K. Lingienė gets to know Kaunas everyday: “Everyone knows that Ožeškienės Street exists. But who is Ožeškienė?"

It is not possible to get to know a city down to its core. It does not reveal itself whole. However, it is worth to search for its layers. That is exactly what Kaunasian Kotryna Lingienė does. She searches for Kaunas, its different hues, small-town and big-city feel, silence or bustle in-between existence and oblivion. She searches everywhere: in the City Centre, dormitory suburbs, architecture, street art, by looking at various signboards, reading street names. She not only searches but shares her discoveries: “It seems that the more you learn, the less you know,” observes Kotryna. 

Kotryna is a journalist well-known to Kaunas’, and not only Kaunas’, members of the cultural field. Together with her husband and like-minded colleagues she publishes the magazine Kaunas Pilnas Kultūros (Kaunas Full of Culture), is LRT Radio co-host discussing Kaunas and its people. K. Lingienė is one of the city’s cultural trainers as well. Starting mid-February, the volunteer programme of Kaunas – Capital of Culture 2022 will resume, which will invite new volunteers to join. To get to know the city and tell its story is what Kaunas 2022 volunteers, called culturists, are taught.

Kaunas’ Culturist Programme started last year when volunteers were invited to join the Kaunas 2022 team. They attended trainings, which were called Kaunas’ Cultural Training. That is what Kotryna conducted.

As 2022, the year of the capital of culture, approaches, the ranks of volunteers will grow, and, if the pandemic is over by 2022, the city will be visited by many foreign guests – not only tourists, but cultural experts and artists as well.

Kotryna, how did you yourself become the city’s cultural trainer?

I have prepared one of the publications for volunteers – Kultūristo Atlasas (Culturist’s Atlas). It is about how the story of Kaunas can be told to current guests and the ones arriving in 2022. Based on this publication, I have prepared trainings for volunteers. The first trainings took place in July, others – in winter, this time already remotely.

So how does one tell the story of Kaunas?

I have chosen two starting points – the airport and the railway station because they are the gates to the city, where the guests arrive. Of course, they may arrive with an automobile, but these two areas were my creative decision. So, from the railway station I travel through Vytauto Avenue, Kaunas Centre, then – through the Old Town. The central part of the city refers to the Modernism for the Future Programme and modernist architecture, we also implement the discoveries of the Memory Office Programme, which reveals the layers of Kaunas’ history.

We visit microdistricts, where communities are already collaborating with artists and in this way searching for their identity, strengths, are deciding how to present themselves to the world. After touring all of Kaunas, next we travel to Kaunas District. There, we concentrate on the Contemporary Neighbourhoods Programme: what is already happening or will soon happen in the neighbourhoods, how do we remember the history of cities and towns. We are also concerned with what can be found of interest, historical, what can already be observed, what people did and what they are doing.

Where have you learned about Kaunas yourself?

One of the first things I tell participants during trainings and remind myself all the time: the more you learn – the less you know. The best tour guide is the one, who is not afraid to admit that they do not know something. But they do have an idea where to look for the answer. Sometimes, it is better to say that you are not sure than to come up with theories based on stories you might have heard somewhere, which are not necessarily true.

I myself have been living in Kaunas again for the past 6 years, since I came back from Vilnius, where I had been living for 14 years. Therefore, after coming back I started to learn about Kaunas from the beginning. With my husband and like-minded colleagues, we publish the magazine Kaunas Pilnas Kultūros (Kaunas Full of Culture), hence each month we learn something new about Kaunas. About sculptures or music, about literature, fitness, food culture, street art. I am also the co-host of Lithuanian Radio – each week I discuss something about Kaunas. The knowledge is accumulating, and the circle of people who can tell me something interesting is expanding.

In your opinion, how much does the guest’s first impression on the city depend on how they will be greeted?

I think that it greatly depends on it. If it is a person who arrives here not on business, but for leisure, it means that Kaunas is somehow already interesting to them. It is important to understand why. Perhaps it is an individual interested in architecture, or perhaps street art is important to them, or the person simply came here to have a good time? Maybe they are searching for their family roots? This way of travel – or reason – is becoming increasingly more popular. People come to explore, raise questions. Well, regarding nature, Kaunas can be a great stop as well.

What is important is the first contact, the first conversation. Therefore, until then one should not set any particular boundaries.

What was a new discovery for you in Kaunas?

I am one of those people who find everything interesting. And I like to get surprised. I like to constantly learn something new. Not long ago, with one colleague who works in the heritage sphere, we were discussing the current J. Jablonskis Gymnasium. We both studied there (I, for a shorter period), at that time we paid no attention to the school’s building, and now it is a recognised modernist masterpiece. There are many sites, places in Kaunas that you discover only after some time. Maybe even from a distance. I simply enjoy walking through the streets, not necessarily in the City Centre, but in residential neighbourhoods too. I am a person of words; therefore, I am always very interested in signboards – how people express their imagination in this sphere. The names of services – such a variety. In other words, I really enjoy the art of signboards.

