This beginning of autumn is associated not only with crisp and warm weather and changing colours of nature, but also the tension lingering in the air regarding the possible announcement of the second quarantine. The pandemic has changed the plans of various cultural events and festivals for various organisations and encourages to rethink how it is possible to execute cultural projects taking into consideration the new security requirements. One of the events maintaining the positive and communal sense during this difficult time is Fluxus Festival, organised by Kaunas 2022 since 2018. This festival invites the residents of Kaunas City and District, their communities, and guests to climb together to Parodos Hill dressed in unexpected costumes inspired by the Fluxus movement. The aim of this approach is to prove that all city residents irrespective of their age, status or occupation can contribute to the development of city identity and renounce the elitist art.
MagiC Carpets, a project initiated by Kaunas Biennial, has embraced the tenets of this rebellious movement, turning back at the artists of Kaunas that pay special attention to the implementation of the ideas of local communities. Having chosen various city communities, project participants explore them looking into unique stories and characters of the city, as well as initiate interdisciplinary community projects. Residents of Kaunas could see their results on September 12 during Fluxus Festival. During MagiC Carpets projects, the aim is to involve usually forgotten communities into the creative pursuits, discover unique stories and introduce them to Kaunas City community. Both Fluxus and MagiC Carpets strive to achieve to enable every person to become a creator / participant of art.
The first event introducing these ideas is a project by actors Edita Niciūtė and Arnis Aleinikovas, called Eiliuoti Šilainių kiemai (The Rhyming Yards of Šilainiai). During this event, the works by Šilainiai community poets have been introduced, and the poets themselves have got an opportunity to hear their verses recited out loud.
The aim of this project is to connect documentary, art and social life and provide a platform for the voices hiding in the labyrinths of Šilainiai high-rises. This is promoted through the development of cultural life in Šilainiai community, organising poetry readings in public spaces, striving to disseminate culture and accessibility thereof and digitalise the works by the poets of the project. Project organisers reveal the myths, legends and personal stories of poets that are present in community poetry.
A gift of project organisers to the district’s poets is the professional delivery of their works and personal stories and their introduction to the audience of the festival. This way, the works of the local creators become stories of the district, recorded in the thoughts of the listeners. These stories become an additional context that should play in one’s mind passing by the massive complexes of Šilainiai high-rises.
Another result of the project is the participants’ confidence in themselves and their creations (especially for the older generation), as well as the opportunity to create local myths for themselves. According to project creator Ms. Niciūtė, the works of the older generation reveal nostalgia for their native places, landscapes of the places where they were born, while others speak of social problems, for example, the realities of emigrant life, failure of grandparents and grandchildren to speak one language. In these poems, the depiction of nature intertwines with spiritual things, myths, and legends.
This event is full of delicate and sincere emotions; it allows unknown creators to share their works and encourage them to trust the importance and significance of their works. The only aspect of the project to be further considered by the organisers, is the design of the event itself that has taken place in a remote Šilainiai café called Tinklas. The poetry reading resembled a closed, private event for project participants. Maybe project organisers strove to create an intimate and safe poetry event and turn it into the personal festival of local poets? Maybe difficult social and organisational conditions determine such choice of location? Passing by parks designed between the multiresidential buildings, it is difficult to understand why they have not been used to present the project? Portable speakers broadcasting poems read by professional actors, lingering around the walls of the high-rising buildings could attract Kaunasians enjoying the fresh morning. They would get to know the stories from the lives of their neighbours, their memories, share their ideas and experiences with them. The fact that the event took place in a venue dedicated for private functions does not allow mutual acquaintanceship to take place.
Another project that focused more on the therapeutic and educational aspect of the project is a creative lab by contemporary dance creators Mantas Stabačinskas and Vasara Visockaitė developed in collaboration with the centre for people with disabilities called Korys. Performers perched at the corner of Vienybės Square introduced their movement and demonstrated what methods can be used for working with this community. Project initiators applied artistic movement practice to improve the creativity of people with disabilities and aimed at including members of different communities to the artistic processes. This way, the project involves three communities: people with disabilities, professional dancers and audience members interested in culture.
