Kaunas Biennial, the biggest contemporary art event in the Baltic States, has started its 10th edition with the exhibition Threads: Fantasmagoria about Distance, curated by the well-known art theorist and curator Nicolas Bourriaud. Kaunas central post office became a key to the exhibition itself, accumulating works by artists as Liam Gillick (USA), Walead Beshty (UK), Saadane Afif (FR/DE), Roberto Cabot (BR), Pakui Hardware (Neringa Černiauskaitė and Ugniaus Gelguda, LT/USA), Lothar Hempel (DE), Julijonas Urbonas (LT), Katja Novitskova (EE), Arnas Anskaitis (LT), Carsten Höller (SE), Bronė Sofija Gideikaitė (LT), Amalia Ulman (AR/UK/ESP), Katie Paterson (UK), Attila Csorgo (HU), Kelley Walker (USA) and Darius Žiūra (LT). Threads’ ambitions are both to approach the form of fantasmagoria and to address the way today’s artists include the notion of distance in their works: in a globalized and digitalized world, how does art deal with transportation, real time communication? What is the current shape of the presence/absence dialectics? How do artists present absent realities? As a metaphor, Threads also stresses the parallels between today’s art and the spectacle of fantasmagory, focusing on the similarities with this proto-movie theatre both in terms of techniques and intellectual issues, and leads the way to another possible history of art, where feature films and installations would share a common ancestor. Based on this link between science, poetry and spiritualism, Threads is an exhibition about art as a system that connects itself to a different time and/or space. The artwork as a telegraphic device, entering into contact with something happening somewhere else, in another realm, world, place or times…
Lewben Art Foundation offered the unique possibility to explore its outstanding collection in the exhibition Networked Encounters Offline at the M. Žilinskas Art Gallery featuring works by Ian Cheng (USA), Gabriele De Santis (IT), Nick Darmstaedter (USA), Mohamed Namou (FR), Deimantas Narkevičius (LT) and Simon Denny (AU), analyzing the forms of post-internet art communication. According to Francesca Ferrarini, the curator of the exhibition, thanks to digitalisation and the Web, we are bombarded by images everywhere we go today; and all these images are flat two-dimensional images, which we see mostly on computers. We are surrounded by a real world that is influenced by edited images of itself. It does not matter if we have never been to the Caribbean: we know what it looks like. It does not matter if we have never seen Boetti’s map in reality: we can count the stitches on Google Art Project. The exhibition of the Lewben Art Foundation is about the encounter by a generation of artists who have been investigating the new aesthetics of the image, playing with materials, appearances and figures. The internet and digitalisation have influenced not only the way we all approach figures, but also the way artists do, on one hand, with the most classic forms of art, such as painting and sculpture, and on the other hand, using the latest technologies. Basically, what happens is the internet approach to things moves into real life. Let’s say the internet has started to be an environment, and it also exists offline.
Another outstanding exhibition Sonic Patterns, produced by The Biennial’s partner, Crafts Council (UK) presents interdisciplinary sound, video and visual art projects. The installation “Dataflags” by Fabio Lattanzi Antinori (IT), recently seen in the V&A Museum, and James Bulley’s (UK) project „Tactus“, creating experiences of Braille via sound, is engaging with the audiences. The organisers of Miniartextil, Arte&Arte, based in Italy, presented Simona Muzzeddu (IT) and photographer Mattia Vacca (IT), who not only made a special project about the Lithuanian conscription, but is showing his latest project, A Winter’s Tale: a photo report about an archaic community living in the Italian Alps, whose men are away from home for nine months every year. Another photography project in the Biennial is The Birth of Kikimora by Artūras Morozovas (LT). Kikimora is a creature from Slavic mythology which may lure one into a swamp, but it is also the word used to describe the uniform of a sniper. It is a photo story about women who sew camouflages in Kiev for Ukrainian snipers fighting in the East. The meaninglessness of war is also analyzed in the exhibition and performance The Terrible Love of War by Italian artist Silvia Gaimbrone (IT) in cooperation with the Kaunas Boys and Youth Choir.
During the Biennial, the residency programme Cotemporal Encounters: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Sound, Memory, and Place will occupy historical industrial places, derelict factories, former cabbage storehouses and other architectural spaces, as well as other events. Twelve young artists from all over Europe is currently working together exploring the city’s social and political past and trying to rediscover it in the ruins of architecture embracing contemporary art. In the former textile factory, the Croatian organisation LAB852 together with famous sound artist Elisabeth Schimana (AT) and her team implemented an ambitious interdisciplinary project called AGORA or an Artistic Assembly. Another key part of the Biennial, based on community art projects, is called Friendly Zone #6. Cabbage Field, curated by Vita Gelūnienė and Ed Carroll. The project focuses on an abandoned and polluted territory 13 000 sq. m. large, where rubbish heaps make waste of architectural heritage — former cabbage storehouses. The curators initiated cleaning actions, talks and discussions with local people, collected their memories and stories in order to change the space and help create a stronger community.
Among the many events and initiatives in the 10th Kaunas Biennial, the advanced educational programme and presentation of the book Contemporary Art Biennial as a Site Specific Event: Local versus Global on the 3rd of October are to be mentioned. The book’s editor Dr. Daiva Citvarienė has invited such international experts as Marieke van Hal (co-founder of the Biennial Foundation and International Biennial Association), Michaela Ott (philosopher), Lewis Biggs (curator, founder and long-lasting developer of the Liverpool Biennial), Eugen Rădescu (co-founder of the Bucharest Biennial, theoretician, curator), Tomasz Wendland (Artistic Director at the Mediations Biennale in Poznan), and Skaidra Trilupaitytė (PhD in Art History), to share their ideas and thoughts on the subject. The book features interviews with Virginija Vitkienė (PhD in Art Criticism, curator, Artistic Director of the Kaunas Biennial) and Nicolas Bourriaud (writer, curator).
The opening weekend of the biennial attracted hundreds of art lovers and experts from Lithuania and abroad and surprised by the wide and thrilling programme. It is not so often nowadays to wait in the queue for two hours willing to see the exhibitions of contemporary art.
Courtesy of Kaunas Biennial