Antanas Gerlikas: I was interested in not making things that resembled anything around me. It was a kind of resistance to the things I had seen. But producing things also gave me a chance to say something, to show that certain kinds of things existed.
Jonas Žakaitis: It was like having evidence of something?
A: Yes, it was like having proof, that was enough for me. Maybe it was because I had problems at school, I had to think of something to say to the other kids. Being able to lie was very important. Also because you would have a lot of spare time and could practice lying. I would walk home from school with this one friend who was a really good liar, he would make me believe in things. Once he told me about the special shoes he had that allowed him to run on water across a pond next to his house.
J: On water?
A: Yes, and I took it seriously, I tried to approximate the length of the pond, the weight of the shoes and other variables. Then I asked him to show me the shoes, but he told me he lent them to someone. Another time he told me: "I came to visit you with an airplane, you can go outside and check out the tracks left on the ground." So I went out and indeed, there were traces of airplane wheels in my courtyard. Then another time we were singing songs and I told him that I could speak another language that nobody around knew. Sing something in it, he asked. And so I went: "Kyrum sakyrum sa" (singing). He stared at me in wonder, thinking that now he also needs to learn the language (laughing).
J: So if you had at least some kind of a proof, you could make a lot of things appear, right?
A: Yes, but it wasn't easy, things were taken seriously. A lot of inventions would come about...
J: For example?
A: Well, if I got into some trouble at school I knew they would try to call my parents. But I couldn't just go out and cut the telephone wires, that would look too suspicious (laughing). So I would damage the wires very carefully, it would seem as if a mouse ate through them or if wind had eroded them. And then at some point when it was late and I was sure they were not going to call anymore, I would volunteer to fix the cables.
J: You would do a good deed...
A: Right (laughing). At some point I got worried that maybe I was lying too much...
J: But then you realized that it wasn't necessarily all lies?
A: Exactly. Maybe more like self-defense or something like that. That's how I started getting into art as well, during lessons I would fill all my notebooks with drawings.
J: So you would draw to convince your classmates of things? And you could also draw well, with shadows and perspective, I guess that was a really useful skill.
A: Yes, that was my special skill. Even though I did not enjoy drawing classes. I wasn't into drawing cubes and spheres.
Photo by Gintautas Trimakas
J: OK, now let's jump to your musical instrument. How did it all start?
A: At first I will tell you about a dream I had, a dream that cannot be reproduced like the instrument could. I find myself in a house that appears to be full of windows, it's a nice residential place, outside you can see a large forest. But it's also a strange place, a meeting spot that lasts only for a brief moment, you cannot stay there too long. I see a man walking around and he tells me: "Here, take this slab of gold." He just hands me a huge piece of gold and then starts talking about its origin. It had some marks on it, apparently someone has tried to cut it.
J: How big was the piece?
A: Quite a brick, maybe 10 cm thick, 10 cm wide and 40 cm long. I place it on my knees and start inspecting the cuts. Then the man tells me that this gold comes from a distant galaxy, it was compressed by certain forces and it can never be cut. It was a really special piece of gold. As he speaks I stand up holding the piece and it suddenly starts melting, just pouring out. Then I also start shaking it like a blanket, it straightens out as a blanket and I wrap it around myself. It leaks right through my clothes. I turn to the mirror and see that I'm all covered with it.
J: Your head and face as well?
A: Yes, all of me.
J: You turned into a monolith?
A: Yes, all covered in gold. And that was the end of the dream. It was a really weird one.
J: Did you then trace the origins of the dream?
A: No, it had no reason. I had no relationships with gold.
J: A friend told me the other day about a woman who's mother would not allow her to talk about money, health issues, weather, how she travelled from point A to point B, and dreams. According to the mother, these subjects were intrinsically boring.
J: It took the woman a while to realize that you could actually share these things. She had to learn how to talk about them.
A: I heard about a tribe of people living somewhere in the woods, who tell one another their dreams only on very special occasions, as a celebration.
J: Do you think a dream is transformed when you tell it?
