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Day 3 – The magic realism starts to kick in…

By Laurie Cluitmans

Our journey on this third day continues to Vilnius. A place that somehow always appeared to me to be a mystery, partly because of the many stories conveying an unexplainable yet dauntingly attractive magic realism in everyday life and art.

Frank told me one of those stories, about an artist that is particularly known for supposedly making a dog disappear on stage. But it could also very well be that
this event never really happened. However, there is a chance that it did or didn’t. Maybe one day we will find out, in the mean time the myth, which is maybe not really a myth, is kept alive.

Our first stop this evening is the Contemporary Art Centre (CAC), Lithuania’s largest venue for contemporary art. In a slightly cold building, Kestutis Kuizinas, CAC’s director, welcomes us with warmth and enthusiasm. In 1992 he was appointed director to the then called Art Exhibition Palace, which in the same year became independent from the Lithuanian Museum of Art. Kuizinas did not only change the name to CAC, but also its direction, transforming it into an institute that is known internationally, amongst others through its Baltic Triennial and for its successful participation in the Venice Biennial (receiving honorary mentions several times in a row, we are proudly told).

Kuizinas guides us around the museum, shows us the group show Suggested Summer Time Readings’ and the Fluxus archive that was donated to the CAC in commemoration of George Maciunas, one of the most famous artists from Lithuania, who before was not present in any of the Lithuanian art collections. Next, curators of the CAC, Julija Fomina and Virginija Januškevičiūtė, introduce us to the group exhibition ‘Illusionists’. A show on stage design and contemporary art for which the monumental exhibition room is filled with thin nets, directing the visitors to gently force themselves a way through the space.

After these tours we are introduced to Vytautas Michelkevicius and Rasa Antanavici from the Nida Art Colony. Vytautas had a way with powerpoints and flashed through images of the artist in residence place, beautifully located on a thin landslide between the Baltic Sea and Curonian Lagoon. NIDA is described to us a meeting place, where artists can or cannot produce works. It is all about the moment of retreat, contemplation between artists amongst themselves, but also with curators and critics, and what better place than in the middle of nature.

The presentations finish with a short introduction from Vitalija Jasaitė of the Vartai gallery. A private gallery, located in a beautiful and historic building, that actually has a public space as well. Somehow conflicting, as the public space hosted the Zilvinas Kempinas, one of the artist represented by the gallery, for the Lithuanian Pavilion in the Venice Biennial several years ago.

After these introductory talks full of enthusiasm, we continue conversations in a more private manner at a local restaurant, topped off by a visit to some local bars. It is only then that the magic realism starts to kick in…

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Kestutis Kuizinas

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CAC, Vilnius

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Vytaus Michelkevicius and Rasa Antanaviciute on Nida Art Colony.

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Tallinn Design Museum

By Andrea Roca

Quick stop at the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design (ETDM) on the way to the CCA. The collection of Applied Arts dates back to 1919, as a section of the Art Museum, and eventually became an independent museum in 2004. Director Kai Lobjakas showed us the permanent collection and two temporary shows that are up: Kaamos – Fashion Now: Estonia Virvatuled and Between art and industry: The Art Products’ Factory. The latter focused on daily objects – jewellery, textile, ceramics, glass and metalwork produced in Estonia during Soviet Times. The production process – from sketches to the final object – is documented. Most of the products in exhibitions have disappeared from households after Independence. The permanent collection introduced us to more functional objects, based on a simple and efficient design. A vintage atmosphere permeates the display of furniture pieces dating from the 1920s till today, organised in small islands/time capsules.

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