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Acquaintance with Lithuanian professional art – through the “glass” of digital showcases

Lithuanian Culture Institute

The pandemic not only “quarantined” artists’ tours abroad, participation in international festivals and biennials but also indefinitely postponed the very preconditions for such activities to continue in the “post-Covid-19” world – it suspended the Visits programme that the Lithuanian Culture Institute has been successfully running for several years through which international cultural experts from various countries of the world travelled to Lithuania to get acquainted with its professional art scene and consequently invite artists for partnership and joint projects. The Lithuanian Culture Institute got mobilised and in a very short time modified “physical” visits into a digital series of presentations of various fields of art. How did the showcases of design, literature, contemporary experimental music and jazz that have already taken place go? What will take place at the visual arts showcase starting on 7th December and what are the plans for the future? What do their international audiences see in the showcases?

The school of „Modern Age“

The first virtual art dissemination project of the Lithuanian Culture Institute took place in September when a specially curated collection of Lithuanian conceptual design was presented with the Danish digital design gallery Adorno at the London Design Festival, attracting the interest of a large number of viewers and design publications.

At the end of October, the Institute organised a series of virtual publications Lithuanian Literature in Focus. Presenting Lithuanian literature to literature and publishing professionals of Normandy with the French organisation Normandie Livre & Lecture and Lithuanian Cultural Attaché in France Auste Zdančiūtė. Video presentations, podcasts and a virtual conference by translators were published on the partners’ websites and social networks.

Continuing the process of “virtualisation” of the Institute’s projects, several digital visits and remote meetings with Lithuanian artists – by Italian and Israeli contemporary art experts –  have already taken place.

According to Kristina Agintaitė, project manager at the Lithuanian Culture Institute, the idea of​ organising more complex and different digital showcases of art arose from reflecting on already successful practices: “Although several dozen experts from twelve European and Asian countries managed to come to Lithuania “IRL” this year, already during the first wave of the pandemic it became clear that alternatives to the usual ways of operating the programme will be needed to be sought. We are glad to have persuaded our partners to join forces with the Institute in implementing our ideas – the Music Information Centre Lithuania and the Lithuanian Jazz Federation for contemporary experimental music and jazz showcases. The visual arts showcase was organised together with the Contemporary Art Centre. In cooperation with the Dance Information Centre Lithuania, we are organising a Lithuanian contemporary dance showcase in two stages, the presentation of which will take place at the beginning of next year. We have been actively gathering showcase “spectators” – heads of important art institutions, festivals, producers, curators, etc. not only in collaboration with the partners of these showcases but also with the Lithuanian cultural attachés operating in fifteen countries,” shared Agintaitė.

“We do not see this idea of the “quarantine year” of the Lithuanian Culture Institute as a compromise or a desperate effort to continue the activity when it is restricted by external circumstances. First of all, we believe that professionally prepared artists’ presentations of various forms can be effective. Secondly, we are happy to try new technical possibilities and formats and really feel like we have “grown”! Thirdly and perhaps most importantly: we highly value the strengthened ties with our partners in Lithuania – we went through this school of “Modern Age” together and learned to work together even better, found new forms of synergy,” said Aušrinė Žilinskienė, Director of the Lithuanian Culture Institute.

Music: Continuity of Dissemination

On 30th October, a presentation of Lithuanian contemporary experimental music took place in two parts: through specially created video interviews with composers and representatives of art collectives selected by the Music Information Centre Lithuania (LMIC) and a playlist of music samples by authors and performers alongside a digital showcase hosted by the musicologist, editor of the LRT Klasika channel and producer of this digital showcase Rasa Murauskaitė together with LMIC director and musicologist Asta Pakarklytė.

In this showcase, music experts had the opportunity to get acquainted with the works of composers Arturas Bumšteinas, Dominykas Digimas, Žibuoklė Martinaitytė, Justina Repečkaitė, Ramūnas Motiekaitis, Juta Pranulytė, as well as with the musical groups Synaesthesis, Twenty Fingers Duo, Katarsis4, ContemporACCO , trio Claviola, and the Lithuanian ensembles’ network.

During the showcase of Lithuanian jazz that opened on 19th November, the experts were presented with the video material with music and insights about their work by Janas Maksimovičius and Dmitrij Golovanov, Viktorija Gečytė, Mantvydas Leonas Pranulis, Arkadijus Gotesmanas, the bands Castor Stetson and Sheep Got Waxed. The programme of this digital event was presented by R. Murauskaitė and the President of the Lithuanian Jazz Federation Julijus Grickevičius.

R. Murauskaitė believes that the format and content of these showcases have lasting values: “Such an activity model has a perspective due to wide dissemination possibilities they present as virtual presentations can be used by the artists individually in the future. In terms of continuity, while working with this material myself, I noticed that there was still a lot of valuable material left over from what went into the showcase videos, which would also become useful content – perhaps podcasts for an international audience or we might find a different form. I also think that the possibility of organising virtual showcases in the future, presenting other artists, of which there are many, should definitely not be ruled out,” shared her thoughts the musicologist.

More than fifty music professionals from Sweden, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Poland, Austria, Israel, the United States, Greece, Cyprus, Germany, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Romania, China, South Korea, France, Italy, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands expressed their interested in participating in the Lithuanian music showcases.

The showcase of visual arts: virtual “rendezvouses” with artists

The visual arts showcase in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Centre is organised on a slightly different principle than their musical counterparts: for five days from 7th December, virtual meetings between Lithuanian artists and foreign curators and representatives of institutions interested in their work have been taking place. Special videos presenting the participants of the showcase were prepared ahead of the showcase. In the meetings, the artists are being assisted by the curators Asta Vaičiulytė, Julija Fomina, Neringa Bumblienė, Ūla Tornau and Virginija Januškevičiūtė, who had prepared their presentations.

“The eleven prominent artists represent a fairly wide range of the Lithuanian contemporary art scene. We are glad to host Anastasija Sosunova, Antanas Gerlikas, Aurelija Maknytė, Darius Mikšys, Darius Žiūra, Ieva Rojūtė, Kipras Dubauskas, Laura Kaminskaitė, Patricija Jurkšaitytė, Žilvinas Landzbergas, Beatričė Mockevičiūtė,” shared the project coordinator Giedrė Malūkaitė about the week-long showcase.

About four dozen visual arts experts from Italy, Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Austria, Sweden, Israel, Latvia and Estonia will take part in the showcase.

Currently, the Lithuanian Culture Institute and the Dance Information Centre Lithuania are planning a dance showcase, which will take place in February next year. In developing further plans for the year, the Institute, together with partners in Lithuania and abroad, hopes that soon neither the distance nor the computer screen will be separating art professionals, and the series of virtual showcases will inspire many joint projects in real life.