Lately, I have been interested in street names – now it is my passion. I have talked with specialists, I am surrounded by books, articles, I am also trying to dig up reasons why street names are named in one way or another. For example, everyone knows E. Ožeškienės Street in Kaunas. But who is she, Ožeškienė? So, that is why last week I purchased an old book by Elzė Ožeškienė.

As far back as before the First World War, E. Ožeškienė had her own bookshop in Vilnius, was a writer herself. She did not have an especially close relationship with Kaunas, even though she greatly enjoyed Nemunas river, spent her time in Druskininkai city. Thus, she wrote a novel titled Prie Nemuno (On the Niemen). The book appeared in Lithuanian in 1958. That is what I purchased. One could think that due to Nemunas, her street name remained in Kaunas throughout all the occupations. No one renamed it. Afterall, Nemunas is very important to us too. However, it is not a conclusion, just a thought.

There are two types of travellers. One type visits the so-called tourist spots, others – those which are non-tourist. You also suggest getting to know Kaunas’ microdistricts. Why are they interesting?

The City Centre is always nice, tidy, it is what the city wants you to see. You can spend your time nicely and comfortably just in the Old Town alone, in the Town Hall Square. But the residential neighbourhoods are the authentic ones, buzzing with life. They are also full of cultural – not necessarily high culture – sites. Wall paintings, sculptures, new churches, parks. Finally, marketplaces.

Concerning volunteers, in your opinion, what encourages to join cultural volunteering?

A volunteer seeks to spend their time in interesting ways, and in a manner that is helpful not only to themselves. Cultural volunteers improve themselves, and at the same time others. Even though it is common to believe that volunteers are the young, who are studying in schools or the first courses of universities because it has influence on their entry scores and etc, it was fun and interesting to see that among Kaunas’ cultural volunteers are people of various ages. And their eyes sparkle all the same.

They are interested in Kaunas, seek to discover it anew. Among volunteers there are people who have arrived to Kaunas recently, but there are also those who have lived here for many years, are old-timers. And they still find it interesting. That is the most important thing, it seems, it is what unites them. They are interested in their city, are not afraid to learn, they also wish to tell others about Kaunas.

Original text by Jurgita Lieponė, journalist of 15min. You can find the original text in 15min.lt website here.

Photographs by Martynas Plepys.

On the occasion of Europe Day, a joint greeting to Lithuania and the world: without culture there is no democracy

On the Europe Day, the doors of the EU institutions in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg are usually opened for visitors, and European values are promoted to the public with a wide range of events across Europe.

Although this year, on May 9, we can greet each other only through the screens, this is not an obstacle to be glad that Lithuania is a culturally rich part of the European family, – in a joint greeting say Lithuanian ambassadors spread all over the world and those working in Lithuania.

For the first time in the history of Independent Lithuania, 23 Lithuanian diplomatic missions scattered around the world are sending a united greeting to the world, reminding that without culture there is no democracy, and without democracy there is no freedom.  Greetings on Europe Day are sent by the heads of Lithuanian missions: ambassadors, consuls general in France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Belgium and Luxembourg, the Kingdom of Spain, Japan, the United States, China, Israel, Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Latvia, Russia and its Kaliningrad region, the United Kingdom, Norway, Finland, Sweden.

The Minister of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania Simonas Kairys, the Mayor of Kaunas Visvaldas Matijošaitis and the Director of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 Virginija Vitkienė also joined the greetings to the world.

Wishing us to be proud to be the part of united European family, they invite us to stay creative, and remind us that after enduring this period we will be able to celebrate Europe Day next year throughout the year with events in Kaunas, which will become the main meeting place of continent’s culture.

Greetings from Lithuanian missions around the world, the capital and Kaunas can be found here.

Galway 2020 - Handover Ceremony to air on TG4

Galway 2020’s title as European Capital of Culture draws to a close on April 30th. It will pass the title to the three cities who will next hold the title with a televised version of the handover airing on TG4 and TG4.ie on Friday 7th of May at 7.30pm. The symbolic handover will see the title pass from Galway and Rijeka in Croatia, to Esch in Luxembourg, Kaunas in Lithuania and Novi Sad in Serbia.

