European Capital of Culture Forum in Kaunas: Reflecting on Five Years of Creative Adventures, Lessons and Achievements

Next year’s European Capital of Culture (ECoC), Kaunas, has already caught the continent’s attention. On September 22–24, the team revealed a comprehensive programme for 2022 – the press conference was followed by a two-day forum full of captivating presentations, in-depth debates and artistic interventions. All of that helped to reveal the core ideas and values of the project and suggested 2022 will be one of the most successful years in the city’s history. An introduction to a new creative era, too. Once a temporary capital of a new state, today, Kaunas is ready to become a contemporary European capital.

‘I feel like five years ago when our team met the ECoC jury at the Ministry of Culture in Vilnius – we then promised the jury culture can make the much-needed change in people’s mindsets and help them better understand each other, as well as heal the city from its historical amnesia,’ Virginija Vitkienė, CEO of Kaunas 2022, reflected when opening the press conference ahead of the ECOC forum.

Partnerships that Enhance the Value of the City

‘Three years ago, we started the forum as an occasion and space to learn and get inspired from other cities, organisations, and innovators creating novelties in the cultural sphere. This year, it seemed more than natural after a few years of talking globally, we focus on Kaunas and speak in-depth about its programme’, Ana Kočegarova, Head of Programme at Kaunas 2022, opened the panel about the culture partnership programme. Kaunas 2022 accumulated around 80 partners that each helped shape the unique programme for next year. 

‘An ECoC without helping hands is not ECoC’, Ana Kočegarova smiled. Among other partners that joined her on the stage was Gintarė Masteikaitė, culture manager, producer and head of ConTempo, the international performing arts festival making heads turn in Kaunas and Kaunas district since 2019. The culture professional believes ‘One of the key events initiated by Kaunas 2022 reveals the potential of performing arts and what we can do together; also, it supports independent artists who live here, or who left city and country and are now coming back. In general, art is a great tool to bring the world to Kaunas and Kaunas to the world.’ 

Memory Topics Crossing State Borders

Memory Office, one of the founding branches of Kaunas 2022, kicked off its session with guided tours in two of the most multi-layered areas of Kaunas, history-wise. During the walks, the programme’s curators presented the site-specific artworks initiated by the Memory Office that all prove the language of art as a way to tell the stories of people is a tool much more potent than pure facts. 

Next year, the Memory Office will present a comprehensive programme in three parts, starting in spring, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the unrest in Kaunas that followed the self-immolation of a 19-year-old student Romas Kalanta in protest against the Soviet regime. The events of 1972 will be reviewed in two theatre performances. Later on, the fourth CityTelling festival will grow into a month-long event. In autumn, World Litvak Forum will gather many people who have their roots in Lithuania to discuss the painful past and a shared future. 

Architecture Heritage as Catalyst

Modernism for the Future is one of the most ambitious branches of Kaunas 2022, aiming at opening 360 interwar modernist architecture buildings in Kaunas and Kaunas district for visitors, ideas and events. The goal coincides with the architectural networks path to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Coincidentally or not, representatives of UNESCO attended the ECoC forum session held at the modernist auditorium of National M. K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art.

Within the framework of the Modernism for the Future programme, for more than five years and in various ways, cultural organisations, initiatives, architectural historians, and interdisciplinary art creators have been seeking inspiration in the city signs witnessing the birth of modern society, to tell Lithuania, Europe and the World. During the session, the programme’s partners revealed how Kaunas modernism can be Open and Accessible, Inclusive and Inspiring, Raising Awareness and Love to everyone for their future city. 

Understanding Oneself and the World Through a Myth

Possibly the most exciting session of the ECoC forum in Kaunas was held in the confluence of Lithuania’s main rivers, Nemunas and Neris, which is often called the birthplace of the city. Rytis Zemkauskas, the curator of the Myth of Kaunas, stressed we are what we tell and invited everyone to control the chaos by telling a common story: ‘Narrative places a human being within the time-space. Narrative helps to deal with the fear of infinity, it establishes, comforts and protects; The European capital of culture is aimed to create a uniting network of many different narratives – The Great Myth’. So, will creating a new myth for the city help it change its path? The answer will unfold in next year’s great mythical trilogy comprised of the Uprising (January 22), Confluence (May 20), and Treaty (November 25–27). 

All as one Before and After

From traditional music sounds and crafts that spread over the terrace of Kaunas Cultural Centre during one of the last sessions of the ECoC forum to brave examples of contemporary art – all of the above is nurtured in the playground of the Kaunas 2022 community programme. Spanning through the numerous neighbourhoods of Kaunasand Kaunas district, the programme aims at revealing the multi-layered face of the region, combined from varied yet all significant features, legends, beliefs and wishes.

Celebrating the spirit of communion and co-creation are two of the key goals of Kaunas 2022. During the past five years, the activities brought impressive results: 1,300 cultural and artistic activities were organised, more than 18,000 participants took part, and more than 55,000 viewers enjoyed the content. More than 350 foreign and Lithuanian artists contributed to implementing the activities, and more than 70 long-term works of art were created. ‘The greatest outcome of value is a community that is curious and initiates changes in its living environment’, believe the programme’s curators. During the session, emotional stories about personal journeys were shared. Everyone was invited to set off on a journey through the co-created wonders of Kaunas and Kaunas district next year.

