During the Interwar Period, Kaunas and Kaunas District have become the epicentre of significant events taking place in Lithuania and Europe. This period has left over 6000 buildings created in the modernist spirit that have survived to this day. But these are not only buildings, but also places, their authors, builders, and promoters. Their destinies too. To have such a condensed heritage enriched by various individual stories and meanings is a great treasure. It is a living testament of history from the period of prosperity and modernisation that changed the everyday habits and coincided with great changes in European and global cities, urban places and their residencies. Within a short period of time, modernism has become a dominating style of architecture. However, today, most of these buildings are in poor condition, forgotten, abandoned or even empty. What can we do to change it? First of all, to create an emotional connection with this heritage.
The programme of Kaunas 2022 European Capital of Culture “Modernism for the Future” is an open space for initiatives and meetings, welcoming professionals from various fields, building owners, heritage community and representatives of cultural initiatives for discussions, idea workshops, art and culture who together create the strategy for preservation, interpretation and dissemination of modernist heritage. Our goal is to awaken responsibility for the environment that surrounds us and create an emotional connection with the urban landscape and culture. The title of the European Capital of Culture is an accomplishment that enables a powerful impulse to create the success story of preservation of modernist heritage, where heritage is created by creating a contemporary presence.
Kaunas Modernism 360/365
The aim of the project is to strengthen the identity of Kaunas as a modernist city. The number 360 symbolises all possible perspectives of modernism: cultural, political, economic and more, whereas the number 365 asks us to notice the heritage of everyday. It is more than just visiting churches and museums on special occasions – it is also the architecture of our common surroundings: residential buildings, industrial and entertainment facilities. The project includes the heritage community, gathered on the basis of the website www.modernizmasateiciai.lt/en, collecting and sharing knowledge about modernist objects, their residents, and events of Kaunas and other Lithuanian and European cities. Dissemination of good practice, creative workshops, educational activities, as well as calls for artistic interpretations of modernism and art projects in modernist spaces are all part of the programme of the project. Moreover, there are various collaborations with local and foreign partners planned.
City Crown: Modernism-inspired festival of lights
It is the major opening event of 2022. It will connect the modernism heritage, its ideas and urban spaces of the city. The symbol of modernist Kaunas, Resurrection Church, is one of the most inspiring examples of the idea of Die Stadkrone (The City Crown) by a German expressionist Bruno Taut. When constructing this church, it was decided to illuminate it with powerful lights. This idea was never implemented. During the interwar period, the construction of the church started and was not completed, and during the Soviet times, it was turned into a radio factory. During the Festival of Lights, by employing various conceptual solutions, this and other city buildings will light up in new colors.
The aim of the project is to present a 45-minute video film that would cover the history of Kaunas modernism, while also reinterpreting its value for the next generation in a creative way. The author of the project is Aideen Barry – a professional visual artist from Dublin, Ireland. Using a variety of materials and methods for her projects, she analyses and interprets the historical, cultural and community context of a location. Aideen encourages engagement of the local community in her projects, with the film production process being organised as more of a fun collaborative learning effort. Launched in 2020, the Heterotopia film project invites pupils of Kaunas, students of Visual and Audio Arts, volunteers, residents of modernist buildings, creative writing enthusiasts – people of different age range and interests – to participate in the process of its creation. The film is set to premiere on the 20th to the 22nd of January, 2022, in Kaunas, and to be presented in an international film festival in the same year. Would you like to join the project? Contact us!
Lithuanian Artists’ Association (LAA) is a volunteer-based, non-profit creative organisation uniting professional artists and art researchers. LAA encourages, popularises and ensures copyright protection of the creative works of its members. Moreover, the organisation initiates various art projects independently, as well as in cooperation with other art organisations and public institutions. In 2022, the Kaunas territorial division of Lithuanian Artists’ Association will be launching the 100 Images of Kaunas project: a series of creative works and curated art exhibits located in 40 public and residential spaces of Kaunas and Kaunas District, built during the Interwar period.
The Reciprocal Residency Programme DeMo (Decoding Modernity) is an exchange programme during which the residents will have the opportunity to analyse the developmental processes of modernity in various social and cultural contexts. DeMo, a three-year programme (2020-2022) of Kaunas Artists’ House, together with the Derry ~ Londonderry Center for Contemporary Art, the thankyouforcoming residency program in Nice, the Culture Center LAB in Novi Sad, and other partners invites artists, curators, researchers of the cultural field, and multidisciplinary collectives to explore potential connections, overlaps and divergences between the different forms and expressions of modernity.
The Kaunas division of the Lithuanian Union of Architects will be launching two projects in 2022, with the aim of analysing and creatively retelling the history of Kaunas architecture during the 20th century. The first project, [In]visible Architecture by Rasa Chmieliauskaitė, aims to engage people with visual impairments in learning about their architectural environments through the use of new tactile tools. The second project, Architecture of Desire by Tautvydas Urbelis, is a continuation of international partnership with the Architecture of Shame project that took place in Matera, Italy, in 2019. There, the artists analysed the expression of shame in local architecture, whereas this time the author will be presenting a creative interpretation related to the expressions of desire in spaces of Kaunas City.
Good Music Live (Gera Muzika Gyvai in Lithuanian) is a non-profit organisation, established in 2006. Their aim is to acquaint the Lithuanian audience with world music – a genre of music that embraces both modernity and traditionality by merging deeply-rooted traditions with the feelings and experiences of a modern person. In 2022, Good Music Live will be presenting the music programme World Music for Kaunas – a series of events in modernist buildings of Kaunas and Kaunas District, with concerts taking place all year round in apartments, public buildings and spaces built during the Interwar period.
Digital Tsunami is a platform for underground music that was founded in 2013, with the focus on quality electronic music. The festival Optimismo will celebrate modern electronic music and architecture, employing contemporary experimental music to reveal the relevance and value of modernist heritage and architecture in Kaunas. In 2022, Digital Tsunami will be enriching numerous spaces of the city with a symbiosis of music and contemporary technological solutions.
Kaunas Dance Theatre AURA is the very first theatre of modern dance in Lithuania, with the aim of continuing on the legacy of Danutė Nasvytytė and Kira Daujotaitė, the pioneers of modern dance in Lithuania. AURA has participated in many international events, representing Lithuania’s modern dance scene in 28 countries (Australia, Great Britain, Greece, Canada, France, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Germany and more), and has performed at more than 160 festivals. The project Pulsating Modernism of Kaunas by AURA includes a series of interactive guided excursions that are accompanied by live performances. Set to be initiated in 2022, the programme will provide the opportunity to get to know the modernism of Kaunas from a different point of view.
Kaunas Photography Gallery is one of the most active galleries in the city, organising and carrying out the dissemination of photography and its culture not only in Lithuania, but abroad as well. Such goals are realised in various forms, from art exhibitions to artist or curator exchanges. What is more, for the last decade, the gallery has been actively partaking in book publishing. The Gallery is currently organising a programme of residencies Photography – A Document for the Future, which will provide the opportunity to analyse and represent the modernism of Kaunas in an international context. The project will be welcoming residents from Germany, Scotland, the Netherlands and more to present their own interpretations of Kaunas modernism.