800 Artists and Performers in 50 Locations for the Official Opening of Kaunas 2022

In Kaunas, on January 19-23, 2002, culture will be inescapable. The city and the district surrounding it will officially become the European Capital of Culture. The opening weekend events, culminating with Act I of the Trilogy of the Contemporary Myth of Kaunas, will turn the city into one big European stage and set everyone’s mood for the year-long cultural marathon.

Photo by: M.Plepys

So far, no city has tried to change the course of its life by creating a new myth. The Beast is a metaphor, a cultural allegory that raises questions about the Beast in the city and inside its residents. Three main events of the European Capital of Culture, the Trilogy of the Contemporary Myth of Kaunas, are the Confusion, revelation and contract with it. Act I of the trilogy, called The Confusion, will highlight the first weekend of Kaunas 2022.

‘The Confusion’s formula includes 30 different performances spanning 50 locations in Kaunas and Kaunas district – and 800 artists and performers from Lithuania and abroad,’ Aistis Lansbergas, Technical Producer of Kaunas 2022, presents one of the most ambitious events in his career.

The Confuison will start in Kaunas District on January 19 and move towards the centre of Kaunas in light circles. The act will reach its peak at 7:30 pm, January 22, 2022. During the weekend surrounding the big moment, between January 19 and 23, more than 100 events, including premieres, exhibitions, concerts and spectacles, will take place, all connected through the new myth of Kaunas and the Confusion of the Beast.

Photo by: M.Plepys

‘The after-show events in the city of Kaunas are all ‘incorporated’ into a city game – we will invite the audience to play with us and look for traces of the Beast of Kaunas. I think this is like no other ECoC opening, where a city game structure is used to introduce audiences and citizens to the events and themes coming up during 2022,’ says Chris Baldwin, the director of the grand trilogy of Kaunas 2022.

‘The event will clearly be unique in so far as we have planned, designed and rehearsed the event during a pandemic which has not allowed us to see one another very much, and where we were completely unsure of the restrictions which would be in place in January 2022. We are very proud and excited to have created an event that is multi-layered and almost pandemic-proof! In other words, the main show could happen even if we face (hopefully not) very stringent controls regarding public congregations. It is contemporary, digital, yet live, international and participatory, Designed as much for a mass live audience as for an international TV audience,’ reveals Baldwin.

Photo by: M.Plepys

The rich program of the opening weekend has been tightly knit by the dense network of Kaunas 2022 partners. The list includes theatres, museums, galleries, communities and other artistic and cultural initiatives from Lithuania and abroad. Novi Sad and Esch, the other two European Capitals of Culture 2022, are also coming to say hi! Perfect planning, as numerous concerts, installations and exhibition openings will occur in Kaunas on the 4th weekend of January, including  That Which We Do Not Remember by William Kentridge and Ex It by Yoko Ono. It is the very same weekend when all of the programmes of Kaunas 2022 will present their key themes and events for the whole year.

Kaunas and the surrounding Kaunas district are ready to become one big European stage next year, offering over 1000 events. More than 40 festivals, 60 exhibitions, 250 performing arts events (of which more than 50 are premieres), and over 250 concerts are planned to take place in 2022. All this is delivered by Kaunas 2022’s team of 500 people, alongside 80 local and 150 foreign partners. 140 cities in Lithuania and the world, 2,000 artists, 80 communities, and 1,000 great volunteers.

Full programme

Photo by: M.Plepys

Discover the Rich Mosaic of the History of Kaunas Jews in a new Book

Do you know which company in Kaunas manufactured radios called Tautofonas, or the Folk’s Radio, in the interwar period? As the press then stated, they were “no worse than foreign”, according to the media at the time! Have you heard that the popular tourist attraction in Kaunas, the Napoleon Hill, or the mound of Jiesia, once called the Jewish Mountain? And have you ever come across the fact that Herman Perelstein, the founder of the legendary boys’ choir Ąžuoliukas, once lived in one of the most beautiful houses in Kaunas on Vytautas Avenue?

These and hundreds more interesting historical facts, still covered with thick layers of memory paint in everyday life of Kaunas, are revealed in the new book “The Jews of Kaunas”. The publication was initiated by the Memory Office, one of the key programmes of the Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 project, has been published in Lithuanian and English.

Photo by: M.Plepys

Like other projects organized by the Memory Office, including the CityTelling festival, the book attempts to understand the city’s complicated past, rekindle its multi-ethnic memory, and remember the names and accomplishments of the people of Kaunas and their contributions to its history. It is also an endeavour to include the history of the Jews of Kaunas as an inseparable part of the city’s overall history.

“I am positive that facts, dates and names are not enough to tell the story well. To genuinely understand how people lived 50 or 150 years ago, we need to comprehend how they thought, felt, and saw the world. That is why we have included numerous quotes and memories from historical sources. These inserts are witnesses to time, adding life, breath and colour to the big picture,” says Dr Daiva Citvarienė, curator of the Memory Office programme. She compiled “The Jews of Kaunas” together with the historian Arvydas Pakštalis.

While the Jewish history in Kaunas is more than 500 years old, the book is only a couple of hundred pages. “We remember the most important names of Kaunas residents who lived and worked here, their contribution to education, culture, medicine, industry, business and other areas of life; we also touch on the painful pages of history. I hope that the book will inspire further research,” stresses D. Citvarienė, who believes this story is just beginning to be written. According to the art critic, the book was warmly welcomed by the Kaunas Jewish community. There is also no doubt that it will become a relevant souvenir for the guests of the Capital of Culture who will attend the events of Kaunas 2022 next year, such as the World Litvak Congress.