Design’s Role in Creating a Happy City

From audience development to a greener city, design as a tool is critical in every single aspect of Kaunas 2022. Design for Happiness, a programme striving for an accessible, happy and sustainable city, has been incorporated in the main idea since Kaunas started getting ready to become an ECoC. ‘It was clear ever since we started preparing the bid that we want Kaunas to be not only a city of modernist architecture but also a city of contemporary design,’ said Virginija Vitkienė, CEO of Kaunas 2022, when opening the session on Friday morning.

Together with partners, Virginija Vitkienė presented a lush tree of activities of Design for Happiness for those attending the event and watching the broadcast. The tools include a new accessibility guide for cultural institutions looking for new audiences, an old industrial ship in river Nemunas currently converted to an art hub, a successful collaboration with Kaunas’ fellow city in the UNESCO Creative Cities network, Kortrijk in Belgium, an overwhelmingly inspiring landscape design festival, the International Happiness Day and upcycling as a tool for creating sustainable fashion.

Emerging Kaunas: Goals for Years Following 2022

It would be very incorrect to say only professional artists and culture operators helped shape Kaunas 2022. The young generation of Kaunasians has been included in the path since the very start, with the help of the Emerging Kaunas programme, offering creative mentorships and workshops for high school students. The changes in the mindsets of the next generation were creatively and at the same time carefully transformed into the events of the programme of Kaunas 2022, highlights of which were revealed in the final session of the ECoC forum. Started with the rhythms of trap music, the event included personal growth stories, alternative initiatives and big future plans. 

Next year, Emerging Kaunas will host the largest contemporary city festival "Audra” (Storm), based on the principles of co-creation and coined in cooperation with dozens of young producers, curators and the music club Lizdas. What happens next? The people Rising Kaunas will definitely come back in 2023 and the years to come.

Hundreds of participants from across Europe attended the forum events, including representatives of former and future ECoCs, various institutions of art and culture and the press. Thousands of viewers watched the broadcast online – both real and virtual reactions became a true inspiration for the team of Kaunas 2022’. Video recordings of the presentations and the press conference are all available online on YouTube and Facebook.

Lithuania’s second-largest city Kaunas and the surrounding Kaunas district are ready to become one big European stage next year. The programme of Kaunas 2022 includes at least 40 festivals, over 60 exhibitions, more than 250 stage events (50+ world premieres!), and a number of concerts exceeding 250. The grand opening of ECoC is scheduled for January 22, 2022.

 

Text by: Kotryna Lingienė

Photos by: M. Plepys


All Eyes on Kaunas: Lithuanian City Revealed the European Capital of Culture 2022 Programme

After twelve years of anticipation, the official title of European Capital of Culture is back in Lithuania. The country’s second-largest city Kaunas and the surrounding Kaunas district are ready to become one big European stage next year – the grand opening is scheduled for January 22, 2022.  

The immersive formula for the big year includes at least 40 festivals, over 60 exhibitions, more than 250 stage events (50+ world premieres!), and a number of concerts exceeding 250. A press conference revealed key events, the most important names and many more exciting details for the whole continent to follow. Held in Kaunas, the event was accompanied by teams of Esch in Luxembourg and Novi Sad (Serbia), the other two European Capitals of Culture ready to shine in 2022.

Culture Beyond City Limits

It has been five years since the city of Kaunas and the surrounding Kaunas district have started preparing for 2022. The truth is, the ambitious international project has already proven its success. The change has taken place, and the communities that make up the face, body and soul of Kaunas have activated. Much of the European Capital of Culture program aims to celebrate the awakening and write a new chapter of the history of the area.

Dozens of unique small towns surrounding Kaunas, as well as lush nature and rich traditions that go back hundreds of years, are what complement the urban network within the city limits. At the same time, the international title has helped the rural communities meet international artists and discover new ways to express their identity.

A Community Project Above Everything Else

The theme of Kaunas 2022 is a grand yet unified dama that gives meaning to the road to the awakening of the city and its people. It’s the biggest co-creation festival of all since day one – the majority of the time, ideas and finances is dedicated to bringing as many people closer to culture as possible. It’s also an educational project, as hundreds of culture professionals and enthusiasts and representatives of the young generation have already gained new skills, guaranteeing the project’s continuity and quality future for Kaunas and Kaunas District.

What also makes Kaunas 2022 unique is creating a new myth for the city to help it change its path. The Mythical Beast of Kaunas – a project designed to create a unifying narrative for the city – will unfold in next year’s great mythical trilogy comprised of the Uprising (January 22), Confluence (May 20), and Treaty (November 25–27). 

The three main events are co-created by artists from Lithuania and abroad; they incorporate the ideas of historical personalities from Kaunas into the new work – names like George Maciunas and Emmanuel Levinas. Among the programme participants are Philip Miller, William Kentridge, Marina Abramović, Yoko Ono, Jenny Kagan, Robert Wilson, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Antony Polonsky, Oskaras Koršunovas, Modestas Pitrėnas, Edgaras Montvidas and many others. It’s important to stress each branch of Kaunas 2022 has its own superstars, some of whom are still on their way to international fame – Kaunas and Kaunas District, as one big European stage, will become their trampoline.

