OPTIMISMO Festival in Kaunas Aims at Strengthening the Link Between the Urban Past and the Sounds of the Future

OPTIMISMO is a new electronic and experimental music event that will take place in Kaunas, in a former industrial quarter and other sites in the city on 3-5 June 2022. It is presented by Kaunas - European Capital of Culture 2022 and its Modernism for the Future programme, which aims to activate an emotional connection with the past and its monuments that have survived to this day.

How can we talk about positive things when the world around us is turning upside down, ideals are falling apart, meanings are changing, and we can no longer communicate? In the 19th century Bialystok, a melting pot of nations, the Polish-born Litvak Ludwik Lazaris Zamenhof searched for very similar answers. In his environment, conflicts between the ethnic groups living there broke out almost every day - the boy understood early on what happens when people cannot get along because they don’t talk to each other.

It was the idea of Esperanto, created by a man who also lived in Kaunas, that became the springboard for the creation of the city’s new festival OPTIMISMO, where the historical past and industrial heritage interact harmoniously with contemporary experimental and electronic music that is soaked with future. The optimism was shared between the Esperanto linguist and the creators of Kaunas, a city that grew sevenfold before WW2, and the belief in a more prosperous, friendlier future.

Optimism as a way to Move Forward

Kaunas’ fast pace a century ago was driven by the ambition to build a better, more vibrant and exciting future. To build with a fresh and functional modernist approach. Times have changed, and concepts of the present and the future have changed, but optimism is still perhaps the only thing that holds our collective consciousness. The festival organisers were indeed inspired by the cultural phenomenon described extensively by historian Marija Drėmaitė and colleagues in the exhibition and the accompanying book bearing the same name.

OPTIMISMO is a joint creation of two Lithuanian electronic music organisations - Digital Tsunami, which curates international events and the label of the same name, and Ghia, which finds inspiration in the industrial body of Kaunas.

“Writing about music is as difficult as dancing about architecture,” a phrase attributed to many creators, also found a place in the thinking about the OPTIMISMO programme, its setting and the artists who will come to the European Capital of Culture from many countries across Europe and the world, including Lithuania. The musical programme of the event will bring together different experiences and invite one to participate, listen and grow your understanding of sound, space and technological possibilities.

Guests of OPTIMISMO and their urban stories

Every piece of art and its creator is inseparable from a context. Thus the guests of OPTIMISMO are presented to the public not just by short musical biographies but also by their relationship with homelands and other urban contexts.

We are looking forward to discussing the importance and meaning of colonial architectural heritage, namely cinemas, in Angola with Nazar, who returned to his native country only when the 27-year Angolan civil war ended in 2002. The artist’s creative world centres around the extreme violence, injustice and omnipresence of a repressive state during and after the, while exploring hope, resilience and pride in a country torn apart by conflict.

Just as modernist architecture became an optimistic way of life and growth for Kaunas, the new yet temporary capital of reborn Lithuania, after WW1, a similar process took place in the Philippines a couple of decades later, after WW2. In the post-colonial period, the Filipino architects not only took on the pure surfaces and precise forms of modern architecture but infused the structural decisions with national elements. Thus, globally recognised architecture that still bears the national spirit is indeed a common thing between the Philippines and Lithuania.

Interestingly enough, Corin, the Filipina-Australian electronic producer, composer and performer working in performance art, sound design, theatre and club spaces, has become interested in her cultural connections to the Philippines, her mother’s birthplace and the landscape connected to it. “I’ve already begun to hear how it influences my creative output. Over the next year, I hope to produce an entire album which explores this connection”, said Corin in her recent interview with 15questions.

Yet another guest of OPTIMISMO is based in Shanghai. Osheyack is an integral member of the city’s electronic music scene that centres around ALL Club. The venue itself is located in a fascinating area near Changle Lu, a historic road in what was the French Concession between 1849 and 1943. In the 1920s, it was considered a premier residential area of Shanghai. Among new residential buildings also rose shikumen, a local architectural phenomenon – a cultural blend of the elements found in Western architecture with traditional Lower Yangtze architecture and social behaviour.

A half-Polish, half-Malian Parisian who occasionally enjoys Hungarian songs – these and more elements all add to the unique talent that calls himself Bambounou. On top of everything, he has just announced a new EP in the form of a wax candle sculpture of his body. ‘La Sagrada’, the artist says, was inspired by the beauty of La Sagrada Familia’s unfinished architecture in Barcelona, Spain.

Krikor (FR), Nick Klein (US/NL), Black Zone Myth Chant (FR), Animistic Beliefs (NL), and Pandora’s Jukebox (UK) are among the other names already announced in the OPTIMISMO program. More artists are to be revealed soon, as well as another exciting location for the festival.

Follow www.optimismo.eu for up-to-date news, tickets and other information. The design of the website and the visual aesthetics of the festival were also inspired by the modernist heritage of Kaunas. The design department consists of Tadas Bujanauskas and Aistė Ambrazevičiūtė.


“CulturEUkraine”, a cultural-creative space for Ukrainians, opens in Kaunas: here we will find each other

The creative-cultural space “CulturEUkraine", aimed to help Ukrainian people, who are fleeing the war and choosing Kaunas as their temporary home, was opened and presented to the public yesterday in Kaunas, in the historic Central Post Office. On the opening day, the premises of the Centre were a hive of activities: various organisations, artists, health experts and other initiatives providing and organising support for Ukraine, as well as the citizens and the first members of the emerging community – Ukrainian citizens – came to visit the Centre. In the evening, the opening of the Centre was marked by a “blue and yellow" solidarity concert featuring Lithuanian and Ukrainian performers.

