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Kaunas 2022, Once upon another time

Contemporary Art - "Matrice", by Giuseppe Penone Contemporary Art - "Matrice", by Giuseppe Penone Photo by Serafino Paternoster

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 the Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada, 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”.

Kotryna Žemaitytė, the director of Kaunas Biennial, commented on the appointment of Drouin-Brisebois: “The Biennial is the most popular contemporary art festival in the Baltic Countries and every edition of the event is created from scratch, i.e. by changing the character of exhibitions and the concept itself, and also by involving new partners, curators, artists and people working in different areas of culture for the common purpose: communication through the expression of art and creative processes. The 13th Kaunas Biennial, under the curatorship of Josée Drouin-Brisebois, will embrace this purpose, bringing together Lithuanian and international artists to explore the theme of humanity as widely as possible.”

Josée Drouin-Brisebois is the Senior Curator of Contemporary Art responsible for the collections of Canadian and international Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada. She has been highly involved with the Canadian participation at the Venice Biennale for the last decade. She was curator of the Steven Shearer (2011) and Shary Boyle (2013) exhibitions and also served as project director for Geoffrey Farmer’s 2017 participation, and was the lead curator of Isuma’s exhibition for the 2019 Biennale edition. She has curated numerous monographic and thematic exhibitions at the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto (MOCA) and The Rooms in Newfoundland and Labrador. Since 2016 she is the Jury Chair for the Sobey Art Award, the pre-eminent prize for contemporary Canadian art. In addition to publishing catalogues for the National Gallery and the Venice Biennale, her writing on contemporary art has appeared in a variety of publications and periodicals in Canada and abroad.

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.

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