Photo by: M.Plepys

The selection of texts exploring various epochs and areas of life is generously illustrated by documents, photographs, and other archival material and unique illustrations. They were done by designer Darius Petreikis, the author of the mascot of the Kaunas 2022 project, the Beast of Kaunas.

“History can be interesting, and it can be presented in a playful manner. We’re speaking about a period of several hundred years about the community’s culture, traditions, and customs. We wanted to tell that story lightly, with a pinch of humour. After all, Jewish history is not just about the Holocaust. It’s so much more, it’s centuries of culture, traditions, customs,” D. Citvarienė invites everyone to open “The Jews of Kaunas”.

The book “The Jews of Kaunas”, published in Lithuanian and English, will be available at the Kaunas 2022 office (Laisvės Ave. 36, Kaunas) and the Kaunas IN Tourism Information Center located at Kaunas City Hall (Rotušės Sq. 15, Kaunas) in the nearest future.

Photo by: M.Plepys

Exhibition: Architecture of optimism - The Kaunas phenomenon 1918-1940 / Unité d'Habitation Le Corbusier, Marseille

"Architecture of Optimism: the Kaunas Phenomenon, 1918-1940" will be on display at the "Kolektiv Cité Radieuse" Gallery, located within Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation in Marseille, from December 11, 2021 to January 9, 2022 and will start the European Capital of Culture year Kaunas 2022.

The city of Kaunas is renowned for its unique fusion of history and creativity through architecture and design.

The city's golden age between the two world wars was marked by modernist architecture that transformed Kaunas into a forward-looking European metropolis, reflecting the forward-looking optimism and hopes for cultural, social and technological innovation of the time.

Photo by: T. Stukas

During this period, Kaunas changed its physical, historical and cultural identity considerably: in less than 20 years, its inhabitants built more than 12,000 new buildings, reshaping the whole city. This regeneration was the new heritage of Kaunas and the expression of its genius loci.

After the Second World War and during the Soviet occupation, Kaunas' interwar modernist architecture provided a vivid memory of the former state, a symbolic window to the West, and became an architectural reference for Soviet architects.

The exhibition celebrates the architectural history of the city but also rewards and revives the optimistic vision of this period by strengthening the cultural life, community building and physical and social innovation of Kaunas.

Photo by: T. Stukas

Address :

Galerie Kolektiv Cité Radieuse - Unité d'Habitation Le Corbusier

280 Bvd Michelet, 3rd floor no.313, 13000 Marseille

Tel : 0624686670

Timetable : Wed-Sat : 10h00-18h00 / 11 December 2021 - 9 January 2022

Curator : Marija Dremaite with Vaidas Petrulis, Giedre Jamkeviciute and Matas Siupsinskas

Coordinator: Vaiva Marija Bružaitė

kaunas2022.eu | www.modernizmasateiciai.lt


Estonian art and tech farm Maajaam announces an international open call for the technological art exhibition Wild Bits

Estonian technology and art farm Maajaam announces an open call for artists to participate in the residency Wild Bits that will culminate with an outdoor exhibition in the surrounding hill country of Otepää, South Estonia. Wild Bits is part of the main programme of the European Capital of Culture Tartu 2024.

Art projects are expected to be produced during the 3-week residency period in the summer of 2022 and exhibited in the natural landscape around Maajaam. This is the first open call to find works for the Wild Bits exhibition programme taking place from 2022 to 2025. The created works will remain there in Maajaam to be exhibited at the main exhibition of Wild Bits in the summer of 2024 as well as in satellite exhibitions in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania until 2025. One artist will be selected from Lithuania as the residency is co-funded by Kaunas 2022 European Capital of Culture. The collaborator from Lithuania will be the landscape design festival Magenta, official partner of Kaunas 2022. The Magenta festival will present 3 of the selected works to Lithuanian audiences in September 2022.

Maajaam is looking for art projects that explore the human condition in a contemporary technological society and look at points of contact between people, technology and nature. The artworks should fit into the diverse landscape, which includes areas of forest, meadow and swamp and bodies of water - a creek and a lake. The artworks should withstand outdoor conditions. Both Estonian and foreign artists from various disciplines are welcome to participate.

“Maajaam invites us to dream, research, invent and create new possibilities for people to positively survive the seemingly gloomy future ahead”, says artist Timo Toots.

Projects are selected by the panel that includes the artists operating Maajaam

Timo Toots and Mari-Liis Rebane, artist Taavi Suisalu, the organisers of the site specific urban festival UIT Kadri Lind and Marie Kliiman. This year's guest panel member is Gediminas Banaitis-Skrandis from Kaunas 2022. Three to five projects will be selected for the residency of 2022. Selected projects will receive an artist fee of €2000, and the production budget is up to €5000. Transport and accommodation for participants will be covered to the extent agreed upon. Wild Bits residency and exhibition programme is co-financed by Tartu 2024 - European Capital of Culture. The satellite exhibition in Kaunas in 2022 is supported by the Estonian Cultural Endowment and Kaunas 2022 - European Capital of Culture.

Submissions are accepted until December 12, 2021 and selected projects will be announced in January 2022.