As previously announced by one of the main initiators and creators of this Centre – the representatives of the European Capital of Culture “Kaunas 2022” – this Centre aims to provide a space and a place where people who have fled the war could continue their creative activities, seek inspiration and opportunities for new ones, and to simply meet, communicate, and find a bright emotional haven, which is, for the moment, of vital importance to the people that are exhausted by the horrors of war.

 

The Centre was visited by those who want to help and the first members of the community on the opening day

On the opening day, the 3rd floor of the Kaunas Central Post Office, which is planned to house open spaces for creativity and collaboration, art therapy sessions, communication, and educational activities, was a hive of activities: various organisations and initiatives gathered here to inform, help and support Ukraine and its people. The new Centre was also full of citizens who wanted to contribute to the creation of the Centre in various ways.

The well-known big organisations, including the Lithuanian Red Cross Society, Save the Children, and the Order of Malta Relief Service, took part in the contact fair and provided advice and information to all those who wanted to help or volunteer to join the support activities.

The representatives of the Kaunas Faculty of the Vilnius Academy of Arts were invited to join painting activities and practice art therapy. According to the organisers of this activity, it is not only a leisure activity but also an activity that enhances emotional well-being, which gives art therapy even more value and meaning.

The representatives of “CulturEUkraine” emphasized that the aim is to have a place for everyone - from the biggest to the smallest, so both when planning future activities and on the opening day, a lot of attention was paid to children – they were entertained by colourful animators, who met the small ones and their mothers at the entrance of the Centre, and invited them to engage in dynamic, educational activities.

The modernist-style premises offered many ways and forms to contribute to the financial support for Ukraine through the purchase of merchandise: “Kaunas 2022” invited to buy T-shirts supporting Ukraine that are decorated with drawings by the children of the Hero's School, and the stand of Kaunas Artists' House offered brooches with a sunflower motif carrying a symbolic meaning.

The community of Ukrainians in Kaunas: this is a space for our self-realisation and preservation of culture

The opening event was also attended by members of the Ukrainian community, who welcomed the idea of the Centre and confirmed the need for such a place. Volodimir Vasilenko, one of the representatives of the community, stated that this is a space for their self-realisation.

"For a long time, we didn't have a physical space where we could simply meet and talk, which made it difficult to build and develop the community as such. We are happy that we will have a space for self-realization, which will make it possible to learn languages and organize other cultural activities. It is a possibility for us to find each other and preserve our culture," Vasilenko spoke about the meaning of "CulturEUkraine".

"The Blue and Yellow" concert featured exciting performances and sent a strong message: Ukraine will stand

The opening of the Centre in the spaces around the Post Office, which was decorated by blue-and-yellow lights, was marked by a gesture of solidarity: a joint concert of Lithuanian and Ukrainian artists took place on the stage on the pavement of Laisvės Boulevard.

The concert was opened with the singing of the Ukrainian national anthem by Kiril Dernovoj, an 11-year-old Ukrainian who arrived in Lithuania several weeks ago. Kiril, who showed his powerful voice and firm posture on stage, touched many people’s hearts – the audience greeted the little Ukrainian with applause and shouted “Slava Ukraini".

Another performance by Ukrainians – a trio of musicians coming from various parts of Ukraine, who had just met a few hours earlier and who didn’t know each other until the morning of the performance day – was also very exciting. A flawless instrumental performance of classical works by the trio of Kondratyeva Olga Mikhailovna (violin), Nekh Nikita Alexandrovich (violin), Radkova Natalia Stanislavovna (violin) delighted the audience.

The 3rd Secretary of the Ukrainian Embassy to the Republic of Lithuania, Elena Kuzmenchuk, in her short but strong speech on the stage thanked Lithuania for its support and conveyed a clear message that Ukraine and its people, showing their strength, will withstand any difficulties.

The concert also featured Lithuanian artists: songs by Šarukas Joneikis (member of the band “Garbanotas”), Clara Giambino, electronic music performer Mesijus and mathematical rock band “jautì” were performed.

The opening of the Centre is just the first step toward further activities 

During the closing ceremony, Virginija Vitkienė, Head of “Kaunas 2022”, emphasised that the opening of the Centre is only the first firm step towards big, sometimes full of challenges, works. Activities for Ukrainians will start here next week and registration is open now in this form.

The curators of the “CulturEUkraine” space remind that citizens are still actively invited to contribute to the creation of the Centre by donating essential household items, especially IT devices - computers, monitors, tablets, etc. We invite you to register any items you have that you would like to donate to the Centre here.

The report was prepared by Vaida Morkūnaitė
Photo author Martynas Plepys

A space to create: Kaunas to open a cultural centre empowering Ukrainians to create

As Lithuania is hosting increasingly more people of Ukraine fleeing the atrocities of war, public organizations and individuals are actively contributing to various forms of initiatives for support. One of them is the cultural field, therefore, on Thursday, March 17, “Kaunas 2022”, along with its partners, is inviting visitors to Kaunas Central Post Office where a cultural-creative space “CulturEUkraine”, dedicated to the creators and artists of Ukraine who have chosen Kaunas as their temporary home, will be opened. It is planned that organizations, communities, and other initiatives contributing to the support for the people of Ukraine will gather here.

Cultural support: a possibility to continue the work, a place to create and be visible in Europe

“Currently, all active civil initiatives, NGOs, and public institutions are joining forces and contributing to the safe arrival of Ukrainians, helping them find accommodation and providing them with the necessities. It is like a synergistic mechanism, in which the mission of Kaunas 2022 is to offer a cultural harbor, creative space, and visibility platform for creators from Ukraine,” Head of “Kaunas 2022” Virginija Vitkienė spoke of “CulturEUkraine” idea.

