Category Archives: Aesthetics, Creativity and Culture

Transcultural Strategies and Tendencies in Lithuanian Art Cinema

Renata Šukaitytė (Lithuanian Culture Research Institute / Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre)

This  paper  seeks  to  examine  the  transcultural  production  and  distribution  strategies  in  contemporary Lithuanian film, namely feature fiction and documentary produced by auteurs Arūnas  Matelis,  Audrius  Stonys,  Šarūnas  Bartas,  Audrius  Juzėnas  and  Kristijonas  Vildžiūnas.  The  works  of  these  directors  will  be  reflected  from  geopolitical,  economic  and aesthetical  perspectives  as  this  will  help  to  look  at  the  phenomenon  in  a  complex  and sustained way. Almost the very first works of the mentioned filmmakers (especially Bartas) gained  international  recognition  at  international  film  festivals  and  formed  a  cross-national circle  of  their  film  fans.  Being  representatives  of  a  small  cultural  and  linguistic  group  they managed  to  create  a  film  that  crosses  cultural  and  geographical  borders  due  to development  of  intercultural  aesthetics  that  could  be  characterized  by  representations  of intercultural  spaces  and  communities,  mixture  of  different  languages  (mainly,  Lithuanian, Russian,  German  and  French)  and  nature  of  main  protagonist  (nomads),  which  trek  form one  place  or  community  to  another  in  quest  of  relief,  freedom  or  new  adventure.  Their national  or  cultural  identity  is  not  clearly  articulated,  however  they  could  be  recognized  as Europeans  which  land  have  always  been  a  corridor  for  different  nations  and  a  temporary home or place of freedom. In addition to aforementioned artistic strategies, the intercultural character of these films is expressed in the very nature of its production as most of them are made  in  co-production  with  French,  Portuguese,  Russian,  Dutch  companies  and  with participation  of  international  cast  (Valentinas  Masalskis,  Ekaterina  Golubeva,  Leos  Carax, Klavdia Koršunova, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and others) and conational members of broader creative team.

Keyword: Sukaityte

Architectural Reflections of Solomon’s Temple and St. Peter’s Basilica in St. Casimir’s Royal Chapel in the Cathedral of Vilnius

K. Paulius Zygas (Arizona State University)

In 1621 the Vatican upgraded the feast day of St. Casimir from duplex status, granted in 1602, to ritu  semiduplici status, which expanded the saint’s veneration from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to all Roman Catholics worldwide.  Eustachijus  Valavičius,  Bishop of Vilnius, and King Sigismund III Vasa  then  decided to  add  an  entirely  new  chapel  to the Cathedral of Vilnius,  raising  issues of its  design and  the choice of an architect.

Bishop Valavičius was well acquainted with Italian architectural trends.  A seminarian in Rome during the early 1590’s, he returned  there in  1620  to facilitate  the  canonization upgrade and other diocesan matters.  During  the quarter-century  interval  St. Peter’s Basilica had been transformed into the present building but still maintained some links to Old St. Peter’s.

The new building completely covered the sacred ground which the old building had covered.  Venerable mementos were also salvaged and saved for re-use.  The Solomonic columns, which Roman emperor Constantine donated to Old St. Peter’s in the 4-th century, were placed into the piers supporting the new basilica’s dome.  Two antique africano columns, the first ones encountered on entering the old basilica, flanked the new basilica’s main entrance portal, immediately underneath the Benediction Loggia.  This  column  pair was  often  compared  to  St. Peter and St. Paul  and, likewise, to Joachin and Boaz, the free-standing column pair facing Solomon’s Temple.  The dark red marble pilasters flanking the Benediction Loggia  evinced  the curtains which once covered the entrances to the temples of Moses, Solomon, and Herod.

Keyword: Žygas

Lithuanian “Songweavers”

Debra Raver (Indiana University)