Highlights of the Programme

Annual festivals already launched by Kaunas 2022 will reach their culmination, such as the International Day of Happiness (March), the European Capital of Culture Forum (May), Contemporary Neighbourhoods (all summer long in the towns of Kaunas district), the European Youth Festival (July), the international performing arts festival ConTempo (August), Fluxus Festival (September), landscape design festival Magenta (autumn), the CityTelling Festival, which reconsiders the multiethnic memory of Kaunas and the people who built it every October, and the Kaunas Design Event in celebration of its title as a UNESCO Creative City of Design (October). Talking about UNESCO, the Kaunas 2022 program called Modernism for the Future invites the residents and guests of the city to embrace the rich modernist architecture network and support its path to the World Heritage List.

Among the highlights of the event schedule in 2022 are the international exhibition of up-and-coming contemporary artists “MagiC Carpets Landed”, the 13th Kaunas Biennial “Once Upon Another Time”, an exhibition by William Kentridge, one of the most influential and most wanted international artists of today, a retrospective by the cult figure of New York art scene Yoko Ono, a show by the global superstar Marina Abramović, as well as works and performances by other fantastic names, often cooperating with each other and local artists or communities. New and very much anticipated events such as World Litvak Forum are also confirmed for 2022.

Cultural Bridges to the World

Artistic interventions, including two premieres, spiced up the mood of the press conference. Kaunas dance theatre ‘Aura’ presented an excerpt of ‘Pluto’, a new show depicting a journey through one’s identity by Matthew Dane Livingston. 

Another premiere that received much attention was a new song ‘City Sisters’ by Lithuanian singer and Kaunas 2022 ambassador Jurga Šeduikytė and South African songwriter Kgomotso Le Roux. ‘City Sisters’ tells a story about two women in two countries – and Le Roux is singing her part in the Zulu language.

The cultural bridges built by the project of Kaunas 2022 helped even more creative ideas connecting Lithuania and SA to be born. The list includes an exhibition by William Kentridge, one of the most prominent contemporary artists whose roots are in Lithuania, coming to Kaunas next year. The South African artist explores the topics of violence, empathy and racism in his works – similar themes are reflected in the song ’City Sisters’, which will become a soundtrack to the exhibition. The premiere of the song’s music video will be held in both Kaunas and Johannesburg.

European Capital of Culture Forum for Extended Talks

The press conference in Kaunas is followed by the European Capital of Culture forum on September 23–24. Both live and online, the fourth international forum is dedicated to in-depth discussions and evaluation of the programme for next year. Curators and partners of the six main branches of Kaunas 2022 will present the vision for the city and the results of their five-year work, including the most significant achievements and the most important lessons that all influenced the final programme. Of course, it will be time to talk more about the key events in next year’s calendar.

The timetable of the forum: https://forumas.kaunas2022.eu/

Watch it live: https://www.youtube.com/c/Kaunas2022https://forumas.kaunas2022.eu/ ir https://www.facebook.com/kaunas2022.

https://kaunas2022.eu/


An Unexpected Twist of Events: Kaunas Airport Renamed to Fluxus Airport

Did you know the international Fluxus movement, emphasising the artistic process over the result, is rooted in Kaunas, Lithuania? To celebrate the legacy of George Maciunas, the founder of the international community that includes artists like Yoko Ono, his hometown Kaunas has renamed its international airport to Fluxus Airport. 

Starting September 10, 2021, passengers will arrive and depart the world’s only air gates of art until the end of 2022, the year of the European Capital of Culture in Kaunas.

Virginija Vitkienė, CEO of Kaunas 2022, believes it’s essential to remember Fluxus is the sign of creativity, playfulness, unconventional approach and art without rules or borders: “Kaunas airport agreeing with our offer clearly shows how inclusive, stimulating and attractive the key ideas of the Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 are.”

George Maciunas, the founder of Fluxus, was born on November 8, 1931, when Kaunas was the flourishing temporary capital of Lithuania. The period of the First Republic is now a source of inspiration for contemporary Kaunas. Thus, as a UNESCO City of Design, member of the UNESCO Creative Cities network and the European Capital of Culture 2022, Kaunas is inseparable from Fluxus and the legacy of George Maciunas. 

For decades, the Fluxus Cabinet, filled with art and statements from around the world, has been open in the Kaunas Picture Gallery. A stone’s throw from it, at the intersection of three streets, there’s a unique George Maciunas square. The latter is the starting point of the annual Fluxus Festival’s main event, a massive and creative climb up the hill. The festival, together with the Fluxus Labs project focused on community art, is part of the program of Kaunas 2022.

As 2022 is around the corner, Kaunas and Kaunas district are becoming one big European stage: they will host more than 40 festivals, a comprehensive year-long exhibition programme, more than 250 performing arts events, including 50 premieres and a rich musical programme with approximately 250 concerts. The complete programme for 2022 will be revealed on September 22, 2021, during a press conference that will precede the European Capital of Culture forum.


 

 

Photos by: A. Aleksandravičius


Reverse mountain climbing? At the Fluxus Festival, it's also possible!

The largest and probably the most colorful community festival of Fluxus will happen in Kaunas on September 11th. This year's event will invite you to participate in discussions and immerse you into a co-creation full of fantasy - the festival participants will create and decorate their own costumes and the most unexpected vehicles to climb Parodos Hill in a Fluxus way. 

Awakening the city in a Fluxus way since 2018, this year's event reflects the trailer of the year 2022, when Kaunas will become the European Capital of Culture and thus, the communities of Kaunas and Kaunas district invite you to celebrate all the holidays of the year. As for the culmination of the Fluxus Festival - the climb to the Parodos Hill - its organizers call for an inventive look - everything that the participants' imagination allows is possible. "You can climb walking backward or in a handstand, carrying an uncle or a goldfish, with rollerblades or a surfboard, or maybe just wearing a Santa Claus costume," said Simona Savickaitė, coordinator of the "Fluxus Labs! "program of Kaunas - European Capital of Culture 2022. 