For more information on applying and participating - click on this link

 

MAAJAAM

The small art center called Maajaam (Earth Station in Estonian) is situated in Otepää nature reserve in South of Estonia in an old farm. The buildings previously used for agriculture have been converted to host a high-tech art studio and residency house for artists. Maajaam is run by artists Timo Toots and Mari-Liis Rebane.

www.maajaam.ee


Exceptional achievements of Kaunas modernist architecture and design reached Bilbao Design Week

 

With the rapid approach of 2022 - the year of the European Capital of Culture, Kaunas is increasingly representing itself on international city platforms. The artists of Kaunas travel thousands of kilometers to show off their work. Currently, Bilbao Bizkaia Design Week takes place on November 18-25, where you can get acquainted with the creators of Kaunas and the activities of Kaunas 2022.

Bilbao Design Week is an annual event that aims to promote the creative industries sector through conferences, lectures, workshops, presentations, and meetings in various parts of the city and involves multiple cultural institutions, associations, universities and creators, and artists. This year's theme, Crossings & Transitions, examines the current period, with a particular focus on climate change, socio-economic and health crises, aging of the population, technological progress, and digital transformations that are pushing the world into new everyday perspectives, sustainability, accessibility, and creativity.

Photo by: G.Banaitis

During the Design Week, it will also be possible to get acquainted with the plans and achievements of Kaunas - the European Capital of Culture, the identity revealed through interpretations of design and architecture, and hear the presentations of Gintaras Balčytis and Gerda Liudvinavičiūtė, as well as learn their sources of creativity and inspiration. Furthermore, modern architecture and design peculiarities were on display at the Guggenheim Museum and contemporary art and leisure center Azkuna Zentroa.

Creators and culture lovers from all over Europe are interested in Kaunas' activities and topics, so Bilbao's Design Week also includes an exhibition "Designing Optimism" created by Gediminas Banaitis, which features Modernism for the Future projects and interpretations of modernism architecture revealed by Timtiejus Norvila - Morfai, Gerda Liudvinavičiūtė[Celsius273], youth project Komoda, Mantas Kuginis, director of the film "Pleads" Aideen Barry, Studio Falbanka, Kaunas Food Industry, and Trade Training Center project portraying modernist buildings in cakes, Rokas Mikšiūnas and a joint project by LRT and Lithuanian dance information center "Contemporary art and architecture. "

Photo by: G.Banaitis

Since 2015, Kaunas has been participating in the initiatives of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and sharing contemporary culture with the world. By joining the Network, cities reaffirm their commitment to sharing best practices, developing partnerships that foster creativity and the design industry, and strengthening participation in cultural life. In recent years, Kaunas has participated in many international initiatives that promote the recognition of the importance of design in the city, and participation in the activities of the UNESCO Network of Creative Cities has become more active.

Photo by: G.Banaitis

Chris Baldwin: Breaking down a boundary and stereotype means to actively help in the process of making new meanings, more useful cultural works

Chris Baldwin is a director, writer, curator… But he is so much more than these definitions. For many years now he has worked across the continent and has added to the success of a handful of European Capitals of Culture. This experience, together with his natural openness to the world and its cultures, make Chris a true European.  No wonder the artist was invited to co-create the unique symphony “Šaipėrantas” (composed by Antanas Jasenka, conducted by Modestas Pitrėnas) for the grand opening of Kaunas 2022 on January 22 at 7:30 pm. The director got to know Kaunas intimately during this process – he also agreed to tell us more about his understanding of Europe and Europeanness. 

Below is an interview with director Chris Baldwin.

- Being British, how did you start working in countries that are considered post-soviet or post-authoritarian? Was it an adventurous decision?

- Ahh. Being British! I don’t really know what that means. I was born in Oxford in the early 1960’s. I was the younger one of post-war siblings. So we grew up with quite a strong sense of what being British was supposed to mean. We had, after all, with the Americans helping out, won the war against Germany. So being British was about fairness, democracy and standing up against the bullies. It was only as I grew up, and had some great teachers, and watched some fantastic BBC, that I began to realise that all this was a rather comforting myth, and that reality and history was rather more complicated. The problem with believing such myths is that it leaves you open, it leaves people open, to being vulnerable to the next myth which comes along. In these times of Brexit, the Britain I knew has been re-configured beyond recognition to me at least.

And then you also use the words ‘post-authoritarian’. A ‘post-authoritarian’ country is an interesting term - and I have used it in my own writing. It suggests that authoritarianism is something that has been left in the past. But recent events in various countries suggest that this is a phrase we need to re-think. I started working in post-soviet and eastern ‘post-authoritarian’ European countries in early 1990. The Berlin Wall had just fallen, and I was teaching and performing at the University of Ingolstadt (then part of West Germany). The British Council invited me to travel around the then East Germany and contact some of their state theatres. I did. I met lots of fantastic people and ended up working there for a couple of decades. From the mid 1980’s I worked a lot in Spanish theatres but also with secondary and primary teachers of various subjects including History. I was interested in how schools could make their work with children more creative, less authoritarian! I discovered that classrooms and curricula had a lot in common with rehearsal rooms and scripts. And both often reflected the political and power mechanisms at play in the wider society. For example, in the 1960’s and 70’s if a child spoke Basque in a Spanish school they could, and did, get a beating from a teacher. But the same was happening in the wider society too. Where countries had recent experience or memory of authoritarian political leadership or culture one could expect to find similar authoritarian attitudes to problem solving, decision making, discipline in schools, hospitals, theatres, kindergardens, in curricula and in theatre texts!