On 17 March the centre “CulturEUkraine” will be opened on the 3rd and 4th floor of Kaunas Central Post Office. It is planned that open spaces will be established here for creation and co-working, there will be zones for art therapy, communication, and spaces for exhibitions.

“We are striving to make this Centre a place where the voices of people of Ukraine and the news of Ukraine are heard across Europe. We hope that the creators who arrive here will be able to continue with their activities by maintaining relations both with the local artists and those who stayed in Ukraine. By providing support, it is important to ensure that their adaptation in our country is as smooth and emotionally easy as possible; therefore, we will create a possibility for them to continue their usual activities and to contribute with their creative solutions to make the war come to an end and to achieve Ukraine’s victory as soon as possible. The Centre “CulturEUkraine” will become a place to meet, communicate, create, relax or contact their relatives. We hope that various cultural partners, artists will settle down in the spaces of the Post Office. We will also contribute to the support in preparing exhibitions, meetings. Culture and creation help to overcome difficulties hence we expect that the project will contribute to the improvement of emotional wellbeing,” V. Vitkienė spoke.

Community support is essential for the establishment of the Cultural Centre 

The organizers are inviting everybody to contribute to the creation of a cosier, more functional space.

“In the processes of creation and development of the “CulturEUkraine” space, the contribution of the business sector is especially important. Therefore we are inviting the representatives of both large and small businesses to help to make the cultural spaces cosier and lay the foundation for the birth of a new community. Of course, the support and involvement in the process of creation of this space of citizens of Kaunas are also very important. Without the energy brought together by the people, without their help, support, and ideas it would be impossible to reach these noble aims, so, the involvement of each person is very important,” one of the organizers of the initiative, “Kaunas 2022” sponsorship manager Irutė Tumaitė said.

The representatives of this creative space emphasize that, currently, the most needed are the items that would help to equip a quality place for creation; and later on, once the project gains momentum, the contribution and support of the society and business could be expressed in other forms, i.e. by organizing activations, educational, well-being activities for the community.

“The most necessary items now are various household appliances – from lamps, lights, heaters, mirrors, furniture for sitting and writing, inventory for children (toys, puzzles) to those used for household chores – brooms, vacuum-cleaners, kitchenware, cutlery, and small appliances,” I. Tumaitė said.

The citizens of Kaunas are invited to bring the items to the premises of Kaunas Central Post Office from 11 March. The items will be accepted at Kaunas Central Post office (located at Laisvės al. 102, Kaunas) daily until 17 March, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you have large items, please contact us and we will collect them from your provided location (email for information  [email protected])

An opening ceremony of the Cultural Centre for Ukraine, gathering of the support initiatives and hospitality concert to take place on March 17

On March 17 the creative space “CulturEUkraine” will be officially opened. Organizations and initiatives providing and organizing support for Ukraine will be established on the 3rd floor. Communication, getting information and contact will be possible from 4 to 8 p.m.

The aim of this gathering is to present all the relevant information about the activities that are organized to host the Ukrainians temporarily staying in Kaunas. It is also important to show that we stand together. Visitors will be able to purchase souvenirs, symbols, pieces of art here; a space of “Kaunas 2022” will be open here too.

Both inside the post office and around it, hospitality to Ukrainians will be shown: in the evening, the historical building will be lit by a symbolic combination of blue and yellow, and nearby – at the intersection of Laisvės Alėja and Kanto Street a live concert will be held to support Ukraine and its people.

Photo author Martynas Plepys


Kaunas – the grand cultural stage of Europe: what not to miss in March

Kaunas has become a huge European cultural stage; this year there will be more events taking place than there are days in a year. The boundless and borderless “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022” programme is flooding both the usual and the most unexpected spaces of Kaunas, and Kaunas district – the culture here is inescapable!

Here is a list of highlight events that will take place in Kaunas in March to plan your cultural experiences more easily. The organizers of Kaunas 2022 remind that you can easily find the detailed programme for the whole year on the website www.kaunas2022.eu or always have it at your fingertips in the mobile app KAUNAS 2022.

Events not to miss in March:

The International Day of Happiness, 20th of March

The last challenging years highlighted the importance of the people connection – our families, colleagues, neighbours, and other community members. Therefore, the organizers chose the slogan “Happiness to celebrate together” for the Day of Happiness in 2022 to announce that the biggest happiness is celebrating together – with people and among the people! This year the Day of Happiness invites us to share the moments of joy longer – the celebration, which starts on 20 of March, will continue during the whole weekend! Furthermore, an international congress “On happiness. Presuppositions 2022. Communities” will be held for the very first time.

Where: Different places in Kaunas

When: 20th of March

The event is free. The event is accessible to people with physical and intellectual disabilities and suitable for families with children. Pets are allowed at the event. More information: www.laimesdiena.lt/en

"Memory of Being", an exhibition by Marina Abramović 

One of the most significant art events not only in Kaunas but also in the whole Lithuania, will be Memory of Being, a solo exhibition by Marina Abramović, one of the world’s most renowned artists, in Kaunas Picture Gallery. The exhibition provides a detailed presentation of the most important 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. One of the exciting news for art lovers is also that the creator herself is coming to Lithuania to share her thoughts and ideas during a public meeting in Žalgiris Arena.

Where: Kaunas Picture Gallery, (K. Donelaičio str. 16, Kaunas)

When: 30th of March – 31st of July

Paid event

“That Which We Do Not Remember”, an exhibition by William Kentridge

One of the world’s most influential contemporary artists, an honest and painfully candid humanist whose exhibitions are coveted by the best galleries in the world, is bringing his art to Eastern Europe for the first time to open the most significant show of the Kaunas 2022 programme. The exhibition at the National M. K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art, That Which We Do Not Remember, will compel you to forget stereotypes. In this exhibition, Kentridge addresses humanity’s selective memory. The rejection of facts, history, and memories as a means of self-preservation or a propaganda tool is just as common a characteristic among people in Johannesburg and Rome as it is in Kaunas, says Kentridge, and calls us to dialogue with ourselves.