“In the delivery of the cultural programme that won Galway the title of Ireland’s 2020 European Capital of Culture, Galway 2020 has realised its vision to create new partnerships and new ways of working. That it did so in the midst of the sudden onset of a global pandemic is testament to the creativity and commitment of the Galway 2020 team and the cultural partners working side by side to deliver for audiences. We have experienced the joy of wonderful live performances, exhibitions and online events across the entire spectrum of cultural activity. I thank all involved for their dedication and work. As we hand over to the 2022 European Capitals of Culture, I wish Novi Sad, Esch and Kaunas a truly successful and memorable year.” Catherine Martin, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media

Following a particularly challenging year, Galway 2020 continued to deliver its Capital of Culture programme throughout 2020, ending on 30 April 2021. This 12 minute programme celebrates just some of the theatre, music, dance, circus and visual arts highlights which happened online and offline. Featuring the work of 600 artists and organisations who participated in the programme since 2020 began.

“Having the opportunity to help to bring these projects and performances to life despite the pandemic and the set-backs that presented was an honour for Galway 2020. It truly reflected the breadth of creativity and resilience in our creative community. We’re delighted to present some of these events in this TG4 film, and would like to thank all of those who helped to make it happen – our cultural partners, creatives, Mayor, Cathaoirleach and of course, TG4,” said Patricia Philbin, CEO, Galway 2020.

TG4’s Director General Alan Esslemont said “TG4 believed in the Galway 2020 programme from the outset. We were proud to be onboard as a partner to showcase the culture of Galway and the west coast of Ireland to a European and international audience. Despite setbacks and a global pandemic that resulted in a scaled back programme of events, I would like to congratulate Galway 2020 in what has been achieved in these extraordinary times. Highlights for me personally include John Gerard’s Mirror Pavilion on the Claddagh Quay in Galway, the bog portraits in Ros Muc and the beautiful suite of music 'The Mighty Ocean', composed by Máirtin O’Connor which through our partnership with Galway 2020 aired recently on TG4.”

The stunning scenery of the west coast of Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way features alongside the medieval streets of Galway city. Expect a breath-taking illumination of the Connemara landscape, colourful performers, fire tours, acrobatics, high wire walking and clips of powerful events specially commissioned by Galway 2020”

It will include a short 30 second address by EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel and Catherine Martin, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. There will be a symbolic acceptance of the title by the 3 new host cities and a specially-commissioned music composition by composer Anna Mullarkey will run alongside the visuals throughout.

Watch the video of the handover ceremony by clicking here 


Kaunas will also share the practice of implementing ideas of modern Bauhaus

Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, and Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, have invited mayors of European Capitals of Culture and European Capitals of Innovation – Rijeka, Cork, Esch-sur-Alzette, Leuven, Barcelona and Kaunas – to a public discussion. Together with experts on regional policy, the mayors shared good practices on how to implement the priorities of the New European Bauhaus through citizen participation and mobilization of the creative and innovation sectors. The New European Bauhaus is a movement based on sustainability, accessibility and aesthetics, which aims to bring the European Green Deal closer to the people. Visvaldas Matijošaitis, the Mayor of Kaunas, also shared the good practices of the European Capital of Culture in creating long-term sustainable socio-cultural change in the city.

The Old Bauhaus phenomenon – the international architecture, art and design movement existed in Germany from 1919 to 1933, but has made a global impact on the development of cities around the world. At the Bauhaus school, artists from various fields – architects, designers, painters, choreographers, scenographers – taught and developed the ideas of a modern European city. Kaunas, as the temporary capital, underwent innovative changes during almost the same period and thanks to the breakthrough of modern architecture. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, the city grew sevenfold: administrative and social functions required educational and cultural institutions, state institutions, and housing. Thus, about 6,000 buildings of modernist architecture emerged in Kaunas, which became the city's architectural landmark. In 2015, Kaunas modernism was awarded the European Heritage Label, and in 2022, the year of the European Capital of Culture, a positive response from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is expected.

"For our city, the title of European Capital of Culture is an opportunity to create the second phenomenon of the capital, just not temporary, but contemporary – to activate the social and economic life of the city through culture," says Kaunas city Mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis.

Since the award of the title of European Capital of Culture in 2017, the diverse Capital of Culture program has gained momentum in Kaunas, involving communities and neighbourhoods of the city in creative processes based on cooperation and volunteering, including various environmental management solutions.

"One such program is Modernism for the Future, which aims to strengthen the awareness of city’s residents in the field of heritage. In 2022, the year of the Capital of Culture, several hundred art events will be related to the modernist architecture,” says Virginija Vitkienė, head of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022.

Kaunas also undertakes other ambitious projects based on the idea of the New European Bauhaus: thanks to the heritage management program it promotes revitalization of modernist and other heritage buildings, innovatively develops economic zones such as Aleksotas territory – with the help of professionals in culture, art, design and architecture, and city’s residents, former military industrial zone is transformed into a valley of high technology and innovation. After the European Union has set an ambitious direction and goals for the Green Deal, in 2020 Kaunas presented a sustainable mobility plan, one aspect of which is the zero-emission zone of the Old Town, for which it received acknowledgements of the European Commission.