I directed a play by Charlotte Keatley called, ‘My Mother Said I Never Should’ in Warsaw in 1995. And my theory seemed confirmed. There was a real expectation that the director would be a mini-dictator (actually, not that mini!). But that same expectation, from managers and actors alike, was not dissimilar in Spain or eastern Germany. I found that fascinating and terrifying! Someone once said to me, “Franco will not be dead until the last teacher trained under Francoism has retired from the classroom”. And I thought, “well, that could be the year 2010!” That might be unfair as many teachers in Spain were deeply resistant to Franco’s ideology. But it does raise important questions about historical legacy and how values are transmitted through education and culture through generations.

Since the late 1980’s I have lived and worked in a number of European countries. Spain, Poland, Germany, Ireland and Bulgaria, where I now live. I am European. For me Europe has made my life, and the life of my children, immensely richer. Not because we are wealthier because of the EU but because of the freedom of travel, work and study that has been a direct legacy of 1989. That freedom has been given up by the UK as a direct result of Brexit. I don’t understand how British children, no longer being able to work or study freely in 27 countries, are somehow ‘taking back freedom’. It seems someone has swallowed quite a terrifying and dangerous myth.  But it is a potent one. Historical myths can lead us to surrender our own freedoms!

- What are the main (artistic – and not only) challenges while directing events as extensive as opening ceremonies for Olympic games or ECoC? Does the size (budget, too) of creations and ideas liberate you or, on the contrary, put you under an obligation?

- Finding the story! Creating a useful and fascinating and helpful myth! Yes! Not all myths are unhelpful. It’s a huge task, a responsibility to be taken seriously, to find the story which interests a wide public, but at the same time does not reinforce stereotypes but creates freedom for us to think and feel about what ‘being together’ means. And that is what drew me to Kaunas in the first place. The team were clear and energised about their aims for Kaunas 2022 – and the fact that a special myth, the Myth of the Kaunas Beast, was to inform our work. Once a story, and a reason for that story, was clear then the big production and artistic decisions, budgetary implications, are so much easier.

We have lived through and continue to be impacted by Covid19. That remains a huge challenge for directing and preparing big events. Involving multiple voices in the building of a story takes lots of rehearsals, lots of listening and conversations. Rehearsals are also predicated on many people and teams coming together to work out solutions and creative proposals. And the events themselves should be carnival-like, for people to have a great time in large groups, sharing liminal moments together. Covid19 has made all three of these things, building story, rehearsals and event design, totally different for the last two years. But not necessarily for the worse! We have had a fantastic year building shows and events. Preparations have depended, more than usual, on technology and the internet. But maybe we have travelled less. Good for our skies! And when we are together it feels so special, so important. It is no surprise to any of us that during the pandemic people turned to culture across the world. Streaming services online and book sales have exploded! We, humans, are all story-telling creatures. That cannot be removed by a pandemic. Rather it is made more necessary. The question remains: Who gets to tell the stories? Are they going to help us understand the nature of the challenges we face? Or do the stories we encounter lead us towards new authoritarian myths and tales which prepare us for a new authoritarian future?

- Could you briefly compare the core ideas – or as you see them – of ECoC Wroclaw, Galway and Kaunas? Can you spot a singular vector for the project of ECoC in general, which is almost 40 years old already? I mean, do European Capitals of Culture have the same role they did in the 1980s or 1990s?

- A place, a city, Kaunas, Galway, Wroclaw are rooted, fixed and identifiable by their geographical locations. The river Corrib is among the shorted river in Europe, and as a result, one of the fastest flowing and most dangerous. The landscapes of western Ireland, Connemara, are harsh and unforgiving yet the purples in the sky and soil leave you staring in disbelief. There is also the legacy of colonialism everywhere. Have these two things impacted Galway’s sense of identity? Intensely. Yet Galway has radically changed demographically in recent decades. And Galway’s ECoC was about the way the past informs the now but also how globalised trade and communications are impacting every aspect of contemporary life. Seas, weather, languages, religions, architecture, design of urban spaces, invasions, colonial legacies all differ from country to country, city to city – yet they are all to be contended with as they are what we all share as Europeans. Wroclaw is also defined by a river, the Odra. It is also defined by legacies of war, language and population removals and arrivals. And Kaunas is defined geographically perhaps by the two great rivers, Nemunas and Neris, with their confluence creating such a magical and defining space.  Is Kaunas built in this spot out of coincidence or because of this confluence? That, for me, is what European identity is about – the way we manage the legacy of multiple languages, borders, competing historical myths. As Timothy Snyder, the US historian said last year, “Europe, you are greater than your myths!”. What fascinates me about contemporary ECoC’s, those of the last 10 to 15 years, is that they seem to conclude that diversity in audiences, in communities and artists, multi-linguicism have been, and will remain, ever-present features of European life. Lithuania, Ireland, Poland, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Spain; all EU nations struggling with 20th Century legacies, looking to develop coexistence that helps us manage and thrive in a world where non-border issues now dominate all our lives. We might be from different countries but neither Covid19 nor the climate emergency respects borders, different religions, or languages.

- Are you, as a professional, learning something new while working with Lithuanian artists and communities for the Kaunas 2022 project?