Where: M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art (V. Putvinskio str. 55)

When: Until 30th of November

The event is accessible to people with physical disabilities. Paid event. You can get the tickets here

„Modernism for the Future 360/365“, an international exhibition

Launched on the opening weekend of Kaunas 2022, this exhibition is an extraordinary report about the Modernism for the Future Programme. Over twenty artists from five countries spread their relationship with architectural heritage and its fate in contemporary European cities, such as Kaunas, at the iconic Kaunas Central Post Office. The exhibition encourages current residents and owners of modernist buildings to treasure their property and motivate the city to take pride in this legacy and present it to visitors and tourists. With this exhibition, Kaunas takes the lead in the modernism preservation movement and finally establishes itself as a centre of world research, promotion, and attraction of modernism in the world. The significance of Kaunas as a centre of global modernism will be one of the most important and enduring achievements long after the European Capital of Culture project comes to a close.

Where: iconic Kaunas Central Post Office (Laisvės alėja 102)

When: Until 10th of April

The event is accessible to people with physical disabilities. Paid event. You can get the tickets here

“Stories of the House”, an exhibition

The historical palace commonly known as the residence of the Presidents of Lithuania (1919–1940) has reshaped itself. Time portals will take you to seven epochs: the Governor’s Palace, the Ober Ost Commander’s residence, the Presidential Palace, the house of the Supreme Council Presidium, Nazi Headquarters, the Teachers’ House, and the revived historical palace. The motley list of its residents and visitors includes Tsars, Kaisers, military commanders, artists, and even a Pope! The palace is as if a crossroads of the history of Kaunas and entire Europe. The new exhibition will surprise city residents and its guests: here, history can be seen, heard, touched, smelled…

Where: Historical Presidential Palace of the Republic of Lithuania in Kaunas (Vilniaus str. 33)

When: Until 15th of July

Paid event

Kino Pavasaris Pop-up Cinema: „Pilgrims“ are coming back home

With the International Vilnius Film Festival “Kino Pavasaris” approaching (start on the 24th of March), exclusive screenings of “Pilgrims” (directed by Laurynas Bareiša) – a crime drama that won the Venice film festival lion – will be waiting for Lithuanian cinema lovers. For the film’s Lithuanian premiere, “Kino Pavasaris” will build a pop-up cinema in Karmėlava, the town in Kaunas District featured in “Pilgrims”. The team will also present an immersive guide of filming locations around town.

Where: Karmėlava, Kaunas district

When: from 17th of March

Paid event

“ARNO FUNKtionalism”, an exhibition

This exhibition is dedicated to one of the city’s most renowned interwar architects, engineers, and masters of interior design, Arnas Funkas (1898–1957). Funkas introduced the principles of functionalism to residential and public architecture and designed numerous representative examples of the style in Lithuania. This show will present Funkas’ work and explore the principles of interior and building architecture prevalent in his time and which became a unique feature of Kaunas, representing the city’s architectural landscape.

Where: A. and P. Galaunė house-museum (Vydūno al. 2)

When: Until the 1st of July

Paid event


Interview with Jon Hendricks, curator of Yoko Ono’s installation Ex It

Jon Hendricks is one of the originators, researchers, and curators in the history of the Fluxus movement. He is the curator of the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection. This essential collection of the Fluxus art movement began to be compiled in 1977 and was later donated to MoMA in 2008, where it is currently housed. A small part of the collection is exhibited in the George Maciunas Fluxus Cabinet at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius. Hendricks organized a host of major important Fluxus exhibitions and produced pioneering scholarly publications on the movement.

Jon Hendricks is also the curator of Yoko Ono’s retrospective exhibition The Learning Garden of Freedom, opening in Kaunas this year in September.

Photo by: M. Plepys

The Fluxus art movement was crucial to the radical shift in the understanding of art in different parts of the world starting in the sixties. Fluxus manifestos, numerous artworks, and instructions on how to make them circulated intensely for many years among artists in the United States, Europe and Japan, in a network coordinated largely by the founder of the movement, architect and designer George Maciunas (Jurgis Mačiūnas), a Lithuanian émigré. Having originated in New York, the movement was directed against the rigid, elitist and ‘overly self-important’ artistic system of art schools, museums, and concerts of “serious” music, which refused any kind of levity, spontaneity and play. Yoko Ono began her artistic journey together with the Fluxus artists. You started your career as an artist.

You learned about Fluxus at the very beginning of the movement and eventually got involved as a curator and researcher, still having close links with it to this day. How did it all start and what attracted you to Fluxus?

It was a radical movement, and it was precisely its radicalism that got me fascinated. I found out about Fluxus quite early. By the way, my brother Geoffrey Hendricks was one of the Fluxus artists. At that time, I already knew other artists from the movement. But my deeper interest in it began in 1976, when Barbara Moore and I opened the Backworks bookshop. I didn’t have a job back then and the bookstore first opened in my house. We were selling contemporary artists’ books, publications and Fluxus works.