Photo by A. Aleksandravičius

Serge Ecker: “The real challenge is to see how to get digital information back into the real world”

“I am always a bit scared to call myself an artist because this is not for me to judge, but OK, there is no real other fitting description,” says Serge Ecker, a Luxembourger who’s about to leave a creative footprint in Kaunas, Lithuania. Among Serge’s previous works are fascinating ideas, including an aluminium intervention at the Luxembourg Police headquarters; a site-specific installation involving wood and projections for the Luxembourg Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale; an infrared-heated sculpture; a concrete paper plane; a sailing installation–raft in Bulgaria and many more. Both with his personal projects and for group exhibitions, the artist has travelled to Austria, Greece, the US – Lithuania, too. And there’s more about Serge’s relationship with the latter.

Both Esch-sur-Alzette, where our interviewee was born, and Kaunas, the second city in Lithuania, will become Europen Capitals of Culture in 2022. Serge and Lithuanian sculptor Algimantas Šlapikas have been remotely working on a future project in Karmėlava, Kaunas district, for some time now. A few weeks ago, they won an idea competition with their proposal called “Flying Cepelinai”, which aims to embrace the importance of cepelinas, traditional Lithuanian food made from meat and potatoes resembling a flying object – the zeppelin. Time to hear more about the gastronomical installation and Serge’s artistic journey before it.

How did your artistic path start? What was the art climate in Luxembourg like back then, and has it changed a lot since?
I started working on art-related projects by coincidence and mainly out of curiosity about what I could do with my skills and tools back in 2010 when I did primarily architectural visualizations and had my own small company. The art climate in Luxembourg changed positively during the last years. My generation of artists realized that they need to work together and support each other to create a critical mass and be relevant in society. For the moment, we also have a well functioning Ministry of Culture, which (not only) but especially now does what it can to make the current Covid-19 situation somehow bearable and less threatening from an existential point of view.

How do you choose the best media for your ideas? Do you tend to search for new tools for expression, or do you trust those you know well?
As I said before, many things happen by coincidence or curiosity when I ask myself if something could work. Since I work a lot with digital tools – 3D software, digital photography, planning, sketching, 3D scanning – I love to see what happens if these “tools” screw up, and produce glitches or what happens, for example, if I transform or reduce the number of polygons ... Experiments like these, or reconstructions of reality, “scanning” a place, an object, by translating it into the digital world are interesting. Still, the real challenge and where I enjoy my work is to see how to get this information back into the real world, be it by 3D printing or through collaboration with other artists and craftsmen and their processes. In general, the process is the most interesting in each work that I am working on.

You and your work do not stay in Lux but travel quite a bit; do you see it as a way to promote your work or to gather inspiration for new projects?
Travelling is important to me and for developing new ideas, thinking about processes, seeing different realities than the one I come from, to see that there are so many places, countries, landscapes, people, methods, stories, ways, foods... It is fascinating, and this shows how little one actually knows and that contradictions are subjective. Exhibiting my work abroad or working in different places is a way to get to places, but I am not a “salesperson”, so I am not really good at “promoting” art. I prefer to work on projects and use possibilities to go places.

How did you find the residency in Nida in 2016? What made you apply for it?
Nida is a place to which I went a few times with friends from LT, but in 2016 during the work on the Luxembourg Pavilion for the architecture biennale in Venice, I felt that I needed to get out and away from the real world for a moment, so I sent my application for the Nida Art Colony and somehow I got accepted... Nida is a very special place; the stay there helped me calm down after the crazy Venice period and focus on new research and experimenting with new tools. Also, meeting people from the Vilnius Academy of Arts made it possible to give 3D scanning workshops in 2016 and 2017.

How did you get involved with the Capitals of Culture? 
I am a friend and fan of Lithuania for quite a while now due to the friends and people from there that I have met here in Lux and LT during my visits. When I saw that Kaunas would be an ECOC and, by coincidence, Esch, where I was born and went to school, with the Minett region around it, would be as well, I kind of felt obliged to contribute and engage myself in this process. For Esch 2022, I started some and applied for the projects I am involved in, but for Kaunas 2022, I was very surprised to get picked and asked if I would like to develop a sculpture/installation for Karmėlava in collaboration with Algimantas Šlapikas by the organizers, which I am quite grateful for.

Can you tell us more about the projects for Esch 2022?

“Anthroposcape” is a project for the commune of Kayl about an open pit mining which changed the landscape of the town I grew up in. We do it in collaboration with the last remaining iron foundry. “DKollage” is a process with our artist collective DKollektiv, where we are making a participatory renovation of an industrial hall in Dudelange which will become a common creative space, workshop and photolab. We’ll achieve that with the support of the commune of Dudelange the Oeuvre Nationale de Secours G.-D. Charlotte. Also there’s “Konkasser”, a project to construct a stone grinder in the commune of Sanem with two other members of the DKollektiv, Misch Feinen and Eric Marx. Besides, I was part of a jury to select photos for an exhibition of the Lithuanian society here in Luxembourg.