Due to the last year's pandemic, the Fluxus Festival didn't go as planned, but this year the communities will interact live, which, according to the organizers of the event, is a celebration in and of itself. "I am delighted that this community event is being created by more than 200 people from different social groups and beliefs, from students to seniors. This is the real Fluxus - after overcoming our fears, we are doing things that we may have never done before, we go on adventures," said S. Savickaitė. According to her, an event that would be more communal is probably unimaginable - all activities are created by the residents of Kaunas city and Kaunas district, and each of the activities invites the event participants to participate in co-creation. Simona is convinced "costumes of the festival liberate - by communicating, people start to form a unity." 

The festival participants will meet in the square of the pioneer of the Fluxus movement - Jurgis Mačiūnas, and after climbing the mountain, get involved in the (un)expected and (extra)ordinary artistic action of Kaunas city and district communities. "It's all just a part of the Fluxus Festival. "Kaunas 2022 "community program "Fluxus Labs!" will invite you to celebrate the community spirit and turn this day into a real holiday of unity and friendship of all Kaunas and Kaunas district residents" said S. Savickaitė. 

Get to know the entire Fluxus festival program: 

2 PM - 4 PM Discussion about communities and their activities "Creativity and dialogue: changes in communities" ("Kodėl me?", Perkūno al. 4, Kaunas). The final lectures and discussions of the cycle "Creativity and Dialogue: Changes in Communities" organized by Kaunas 2022 community program "Fluxus Labs!". 

5–9:30 PM Fluxus costume workshop - preparation for climbing the Parodos Hill (Kaunas Picture Gallery courtyard, K. Donelaičio str. 16, Kaunas). The organizers invite you to make a Fluxus costume. The necessary tools will be taken care of, but you can also bring your own.                                                               

5–9:30 PM Fluxus makeup and hairdressing workshop - preparation for climbing the Parodos Hill (Children's Literature Museum, K. Donelaičio str. 13, Kaunas). The organizers invite you to create Fluxus hairstyles and makeup. The necessary tools will be taken care of, but you can also bring your own. 

5–9:30 PM Decoration workshop for Fluxus vehicles (scooters, bicycles, skateboards, etc.) - preparation for climbing the Parodos Hill (KTU University yard, K. Donelaičio 20, Kaunas). Organizers invite you to decorate your vehicles. Decorating tools will be taken care of, but you can also bring your own. 

9:45 PM to 12:00 AM "Fluxus Festival" - climbing the Parodos Hill (J. Mačiūnas Square, K. Donelaičio St. 2, Kaunas). 

"Fluxus Labs!" is part of the "Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022" program. In the European Capital of Culture year, events in Kaunas and Kaunas district are planned for more than a year: more than 40 festivals, over 60 exhibitions, more than 250 performing arts events, of which more than 50 premieres and more than 250 concerts. 


Waiting for Kaunas2022, interview to the CEO Virginija Vitkienė

There are still a few months to Kaunas 2022, the great event that will see the second city of Lithuania take on the role of European Capital of Culture. The city has been preparing since 2017, when the candidacy was accepted. We met the CEO of the organization, Virginija Vitkienė.

In our interview she talks us about the program which is based on several interesting topics: from Modernist architecture, of which Kaunas is one of the main protagonists in Europe, to Memory, remembering the past and looking to the future, from Fluxus Labs which sees local communities personally involved in the various artistic events. Important to underline: each activity is studied and designed with local communities, especially with people who live in neighborhoods.

Watch the video:

Interview by: Marina Macrì, a journalist of "Lithuanian stories"

Photo by: M. Plepys


Kaunas 2022 will reveal its programme during special Forum

"Kaunas - European Capital of Culture 2022," is preparing for an extraordinary event: in September, the European Capital of Culture year-long program, put together with many partners, will be unveiled. At the international press conference on September 22, the details of the programs of "Kaunas 2022" and other European Capitals of Culture – "Esch 2022 "and "Novi Sad 2022 "- will be presented to the international and national audience of journalists. After the press conference, "Kaunas - European Capital of Culture 2022" will be inviting to the fourth European Capital of Culture Forum, dedicated to a detailed review and evaluation of the "Kaunas 2022" program.

September 23-24 The curators and program partners of the six Kaunas 2022 programs will speak about the vision of the Capital of Culture, the results of the activities developed over five years, the most remarkable achievements, the lessons learned from the Capital of Culture that influenced the program and - most importantly - about the brightest projects and events in 2022. "The annual European Capital of Culture Forum, established in Kaunas back in 2018, is the first initiative of this format in the European Capitals of Culture network. It's highly proven, in demand among local cultural practitioners, valued internationally. The leaders, curators, and producers of the European Capitals of Culture network regularly share their experiences at the Forum. It has also become a place for networking. Many Kaunas cultural organizations have turned the creative contacts established during the Forum into international art projects for 2022. In this year's Forum, titled "Being the European Stage," we want to not only announce what will be on the stage of Kaunas and Kaunas district but also to share what was going on behind the scenes in five years. The organizers of the forthcoming European Capitals of Culture are especially looking forward to this information," said Virginija Vitkienė, the head of Kaunas 2022.