We ran the bookshop ourselves, but as you can guess, it didn’t bring much profit. Barbara and her husband Peter Moore were well acquainted with Fluxus. Peter was an important photographer and was also capturing Fluxus performances. They knew George Maciunas, who agreed to sell his Fluxus works, and we helped him. Thus, I became friends with George as well. Around the same time, Gilbert Silverman invited me to curate his and his wife Lila’s Fluxus collection. I was afraid that working in a bookshop and curating a private collection at the same time might cause some conflict, so I chose working on the collection. Gilbert was a very progressive and adventurous collector. Together we assembled a very large Fluxus collection, which is now housed in MoMA. For multiple reasons, this collection is now considered the most important Fluxus collection of all. That was the beginning of my involvement with Fluxus.

You collaborate with Yoko Ono (b. 1933) and curate her exhibitions to this day. Tell us about your experience of working with her.

Photo by: M. Plepys

I met Yoko Ono a very long time ago, maybe in 1965 or 1966. I curated an exhibition of hers, titled The Stone, when I was working at the Judson Gallery located in a functional church of the same name. Later Yoko left for Europe, and I didn’t see her for quite a while, but when she came back our friendship continued. Working with Yoko is an incredibly wonderful experience. She is very ingenious and has a very special way of thinking. She would come up with new ideas in a flash. For instance, she was invited to participate in an exhibition in Finland related to snow and during dinner she immediately had an idea for an artwork: ICE PRISON. Melting ice liberates. She is very quick to have great ideas.

Yoko Ono’s work, related to social and political activism, touches on freedom, equality, women’s rights, and other topics that were used to promote society’s awareness. How do you see her work is presented to society today? Why is it important to get to know Yoko Ono’s work today?

It’s really a pity, but nothing has changed since her works were created and presented for the first time. Of course, there has been some progress in terms of women’s rights. But we still have a very long way ahead of us. And we can even feel it in our daily lives. When women walk down the street, they hear men whistling at them, not to mention the violence that women experience every day. One example is Yoko Ono’s piece ARISING which she first presented in Venice, with a bonfire made from a moulage of women’s bodies later lit in the centre of the piece, displayed together with a collection of real testimonials of violence and abuse experienced by women. I think this work is very powerful and we have shown it many times, continuing to collect further testimonials. This piece is no less relevant today.

The artist’s installation Ex It, now presented in Kaunas, features 100 coffins of different sizes with pine and birch trees growing out of them. Why are you starting the presentation of the artist’s work with this particular piece?

Photo by: M. Plepys

The installation Ex It illustrates a great disaster, but there is also hope here. Maybe not in this lifetime yet, but there is hope. Everybody dies, we just don’t know when I’m going to die, or when you’re going to die. Some deaths are inevitable, such as the ones that have been taken by the recent tsunami caused by a volcanic eruption. But others are avoidable. For instance, deaths caused by wars. This installation will still be important for a long time to come. Maybe people will associate it with the tsunami I mentioned, maybe with other natural disasters, maybe with the current state of the world, maybe with wars. Yoko doesn’t want to explicitly state and dictate what people should see in this installation, what kind of disaster it implies. As in all of her works, there is a lot of space for the viewer’s imagination.

How did you decide to exhibit this installation in the premises of a bank? The actually functioning bank and the banking operations happening in the same space as the installation create a strong additional field of associations and meanings for the piece.

This space was suggested by CAC director Kęstutis Kuizinas, although the initial idea was to place it elsewhere. It is usually exhibited in gallery spaces, but we have also presented it in a church and outside a cemetery. The bank space adds even more different meanings. I think this space is very suitable for the installation. Equally important is the beautiful architecture of the building. But at the same time, I believe that any space can be fitting to present this installation. And all spaces would bring their own meanings because all spaces are charged with different symbols. The installation will change a little bit soon when the trees start leafing out. And after the installation closes, it will continue living, as the trees spread across the city. We will plant them ourselves or invite people to plant them in their parks and gardens.

Dovilė Grigaliūnaitė


Storm is going to hit Kaunas, Lithuania: urban culture, art and techno provocations  with Audra festival 

This year Kaunas, Lithuania has become the European Capital of Culture, and to mark the  occasion, the Lizdas nightclub has prepared a huge urban festival called AUDRA (eng. the  Storm). Contemporary art installations, exhibitions, events and live performances scattered  throughout the city's spaces will rock the streets of the European Capital of Culture for five  days - 29 June - 3 July. 

Photo by: Tautvydas Stukas

Concerts and parties in the spaces of Kaunas will be the core of the festival. The events will take  place in huge public spaces such as Ąžuolynas Park, Santaka Park, the Soviet metal factory  Pergalė and many other typical Eastern European urban spaces never before touched by a rave  presence.

Some of the revealed names of the artists are Tommy Cash, VTSS, Hector Oaks, Helena Hauf,  Call Super, Job Jobse, Arp Frique Family (Live), Identified Patient b2b Manfredas, Under Black  Helmet, Azu Tiwaline, Mor Ellian, Dj Marcelle.

Photo by: Tautvydas Stukas

Lizdas nightclub is located just in the heart of the city and is well known to be one of the three  most prominent dance music cultural hubs in Lithuania. Kaunas is the second biggest city in  Lithuania famous for its art-deco architecture and complicated history as being the temporary  Lithuanian capital for 20 years, during the interwar period. Later on, the country has been stuck  under the iron curtain being occupied by the Soviet Union. The period has left the landscape full  of dystopic soviet architecture, eerie neighbourhoods and Chernobyl-like abandoned factories (in  some of them the festival is going to take place too).

Photo by: Vytenis Sidabras

The best way to get to Kaunas is by taking a plane to Kaunas Airport (KUN) or nearby Vilnius  Airport (VNO). Tickets for the festival will be available on Thursday (February 3) on Resident  Advisor.