So, cepelinai. What do you think about this culinary object? When did you realize it can be more than just food?
I was introduced to cepelinai on my first trip to LT and love them ever since… Especially the fried ones. When working on the project and talking with Algimantas, we thought about shapes. Of course, the cepelinas has quite an iconic shape, also in relation to its flying counterpart.

What was the base for the idea in Karmėlava? How much was/is the local community involved?
The idea's base was the briefing which defined a particular framework in relation to Karmėlava, including the airport, war, and local folklore like the Cepelinai. Algimantas and I thought we should also add a little humour to spice up the recipe. I could not come to Kaunas, so, unfortunately, we couldn't meet or interact with the local community due to the Covid situation; otherwise, we could have imagined a cepelinai contest to find the most suitable and most iconic cepelinas to 3D scan. Maybe once the work is in place, we can inaugurate it with a cepelinai festival.

Cepelinas is often seen as a somewhat cheesy stereotype of Karmėlava. How will your installation influence that?
Honestly, playing with stereotypes can be quite funny sometimes, but I can't predict reactions or influences. My only hope is that people chuckle when they see the final work and make up their own ideas and meanings and be proud of their cepelinai.

How do you get along with Algimantas Šlapikas? Do you work remotely these days, or how does it go?
Algimantas is an interesting character and artist with a good sense of humour which I find very important to get along with a person. He is a much more experienced artist than me with a long career and his "tools, he knows how to work shapes and volumes, materials with his hands, and I admire this approach since I am working with plans and 3D models. It is always interesting to mix these worlds, which seem and are opposite, but this I see as a benefit and a true collaboration, where both artists use their tools for the project. Unfortunately, this all has to happen online through writing and sending sketches and photographs since I wasn't able to come to LT yet due to the situation. As soon as I can, I will use the opportunity to come and meet Algimantas in person.

Kaunas’ modernist architecture’s application submitted to UNESCO: experts will evaluate not only what remains, but the wish to preserve

After several years of experts’ intensive work, the nomination file Modernusis Kaunas: Optimizmo architektūra, 1919–1939 (Modern Kaunas: Architecture of Optimism) was submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris. It awaits assessment from international experts and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for Kaunas’ modernist architecture to be granted the status of UNESCO World Heritage.

The document drafting process required for Kaunas’ modernist architecture to be granted the status of UNESCO World Heritage was started back in 2016. Only a country may submit this application, it is signed by the country’s Minister of Culture.

“I am sincerely delighted that today in our hands we hold a solid application, which we can already deem as an accomplishment for our whole country. This several year’s process allowed us to look at the unique Kaunas’ modernist architecture anew, highlight it as of especially significant worth, encourage larger interest of society not only in Kaunas, but in all of Lithuania. These results would not be possible without the leadership of Kaunas City Municipality, without the consistent dialogue with the local community and cultural organisations. I strongly believe that these endeavours will be awarded with a favourable decision and Kaunas’ modernist architecture will become part of UNESCO World Heritage,” claimed Minister of Culture Simonas Kairys.

The leader of the group of experts who prepared the application, Professor Marija Drėmaitė from Vilnius University Faculty of History, believes that the assessment may last until 2023 because of travel limitations due to the pandemic: “It all depends on how soon the international experts who will assess the application will be permitted to travel. They must arrive at the site, meet specialists, communities, local authorities. It is not simply an evaluation of the site, but communication with people as well.”

The urban heritage site consists of two parts

The nomination file Modernusis Kaunas: Optimizmo architektūra, 1919–1939 (Modern Kaunas: Architecture of Optimism) is a comprehensive 500-page publication.

“The process itself, of course, was very long and, therefore, useful because each member country of the UNESCO Convention which submits an application for the status of UNESCO World Heritage has enough time to evaluate what it has and what it can offer. It is a responsible decision because once the application is submitted, the country must undertake obligations to preserve the exclusive and universal worth: the recorded value of the object and the site,” notes M. Drėmaitė.

According to M. Drėmaitė, the drafting process of the application which started in 2016, the formulated application for inclusion in the Tentative List in 2017, and finally the complete application was an important time for the researchers themselves, the writers of the application, city authority representatives, cultural heritage experts: “One may say that this was the time to grow up, mature, comprehend what kind of thing, process, nomination, object it is. Because the boundaries and the conception whether it really is merely a list of buildings were changing. Now, the so-called urban landscape has been introduced. The urban heritage site is comprised of two parts: Naujamiestis and Žaliakalnis. The process is long, but very useful – for evaluating for yourself – what does Kaunas’ modernism truly mean.”