- Kaunas is a keen and great teacher. And I am learning about human struggle, hope and joy from this perspective. On one of my trips to Kaunas, I was picked up by a young taxi driver who, in perfect English, told me about his years in Cork in Ireland. He went on to tell me the story of his family during the late Soviet period and how members of his family had been forced to fight in Afghanistan. He was a very bright and thoughtful young man who had a thousand stories that defined his European-ness. And then there are the extraordinary artists of all generations who are as comfortable working across borders and languages online as they are in referencing early 20th-century Lithuanian poets, painters, and architects. I have learnt about Lithuanian cultural trends, their interconnectedness with history and politics, neighbours, and neighbourhoods. And every day Lithuania and its artists teach me more.

- Would you agree that Kaunas has outgrown itself, its boundaries and stereotypes, during the preparation for 2022? What changes have you noticed while working with the city?

- At the beginning of this conversation, I mentioned that my experience of Spain and Poland led me to see that authoritarianism is not something we accelerate away from but that we need to defend ourselves from – it’s a continual task in which culture, education, civic society and institutions all have a role to play. Kaunas 2022 has made an exceptional contribution to that in my opinion. And it is a key feature about ECoC’s in general, by the way. They are processes, not simply festival events. But just as festival events are defined not just by the acts on stage but by the audience who takes part, an ECoC is as much defined by the way local people, citizens and the wider community interacts with it and accept the invitation it makes to us all! Come and join in! Co-create with us! Make this your ECoC! That is what breaking down a boundary and stereotype means – to actively help in the process of making new meanings, more useful cultural works, which help us understand this world of ours. Kaunas has changed. It’s more fluid, more open, more interconnected within the city and through its understanding of its past. Kaunas is contemporary! It’s a European city with deeply European stories to share. And all this, with more work still to be done, will become the legacy of Kaunas 2022. Legacy is so important as will make sense of the investments, imaginative and financial, that have been made so far.  Have you seen how Liverpool 2008 are still talking about their ECoC 22 years later?

- What is the backbone of the opening event for January? What message do you personally want to stress for the audience?

- The backbone of the event is a myth! The myth of the Beast of Kaunas. The story will be extended over the other big events we are planning for May 2022 and November 2022. It’s a moment when we can come together, as a city, as a country, and kick the year off through culture. The Beast of Kaunas of course, like all myths, is not real. It’s a beautiful excuse to meet, to reflect and think! The opening weekend is an invitation to everyone. So, the show is the chance to talk together about this city, its past, present and most importantly, its future. And it is the first time in ECoC’s history that three cities, Kaunas, Esch and Novi Sad, will hold the title at the same time. What a chance to extend opportunities for audiences, communities and audiences alike to discover new things about one another?

 

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. More than 40 festivals, 60 exhibitions, 250 performing arts events (of which more than 50 are premieres), and over 250 concerts are planned to take place in 2022. It is going to be the year-long non-stop biggest co-creative festival of all. Come co-create and celebrate with us!

Full programme: https://kaunas2022.eu/en/programme/


Kaunas as an International Meeting Point: The Star-studded Program of the European Capital of Culture

The international ties between Kaunas and the world intensified right after announcing the city would become the European Capital of Culture in 2022. No wonder it will be the year of numerous dream-come-true moments for art producers, directors and cultural operators – as well as the year of discovering Kaunas, the contemporary capital, for quality-seeking culture lovers from all over the continent and beyond.

Even though the programme of Kaunas 2022 is prepared by thousands of local artists and residents and is firstly and foremostly dedicated to them, it’s the globally renowned names that create and emphasise the value of the ambitious long-running project.

For some of the world’s finest artists, the title of European Capital of Culture will become the reason to visit the homeland of their ancestors. The visits of others will become the final touch of years of collaborations and partnerships. One thing is for sure – everyone will want to be in Kaunas, the epicentre of European culture, in 2022. Everyone from the international theatre superstar Robert Wilson to the performance art prodigy Marina Abramović.

To Heal From What we do not Remember

By far, the best-known contemporary art name in the exhibition map of Kaunas 2022 is William Kentridge (b. 1955, SA), whose work will, for the first time in history, be shown in Kaunas, the place where the roots of his family are. The artist, an honest and painfully candid humanist whose exhibitions are demanded by the best galleries in the world, grew up in Johannesburg, a city full of contrasts between stunning nature and industrial landscape. His works are saturated with difficult topics, including human rights, racial and financial inequality, revolutions and inconvenient tête-à-têtes between upstanding ideas and shameful everyday life.

William Kentridge

The curator of the exhibition That Which We Do Not Remember at the M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum is Virginija Vitkienė, head of Kaunas 2022. She recalls that back in 2016, when she first started inviting Kentridge to Kaunas, she knew well that he had a moral right to refuse to come to a country from which his grandfathers and great-grandfathers fled in the 19th century – and this helped them to avoid the tragic events of the WW2. ‘I hoped him agreeing to participate would help the much-needed process of reclaiming our memory and helping us to heal from what we do not remember,’ V. Vitkienė says, adding that the artist accepted the invitation with his signature energy. Together with his signature pieces, such as Refusal of Time, Drawing Lessons and Drawings for Projections, Kentridge created a series of bird drawings especially for Kaunas and an installation You Who Never Arrived in the auditorium of the museum.

"The Refusal of Time", Photo by: Niels Fabaek

‘I wish the spectators experience the exhibition as a conscious effort to remember as if it was the only honest way to live and coexist. I invite everyone to reflect both global and personal memory gaps with the artist,’ says the curator. The exhibition That Which We Do Not Remember will run from January 22 to November 30.