More information about festival: www.audrafestival.com


“The Confusion”: Kaunas Became the Cultural Heart of Europe

“Maybe not the impressive figures and other facts, but the fire in the eyes of each and everyone is proof that the vision, which we spent five years on, has come to life, and that Kaunas has been inspired to move forward,” Virginija Vitkienė, the head of the project “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022”, said after the last bars of the “The Confusion”, Act I of The Contemporary Myth of Kaunas Trilogy. During the ovation, she invited everyone to continue the celebration on the evening of 22 January and throughout the whole year and the whole life to come.

 

Photo by: AHOY

With thousands of spectators in the centre of Kaunas – residents of the city, Kaunas district communities, guests from other Lithuanian cities and abroad – watching, Žalgirio Arena, the largest in the Baltic States, was transformed into a screen of unprecedented size. Before the big kick-off, the most important persons of our country and the continent addressed greetings to Kaunas and Kaunas District.

 

In her video message, President of European Commission Ursula von der Leyen looked back to interwar modernism, which stood more for more than an artistic style – it represented a new vision for Lithuania and its people, built on pragmatism, progress and independence. The politician stressed that, 100 years later, we are again at a crossroad – and we can only succeed if we use all our talents from all and culture to technology and innovation: “Our European capitals of culture can lead this change, especially with the support of young people. And this is why I decided to make 2022 the European Year of Youth – to promote youth engagement at all levels, like with the “Emerging Kaunas”, your city’s youth program.”

 

“It was here in Kaunas 100 years ago that a young nation reimagined its identity through modernism. Again, today, Europe is reimagining its future through sustainability. And once again, art mirrors this transformation in a free and united Europe,” concluded President of the European Commission and expressed a wish to visit Kaunas soon.

Photo by: AHOY

President of the European Council, Charles Michel, also conveyed his warm greetings by video message. “Just as no man or woman is an island, alone, in a vacuum, we are all much bigger than ourselves. Because we are part of our community. We are part of our country, our continent. A part of humanity,” said the politician. He added that, in the European Union, there is no centre and periphery, and today, Kaunas is more than ever the beating heart of Europe.

 

“Communities thrive, come together and share experiences through collective artistic endeavours. Their people share stories, histories, and share a common living memory that will outlive them and pass them on to future generations. This is how traditions are forged and propagated. This is how culture is created. And each of these cultural exchanges – no matter how big or small – helps us better understand each other and brings us closer together as Lithuanians, as Europeans,” Charles Michel thanked Kaunas and Lithuania for their passion.

 

Thanking the people of Kaunas and the team that spent five years working towards the goal, the Mayor of Kaunas, Visvaldas Matijošaitis, assured that the growing city of Kaunas is thrilled to take over this honourable title.

 

“Our trilogy and any other -logy only gives when you want to take something – in other words, the European Capital of Culture project is based on the concept that everybody walks their own part of the way, and we meet in the centre. We, thousands of us, are invited to reflect on what myth, Europe, and European values mean to us and to ask ourselves what message this endless team of creators wants to convey to us,” said Rytis Zemkauskas, one of the core members of Kaunas 2022.

 

The action of “The Confusion”, intertwining music, image, animation, movement and other forms of artistic expression, told the story of the transformation while migrating in the space surrounding the arena. Here, dancers moved, interpreting modernist architecture, and Merūnas Vitulskis and Joana Gedmintaitė performed solo parts of the symphony “Šaipėrantas” by Antanas Jasenka, performed by Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra and the Vilnius Choir conducted by Modestas Pitrėnas.

 

Chris Baldwin, the author of the unique directorial solution, expressed that it was essential for him to turn the city itself into a stage when creating “The Confusion” – not to hide what Kaunas really is and to use every single detail of it for creative solutions. Thus, the symbolic act of collapse became a crucial part of the show. For two days, a 22-metre-high cardboard version of an unfinished hotel created by French artist Olivier Grossetête was built by him and hundreds of volunteers, only to be destroyed to mark the beginning of a new phase of Kaunas.

 

At 08:22 pm, with the bells of all Kaunas churches ringing, the participants of “The Confusion” continued their explorations of Kaunas myth other cultural endeavours. Thousands searched for symbols with maps in their hands and deciphered the mystery of the Beast of Kaunas, while others huddled in the ice sculpture-laden Independence Square, with electronic music pounding from the speakers.

 

The lucky ones could hear excerpts of the “Kaunas Cantata”, which will premier in September, in the windows of the cafés on Laisvės Alėja. In other shop windows, spread all along the pedestrian boulevard, artefacts of Lithuanian design history shone, making more than one curious visitor stop.

 

The William Kentridge exhibition at the National M.K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art and the Kaunas Central Post Office, which has become a mecca of modernist architecture, were particularly popular among exhibition-goers, as well as “Ex It”, an installation by Yoko Ono, that drew crowds to the Palace of the Bank of Lithuania.

 

With the rhythms of drums playing in the Vienybės Square, the Beast’s voice invited everyone to climb the stairs leading to Žaliakalnis, to meet again at the top, where the Christ’s Resurrection Basilica was transformed into a spectacular installation of light and sound. The audiovisual performance “Tabalai” reminded us to awaken the cultural Beast within us with the musical instruments created especially for this event.

 

The opening events of the European Capital of Culture year in Kaunas and Kaunas district took place on 19-23 January. Many of the exhibitions and other initiatives presented this weekend will continue to run, so it’s always a good time to visit Kaunas and the Kaunas district, which has become one big stage for Europe.

 

Act II of The Contemporary Myth of Kaunas Trilogy, “The Confluence”, will take place on 20-22 May, coinciding with Kaunas’ birthday, while the 25-27 November event “The Contract” will finalize the transformation “From temporary to the contemporary”.