The territory of the property is comprised of Naujamiestis three thematic zones: central (administrative), residential and industrial; and Žaliakalnis five thematic zones: city-garden (Minties Ring), Kaukas District, Perkūnas District, Ąžuolynas Park with the sports infrastructure and Military Research Laboratory for the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence (current Kaunas University of Technology Faculty of Chemical Technology).

Provided nomination covers the construction years 1919–1939

M. Drėmaitė stresses that it concerns not separate objects, but their entirety and this entirety is a strength of Kaunas’ modernism. The provided nomination covers the construction years 1919–1939, when Kaunas was the temporary capital.

“And that capital status was sudden, unexpected because nobody was planning for Kaunas to become the capital. When in January 1919 the government had to suddenly relocate to Kaunas, everyone believed that the relocation would be temporary, but it lasted 20 years. During that time, a European city suitable for the new national state had to be considered and built. That is the main idea of the application: this is a modernist European city, which underwent an exceptionally swift and vast transformation of the modernist stratum. And after World War I, when the great empires collapsed, many new nations in Europe which had to found new capitals emerged and they all chose modernism as their architectural language. This allowed to abandon imperialist experiences, to create a modern image and no longer resemble provincial cities of the former empires,” the historian explained.

Does the city stand a chance?

Does Kaunas stand a chance? That is the question the creators of the application are most frequently asked. According to M. Drėmaitė, the answer to this question partly depends on the residents of Kaunas’ wish to preserve the modernist stratum.

“How strongly do they wish to preserve, emphasize, highlight this? As many cities modernised themselves during the inter-war period, this stratum in Kaunas remained authentic and, perhaps, still remains the most well-preserved one. In this compact area, the concentration of modernist buildings is immense. As much as the city residents, government, heritage experts, investors, businesses will be willing to preserve, emphasize, and highlight this stratum, that is how high of a chance we will have. Once UNESCO experts arrive, they will look not only at the level of preservation, but at the wish to preserve as well. I would even dare to say, the obligation to preserve,” continued M. Drėmaitė.

In the historian’s view, the preparation of the application and the publicity, comprehension, historical knowledge, the past’s urban stratum experienced during this time is already in itself tremendously useful. “The research completed in 2020, which is presented in a 500-page file, may be an excellent inventory of the city,” stated M. Drėmaitė.

Not only a privilege, but a great responsibility

Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 programme’s Modernism for the Future curator Viltė Migonytė-Petrulienė claims that in the event of a successful outcome Kaunas receives UNESCO approval, it would be a great opportunity to promote the city and the country and become an inspiring example of heritage protection in the 21st century.

“On the one hand the inter-war period left an exceptional footprint on the city which provides Kaunas unique character and spirit, but on the other hand we are not the only city in the world which may deem itself as modernist. This means that if successful, Kaunas would receive the opportunity to represent the modernist city as a unique cultural, social, and, of course, architectural phenomenon of the 20th century on an international level. That is not only a privilege, but a great responsibility. By nurturing the modernist city as from the past inherited building, street, nature element, and finally, function entirety, the community will need to find the recipe for success on how to maintain the physical authenticity, but at the same time be a city of the 21st century. The heritage must be perceived not only as of historical worth, but also as an inspiration for high-quality, stable, and socially responsive creation of the future city. Kaunas 2022 strongly supports the ambition to be nominated, we wish you luck and have no doubts that this will be a part of Kaunas 2022’s Modernism for the Future aims,” stated V. Migonytė-Petrulienė.

Original text by Jurgita Lieponė, journalist of 15min. You can find the text on 15min.lt website here.

Slow fashion designer V. Strasevičiūtė: “Clothes shopping is like a spreading virus. I’d love to take a glimpse at your wardrobe”

Do you renew the contents of your wardrobe each time shops have announcements for sales and the start of a new season? If yes, how much of your wardrobe’s clothing is unwanted and no longer worn? And are clothes really designed only for a single season? Slow fashion designer V. Strasevičiūtė suggests that sometimes we require very little – simply to think before making a purchase.

One of the slow fashion initiative’s Upcycled by LT creators, designer V. Strasevičiūtė, has been interested in fashion since childhood. To be exact, she had questions which we sometimes do not ask ourselves for years. Or do not ask at all. Vida has been working in the slow movement for eight years already. Last year, she joined Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 team and will become an ambassador, her message being sustainable consumption. Consumption culture, sustainability and sustainable consumption are one of Kaunas 2022 Programme’s focus areas: it is part of culture, and sustainable consumption enhances, fosters, conserves, and preserves the environment.

“My mother worked in the fur industry for many years, and during my childhood I would wander around her workplace. I would see how much raw material would be left over. I would also see how they would sew articles from scraps and would sell them cheaper – as if second-rate. It was very interesting to me, seemed paradoxical, that such an expensive material, which requires so much more handwork, is being sold cheaper,” contemplated V. Strasevičiūtė.

