WORKSHOP: WITH PAULINA PUKYTE AT THE NIDA ART COLONY
SPACES x MEMORIES
Getting to the Nida Art colony, once we arrived in Klaipeda, wasn’t that complicated. We met with Paulina Pukyte and walked to the smaller port, and boarded the 4pm ferry, and in 5 minutes we were across the channel and boarding the bus to Nida. The colony itself is inspired by an earlier original House of Artists, famous for having Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud, Hermann Sudermann summering at the establishment. Other luminaries would follow, like Simone De Beauvoir, and Jean-Paul Sartre.
The Nida Art colony is run by the Art Academy in Vilnius, and is a state of the art, fully equipped work environment with ample living spaces and apartments dedicated to long-term artists in residence. Nida the village is at the furthest point on the Curonian Spit from Klaipeda before one nears the border with the ex-clave of Kaliningrad, a Russian territory sitting right on the Baltic Sea.
Day one of the Workshop, Space x Memories, we divided our time into an introduction assignment and a walk. In the images that follow, you can get an impression of the territories we crossed, or didn’t quite cross.
We began with a walk that went towards the Russian border, then crossed on top of the dunes in the direction of the Laguna side. While we crossed the Spit, we had to detour through a small frozen swamp.
To begin with, the Curonian Spit is a narrow Lido like sand dune, with a large and this time of year frozen laguna behind it.
Spaces x Memories, as the title suggests is a reference to the historical layers characterising this land, its populations, a succession of German, Lithuanian, German and Russian occupants whose legacies were often cut short with war and forced population exchanges. In conceiving this workshop a couple references came to mind, beginning with Thomas Mann, who wrote Joseph and his brothers while he was vacationing in Nida in the late 20s to early 30s. Many aspects of this historical moment seem to be reflected in our times today, the kind of political tumult and social upheavals, that led Mann, but also in parallel, James Joyce, to address these anxieties with new forms of literary myth making.
Together with Paulina, we also examined three Lithuanian artists whose work we found particularly inspirational. Mindaugas Navakas is one particularly provocative multi-media artists. His collage pieces in particular introduce into very urban settings absurdist shapes at gigantic scales.. These huge and unrecognisable forms intervene upon well known landmarks in Vilnius. I had originally stumbled upon his work in the sculpture park in Klaipeda, and we looked further into his Vilnius notebooks made in the late eighties, just before Lithuania regained its independence.
The other artist whose work Paulina suggested and who revisits in many ways similar terrains to Navakas, around now, to take into consideration is Liudas Parulskis. Parulskis produced unsettling images by combining or juxtaposing Soviet era architecture with Vilnius classical baroque, characteristic of the city, playing with a sort of perverted sense of nostalgia for eras lost in the fog of history. The third artist we surveyed for this workshop is Laima Kreivyte who with the Coolturistes group in July of 2017, made here at the Nida Art Colony a performance on the dunes. Paulina notes that as opposed to the previous two artists cited above, Laima and the Coolturistes chose to work this time in the rural settings around Nida.
Here is a quote on the work from the Nida Art Colony page: “The opening of the exhibition “WHEN THE SEA LOOKS BACK (A Serpent’s Tale)” (curated by “The Many Headed Hydra” (Emma Haugh and Suza Husse) took place on 16th of July at Nida Art Colony with performative walk “Mis(s)appropriation. Eglė the Queen of Grass Snakes” by “Cooltūristės”.
“Cooltūristės” guide from lagoon to sea with the mythic story in mind and the poem by Salomėja Nėris, 1904–1945, by heart. Invoking local public monuments and trees culled from fairy tales, transformations take place as Eglė’s story intertwines with its diasporic origins and Salomėja’s exile. During the performance, the natural and virtual worlds will unfold through witches’ spells and mobile apps.
Cooltūristės is an anonymous feminist art collective founded in Vilnius in 2005.”
Final presentations by workshop participants, March 20, evening.
Workshop projects will be featured on line. Links are currently under construction.