 

 

 


After the meeting with the jury of the European Commission, “Kaunas 2022” is to receive a significant Melina Mercouri Prize

Together with the last conclusion of the European Commission, the team of “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture” has heard great news. After assessing the readiness and fulfilment of the commitments made back in 2017, the jury recommended that the city be awarded the Melina Mercouri Prize of 1.5 million euros. This prize is awarded to European capitals of culture if the plans listed in the project application are successfully implemented and the quality of project management is ensured, the obligations of the funders are fulfilled (the project is funded by Kaunas City Municipality, Kaunas District Municipality and the Government of the Republic of Lithuania). 
The two meetings of the teams of European Commission for monitoring and “Kaunas 2022” consistently analysed the progress of preparation for 2022, development of partnerships, contribution to the implementation of the Strategy of Culture of Kaunas City, communication plans and actions. From the very beginning of the project, the involvement of communities and society in the preparation for the programme of European Capital of Culture, the actions of cultural decentralization in the neighbourhoods of Kaunas city and Kaunas District settlements have been highly valued. At the third meeting in October 2021, the members of the jury mostly focused on the plan of continuity of “Kaunas 2022” project. This prize is dedicated to consolidating the Changes of Culture.
“The Melina Mercouri Prize is awarded to nearly all the cities that are European capitals of culture. It represents a relatively small part of the budget for this long-standing, culturally transformative project. It is important that project stakeholders who have devoted so much energy and resources to this Olympic-level event use this badge of appreciation to ensure the continuity of emerging artistic and cultural phenomena. What seems more significant to me in this report is the qualitative assessment and appreciation that, even in the context of COVID, we have been able to reach and involve so many people, mobilize partners, win international awards for integrated communication and marketing campaigns. And, most importantly, to create a top-level programme for art for 2022 that, based on local identity and uniqueness, enriches the overall European culture,” Director of “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture” said.  
Both during the meeting and in the conclusion, the development and application of co-creation methodologies and the preparation of methodological material in English were identified as significant factors by the jury. It also expressed its wish for the continuation of sharing the best practice of Kaunas and Kaunas District both through the continuation of the Forum of European Capital of Culture in Kaunas, and by promoting the methodological material and by sharing the best practice with other cities and regions. 
“European Capital of Culture is the most significant cultural project of the European Union that allows the designated cities to look at themselves from the outside and, by employing creativity, to create a new local narrative, network at national and European level. Probably the most important thing we will take with us from this experience is a change in quality and quantity. Having started on the road seven years ago with just a few of us, now together with over 70 Lithuanian and several hundred of European cultural organizations and over 500 cultural professionals, we can change our place so that it is interesting for the entire Europe and the world,” Virginija Vitkienė says.  
The third report of “Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022” and the conclusion of the jury commission can be found here: https://kaunas2022.eu/planai-ir-ataskaitos/ 
Programme of “Kaunas 2022”: www.kaunas2022.eu 


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


The contemporary Myth of Kaunas Trilogy – a journey to a new city identity


In 2022, Kaunas will be reborn – the myth of the contemporary capital, which the Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 team has been creating for three years, will materialise itself in an impressive programme. The main highlights of the programme are the Myth of Kaunas Trilogy events, which will take place over the three weekends: The Confusion (January 19–23), The Confluence (May 20–22) and The Contract (November 25–27).
For the opening weekend of Kaunas European Capital of Culture, more than 100 events are planned, several hundred professional and non-professional performers will be on the stage. In the impressive opening show, we will see world-famous creators and performers from Lithuania and around the world.
“The Myth of Kaunas Trilogy events, with which we will open the year of Kaunas European Capital of Culture in January, continue in May and close in November is the axis of the programme. We will involve thousands of locals into these events so that they become active participants, characters, extras in crowd scenes, choir performers, and not mere spectators,” says Virginija Vitkienė, the initiator and CEO of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022.
The creative output of the Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 project is being created by 64 organisations, which currently employ almost 300 professionals. About 15 more organisations will join the main events; a total of about 80 partners will implement the European Capital of Culture year program. According to Vitkienė, there will be no free weekend in the year.
“The Myth of Kaunas Trilogy is a journey through the three main events of the European Capital of Culture – a journey much like the three stages of a person’s life: coming to understand who we are, accepting who we are, and coexisting with ourselves – as we are,” says Rytis Zemkauskas, the author of the idea and the script writer for the Trilogy.
The myth of the city, created by all its inhabitants, is united by the metaphor of the Beast. According to Zemkauskas, the Beast is the body of the city, it is as alive as we are. The mythical Kaunas Beast will be awakened in January, we will make better acquaintance with it in May, and will agree to live happily and in harmony at the closing event of the Capital of Culture at the end of November.
The trilogy of Contemporary Kaunas Myth will be told in dozens of books and stories, it will be shaped by exhibitions and performances of Lithuanian and international artists, it will sound in concerts taking place in various places in Kaunas, and will be lit by installations from all over Europe.
Opening of the European Capital of Culture in Kaunas on January 22
Whatever are your plans for the beginning of the next year, arrange your schedule so that you are in Kaunas on January 22. Although the detailed programme of the opening show, which will take place at the Žalgiris Arena at 19.30 pm, is kept secret until the last minute, the organisers reveal that it is being created by hundreds of Kaunas, Lithuanian and international artists.
“The ambitious Kaunas European Capital of Culture programme is based on a unique, sincere, community-involving vision of the Contemporary Capital. The contemporary capital is a city where culture is not just a Sunday theatre but it is a way to act, learn, create innovations, build a community,” says Ana Kočegarova-Maj, Kaunas 2022 Programme Director. 
She reminds that thanks to all the creators of the programme, Kaunas will host exhibitions of the world’s most famous artists, such as Marina Abramović, Yoko Ono or William Kentridge, will invite its citizens and city guests to the festivals of a unique scale and artistic quality. 

