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Kaunas 2022, the main events of the opening

By Elvira De Giacomo February 02, 2022
Kaunas 2022, the main events of the opening Photo by Elvira De Giacomo

Kaunas officially started its year as European Capital of Culture 2022 with a 5-day celebration. The slogan “From temporary to contemporary” is an invitation to join Kaunas in creating change and the Contemporary myth of Kaunas Trilogy compares the city with a body and is based on the Beast metaphor, which connects all of the city’s different stories. As we can read in the first pages of the official programme guide “That Beast is a bit noble, a bit of a ruler of the underworld, part child, part jester, part warrior, part guardian, part airplane, ship, even automobile. It, like the city, is created from living and inanimate parts. It moves, changes, breathes, and never stops, because it is eternal!”.

Kaunas Trilogy is a journey through the three main events of the European Capital of Culture, a journey like the three stages of a person’s life: coming to understand who we are, accepting who we are, and coexisting with ourselves.

The Beast of Kaunas is raising in the first act named “Confusion” with the Opening of the European Capital of Culture. Then, we will encounter him again in May with “The Confluence” when we are invited to encounter the contradictions that lie within all of us and celebrate unity together. And, finally, in November with “The Contract” we will make an agreement with him (but actually, with ourselves) to live long and happy lives.

The pre-opening events started in the city on 19 January with installations and concerts throughout the town, in order to awaken the Beast which lives in Kaunas. The opening events have been illuminated by mysterious light and fire shows, with performances by choirs and ensembles.

On 22 January at 19:30 the Opening Ceremony of Kaunas European Capital of Culture took place. The Žalgirio Arena, the largest in the Baltic States, has been transformed into a giant screen: under the artistic direction of Chris Baldwin, intertwining music, image, animation, movement and other forms of artistic expression, talked about the transformations throughout history. During the spectacle a 22-metre-high cardboard version of an unfinished hotel (created by French artist Olivier Grossetête and hundreds of volunteers) was destroyed to mark the beginning of a new phase of Kaunas. In the meanwhile, hundreds of performers from Kaunas, Lithuania, and abroad were on stage.

At 20:22 the bells of all Kaunas churches rang and all the participants of “The Confusion” continued their explorations of Kaunas myth, following the symbols marked on the maps in order to decipher the mystery of the Beast of Kaunas and enjoying the numerous concerts and other events throughout the city.

During the celebrations, there were also other big events and important openings.

One of these was the opening of the exhibition “What We Don’t Remember” by William Kentridge curated by Virginija Vitkienė installed at M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art. In this exhibition, the artist tries to make order in the “Confusion” of unconscious events. Going back to his relatives who moved from Kaunas to South Africa, Mr Kentridge creates new connections among these two cultures. Worth of seeing is the installation in the auditorium, where you can hear African songs while looking at some of his sketches in giant size. Among other drawings displayed in the rooms, there are some videos where Mr Kentridge talks to another himself (or even more than one), with funny faces and expressions. 

In this exhibition, Kentridge addresses humanity’s selective memory. He says that “The rejection of facts, history, and memories as a means of self-preservation or a tool of propaganda is just as common a characteristic among people in Johannesburg and Rome as it is in Kaunas. We all choose what we wish to remember and what to expel from our memories”. Kentridge hopes to fill these gaps in our memory and speak with us about what we deliberately, or unconsciously, no longer remember. He calls us to a dialogue with ourselves.

This exhibition will be visitable until 30 November 2022.

“Modernism for the Future 360/365” is an international exhibition installed at the Post Office Building. With over twenty artists and architects coming from five countries, it is devoted to a discussion about the future of the modernist heritage in contemporary European cities. It seeks to illustrate the value of modernist architecture and its appeal to contemporary audiences, urban dwellers, specialists, and lovers of architecture. The exhibition is aimed at reinforcing the European and intercontinental modernist heritage narrative and to show that this heritage, like every work of art, transcends the borders of individual cities and countries.

“Unstable practices” is the Novi Sad Avant-Garde Exhibition presented in partnership with Novi Sad 2022, installed at Kaunas Photography Gallery. The exhibition presents examples of unstable and emancipatory art practices in Novi Sad, from neo-avant-garde to contemporary, media and postmedia art. Through artists, photography, video and digital art and documentary structure, the exhibition points to certain important figures, phenomena, and spaces for developing avant-garde, media and post-media Novi Sad practices. At the same time, it deals with questioning the influence of specific social context on the development of the art scene, the relationship between the institutions and social system and critical, unstable, and emancipatory concepts, the nature between private and public space, as well as how local, regional, and international music scenes are connected.

The exhibition “Mechanics of Tomorrow’s World” presented in partnership with Esch 2022 European Capital of Culture is installed in Meno Parkas Gallery. The creative duo from Luxembourg Martine Feipel & Jean Bechameil usually produce installations where there is a mix of illusion, imagination, instability, and illogicality within gridded and controlled places in the contemporary world.

As sculptors but also amateur researchers and engineers, informed by a great sensibility with regard to the theatricality of the world and its various forms of beauty, they create works within a socio-historical, aesthetic, political and technical approach. In combining their many areas of know-how in various fields - drawing, sculpture, engineering, directing and presentation, and sets -, they produce oeuvres formally accomplished and powerfully engaged. The artwork can be understood on various different levels that touch as much on philosophy as on art history or society.

Yoko Ono’s installation “Ex It” is another important milestone of the Opening. Impressive in size and depth, Ex It is housed in the luxurious palace of the Bank of Lithuania, which many have never visited before. Later this year, an exhibition by Yoko Ono will be opened at the Kaunas Picture Gallery, curated by the Contemporary Art Centre.

As we can read in the first page of the official guide “As we present this artistic programme for the year 2022, we invite the people of Europe to a changing, younger, more welcoming, community-minded, stylish, empathetic, accessible, and sustainable city, one that is open to its own history, the history of Europe, and to the present day. Most importantly, ours is a city that no longer fears the ghosts of its past and has resolved to liberate itself from any complex of fictional or imagined insignificance. In Kaunas, joy is much more viral than the virus”.

More information about the full programme here.

Note about the author.
Elvira De Giacomo was part of the Matera 2019 team with which she still collaborates today. She attended the Kaunas 2022 opening ceremony. She collaborates with EcocNews.com.

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