Vida, did the questions raised in your childhood dictate your life’s direction – you chose studies related to fashion?

I studied costume design and I have always been interested in issues created by the fashion industry. Intuitively. Eventually, I understood that my lifestyle embodied the term “slow fashion“. My interests, hobbies were to construct something, to create something from what is already there, and in that way to give it a second life. I started to delve deeper and search for examples of what is happening in the world, fashion industry, what are the solutions for using up scraps, remnants. I realised that this is a growing phenomenon in the world.

During study years, I started to experiment more with fur. Soon, I realised that the price of a product made of remnants and scraps can only be raised with the aid of design. That means that one must find new methods, new forms of expression. It is important not to waste the raw material. It is also important to value handwork. During research for my master’s thesis, I was able to meet with companies and see the amounts of leftovers post-production. That is how I chose this direction: to utilise that which is already there, and not to use anything new to produce another garment. Everything started with fur scraps, and later solutions were various. Now, we are working with wool remnants and other fabrics too.

Do you yourself notice a bigger interest? Who are your customers?

In our case, it is slightly complicated due to the use of real fur, its opposition in society. The task is a little more difficult because after hearing and seeing that it is real leather, many do not wish to listen any further, to learn that these are sheepskin scraps, which in other case would be wasted. However, we do our best not to waste the already existing raw materials. Fur is a very durable one. Many still own old fur coats in their wardrobes, and they feel bad about throwing them away because, after all, it is fur. To wear – the design is too outdated. That is why we provide another service: designing a new piece from what the client owns. This really paid itself off and more and more people are contacting us, asking to give an item a second life. Concerning selection, it is clear that people are becoming more conscious about the clothes’ history and handwork, it is becoming more important. And also, being an ambassador – you choose to breathe new life into an old item, not to purchase a new one.

Where can we browse your products?

On social media, the platform etsy.com, where you can find us by our name – Upcycled by LT.

You have said that our perception of clothing has become distorted so much so that the consequences are becoming catastrophic. What did you mean by that?

I am talking about mass consumption and about the fact that the market has normalised shopping without consideration for the manufacturer of the clothes, the material from which they are made, about following brands and the frenzied pace of fashion. The production of such clothing is increasing. The clothes are not yet sold out, but new ones are already arriving on the shelves. That is how pollution levels grow. My suggestion is for everyone to look at themselves and consider why, how many, and for how long the articles of clothing are being purchased. In England, research was conducted on how many garments people purchase, which they end up never wearing. According to previous research data, England spends 30 billion pounds per year for clothes which are not worn once. And these numbers are only growing, they reflect that the need to be clothed is being replaced by a mindless need to shop.

Clothes shopping is like a spreading virus. But why, for what? That is how clothing loses its primary purpose – only the wish to own more remains. This applies as much to fashion as to other industries.

If we look at large shopping centres, clothes shops dominate. What motivates us to purchase new clothes – just advertisements or certain root causes?

In terms of Lithuania, I believe that the historical roots run quite deep. For a long time, we have lived in times of deficit, when there was nothing. And then suddenly everything opened its doors. Besides the fact that the assortment is growing, dropping prices, of course, contribute to it too. That is when you start to feel almighty, and able to own everything, to own plenty. You are affluent in the number of items and clothes.

But I am pleased that in the public sphere and mass media sustainable fashion and consumption are increasingly more discussed. People look back and understand that they do not need this much, that trying to still this unquenchable thirst leads to us simply owning too much. And we no longer know what to do with these things. Then we throw them away. More and more people are beginning to understand that this is wrong. Pollution is enormous, and recycling of textile is an issue to which the solution is yet to be found.

Clothing retailers announce new seasons yearly. What is a new clothing season, and overall can a piece of clothing have its own season, finally – can it become worn out in such a short time?

It is an advertising trick because they must always renew, provide something fresh for people’s eyes in order to evoke the desire to buy. And the seasons... that is the key to fast fashion. And, let’s face it, they do not offer high-quality clothing. That is why often they last for only one season.

What is more, the number of seasons is not diminishing – there is more of them. Collections are being introduced in-between seasons, which are being constantly expanded and restocked. Before, there were two collections: fall-winter and spring-summer. Now up to 8 collections can be counted. It is absurd. However, fast fashion is not suitable for everyone. Research shows that more and more of smaller niche shops prove to be successful, which cater to relevant and timely customers’ needs.

Last year, together with the partner Kaunas - European Capital of Culture 2022, you have proposed an initiative Tvarink Spintą (Sustainable Wardrobe). That was clothes design for particular people according to their needs, problems which they face, using that which is around them. You have created looks for ten people of different professions, needs, and appearance. What kind of experience was it for you?