International Winds of Theatre

“National Kaunas Drama Theatre is one of the greatest partners of Kaunas 2022, carrying a huge load of our programme and organising truly impressive premieres with the most famous European and Lithuanian directors. This perfectly illustrates the fact that Kaunas is becoming one big European stage,” noted the head of Kaunas 2022 programme Ana Kočegarova–Maj at the end of the summer during the launch of the 102nd season of the theatre. She did not exaggerate, as the ​​solid, long-matured creative collaborations with artists from Germany, Canada, Hungary, Norway, Luxembourg, the United States, Georgia, and Latvia will finally become eight impressive premieres digging into universal topics.

One of the most significant events in the history of Lithuania’s oldest theatre and one of the biggest mysteries so far is Dorian, a performance directed by the American theatre magician Robert Wilson. He has already cast two Lithuanian actors for what was supposed to be a solo performance. Dorian’s premiere will take place in Autumn 2022.

Dorian. Photo by: John Deakin

Yet another important name to finally create in Kaunas is Oskaras Koršunovas. The Vilnius-based director has showcased his talent worldwide, and, now, he is part of the team developing the main trilogy of the European Capital of Culture. In May, Koršunovas will present The Appearance of the Beast, a massive event creation synthesising various arts at Kaunas Santaka Park, which will later be transferred to the main stage of the National Kaunas Drama Theatre.

Oskaras Koršunovas

Finally, in Kaunas!

‘Finally’ was most definitely the first word spoken by the team of Meno Parkas gallery after finally securing the most ambitious event in its history, as well as the term used to illustrate the expression by the spectators of Kaunas 2022 program announcement.

2022 will present a unique opportunity to see Memory of Being, a solo exhibition by Marina Abramović, one of the world’s most renowned artists. This and the artist’s visit on April 1 will be one of the programme’s most significant events.

Marina Abramovic, Photo by: Marco Anelli

The exhibition is based on Abramović’s series The Cleaner, which began at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 2017. The show provides a detailed presentation of the essential stages of Marina's work since the 1960s. It will feature video documentations of her interviews and most famous works, as well as the artist’s best-known video installations.

This impressive project was made possible through the partnership of Meno Parkas with the Centre for Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu in Toruń, the Marina Abramović Institute, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm.

It’s pretty symbolic that the art of Yoko Ono will be visiting Kaunas, the native city of her friend George Maciunas. The Learning Garden of Freedom is a retrospective exhibition of the nonconformist artist’s work and is the result of a collaboration between the artist’s Studio One in New York and the Kaunas Picture Gallery located not far from George Maciunas’ childhood home. The exhibition in Kaunas is presented by Contemporary Art Centre (curator: Jonas Hendricks (US)).In Autumn 2022, the exhibition will feature numerous works by Yoko Ono spanning different creative periods and practices: from conceptual art and experimental film to spatial installations, objects, word pieces, and performance art.

Also, the famous installation Exit It by Yoko Ono will be exhibited in the building of the Bank of Lithuania from January to September.

Yoko Ono, Photo by: Bjarke Orsted

Global Music Programme With Lithuanian Touches

The title of Kaunas 2022 has proved to be a great tool to invite the globally renowned Lithuanian artists to come back to their homeland with exceptional performances.

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, often recognised as the best female conductor in the world and leader of the finest orchestras around the globe, is one of such names. On September 2, Gražinytė-Tyla will conduct the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, the Kaunas State Choir, Katowice City Vocal Ensemble and Aidija Chamber Choir at the Pažaislis Monastery, considered a Baroque pearl. In addition to Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major, the concert will culminate in a truly singular event: the world premiere performance of the Ninth Symphony by Mieczysław Weinberg, one of Poland’s most intriguing 20th-century composers.

On October 9, an exclusive concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Great Britain) will be held at the historic Kaunas Sports Hall.  Together with the Kaunas State Choir, the orchestra will perform Ludwig van Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, Op. 80, the predecessor to the famous Ode to Joy, the anthem of the European Union, presenting audiences with the gift of joyful emotion.

There’s more! On October 30, Requiem, the Grammy-winning composition by one of the world’s most famous contemporary composers, Andrew Lloyd Webber, will be performed for the first time in Lithuania — of course, the event will be held at the region’s biggest Žalgirio arena.

The work will be presented by the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra and an array of world-famous performers and soloists, including the Kaunas State Choir, the Dagilėlis Boys and the Youth Choir, soprano Lina Dambrauskaitė, tenor Edgaras Montvidas, and conducted by Constantine Orbelian.

Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla, Photo by: Frans Jansen

Coming Home

Memory Office, one of the critical branches of the Kaunas 2022 programme, is focused on rediscovering the multicultural face of Kaunas. In 2022, it will reach its peak at the World Litvak Forum, where Litvaks scattered throughout the world to return, even if only briefly, to their ancestral land and gather together. Over several days, this event will feature a rich cultural programme and discussions with renowned artists, academics, and representatives of the artistic world.

The final touch of the forum will be the premiere of Kaunas Cantata, specially composed by Philip Miller (South Africa), an artist with roots in Lithuania. He collaborates with artist Jenny Kagan (Great Britain), whose parents once fell in love in the Kaunas Ghetto, and local musicians. The work is an inclusive musical experience, calling listeners to immerse themselves in the city’s past. Kagan will also present a solo exhibition in Kaunas, focusing on her family’s history.

