When I left Lithuania at the end of August 2011, the new Kaunas arena was still under construction — even though the arena was supposed to host the September European Basketball Championship. They managed to finish the arena just in time. It’s a big glass box on the river, but I hear that inside it is comfortable and on the leading edge of arena technology. While the building itself isn’t particularly attractive, the glass provided amazing reflections of the clouds and sky on Sunday afternoon.
Kaunas Arena completed September 2011
On Friday evening, I went to the opening of the Fluxus Ministry in Kaunas. Fluxus Ministry is an alternative arts organization that has transformed the former Lituanica shoe factory building into an exhibit and performance space. Fluxus Ministry’s mission is to intervene in the tedious, routine world with the unexpected and paradoxical. And they do just that! My favorite exhibit was “Requiem Orchestra” — a darkened cavernous second floor room was filled with rows of folding chairs, each with a music stand and a rusted or dented instrument. It was strange and fascinating and thought-provoking, exactly what I would expect from a Fluxus art space. You can get a glimpse of it in this Fluxus video of the opening.
Fluxus Ministry is named after the Fluxus art movement of the 1960s. The Fluxus community was organized by George Marciunas and Jonas Mekas, two Lithuanian-born artists who immigrated to New York. The movement grew to encompass artists in the United States, Europe and Japan. Fluxus artists were interdisciplinary and collaborative — and “anti-art.” They believed that art should have social and political meaning and not just be art for art’s sake. They emphasized minimalism in their work. Yoko Ono is probably the most famous Fluxus artists.
I arrived in Lithuania on September 1, 2010 and I depart today August 28, 2011. During the last 362 days, I…
Conducted 49 interviews
Revised my dissertation chapter outline 5 times
Partially drafted 4 chapters and the introduction of my dissertation
Attended 3 academic conferences
Traveled 71 times between Kaunas and Vilnius
Wrote 315 blog posts
Watched 214 episodes (10 full seasons) of the television series Stargate SG-1 on DVD
Built friendships, had adventures, improved my Lithuanian and had an all-around great time!
Best “I won’t take it personally” quote — said to me by a Lithuanian friend:
“When I was in the United States, I would say something and I knew I said it correctly in English, but still people wouldn’t understand me. Sometimes when you say something in Lithuanian, I have no idea what you said and now I understand how those Americans felt when I talked.”
Best “totally validates my opinion that Lithuanians don’t plan” quote — said to me by a Lithuanian who lived in the States for nearly 20 years as we were discussing how he could help me with my research:
“I’m going to write this down. I learned how to plan in America.”
Most useful phrase I learned in Lithuanian this summer (unfortunately I had several opportunities to use it given the frequent thunderstorms):
“Eidama per parką, aš sušlapau [While walking through the park, I became completely wet].”
Best philosophical quote — from the summer course lecture on Lithuanian literature:
“Should we rely on the illusion that the era of changes ever comes to an end?”
Lithuanians LOVE basketball — and right now the entire country has basketball fever because Lithuania is hosting Eurobasket 2011. The European basketball championship games start August 31 and the final rounds will held in a brand new arena in Kaunas on September 18. The arena was officially opened last Thursday with a “friendly game” between Lithuania and Spain, the reigning European champions. Lithuania won (whoo-hoo!) but I’ve been told that they don’t have a particularly strong team this year and probably won’t get a medal. But that doesn’t mean that the streets aren’t awash with red/yellow/green basketball paraphernalia. There is even an official song featuring three Lithuanian pop starts. Go Lithuania!!
Today I say goodbye to Kaunas. This afternoon I am moving everything from Kaunas to Vilnius, where I’ll spend the last few days before I leave. I’m packing this morning, then friends from the university are bringing lunch for a final farewell gathering before I leave town. These are a couple of my favorite photos from Kaunas on this, my last day.
The shadows of onlookers on street paintings done by kindergarteners at the Kaunas Jazz Festival
A section from the mural on the Kaunas Picture Gallery
While I think that it is appropriate that the independent Lithuania removed ideological statues — such as Lenin and other Soviet leaders — and statues commemorating the Red Army victory in World War II, I am glad that not all examples of Soviet-era art have been removed from public spaces in Kaunas and Vilnius. Lithuania was a part of the Soviet Union and this period of its history should not be erased from public view. Keeping good examples of monumental socialist-realist art is, I believe, an appropriate way to acknowledging that past. Socialist-realist art was defined as socialist in content, realist in form. This means that the content had to show ideological reality rather than the “real” reality (in other words, happy workers and peasants).
Socialist-realist worker at its monumental best (Kaunas)
Another piece from the set of concrete socialist-realist scupltures in Kaunas
I thought that I wrote a 2009 blog post about the statues on the Green Bridge in Vilnius, but apparently I didn’t. And now I can’t find photos of the statues, although I was sure that I had taken some. I’ll try to get photos next time I am in Vilnius and post those. They are another great example of socialist-realist monumental art that I am glad has been preserved.