Paulina Pukyte is joining our workshop to the Nida Art Colony on the Curonian Spit. Writer, artist and curator, Paulina most recently curated the 2017 Kuanas Biennale, “There and Not There, the (Im) Possibility of a Monument” bringing an impressive selection of artists to develop site specific projects around the city. There and Not There refers, according to Paulina, to histories that marked the landscape in the past, yet might not be perceived in the present, “something that has been but is no longer there.” In her words: “a site-specific exhibition for the Kaunas biennial, called There And Not There mapped the city through its monuments – past (no longer there), present (there) and future (imagined).‘
Participating artists of THERE AND NOT THERE:
Horst Hoheisel & Andreas Knitz
Allard van Hoorn
Jonas Oškinis & Raimundas Krukonis
“When Lithuania broke free from Soviet rule a quarter of a century ago, it hurriedly removed all monuments that had anything to do with communist ideology or Soviet occupation. Then, with the same hastiness, we rebuilt the national monuments that the Soviets had destroyed and erected some new ones, albeit exactly in the same style and of the same content. After paying that debt to the past (as if correcting the mistakes of history), we might have hoped that new monuments would be more conceptual, relevant and diverse, and the remaining ideologically dated or controversial public sculptures would be re-contextualised and acquire new meanings. However, apart from several successful but temporary public art projects and a few less traditional monuments, this hasn’t happened. In fact, we are experiencing a regression – in recent years the few remaining specimens of Soviet sculptural heritage were removed (arguably the last example of Social Realism in Lithuania succumbed to populist political manipulations), and there is a growing urge to erect even more traditional bronze heroes, as well as demands to memorialise freedom by simply adopting totalitarian and imperial tradition. And here in Kaunas, in the turbulence of the mid-twentieth century, my grandfather, as a young man, together with other 34,000 other Jews (a quarter of all pre-war Kaunas population), vanished without a trace. When you walk around Kaunas, almost nothing reminds you that they all lived here, that they were all murdered, and why. But how to remember what is NOT THERE? How not to forget what is THERE? How to forget? How to commemorate something we wish had not been? And, in the face of over-saturation, what monuments do we really need and why do we need them at all?
EMAIL EXCHANGE BETWEEN PAULINA PAULINA AND PTL
My recent project – a site-specific exhibition for the Kaunas biennial, called There And Not There mapped the city through its monuments – past (no longer there), present (there) and future (imagined). But Kaunas (as well as Vilnius) are places where history obviously happened – the historical-political-ideological shifts can be traced particularly through disappearance or appearance of certain public symbols, like monuments. (I could give a talk on how I went about with ‘mapping’ of Kaunas with this site-specific show).
(By the way, when I went to Berlin from Vilnius, I did not get that impression, but visiting Berlin after living some time in London gave me a very sharp sense of “this is where history happened” – specifically through something missing, through the fact that something that had been there was no longer there (like the Wall), but also by the markers of that absence, like the line across Potsdamer Plaz. In London nothing has changed much, except some new buildings, the monuments are all the same. So for me London gives no sense of changing history at all.)
You went to Mostar, and the bridge there is such a well-known and tragic landmark, and Sarajevo itself is still so recent and a powerful marker of history.
Maybe this could be one of this workshop’s questions: how can one ‘read’ or ‘trace’ that kind of social-political-historical change in such a rural remote place like Nida, as opposed to a dense urban centre? The changes did happen here too, through centuries it has been a contested territory between Germans, Balts, recently Russians. In the 20th century it changed hands 4 times: German>Lithuanian>German>Russian>Lithuanian. Its whole population is entirely new from mid 20th century, but you wouldn’t be able to tell this from just being there and looking around. Is it through lack of public landmarks, or rather, lack of their change? Perhaps bringing up these questions could in a sense “justify” the move of the workshop from Vilnius to Nida 🙂
And the fact that the old Nida (pre 17th century) is buried under the sand dunes, is almost a metaphor of memory. We have the shifting sand, the attempts to stop it form moving (by planting trees, etc.) and, recently, the attempts to stop those attempts…
This could perhaps also bring it back to the Thomas Mann house – a kind of monument, that, even though it stands in the same place, does retain in itself those marks of the changing history? Or doesn’t it?
This could bring us back to the idea of my curatorial project and the idea of counter-monument – the need to mark the absence. (I found a mention somewhere that buried villages are marked by empty squares in the pattern of Nida’s ‘coat of arms’ or smth. like that.)
This could also encompass the idea of Kulgrinda, as highlighted in your description – the invisible structure. Again, coming back to my theme of something that is there and not there at the same time.
Of course, this is if the workshop only concentrates on Nida for the whole 3 days which isn’t such a long time, is it?
Here’s a useful link
Counter-monument is the monument against itself, against the traditional didactic function of monuments, against their demagogical rigidity and their authoritarian propensity to reduce viewers to passive spectators. (James E. Young)”
Nida Art Colony Workshop Dates: 17 to 21 March 2018.