Jasmina Cibic (b. 1979 Slovenia)
Changing the Climate, 2019
Performance; documentation in the form of drawings
Courtesy the artist
In this project specifically developed for the 12th Kaunas Biennial, Jasmina Cibic intervenes in one of the central architectural symbols of Lithuanian national identity: the Vytautas the Great War Museum. The building was designed as the national museum of the newly formed Republic of Lithuania during the interwar period, when Kaunas was the capital city. The fate of the museum complex mirrored the political turmoil that followed the outbreak of the Second World War. After the Soviet occupation of 1940, the Lithuanian flag and the Vytis (the Lithuanian coat of arms) were removed and the building was decorated with Soviet paraphernalia. However, progress was halted by the subsequent occupation by Nazi Germany, during which an anti-Soviet propaganda exhibition was installed. The second Soviet occupation, beginning in 1944, saw a concerted effort to remove the last material traces of Lithuanian national identity from the site, and a sculptural ensemble of Lenin and Stalin was installed in the space previously occupied by the statue of Vytautas the Great. The reclaiming of the War Museum as a site of Lithuanian identity began in the late 1980s during the perestroikamovement, but this central hall was not restored to its original form until 2010.
Changing the Climate, a humorous take on the phrase ‘political climate’, is a performance by Jasmina Cibic that speaks of the constantly shifting ideological and subsequently visual landscape of Kaunas over the last 100 years. The latest stage in this development is the current drive toward a new European stance, illustrated by the city’s questioning of local and national culture within the framework of the 2022 European Capital of Culture project. In keeping with the function of the War Museum as a setting that manifests the official political ideology of the time, Cibic has symbolically installed the figure of Europa – the classical female embodiment of the European continent – in the central hall. During the opening weekend of the exhibition, Cibic choreographed a group of Kaunas artists at easels surrounding an empty pedestal. They attentively studied the void in front of them and sketched the absent figure. Together they created a multi-perspective depiction of Europa as described in Iconologia, Cesare Ripa’s book of emblems (1593/1603). In this seminal historical source, Ripa curiously elevated one emblem into the foreground: a temple, which Europa holds in her right hand.
For Changing the Climate, Cibic invited the local artists to consider this enigmatic attribute of the allegory by drawing a ‘temple’ in what they consider to be the Lithuanian national style of architecture. The playful performance questions the place of Lithuanian culture within the European community by interrogating the notion of national souvenirs and further strategies that come into play within the double game of cultural and political capital. After the initial performance during the opening weekend, artists will return periodically to the War Museum to work on their sketches.