A: It's important to be very precise, but yes, the dream changes a lot. First thing after waking up I just write down the most important words, facts that I don't want to forget. Then in between those words there are things that can be recreated as certain energies. You can introduce some delay and suspense in between the words. So the more detailed my description of the dream would get, the more it turned into fiction. Something like that happened with the instrument as well, but in this case I was certain of how it looked and, for example, that it was made of brass.
J: Did this instrument arrive to you in a particular place? Did you just find it in your hands?
A: It goes back to an earlier dream I had. I was walking down a road as I heard a strange melody, I cannot remember what it sounded like now, perhaps because there was no musical instrument at that time. I was just walking and enjoying the melody. And then I realized that I was swinging my arms around. Looking at them I tried to understand if my movement produced the sound or if it was coming from somewhere else. I figured out that it were actually my hands that emitted the melody (laughing). Then came a wave of disappointment: there was no musical instrument! That disappointment lasted even after waking up. And then the instrument arrived after something like two months. At that time I was really exhausted from work. The kind of exhaustion when your mind merges with your body and the body simply spends time doing something. Just like the first time I remember myself walking down, listening to a melody.
J: The same one?
A: No, a different one. It sounded like a wind instrument making a long sustained sound, like when you breathe in really deep and then blow everything out. The only way to describe that sound is like a longing for things that don't yet exist. I got really sad, even started crying. A real sorrow because of things that don't yet exist.
J: Maybe this has something to do with this resistance to things that do exist that you talked about earlier?
A: Maybe. A kind of sadness that could make you cry. This feeling came with the sound.
J: These non-existent things, were they indefinite?
A: Yes, indefinite. I remember myself in tears meeting some other people walking around: "Here, try to play it!", I tell them.
J: You gave them the instrument?
A: Yes, I gave it to them, they played the same sound and started crying too. It sounded like some kind of a call, the sound of a call. It gave me goosebumps. It also felt as if the sound went right through me, like it was part of me somehow. When I took a closer look at the instrument I saw that it was made of brass, really well crafted.
J: So when you decided to make a piece like that yourself, you had a really clear picture of how it looked?
A: Yes, to the smallest detail. I needed no sketches and no measurements, I just took a piece of plasticine and recreated its shape right away. Then I made a cast.
J: Did it seem like the instrument was used before?
A: Well, you could see that it wasn't perfect, like it clearly wasn't a 3D simulation.
J: And what happened after you made the instrument?
A: Well, a strange thing happened with it recently. I was going back home for Christmas and my mother asked me to bring it over. She is always curious to know more about the things I'm working on and I'd told her about the dream and the instrument over the phone. So I showed the instrument to my family at the Christmas dinner, we had a really good time talking, my father was telling a lot of stories from the times he was doing military service behind the Arctic Circle. Then late at night, after we all went to bed, I woke up to the sound of my mother's voice. I looked up and I see her standing in the doorway, all terrified. "Your instrument is glowing through the bag downstairs, and it's also sparkling and making train noises!", she tells me in a frightened voice.
J: Were you surprised?
A: Very. I never heard my mother speak in a voice like that. And she spent her working life in the emergency department, so she is not easily frightened. It really felt like falling into the unknown. "How come it is doing this? How did you make it?", she asked me. I tried to convince her that there's no hidden side to it, that I made the instrument with my own hands. "But you made it from a dream", she told me.
J: So did you figure out what actually happened?
A: Not right away. But we relaxed a bit by trying to talk things through, and we didn't hear any more noise coming from downstairs. Then my sister came in complaining about the sound of our voices not letting her sleep. My mother left and I wondered if I should get that bag and bring it outside to the car, but then I really wasn't so confident about facing the instrument myself (laughing). I even went back to bed with the lights on. I only learned the ending of the story the next morning after breakfast. "It all happened in less than a second", my mother finally explained. "I was just falling asleep when I had this dream of lying in bed with my eyes open and looking right through the wall into your bag. I saw the instrument glowing inside, sparkling like a firework, and also making this cracking noise. It just about coincided with the moment I woke up from a strong gust of wind carrying the sound of a train passing by. And at the same moment the mobile phone your sister left at the room received a text message, and I heard the sizzling melody that came with it. It simply happened all at once, and I opened my eyes in reality and in a dream at the same time."
(This text was first published for the table of Kulttuurisauna, Helsinki)