It was an experiment, very interesting and fun. When I was getting in touch with the Lithuanian Council of Culture for a grant, that is when the idea of this initiative was born. I realised that conveying my values and ideas to the broader public is quite difficult because the large ones often upstage us. But working with individual people by considering their practical needs and problems, offering alternative choices, solutions was interesting. To show that one can redesign that which they own, to create that which fits their figure, to use up remnants and scraps – I really felt that it left a strong impression.

After the project one of the participants brought me their old coat and said: “I thought about throwing it away, but you taught us that you mustn’t. So maybe something can be done with it?”. People realised that there is an alternative. Each of the project’s participants took away a certain experience. My goal was to make that experience as profound and memorable as possible. I wanted them to wear the clothes which they were bringing home with genuine pleasure and further spread the message of sustainable consumption, slow fashion.

After all, each of these ten participants have their own circle of people they interact with. Therefore, in daily situations or when asked, where this outfit is from, it will spread the idea of sustainability. In this way, awareness will spread through small steps.

What would you say to everyone considering sustainable consumption?

One thought, which is all-encompassing. All clothing can be sustainable if we all accept the responsibility to make sure it lasts as long as possible. If we ourselves become bored of it, perhaps we can offer it to one of our friends? Of course, there are charity funds, initiatives, where you can donate unwanted clothing. But often it is a riddance – it is as if you have done a good deed, but these garments are not necessarily needed by anyone.

That is why first we should offer it to our friends, to whom the clothes may fit and appeal. There also exist platforms, where one can sell, give away. Thus, such choices are the said responsibility of making clothing last as long as possible.

Does shopping in second-hand shops fall under the label of sustainability?

Yes, of course. I would consider the support of local producers, tailors, and designers as a sustainable choice as well. And, in a second-hand shop you might discover something which will surprise and remain in the wardrobe long-term. It is important to avoid the fast cycle, which is offered by shops.

Vida, if invited you over and showed my wardrobe, would you suggest what I could do with clothes I no longer wear?

You hit the nail on the head. The project’s Tvarink Spintą (Sustainable Wardrobe) direction was to work with individual people. I did not visit their homes. They would bring the clothes themselves. But I would gladly accept this wardrobe experiment. I’d love to take a glimpse at your wardrobe.

Original text by Jurgita Lieponė, journalist of 15min. You can find the original text in 15min.lt website here.

TẽKA team invites to explore the archives of river memory

Since 2016 operating partner of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture, cultural river research platform TẽKA, seeks to revitalise the life of Kaunas Region riversides and presents the virtual archive of Kaunas rivers, streams, and banks www.upynes.lt, which starts this year off with a gallery of findings in Kaunas City streams.

Even though rivers are often considered one of the constituents of Kaunas’ identity and individuality which formed the face of the country’s largest river centre for centuries, great physical changes in the 20th century (a hydroelectric power station was built) have destroyed the former urban, cultural, and social order, and at the same time transformed the unique Kaunas genius loci (spirit of the area). The imagery of Kaunas as a river port has nearly disappeared from the city’s cultural memory as well, it is remembered only by historians and the eldest member of society. Kaunas streams (at least 15 can be found in the city, not counting hundreds of smaller springs), in the meantime, were started to sewer between the world wars, and during the soviet years, as the city’s residential neighbourhoods were expanding, the larger part of Kaunas streams were already buried deep underground. Even the still unobstructed streambeds are currently hidden under the thick foliage of trees, shrubs and weeds, the banks are flanked with fences, littered with construction waste. Although the streams flow through an urban territory, cross industrial zones, residential areas, gardens and kitchen gardens, being lawless areas, streambeds usually only ‘serve’ the role of dumping grounds, which continue to carry waste to Nemunas, the Curonian Lagoon, the Baltic Sea.

In 2020 Autumn, Kaunasians were invited to natural exploratory expeditions through the forgotten city streams to familiarise with these urban city’s recesses. In total, six expeditions were organised, which trailed the streambeds and their valleys within the city’s range. Throughout the hike, the participants not only admired the wild and rarely seen scenery of the city, but also collected various natural and human activity denoting objects found in the rivers. The collected objects tell a wordless story of the inter-relationships between the city, people, and nature. These findings are now being exhibited in a virtual gallery, and in the upcoming year will be presented in a physical exhibition.

Exploratory expeditions through other streams of Kaunas City will also continue in 2021. Near some of the streams, workshops, artistic installations, and discussions with the community will be held, seeking answers on how city streams should be integrated into Kaunas’ life. Those who wish to receive more information or join next year’s activities should write to tekakrantine@gmail.com or contact facebook.com/tekakrantine

This website is part of 2020-2021 project UPYNĖS, which is implemented through the initiative of TẽKA together with Lithuanian Union of Architects Kaunas Department. The project is presented by Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022.