This live meeting will provide a opportunity to gather and exchange the latest news from each European Capital of Culture program. In 2022, Kaunas will become European cultural scene – there will be more events than days in a year. The Kaunas - European Capital of Culture 2022 program, will flood Kaunas and Kaunas district's usual and unexpected spaces. It will be hard to escape culture: Kaunas residents and guests will be awarded world-class exhibitions and premieres of plays, works of public art, performing arts displays in cozy chamber spaces, and a new quality of mass events in Kaunas and Kaunas district. Kaunas 2022 program features over 1000 events. Next year over 40 festivals, over 60 exhibitions, more than 250 performing arts events (of which - more than 50 premieres), and more than 250 concert performances will take place.

According to Anna Kočegarova-Maj, the head of the Kaunas 2022 program, the program of the Capital of Culture is limitless. Therefore, this year the largest Kaunas 2022 discussion platform - the European Capital of Culture Forum – was dedicated solely to it and the detailed exploration of which projects will form the program and what results are already being enjoyed today. "Also, the Forum participants will learn about the participants' experience of the program, the partnerships developed in Kaunas and Kaunas district. The topic of program sustainability might be touched upon too. The press conference and Forum are like the last glance at the path traveled, which will begin the countdown to the actual start of 2022. In the cycle of September events, Kaunas will be the focus of attention throughout Europe for about a week. Many foreign colleagues, currently taking the initial steps of their own Capital of Culture projects, have already expressed their desire to participate. Local and foreign media representatives have also expressed interest in visiting Kaunas for the first time, and I hope they will bring back good impressions. In parallel with the press conference and forum, we will organize a congress of the European Capitals of Culture network, which will attract about 130 organizers of past and future Capitals of Culture to Kaunas," said A. Kočegarova-Maj.

The Forum's organizers will invite the participants to visit the different cultural spaces of the city related to the 2022 program and the Capitals of Culture partnerships. The event's program, which will last as long as two days - September 23 and 24 - will be complemented by cultural content, as usual. Kaunas 2022 invites you to register for the Forum events and watch the program updates on www.forumas.kaunas2022.eu . The number of registration spots for different forum sessions is limited; therefore, the Forum organizers invite participants to register as early as possible. The press conference and Forum will be broadcast live on www.facebook.com/kaunas2022, recordings will be posted on www.kaunas2022.eu.


MoFu artist K.Pisarikova interprets Kaunas 9th fort

That suffering or what was happening in the 9th fort is indescribable and incomprehensible. I am thankful for the opportunity to live in peace and freedom” – says Karin Pisarikova, the artist from Brno, Czech Republic.

K.Pisarikova – one of the artists participating in „Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022“ project, that is partly funded by „Creative Europe'' – „Modernism for the future 365/360“ (MoFu). These are art interpretations on modernism architecture. Various artists together with local researchers and heritage community will create 17 art projects in the 20th century modernism buildings. Six of them are located in Kaunas.

“The Idea of “Come in the form of milk” (“Atplauk pieno puta”) project – to interpret and present the memorial of Kaunas 9th fort in the form of visual language using not logical but emotional associations. To capture genius loci and to remind of human resilience: psychological, emotional, physical and social.

Project iconology was directly selected from the highest memorial part “Liberation” (“Išsilaisvinimas”), that depicts powerful figures, emerging and freeing themselves from violence, terror, oppression. An important part of iconology is clenched fists crowning the composition. That is why I focused on this unique gesture and developed it further.” – says the artist.

K.Pisarikova – artist, curator and associate lecturer born in Brno city, Czech Republic. The biggest inspiration for her creation comes from life: human connections and daily rituals.

Karin usually creates art installations, has experience in performance, visual art and photography fields. Typical material for an author's work is human hair. Such a choice is determined by hair ambiguity, connection with the body. Main artist’s topics are: human’s life, creative process in everyday life, authenticity, fiction and reality.

That is why human hair used for the project wasn’t new or an accidental element. K. Pisarikova has been using this material in her creations for a long time: for its meaning - positive or negative connotation and for its direct connection with the human body, connection with ancestors, and finally - for its infinite cycle of growth.

The costumes of the creative group represent the people from the whole world who are united by the uniforms - sportswear, grey colour - they merge with the concrete shades of Kaunas 9th fort memorial.

Artist’s children who worked together on this project, symbolize hope and being “here and now“. Children who don’t belong to anyone, who appear and disappear, who can be a gift and at the same time a doom for a planet. However, they symbolize human resilience, ability to rise and look forward, no matter all the bad things that had happened in the past. 

– Why are you participating in the “MoFu” project? What is interesting to you about it?

– I grew up in a modernist house built in the 30s. It was my family home from when I was three. That's why I thought it's perfect because I have done projects around home and I feel connected to it. 

Since I got children I started thinking about the first home. First home is inside the mother and after birth we change home. What is home for us? It’s an extension of our body or a shelter for it. This concept was interesting, so I was hoping to work with modernism architecture. What is more, my father is an architect. He is connected to brutalist architecture.

At first I was worried about the pandemic, so I applied for a project in Brno but I was chosen to participate in Kaunas. I was excited - I love visiting various places. In my work and in my life I love coincidences. Sometimes you meet someone and I think this is a very nice coincidence.

– You create interpretations for Kaunas 9th fort. What was the first impression of this object after “meeting” it?

– I think it's a dark place with a lot of heavy energy. When I visited it for the first time, it was shocking. I think it is hard to even touch the subject. I think that suffering or what was happening in the fort is indescribable, incomprehensible for us or just for me because I have not had any hurdles like that in my life.

