Have you ever thought of knitting a love letter to yourself? Gertrūda Gilytė’s durational project: Neuroplasticity or I Love You Gertrūda, does just that. Gilytė merges knitting and TikTok-based video performance to explore self-help discourse and the rise of online mindfulness trends.
Gertrūda Gilytė uses personal development as performance, exploring how self-development practices and personal vulnerabilities may be explored as an artistic tool. Neuroplasticity or I Love You Gertrūda examines personal development through knitting, a craft and method that has proven health and wellbeing benefits, including improving neuroplasticity, lowering blood pressure and slowing the onset of dementia, as well as reducing loneliness, anxiety and depression. “Neuroplasticity” refers to the means by which neural networks may be formed or reinforced through new skills or movements.
This project marks a new critical direction within Gilytė’s practice. At the same time, the artist’s exploration of personal development through performance predates Neuroplasticity or I Love You Gertrūda, this project represents Gilytė’s desire to explore “the object” and its place within art history. Gilytė has made a daily commitment to knitting “I love you”s into neon green scarves and documenting her process on TikTok until one of her scarves is sold in the art market. Her definitive goal of attributing art market value to a self-improvement object seeks to reflect the means by which personal development practices are becoming increasingly commodified.
This critique is amplified through the use of TikTok as a performance space and tool, in which Gilytė submerges Neuroplasticity or I Love You Gertrūda within a narrative of influencer culture and mainstream personal development trends. Gilytė documents this process through daily TikTok videos that take place in various performative settings, accompanied by voice-overs that explore both her personal development and the performative aspects of a digital mindfulness persona. The artist questions the sincerity of her performance throughout, as Gilytė illuminates in one TikTok: “knitting is somehow seen as being a really wholesome activity, domestic and fragile maybe, […] but does it remain the same way if it’s purely performative? If, for example, I’m not wholesome at all but want to trick you, to appear this way?”
Neuroplasticity or I Love You Gertrūda’s tone is of the moment. Lockdowns gave rise to a knitting boom, with crocheting and knitting trending on TikTok in 2021. Gilytė’s project’s relationship with TikTok is simultaneously ironic and genuine; whilst “keeping a critical distance” from the platform’s stream of mindfulness trends, the artist also seeks to uplift the positivity within mindfulness practices, to reduce her anxiety and to improve her own neuroplasticity. Notably, Gilytė is new to knitting and has herself learnt through knitting videos, making Neuroplasticity or I Love You Gertrūda a documentation of her knitting journey – a tangible progress that she states has become her main source of motivation.
For this digital residency, Gilytė has produced a series of new photographs of the scarf series, now on display within her solo Agora Digital Art x Metaxu Studio exhibition space. Just as the bright green and vivid text of Gilytė’s scarves reference the highlighter hues that dominated design and fashion trends in 2021, much of this photography series playfully references fashion photography trends. The photos explore the scarves in context, examining how both the artist and others interact with the art object. The photography series is accompanied by a bespoke audio performance recorded by Gilytė for this residency, The New Sincerity (2022). For this solo exhibition, Gilytė invites us into a meandering neon green tunnel, encapsulating us within the scarf’s knitted zeitgeist.