It’s important to stress that each branch of Kaunas 2022 has its own superstars, some of whom are still on their way to international fame – and, what is even more significant is Kaunas and Kaunas District as one big European stage, will most definitely become their trampoline.

 

In 2022, culture will be inescapable. From cosy rendezvous under verdant trees to massive spine-tingling events, from installations to world-class performances, from theatrical tours to design workshops. Kaunas 2022 encompasses over 1000 events! More than 40 festivals, 60 exhibitions, 250 performing arts events (of which more than 50 are premieres), and over 250 concerts are planned to take place in 2022. All this is delivered by Kaunas 2022’s team of 500 people, alongside 80 local and 150 foreign partners. 141 cities in Lithuania and the world, 2,000 artists, 80 communities, and 1,000 great volunteers.

 

Fulll programme


Robert Wilson: ‘No one can do what I did, and I don't want anyone to try to do it’

In September 2022, the premiere of Dorian, based on the work and life of Oscar Wilde and the biography of Francis Bacon, is scheduled in National Kaunas Drama Theatre as part of the Kaunas 2022 program. Directed by Robert Wilson, the play was intended for one actor, but while talking to the American artist right after the casting in Kaunas, the statement became yet another question. One thing is for sure – even though Wilson states he’s ‘always writing the same novel,’ after 55 years in the theatre world, he’s still full of surprises. 

Photo by: Donatas Stankevičius

 

I feel that the theater people in Kaunas are pretty intimidated by you. They respect you and are afraid of you. How do you feel about that?

I’m afraid of myself. [laughs]

I don’t know. I think I’ve always been out of step and a bit different.

I think that today was very strange for these actors to go through what we just went through. It’s my way of going about it. I never really know exactly what I’m going to do. I guess I would not be working in the theater if I had studied theater or wanted to do it.

When I first saw theater – I came from Texas, and I had never been to the theater – I strongly disliked it. I didn’t like actors. I didn’t like all that acting. It was so unnecessary, complicated and I didn’t want to be in front of actors trying to express themselves and impose their emotions on me. I’d rather go and be alone in a room. I went to the opera, and I disliked that even more. I’d rather again go to my room and close the door and listen to a recording not to see some singer overacting in front of me. The costumes were ridiculous. The set was ridiculous, and I would rather close my eyes. [laughs]

I guess I made theater because I strongly disliked everything that I was seeing. I didn’t plan on a career in the theater. It happened by accident. I wrote a play with a black deaf boy that had never been to school and knew no words. It was seven hours long and silent. I showed part of it in New York. People said that I couldn’t show seven hours. It was too long: ‘People are not going to understand. They are not going to sit seven hours for something that is silent.’

I went to France and was going to do two performances. Pierre Cardin invited me to show it in the theater. We played Deafman Glance for five and a half months to 2,200 people every night. Charlie Chaplin came to see it twice. My career was established. I didn’t know anything about theatre. I didn’t even like it. I was asked to go to La Scala, I was asked to go to the Berlin Opera... I always thought, ‘Well, I’m going to do another production to pay the rent,’ because I really wanted to be a painter. I was not a very good painter. [laughs] For 55 years, I have been working in theater.

©Lucie Jansch | I WAS SITTING ON MY PATIO THIS GUY APPEARED I THOUGHT I WAS HALLUCINATING by Robert Wilson, Théâtre de la Ville - Paris (Espace Cardin), opened on Sept. 20, 2021.

Did you see what you were looking for here in Kaunas?

Well, no, but I would stay very open-minded. I’m doing this play in Germany and the actor there is totally, totally, totally different from these actors. He’s unique. 

I wrote Hamlet: A Monologue in 1975 and performed it myself in Paris in 1977. It’s now being performed by somebody else in Paris. The first thing I said to the actor doing my role, I said, ‘You’ll never be able to do what I did.’ No one can do what I did, and I don’t want anyone to try to do it. He’s very short, and I was very tall and skinny at the time. He’s a different body type and a completely different actor. One reason I chose him because I knew he was could never be anything like myself. The movements are the same. The light is the same. The stage set is the same, but he is an entirely different person. In Kaunas, we knew from the beginning that we look for somebody different. We don’t fall back and try to mold production around what the German actors are doing.

It means that there will be two very different performances in the end.

They will because the people are different. I’ve from time to time have gone back and revived productions. I made an opera with Philip Glass called Einstein on the Beach. We did it in 1976, and we did the last revival a few years ago. Although everything is the same in terms of movement, stage set, lighting, music but the people are different, so the story is different. The play is different because the people are different.

A play for one performer means a lot of pressure on that single person.

Even tonight, I was talking about doing it with two. I don’t know. I’m still open.

Two are still less than 10 or 15. It’s lots of pressure but at the same time lots of artistic freedom. Is that right?

Well, the difficulty, if you’re alone on stage, is that you don’t have a partner. Your partner is the public should always be the public. Anyway, a few years ago, I did a Mary Queen of Scotts with Isabelle Huppert, the French actress. It was first supposed to be done with Nicole Kidman. Then it was Meryl Streep, and there were four or five actors, including Cate Blanchett. They each backed out because they said, ‘I need a partner on stage, and it’s a monologue for one person,’ but Isabelle had no problem. S

You mentioned people like Philip Glass; you’ve also worked with Lou Reed and Lady Gaga. What do you learn from artists outside the immediate theatrical circle?