In the fort you are thinking about the memorial in a respectful way without going too much into the concrete details of what used to be happening there.

– Can you elaborate about your idea for interpretation underline fort and what is the form of your creation here in Kaunas?

– I focused on the memorial monument after the ninth fort. It’s a brutalist monument. Regarding the message I was very interested in how it’s phases changed through the time.

I was looking at the final form and what message this sculptor wanted to convey as much as the permanent aspect of the monument. Suffering and hope can be seen. There are three parts and the final one - victory - that was the most noticeable. It's a bit controversial but it's like a strong visual signal for me.

– Your inspiration comes from life: human connections, daily rituals. For your creations the common material is human hair. How did human hair become like an instrument for your creation?

– I believe each of us has something in their life that you are drawn to and you don't know why. For me it has always been hair. Since I was little I have really liked hair or this kind of material. 

I work as a hairdresser as a part time job. But I really started using hair after moving to Japan (in 2015 the artist completed her PhD. at Tama Art University, Tokyo  – author’s note). This was something I already knew and I could relate to even in a foreign country. I could not speak the language and I was really lost. However, there was a hairdresser’s next to the place I lived and I could smell the familiar smell of wet hair. You know, it has a certain smell.

Then I slowly started to make a connection with the people by going there and asking them for the material for my works.

Also in Japan (I guess in many cultures, but in Japan particularly) the hair is connected to life. There's a parallel between. Long, black, thick hair symbolizes energy. So if you start going gray or lose hair it means you're losing energy. That's why so many Japanese men color their hair, because showing that you have gray hair is a sign that you cannot work anymore. Hair has a super power. For me it’s the energy.

I started doing some sculptures and installations from the hair. I made a jellyfish out of hair. Hair contains both life and death. It is beautiful when it's attached to your head and it's part of it. But once it's cut, it's something disgusting, it becomes an object. In a matter of a split of a second - it changes from beautiful to ugly.

– What connection have you created with Kaunas and its history?

– We had a guided tour around Kaunas modernism architecture objects. I love it, I think it's beautiful. The monuments are also impressive and memorable. What connection have I created? There's this connection between Brno and Kaunas - they are the partner cities, and also they have a similar history of modernism.

From 1930 to 1995 there was a big wave of modernism architecture. Just like you, we also had a big Jewish community, so there’s a lot of their cultural legacy and UNESCO monuments. So, in Kaunas this kind of similarity feels like home now. But I enjoy the differences as well.

– Can your project become a bridge between these two cities and deepen the awareness of 20th architecture and its stories?

– Yes, that would be nice. I  always think about connecting cultures or how to learn more about them. It's super useful and super important to me because it basically lets you learn about yourself. You look at your beliefs and find out about yourself. Traveling in different cultures, you can travel inside your soul. 

– A month in Lithuania, creating and traveling with your family. What is your family connection with your creation, what is their role?

– They are part of me. This is a long story. We have this movement in Check that is called “Mothers art lovers”. It's a group of artists who are mothers and we were trying to discuss the possibility of working because it's not easy. For instance, I have been to some artists' residencies, but usually they don't accept families. It's just the artist, but if you have small children you can’t really leave them alone at home. Since my husband is working, I can’t leave a 2 year old. But I also want to work, because I would have more than a 10 year gap if I did not. I don't want to wait, so I try to include my family and work with them. This is how I developed some of the projects. Of course, when I can, I also do something on my own. But sometimes I need a longer period of time because for me it's important to see what Kaunas is about. I didn’t want to come and shoot a few photos and just leave. I really wanted to see the atmosphere, so I had to include my family. Sometimes they become an inspiration. I always tell them about the place, and they are interested to know what happened there. They were reading the stories to see the world the other children went through.

– What are the key values you share in your art and how do they help expressing your idea? 

– I want to step back and talk generally about humanity and human experience. The most attention is for values like hope, resilience and survival. I like mythology a lot, so I think I use it to express them. It (mythology) tells us a lot. So I used it for the work I did.

Hero’s journey, as the hero starts and goes. He encounters challenges, and comes to the lowest point. There is a fight which can be internal or external. Now the hero's journey can be applied also to your internal struggles. So the hero sets off into the unknown and then there are some struggles, challenges and temptations. There's death and rebirth. 

 

 

Photos by M. Plepys

Text authors: journalist of „15min“ Jurgita Lieponė and Sandra Karnilavičiūtė. Text in lithuanian can be found here 15min.lt.


Invitation to MEDIA EVENT - Esch 2022, Kaunas 2022, Novi Sad 2022

Big announcement of three European Capitals of Culture in one event in a delightful modernist architecture city of Kaunas – this is an offer for international media. "Kaunas 2022" together with “Esch 2022” and “Novi Sad 2022" are delighted to announce the International Media Event in Kaunas, Lithuania, on Thursday, September 24th, 2021.

We are convinced that this first joint post-pandemic physical meeting will provide everyone with a unique opportunity to meet up in one place and exchange the hottest news from each of the ECoC programmes. We are thrilled that besides our big Trio of title owners, many representatives from the ECoC network from all over Europe will also be attending and supporting us during this truly exceptional event in Kaunas.

Accompanied by announcements and presentations from “Novi Sad 2022” and “Esch 2022”, “Kaunas 2022” will take the home stage to reveal its full programme of the upcoming year. This is when you will find out how Kaunas – the Contemporary Capital – will be converted to a place where you simply will not escape culture.

