, reflectors, ultrasonic digital devices with infrared sensors – the need for traditional scarecrows has begun to fade away, gradually becoming a marker of a bygone era or simply a decoration. A human tool that has lost its original function and fuels the imagination can today become anything, including a work of art. Or maybe a tool in a new use? So, in proposing ideas for a public sculpture, we invite you to explore, play and speculate on this topic – to resist the image of the scarecrow not only from a historical perspective, but also from a metaphorical, futurological or any other aspect that is important and interesting to you.
Contemporary artist Beatričė Mockevičiūtė was selected to fulfil her proposal for the open call. Beatričė Mockevičiūtė is a young generation artist whose work is associated with the opportunity to perceive what is often transparent and ephemeral in everyday life. Since 2013, the artist has participated in exhibitions in Lithuania and abroad. Her works have been previously presented in institutions such as the Contemporary Art Center, the project spaces “Autarkia” and “Swallow,” as well as the House of Lithuanian Composers in Vilnius, the Vejle Art Museum in Denmark, and elsewhere. In 2021, a public sculpture from her ongoing series “Asukas” was implemented in the Paupys district of Vilnius.
The sculpture “Scarecrow” was presented in Aleknaičiai village at the end of August, 2023 during event “All the Good Things”.
Curator: Asta Vaičiulytė Communication: Inga Galinytė Coordinar: Vilius Vaitiekūnas
Project financed by: Lithuanian Council for Culture Project supported by: MB “Lairent”
Event “All the Good Things”. Presentation of the sculpture “Scarecrow”. Photos: Bon Alog.