Well, Gaga is remarkable. Her talent is so enormous. She’s a classical pianist. She plays Mozart. I made 20-something different video portraits of her. For one of them, she stood for 11 hours without moving. 11 hours and she’s a popstar. How do you stand there and be interesting for 11 hours without moving? She speaks the text of Marquis de Sade, which I did based on paintings from the Louvre Museum. It’s amazing. She speaks like a classical actress. She can bite and speak words. She’s about as professional as you can get. She’s a hard worker. She does her homework. She’s highly intelligent. 

©Lucie Jansch

Have you always been a hard worker?

Yes. I’m a slow learner. I was always the worst one in school, the last of my class, but I had to work harder than most other kids. I had a roommate when I was at the University of Texas. He was first in his class, and I was just barely passing. I had to work all the time and do homework. He just breezed through the University of Texas. It was much more difficult for me. As I learned Hamlet, it took me four and a half years. I had to go to bed every night studying. I had to wake up in the morning and study. I had to do it in the shower, walking down the street, on the bus, or wherever. But once I do learn something, the thing just sticks. 

For how long did you carry the idea of Dorian in your head?

Well, it’s been three or four years. I started with the idea that two was one. Even though it was a monologue, it was always about two characters as one. You have two hands, the left hand, and the right hand, but it’s one body. The left side of the brain and the right side of the brain, but it’s one mind. We think one plus one is two, but actually, two can be one. Heaven and hell are one world, not two. 

You first worked with the writer Darryl Pinckney more than three decades ago, and there has been a handful of successful collaborations ever since. Was he an obvious choice for Dorian as well?

One thing I’ve always found so boring in theater is that it’s like ping pong. ‘Hello, how are you? What’s your name? You have beautiful blonde hair.’ ‘My name is Bob.’ ‘What did you do last night?’ ‘I drank a lot of vodka.’ ‘Are you hungover today?’ I hate that in the theatre. Darryl just writes a body of words so that you don’t have a ping pong situation. He’s a very elegant man with language and words. I wonder how it’s going to be translated here. Anyway, we won’t have a ping pong situation, even if I put two people on stage now, which I’m considering, but it would not be ‘Hello, how are you?’ ‘I’m okay.’

Who decided or had the idea to incorporate the biography of Francis Bacon into the story?

It was more Darryl. We started listening to Peggy Lee singing The Alley Cat Song. Peggy Lee is very cool and hot at the same time. Irony. So, I was thinking about an alley cat. That was really how we started Dorian. Then, by accident, we found this parallel between Francis Bacon. This guy broke into his studio in London, and instead of calling the police, Bacon painted his portrait, and they became lovers. It was, in some ways, a very odd, strange parallel with Oscar Wilde. 

Is Dorian going to be the classical work by Wilson?

Marcel Proust said, ‘I’m always writing the same novel.’ They asked Albert Einstein once he said, "Mr. Einstein, can you repeat what you just said?" He said, "No, there’s no reason for me to repeat what I just said because it’s all the same thought."

I wake up, and that’s what I do. It’s not like I can go to an office, work, and then I go home and watch TV and scratch the dog, and I think my work is a way of living. It’s life. I never think about it being work. It’s just what I do.

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. More than 40 festivals, 60 exhibitions, 250 performing arts events (of which more than 50 are premieres), and over 250 concerts are planned to take place in 2022. It is going to be the year-long non-stop biggest co-creative festival of all. Come co-create and celebrate with us!

 Full programme: https://kaunas2022.eu/en/programme/

 


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


The 13th Kaunas Biennial: Once Upon Another Time…gyveno jie jau kitaip

One of the largest international contemporary art festivals in the Baltic region, the 13th Kaunas Biennial will take place from 12 November 2021 to 20 February 2022. The exhibition, titled “Once Upon Another Time... gyveno jie jau kitaip” offers reflections on current global situations, including the pandemic, with a curatorial project that explores human resilience and adaptation. Curated by Josée Drouin-Brisebois, the biennial investigates different forms of storytelling and narrative in contemporary art. At times these stories are grounded in myths and fictions associated with the passage of time, transformation and evolution. In other moments they explore experienced personal and communal tales of survival. The exhibition proposes a sharing of stories rooted in diverse worldviews and moments in time, from the past, present and even the future.

The biennial will bring together 23 international artists and groups from Lithuania, Poland, Germany, France, United Kingdom, USA, Canada and Brazil. Ten new artworks are being commissioned for the 13th Kaunas Biennial, an event which will be one of the most significant contemporary art events opening Kaunas European Capital of Culture 2022.

Drouin-Brisebois stated: “Through a series of engaging encounters with contemporary art in unusual places, visitors will embark on an exploratory journey of the architectural and lived history of Kaunas, which will be animated in renewed and surprising ways. Through their artworks that convey compelling and resonant narratives, the artists consider the resilience and adaptation of living beings, as many continue to face adversity, injustice, oppression and climate change. The aim is to encourage audiences to connect through the familiarity of storytelling, to foster empathy and hopefully new understanding”.

The exhibition is organised by Kaunas Biennial. The project is supported by the Lithuanian Council for Culture, Kaunas City Municipality and with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. The event is presented in collaboration with the Office of the Embassy of Canada to Lithuania and is a part of the project Kaunas European Capital of Culture 2022.

 

Picture by M. Stasiulionytė