Do not worry, the organisers have omitted all the boring parts of traditional media events. The pandemic suspended the culture sector, but it also provoked our creativity and special powers – we are ready to surprise you.

Besides all the numbers, names of co-creators we are proud of, and facts about the three bold and beautiful programmes for 2022, the mystery of the new Kaunas Myth will be revealed. In other words, the most exciting and attractive public events – The Contemporary Myth of Kaunas Trilogy – will be presented. The main character – the witty Kaunas Beast – will prevail in many of the year’s projects in Kaunas.

The city’s history, Fluxus movement, design, and community all created the legend set to become a year-long cultural festival with an extensive programme in 2022. Kaunas is becoming one big European stage: it will host more than 40 festivals, a comprehensive year-long exhibition programme, more than 250 performing arts events, including 50 premieres and a rich musical programme with approximately 250 concerts.

During your stay, you will be invited to take part in the European Capital of Culture Forum in Kaunas, which will happen simultaneously, on the 22nd -24th of September. The Forum will focus on detailed creative presentations of the programmes of ”Kaunas 2022“ – “Modernism for the Future”, “Designing happiness”, “Memory Office”, “We, the people”, “Emerging Kaunas”, “Wake it, shake it”, many spectacular events by our partners. We will also invite you to a date with the Kaunas Beast.

In a city full of culture, we prepare many pleasant surprises, especially for you. Take the opportunity to get acquainted with Kaunas – an innovative, passionate, stunning, dashing and friendly city for its residents and guests. International Media Event is planned  on the 22nd -24th of September. The unique media programme will be followed by special tours in Kaunas and Kaunas district and a tasting of Lithuania’s favourite dishes and drinks. If you are unable to arrive or would like to schedule other dates, we are open for talks and cannot stress enough how we recommend the following events in 2021:

International Performing arts festival “ConTempo” (17-23rd August)
Fluxus Festival (11th of September)
Landscape design festival “Magenta” (17-26th September)
CityTelling Festival (7-9th October)
Kaunas Biennial (from November 11)

Feel free to ask for information and confirm your participation (no later than August 5, Thursday) by e-mail: egle.r@kaunas2022.eu. The entire programme will be prepared for you in English.

We do understand that some media, especially cultural, are experiencing hard times. Thus, we are open to discuss terms and conditions which could motivate you to visit us, including possibility to cover your travel and accommodation expenses related to the International Media Event and European Capital of Culture Forum on the 22nd -24th of September.

See You soon!
Kaunas 2022 
Esch 2022 
Novi sad 2022 

 

Picture by M. Plepys


Gigantic Birthday Cards from Kaunas Appeared in Tartu 

Kaunas, a city where you cannot escape culture, is known for its unconditional love for sister cities in Lithuania and abroad. Just recently, it has sent its first-ever birthday postcards to Tartu, Estonia. The shipment costs are not revealed, but the size of the postcards – and good wishes – is motivating.

Tartu, known as the intellectual capital of Estonia, will become the European Capital of Culture in 2024. The “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022” team, who had cheered hard for Tartu to win the title, had big plans this Summer to visit Estonia on June 29, the official birthday of Tartu.

For reasons known too well, organising trips is not so easy these days – but it’s always possible to send greetings. So, starting June 29, the people of Tartu – both downtown and “sleeper” districts – can read warm wishes from Kaunas on billboards, including an extended invitation to visit Kaunas in 2022.

Both Kaunas and Tartu are second cities in their countries; the official pact of cooperation was signed in 1993, but the friendship dates back many years. In fact, there once was a trendy restaurant, “Tartu” in Kaunas – many older residents keep a special place in their hearts for memories about it. Tartu, of course, had a restaurant called “Kaunas”, and to this day, it has a Kaunas street! Residents of it and passers-by also have the privilege of the gigantic birthday card from Kaunas.

Kaunas hopes that the friendly gesture will help strengthen the cultural bridges between Lithuania and Estonia and invite for the co-creation of many artistic projects in the future, both for Kaunas 2022 and Tartu 2024.

The European Capital of Culture year in Kaunas will reveal a newly created myth of the Kaunas City. The main character of it – the playful but dangerous Kaunas Beast – will prevail in many of the year‘s projects.

The Mythical Beast of Kaunas narrative will unfold in next year’s great mythical trilogy comprised of the Uprising (January 19–23), Confluence (May 20–22), and Treaty (November 25–27).

Of course, residents of Tartu, Estonians, and people from all over the globe are more than welcome all year long, as Kaunas and Kaunas district will host more events than days in the year 2022. In fact, it will become one big European stage.


Kaunas 2022 memory program will build bridges between different cultures, religions and languages

In 2022, the Kaunas 2022 program “Memory Office” will invite the audience to a year-long cultural research of Kaunas DNA. An extremely rich and multi-layered artistic program will lead to a brave confrontation with the city’s complex past like a mirror that helps you get to know yourself and your humanity better.

The program of events, which brings together creators from Lithuania and all over the world, plus a group of partners, will allow locals to get to know their city better, and for the visitors, it will become an atlas of new stories of Kaunas. World-renowned artists William Kentridge, Philip Miller, Jenny Kagan, the Sala-Manca Collective group of artists, and others will help to explore the city. The most important events in the city's history, which shaped, changed and raised the city from the Second World War, the 1972 "Kaunas Spring" to the myths, stories and legends of the present-day city will be presented through exhibitions, concerts and performances.