At the opening event of Kaunas – the European Capital of Culture 2022, a synthesis of contemporary music, giant video projections and slam poetry will tell the story of the city as a living miracle, which constantly renews itself. The goal of the programme is to involve everyone in the city’s creative uprising. Kaunas invites the audience around the word to watch the opening broadcast live.
The opening event is being created by British director Chris Baldwin, who has contributed to the key events of the European Capitals of Culture in Wroclaw (Poland), Galway (Ireland) and London Olympics. The music for the event is composed by the Golden Cross of the Stage multiple awardee Antanas Jasenka. The music will be performed by the National Symphony Orchestra and Vilnius Choir, conducted by Modestas Pitrėnas, the winner of the Lithuanian National Culture and Art Prize.
A team of several producers coordinates an impressive opening show, where the Aura Dance Theatre, the authors of experiential video installations OKTA Studio and the masters of world-famous installations and performances, whose names are not yet revealed by the organisers, will provide an unforgettable experience to the city’s residents, guests and the spectators around the world. The costumes of the event are created by Aleksandra Jacovskytė, Julija Skuratova, Sandra Straukaitė.
100 events over the weekend
There are more than 100 events scheduled for The Confusion weekend, which will start on the outskirts of Kaunas on January 19, and will move towards the city centre, congesting residents for the opening. It is estimated that several hundred professional and non-professional performers will appear on stage over the weekend.

On the eve of the opening, January 21 the most important 2022 visual arts exhibitions will open. William Kentrige’s solo exhibition What We Don’t Remember at the M.K. Čiurlionis Museum will introduce the works of this world-famous South African artist of Lithuanian-Jewish heritage to Kaunas residents and the city guests. Also, on that weekend, the four-month exhibition Modernism for the Future 360/365 dedicated to the architecture of Kaunas and European modernism will open at Kaunas Central Post Office. The exhibition will feature projects from 17 artists created during the art residencies over the last year. In addition, the exhibitions of artists from the Capitals of Culture 2022, Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg) and Novi Sad (Serbia), will open.
The opening of the installation “Exit it” by the peace activist multimedia artist Yoko Ono is also scheduled for January 22. The installation will run until September 2022.

Dozens of cultural institutions of Kaunas and Kaunas district are creating a special programme for the first Myth of Kaunas Trilogy weekend. The Confusion programme includes concerts, dance performances and plays, excursions and creative workshops. According to the organisers, one will not be able to escape culture. 
The mythical beast of Kaunas will budge in his sleep and… wake up.
Kaunas birthday will be celebrated next to rivers
Kaunas is located in an exceptional place, at the confluence of two major Lithuanian rivers – the Nemunas and the Neris. In addition, in Kaunas, on the way to Raudondvaris, another confluence – of the Nemunas and the Nevėžis – is located, surrounded by a beautiful natural park. Although riverfront in a town usually serves as a natural attraction, Kaunas residents have only relatively recently discovered these beautiful spots and started to spend their free time there.
The Confluence event, which will take place on May 20–22, will fulfil the dream of Kaunas people to return to the rivers and to immerse into the flow of creativity. Saturday evening event will be held in one of the most beautiful places in Lithuania – the Nemunas and Neris confluence. The event will end with a show on water of an unprecedented scale in Lithuania, directed by Chris Baldwin.

Kaunas birthday weekend was chosen for the Confluence, the second part in the Myth of Contemporary Kaunas Trilogy. Moreover, on the same date, the largest international kite festival “Between Earth and Sky” is taking place in Kaunas district. For three days, Kaunas residents and guests will be entertained by performances of acrobats, modern circus, musical picnics in the Kaunas district settlements located by the rivers – the action will take place on the shores, in the water and in the sky. If conditions allow, we will receive guests from other European Capitals of Culture and Alytus, which will be the Lithuanian Capital of Culture in 2022.
People say that in this weekend we will definitely see the beast of Kaunas ...
Closing event: contemporary opera in Raudondvaris Manor
The official closing of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 will take place on the last weekend of November, on 25–27. According to the organisers, the Contract part of the Trilogy is dedicated to making agreement with the city, to pledge to live together in harmony.
“When we started preparing the application for the project several years ago, we “diagnosed” Kaunas as grey, very complex, we saw it as a teenager who is not loved and does not love himself. Today, inviting people to the European Capital of Culture 2022 events, we look forward to welcoming visitors in an already changed, more hospitable, more sociable, more youthful, more stylish, more empathetic, more sustainable city, open to their own and European history and present. Kaunas is no longer afraid of the ghosts of the past and does not have complexes due to real or imaginary insignificance. We are looking forward to welcoming you in a European city of happy people”, says Vitkienė.
The central event of the Contract weekend is created by the Lithuanian National Prize winner composer Zita Bružaitė, director Gediminas Šeduikis, the playwright Daiva Čepauskaitė, the winner of the Golden Stage Cross. Together with hundreds of the most talented Lithuanian performers, the contemporary opera will consolidate the agreement of Kaunas residents with their city, will sound the promise of living long and happily. An impressive audiovisual show, which will close the year of the European Capital of Culture in Kaunas, will take place at Raudondvaris Manor on Sunday evening.
A special exhibition commemorating 2022 will also be opened in Raudondvaris, and on the closing weekend Kaunas will be adorned with modern light installations from other European cities and other European capitals. Although then Kaunas will officially pass over the title of European Capital of Culture to other cities, it will forever remain a city of contemporary culture.
Kaunas Beast, actively involved in the process of creating a contemporary urban myth, will remain in the city and watch over the contract signed by the residents of the city.