As Handwoven magazine observes in their Winter 2010 issue, “counting graphed squares” and “watching the pattern grow” in pick-up weaving is “mesmerizing.  You‘ll find yourself saying ‘Just one more row,’ over and over.”   I felt a similar awe watching the patterns emerge in my Lithuanian music transcriptions (inspired by graph-paper weaving drafts).  Row after row, as the vocal parts thread through the transcription boxes, the intervals in sutartinės (Lithuanian polyphonic chants) intertwine like the warp and weft of finely woven linen.  Old sutartinė texts reveal that the more textually layered  voice part was named the “rinkinys,” a term Daiva Vyčinienė metaphorically associates with weaving vocabulary in Sutartinės:  Lithuanian Polyphonic Songs (2002, pp. 11–13).   I discovered a related Lithuanian term is described by weaver Kati Reeder Meek as a known pick-up weaving technique (for patterning cloth).  Importantly, every sutartinė pattern collected represents a performance by “songweavers” (as I call them), which I transcribed from 20thcentury ethnographies and my own Post-Soviet fieldwork.  I found the close-knit voices of city performers still hold as song (and perhaps social) “binding agents”; they also show creative and colorful variegations of a former two-part village weaving aesthetic.  I demonstrate through song and cloth samples how a sutartinė is like a weave, and a weave like a sutartinė.  Presenting Lithuanian sutartinės as a visual-spatial creation, sound and image may spring to life—in the eyes and through the ears—deepening our sense of Lithuanian music and meaning in past and present cultural settings.


Individual Houses by Standard Projects – Values from the Prospects of Cultural Heritage

Rita Peirumaa (Estonian Academy of Arts)

Building of individual dwellings, was inappropriate in the context of Soviet ideology. Since the state could not solve the problem of scarce living space, it allowed citizens to build individual dwellings. Erecting private homes for many was the only possible solution to the problem of the absent “living room.”

Individual structures according to  standard plans have not attracted any notable architectural attention. These dwellings were conceptualized as carriers of society and culture. They are  monuments to individual memory. This aspect of the architectural cultural heritage has not been studied. The questions of role, meaning and value for these types of dwelling in Estonian society needs to be explored.

Scouts and the Smetona Regime: National Ideologies and Cultural Symbolism

Vilius Dundzila (Harry S. Truman College, City Colleges of Chicago)

The Smetona authoritarian government (1926-1940) nationalized and reorganized the various scout movements in Lithuania. His Tautininkai (Nationalist) Party attempted to coopt the scouts to their nationalist ideology. Whereas some scouters accepted their political partisanship, some key scout leaders and the scout press resisted the nationalist ideology in subtle ways. One of the lasting effects of this process remains off and on scout claims that they are an ideological organization, although they disagree as to the content of their ideology.

Nothing Personal: Autobiographic Narratives and Fictional Memories in Post-Soviet Baltic Theatre

Jurgita Staniškytė (Vytautas Magnus University)

For a long time theatre was described as a site, where community can contemplate or evaluate the representations of its own past and identity. According to this definition, theatre serves  as  a  social  environment  that helps  shape  individual  memories  into  a  more  or  less coherent collective memory.  However, in the last two decades post/soviet Baltic theatres has radically revised and complicated the notion of performance as a “vehicle of memory”. First of  all,  increasing  body  of  contemporary  performances  that  deal  with  personal  memories openly avoid promotion of the sense of “coherent” collective memory or national history, but rather focuses on the notions of dislocation and paradox, on the imaginative or constructive (as well as emotional) aspects of historical narratives and investigate the interplay between reality and fiction in performative displays of individual memories as well as in the nature of historiography itself.

Performances  of  personal  memories  are  employed  onstage  for  various  reasons:  as symbolic witnesses to the past; as counter/agents to the official historiography renegotiating its  versions  and  exclusions;  as  source  of  an  authentic  presence.  However,  contemporary displays of personal memories on Baltic stage often demonstrate quite different urge to play with the notions of “authentic” historical experience and to place the audience in the center of the game as the main agent, which can verify or recognize a given phenomenon / history / memory as fictional or real or, as a matter of fact, can be tricked to do so.

The paper will focus on three different strategies of performing personal memories in post/soviet  Baltic  theatre  that  can  be  conceptualized  the  following  way:  autobiographic performances as an urge for the reality effect; mythic representations of personal histories and  personal  stories  on  the  verge  of  fictional.  The  examples  of  performances  by  NO99 (Estonia),  The  New  Riga  Theatre  (Latvia),  Oskaras  Koršunovas  Theatre,  The  Open  Circle Theatre (Lithuania) and others will be analysed in the paper.

Keyword: Staniskyte

On the Politics of Memory: Remembering the Past in Contemporary Lithuanian Theatre

Martynas Petrikas (Vytautas Magnus University)

In his famous lecture given at Sorbonne University, Ernest Renan argued that forgetting is crucial for formation of a nation. This paper will analyse the opposite: an ability to remember will appear as a catalyst for collective national memory whereas the theatre will emerge as a tool for retrieval of historical periods into realm of collective memory. Representation of the First Independence (1918–1940) in contemporary Lithuanian theatre in this paper will be analysed dwelling on the notion of the politics of memory. Three of the possible forms of remembering will form a case in point: mythologizing, popularising and critical modes of memory on the stage of Lithuanian theatre will be presented as an example of interweaving of culture with ideology symptomatic for postcolonial society.

