By Caroline Nicod
In the morning of our fifth day, before leaving for Warsaw, five of us chose to get a deeper look at the works of a few Lithuanian contemporary artists in the Information Center of the National Art Gallery and spent the morning looking at publications and videos. Thanks to the help of Ieva Mozūraitė-Novickienė, head of the center, we took a taxi to go to the suburb of the town, a place where a few artists settled fifty years ago in order to keep a distance from the repression and control of the downtown area. The region got threatened by the last economic bubble and the expansion of the city. The bubble blew up before. What about the next one?
Mindaugas Navakas was waiting for us in his outdoor studio and we went for a stroll through his sculpture park. Navakas is an important figure of the conceptual art in Lithuania. Through his teaching at the Vilnius Academy of Art he bread a lot of conceptual chickens. His practice has changed in the last decade and he is now working on monumental stone sculpture demanding all his physical craft. Combining blocks of different stones he creates rough and powerful structures he positions in nature. The discussion went on about his life, growing up in an isolated country and experiencing the cultural shock of its sudden opening to the rest of the world.
All our thanks to Mindaugas Navakas for his spontaneous welcome and his generous discussion.
Europos Parkas – The museum in the middle of the forest
By Lissa Kinnaer
This morning, four of us went to visit Europos Parkas, a sculpture park museum at 20 km from Vilnius. Upon arrival we learn the place is also called “The Museum of the Centre of Europe” as it is supposedly located at the geographical centre of continental Europe. The museum may or may not be at the centre of Europe, it is nevertheless remote enough to suggest a place where nature remains one of the silent bearers of Lithuania’s tumultuous past.
We are welcomed by a middle-aged woman in a small wooden cabin marking the entrance of a vast and humid forest. A long path leads us to a meadow where we will soon meet the founder and director of the whole enterprise. But first we are struck by an incongruous sculpture made out of several hundreds TV sets dating back from the Soviet time. Intrigued we became and intrigued we will remain after meeting Gintaras Karosas around a cup of coffee in a small house serving as the museum’s café and bookshop.
Born in 1968, Gintaras Karosas is an artist known for being the author of the first environmental sculptures in Lithuania. He grew up in the region where his grandfather used to be a high rank state officer. Under Russian regime, his family fled to Germany to finally settle in Canada. Karosas’ father came back to Lithuania and was sent to Soviet camps in Siberia. The land owned by the family was expropriated by the government and only years later, after several coaxing, part of it was given back to the Karosas. In 1987, Gintaras Karosas started working on the project of an open air museum where art and nature would cohabit. Artists from all over the world were invited to create artworks for the park. In total there are about a hundred works scattered over the property. We saw a few surprising works by Dennis Oppenheim, Sol LeWitt and Tei Kobayashi, but most astonishingly is the way they blend in perfectly with their natural surroundings.