Extensive four months programme of the CityTelling Festival

The bigest event of the "Memory Office" program, the CityTelling Festival, which is already popular with visitors, will take place in 2022 for four months and will talk about the return and the community spirit. In this more than ever conflicted world, we will try to forge a new relationship not only with our painful history, but also with those who live next to us today. Extensive program of the festival includes stories of various forms that build bridges between different cultures, religions and languages. Stories that teach to empathize and listen to the Other.

The international program will invite to exhibitions, performances, concerts of internationally acclaimed artists, new routes created by city history enthusiasts and excursions to explore the different side of the city. The storytellers' project "Where can I find you?" will spread around the city's cafés, streets and courtyards, looking for everyone who wants to hear and share the stories of the modern world. Finally, the conference on the idea of Europe will raise one of the most pressing questions of today: what is Europe and what is our place in it?

Special attention to the Jewish memory of Kaunas

The Memory Office program and the CityTelling Festival will pay special attention to the Jewish memory of the city. In 2022, the European Capital of Culture will invite Litvaks scattered all over the world to meet at the World Litvak Forum. On 29-30 September, in the program of discussions and culture, famous artists, scientists and representatives of the world of culture will talk about the Litvak identity, memory, and the role of culture in giving meaning to multicultural memory and creating new opportunities for dialogue.

One of the most anticipated events of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 is the work "Kaunas Cantata: Reconciliation" by composer Philip Miller and artist Jenny Kagan. The largest and most massive musical experience of Kaunas to date, dedicated to the symbolic reconciliation of nations, will be played during the Litvak Forum. More than 400 performers joined this piece of vocal instrumental music: local musicians and singers, choirs, representatives of different genres and generations.

The major events of the four-month CityTelling Festival program are also dedicated to the Jewish theme – exhibitions, performances, musical stories, installations dedicated to the heritage of Jewish memory and cultural signs in the city spaces, and many other activities. Litvak artists who returned to Lithuania from the Republic of South Africa, Great Britain, France and Israel took a particularly active part in the development of the program. Main events: William Kentridge's exhibition "What We Don't Remember", musical performance "Dybbuk", Jenny Kagan's exhibition "Out of the Darkness", photography exhibition "The Last Litvaks", art installation in public spaces "Threshold" and others.

The book "Kaunas Jews", which will be released in Lithuanian and English languages this year, is no less important. This is the first such presentation of the Jewish history of Kaunas from the most important facts, concepts and names. This most comprehensive book on the subject to date does not seek to answer all the questions, but starting from the 15th century will consistently remind the contribution of Kaunas Jews to education, medicine, industry, business, culture and other areas of life, and will touch on the painful pages of history.

Events dedicated to the times of the disobedient and a different look at the city and its people

The special program of events will remind of the time that led to the biggest historical turning point in the life of the city. The nineteen-year-old Romas Kalanta who set himself on fire on 14 May 1972 and the events that followed led to the birth of the so-called "Kaunas Spring" – anti-Soviet protests that involved thousands of people and took place mainly in Laisvės alėja (Liberty Avenue). These events left traumatic traces not only in the further development of the city, in its cultural life, but also in the fates of a large number of young Kaunas residents. These historical events and the period of the disobedient will be revived within the Kaunas 2022 program through performances, exhibitions, concerts, discussions, meetings, etc. dedicated to this topic.

The crucial point of this program will be the exhibition "1972: Regime, Youth and Art", in which paintings, photographs and films, documentary testimonies of musical life, youth fashion and other artefacts will tell about alternative culture and non-Soviet way of life in Soviet Lithuania. The exhibition will reveal the diversity of mindsets and creativity in the Soviet background that levelled everyone. It will explore how aesthetic tastes and ethical attitudes in Soviet times shaped different patterns of life and the atmosphere of disobedience to the government.

A series of events dedicated to the identity of the city will invite to look at the city and its residents from a different angle. We will examine the city, re-explore the city’s industrial heritage and histories of some factories. Perhaps the most interesting highlight of the program is the conversation between Kaunas and Vilnius about the confrontation between the two cities, the silent struggle and the mute dependence. In the exhibition, which will take place simultaneously in the two cities, MO museum together with Kaunas City Museum will remind how the big cities shaped each other and how modern Lithuania arose from the tensions between them.

Important events: Exhibition "1972: Regime, Youth and Art", concert " Made in Kaunas", Historical-documentary performance "Kalanta", rock opera "Kalanta", exhibition "Kaunas - Vilnius: move the mountains", route "Memory Circle", exhibition "The Big Industry" and others.

Kaunas walls also tell stories

Kaunas and Kaunas district have been adorned with works of street art that bring back the faces of those who lived before us, tell their fates and present culture. This way, the poet Lea Goldberg , the charismatic Rosian with her mother Gerta, and the signs of the Tartar legacy returned to Kaunas again. The number of these meaningful wall drawings is increasing, so when wandering around Kaunas, Kulautuva or Kačerginė, don't forget to look around and stop to read the inscriptions. Look for the special memory street art route at atmintiesvietos.lt.

And this is only a short look at the Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 program "Memory Office", which brings back the memory of the city's ethnic communities. Next year, Kaunas and Kaunas district will become one big European stage and turn the city to a place where you will not escape culture. Comprehensive program of events for 2022 will be announced in September.

 

Photo: Andrius Aleksandravičius