MoFu artist K.Pisarikova interprets Kaunas 9th fort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Photos by M. Plepys

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See You soon!
Kaunas 2022 
Esch 2022 
Novi sad 2022 

 

Picture by M. Plepys


Gigantic Birthday Cards from Kaunas Appeared in Tartu 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Extensive four months programme of the CityTelling Festival

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

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

Special attention to the Jewish memory of Kaunas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kaunas walls also tell stories

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

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

 

Photo: Andrius Aleksandravičius


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how does one tell the story of Kaunas?

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

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

Where have you learned about Kaunas yourself?

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

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

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

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

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

What was a new discovery for you in Kaunas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographs by Martynas Plepys.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Virtual Film "Exquisite Corpse" Premiere

Galway 2020, European Capital of Culture, invites everyone to watch the premiere of the experimental, 8mm camera-captured short film Exquisite Corpse! On Thursday 29th April, Super8 Shots Festival will host a one-off screening of unseen footage gathered from Galway of years gone by as well as present-day Kaunas, Lithuania.

Read more


Kaunas 2022: The Crown Jewel of Europe’s Contemporary Culture

Kaunas – the future European Capital of Culture – has everything to captivate the world’s attention. The city’s history, Fluxus movement, design, and community all went into creating the legend of a new Contemporary Capital that’s set to become a year-long cultural festival, promising more events than there are days in 2022.

Read more


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo by A. Aleksandravičius