Not For Every Dreamer: The Problems of Symbolist Art in Estonia and Latvia, 1890 – 1915

Bart Pushaw (Indiana University)

The essence of the growing national consciousness in the territories now known as Estonia and Latvia is captured in the Estonian writer Gustav Suits’ famous declaration “Let us be Estonians, but let us also become Europeans!” – a direct result of the cultural rights awarded to ethnic Estonians and Latvians after the 1905 Russian Revolution. As such, Estonian and Latvian artists became increasingly interested in expressing their own national identity while simultaneously joining mainstream European art trends. At the turn of the twentieth century, the controversial Symbolist movement was in full swing across Europe and hotly debated in artistic circles. For instance, in his 1906 essay entitled “Art and Technique,” Latvian painter Janis Rozentāls contended that, “art is not a trifling mythical being which comes down from heaven bestowing kisses on each and every barren dreamer.” Rozentāls, the forerunner of Latvian modern art in the early twentieth century, criticized what he perceived as the decadence of Symbolist artists such as Arnold Böcklin and Gustave Moreau – who created visual manifestations of their dreams and visions in order to express the inexpressible. Thus, Symbolist art in Estonia and Latvia does not easily fit into the art historical canon. This paper explores the unique situation experienced by Estonian and Latvian artists interested in joining mainstream European artistic currents as well as participating in formulating national identities, goals that were not always compatible.

Nationalism and Gender in Latvian Caricature (XIX c.- 1940): A Case of ‘Mother Latvia’

Gundega Gailīte (Latvian Academy of Arts)

The paper is devoted to investigating the ways in which Latvian caricature produced otherness, both external and internal, with help of the maternal symbol of the nation.

The symbol of Mother Latvia has been served as a very important element of the national identity since XIX century.  Acting as a means of unification, inclusion, it also functioned as a means of exclusion, marking the otherness. The materials consist of caricatures of the end of XIX c. – 1940. I intend to explore history of visualization of the symbol, its main types, functions, and the ways of producing Self and Other in national, gender, political, and ethnic discourses.

Caricatures played a role of an important factor of forming national identity in Latvia. In the time of the fight for independence the maternal image of the nation helped to mark Latvianness and mobilize Latvians.

In the time of Latvian Republic caricaturists (Zarins, Zeberins, Tillbergs, Ridans)  exploited ‘Mother Latvia’ as an embodiment of strength of the state; care of the nation for its sons and daughters; its moral superiority; its belonging to the European civilization. The symbol was used to establish a norm in gender relations, e.g., claiming maternity as the highest destiny of woman and blaming feminism. It was exploited in political struggle: political opponents were marked as ‘disloyal children’ of Mother Latvia. In the same manner it contributed to marking otherness in interethnic relations.

My analysis focuses, besides the narrative means, on the visual ones (size, composition, and color of the images).

Keyword: Gailite

Politicized, Neutral or Engaged? Approaches to Soviet Art in Lithuanian Art History

Linara Dovydaitytė (Vytautas Magnus University)

In recent years, the dominant approaches to Soviet art have become objects of criticism in Lithuanian academic texts. Two main problematic aspects are usually pointed out: 1) the fact that the Soviet era is generally analysed in the context of two differing modes of behaviour – conformism and resistance; 2) the fact that the discussion of Lithuanian artists’ relationship with the Soviet regime is based on value judgement. In the field of art history these approaches are mostly criticised for being too politicized. As a way from political evaluation of Soviet art a more “neutral” analysis is proposed by critically minded art historians. However there is a doubt that writing the history of art, just as the artistic practice, can be a politically and ideologically neutral activity in principle. This paper is dedicated to discuss a “third” possible approach to Soviet art, i.e. application of politically engaged analysis, such as post-colonial theory.

The application of postcolonial theory to post-Soviet art historical writing is quite problematic. On the one hand there is a fundamental question whether the occupation by the socialist USSR is equivalent to the capitalist colonization and can be analysed from the same theoretical perspective. On the other hand one encounters methodological difficulties as post-colonialism focuses mostly on literature, often leaving aside visual arts. With focus on existing (mis)uses of post-colonial theory in art historical analyses of the late Soviet art, I examine different concepts of post-colonial theory and various (dis)advantages of their application to writing the history of Soviet art.

Keyword: Dovydaite