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 period the artist examines the freedom of choice and technological advancement. Simbelis reflects upon and in an expressive and thrilling form of video art format. In that period of time video art evolved as a core artistic medium in the Lithuanian contemporary art scene. Vygandas premiered with the first group of video artists in Lithuania exploring the medium through artistic practice. He was working in various contexts as a premier live visual performer and in theater 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 the Baltic Way - all this was present at the period. The focus was on the capitalist paradigm shift from the former communist regime to radical Western capitalism which affected the artist to rethink the underlying societal values. The change from Marxist ideology and society in the former Soviet republic of Lithuania affected the artist to critically reflect upon important social aspects and use postmodern language to express himself. Radical alterations in a very short period of time introduced new structures and values which resulted in exponential economic growth, constantly increasing speed, mediated environments, expanding coverage of ubiquitous 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.

This section is a look at the 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 interaction and interdisciplinary approach.





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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 about 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 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 (also a professor in the painting department) announced in the disputation at defence 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 of the surrounded audience. The project was showed as a final work for MA degree in 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 reading 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 with 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 published as an accomplishment to the practical work and the theme, the book's layout designed in regard to the playfulness and engagement of a reader in playful interactions. Eventually, the final practice work and the thesis graded with the highest grade regardless of the tradition of academic discourse.

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Rotation

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



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Just Play It

A short 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 keyboard, drawing with desktop icons, scratching DVD plate, etc. It becomes a rhythmical music video 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.



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RGB poetics

Digital simpatico, visual narrative effects, from 2000. Firstly the sequence was exhibited as media art exhibition, later visuals have been used for live visual performances of the artist, founded under the VJ Render nickname and portfolio.

One of the presented places were at East Impact, Yubileiny Palace, Saint Petersburg, Russia; other shows were performed in Germany, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Sweden.

Look for the still images below at the bottom of the page.

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Keep Smiling!

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

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In Army Of Lovers

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 bed sheet backgrounds.

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.

The film was released on multimedia DVD at Abflug label, also exhibited and screened.
1998 - Vilnius Art Academy, Vilnius.
2001 - exhibited in the Chess Hall in Vilnius Art Academy, Vilnius.
2002 - Automaten Bar, Berlin.
2006 - Balticoco, electronic arts festival, Intro art centre, Vilnius.
2007 - Electronic Pioneers, Intro art Centre, Vilnius.




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Non-Stop Digital Smile

Very early research into a little known Digital Smile, now known as emoticon - without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of the intended characters. 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 (a character) but provides a significant difference (change of mood) with a font. The art project is querying about the digitalisation of expressions and emotions, technologisation of human aspects of communication within ordinary media expressions in contemporary life. Monotonous scrolls and clicks of the computer mouse in one of the monitors are referring to the sexual movements of a finger. After such a repetitive movement, this brings us and ends in a trance state. The similar monotonic movement of the view in a larger screen of the typographic mixture smoothly transits bits of typefaces, fonts, signs, characters, and moods. Semantic transitions from signs to emotions and meanings are embodied in this lively installation.

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

2000 - Media School exhibition, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen, Denmark;
2000 - exhibited in the Chess Hall in Vilnius Art Academy, Vilnius;



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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 been filmed hanging steadily fixed to the camera but restlessly moved in space.

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

1998 - exhibited in the cellar exhibition room of Vilnius Art Academy, Vilnius;
2001 - exhibited in the Chess Hall in Vilnius Art Academy, Vilnius;

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Birutė ne bitutė, kiškutis ne Kęstutis

Birutė ne bitutė, kiškutis ne Kęstutis (poetic translation: Barbie is not a bee, a rabbit is not Rabin). Children are talking in solid words while adults 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, 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".

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"+" (Plus)

The film called "+" (Plus) was a second release within video art medium by the artist. It is a visual journey from Plus (+) sign in the title to the credits with a Minus (-). The movie starts with a collection of pills in a visually bright mood, and after many changes within the quality of pills, ranging from vitamins to drugs, an optimistic atmosphere vanishes into a psychedelic trance of magnificent soundscape and colourscape.

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.

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Are You For Me

The very first video art film of Simbelis was produced in 1996. The common daily objects and things borrowed from the adult world have surrounded a pretty innocent girl, wherein the end of the film she personally complains that she is not a girl. "Who are you for me?" - "I am not a girl for you".

The disturbing mixture of children's life and adulthood is exposed via contrasting objects of children's toys and sex toys, mixed sounds of songs with children girl voice and adult woman, bright contrasting colors of background, monotonic reverse imagery of sharp objects. The innocent girl is a ballet student of choreographer A. Cholina and filmed at the National M. K. Čiurlionis School of Art in Vilnius, Lithuania. Color, sound film, 3'28", VHS.

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;
2018 - Non-devised Matters, screening of digitalized premier Lithuanian video art collection at Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania;
2019 - published online in the Independent Cinematheque video art collection. Link to the film on Cinematheque website;








Below screenshots of RGB poetics, 2000:




RGB poetics, video, 2000 


RGB poetics, 2000 


RGB poetics, 2000 


RGB poetics, 2000