The advantage of this project is the way the public is acquainted with the creative potential of people with disabilities, as well as shaping the senses of openness and empathy for the creative opportunities of this community. According to project authors, one of the greatest achievements of individuals is the inclusion of people in wheelchairs into the creative process of movement. During the lab, project participants learn how to use as much of one’s own body for the pursuit of movement and allows revealing the creative potential within oneself. This way, the communities of people with disabilities and professional dancers merge into the creative and educational whirlwind, and the result can be observed by those who remove themselves from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Another aspect is the educational one, encouraging professional stage artists to look for opportunities to involve this community to their pedagogical activities. Projects of similar nature can be found in the repertoires of director Karolina Žemaitytė and dance theatre Dansema. In the meantime, one of the better known works of this nature is a dance performance by Šeiko šokio teatras Mano Piteris Penas (My Peter Pan), where one of the dancers is a young man with Down’s syndrome (the performance received the Golden Stage Cross award in 2019, the category of Theatre for Children and Youth). However, in the field of contemporary dance, lessons with people with disabilities are still rare, and in the educational practice of most dancers, this group of people is still not the first choice. The advantage of this project is encouragement of dancers to work closer with this community, while lab participants find it a good way to experience the perks of moving: therapy, self-expression and strengthening of the body.
In the meantime, another project “The Tales of Kaunas” interpret the aim of the festival – to create the identity of the community – in the most original way. Project initiators Lukas Valiauga, Justas Motuzas, Inga Galvanauskaitė and Eglė Valadkevičiūtė introduced filters on Instagram depicting five city fairy-tales based on the novel by the 20th century Lithuanian émigré writer Julius Kaupas Daktaras Kripštukas Pragare (Doctor Kripštukas in Hell). The fairy tales develop the playful mythology of Kaunas, the stories mix philosophical thoughts, humour, fairy-tale motifs, wisdom and eternal values.
The excursion took place in the centre of the city, making stops in six places: next to Zanavykai Market, Kaunas Museum of Devils, Historical Presidential Palace, Nemuno Street, underground passage (Vilniaus Street) and next to Kaunas Church of Vytautas the Great. At each stop, the spectator had to open Instagram, go to the account Kauno Pasakos (Fairy Tales of Kaunas), select a particular fairy tale, and scan an image on the ground. While the audience listens to the recorded story, on their screen they see animation illustrating the fairy tale. Having connected the app favoured by the youth, playful fairy tales about Kaunas and animation, the project Fairy Tales of Kaunas City has become the most innovative project by Magic Carpets. Having improved certain technical aspects, the project promises to incorporate the infrastructure of Kaunas tourism.
The project also suggests revisiting the works by Julius Kaupas, which can be seen as a unique heritage of Kaunas City culture. The writer has brought the motif of fairy tales into the modern urbanscape, he balances fantasy and reality and sparked life in the character that embodies the identity of Kaunas city, Doctor Kripštukas. This way, the new myths of Kaunas are reborn in the augmented reality media, they become appealing to city residents and visitors who live in the world of video games, filters, and social media. This community-related unique cultural form and urban stories turned into digital experiences can be found on Kauno Pasakos Instagram account.
Another project Rokis, a joint event by Kaunas Fortress Park and ceramics artist Ieva Bertašiūtė Grosbaha, chooses a more traditional interpretation of the concept of community building and representation. The event starts with the excursion inside the Fourth Fort, providing a short introduction of the history of Kaunas Forts, their purpose and layout. A professional guide will guide a large group of visitors around the intricate labyrinths of the Fort, introducing this historical urban monument of Kaunas that has been abandoned for many years. She also introduces the traditions of brick burning in Rokai community. Stop motion animation movie Rokis was introduced after the excursion. It acquaints the audience with the mythical animal Rokis – Rokis is the symbol of Rokai community. The extracts of the movie were videorecorded and shot in different locations of the 4th Forth Fortress; with the help of figures made of soft clay, the birth, childhood and transformation into the adult animal is conveyed. The movie was created during the creative workshops that took place in the Fourth Fort of Kaunas Fortress. Clay animation was made by the community which modelled, filmed, shot everything themselves. Unfortunately, the project was supposed to end with a figure of Rokis dried and burned in a special oven by guest artist Maris Grosbahs, but this failed, because the temperature was too low. Therefore, the work completed will be incorporated in the future sculpture park of Rokai. The official end of the event was roasting marshmallows on fire, which was the most entertaining part of the project for the little visitors of the festival.
The final project was introduced on the top of Parodos Hill, it was a sound installation by Karolina Latvytė Bibiano and Judita Ragauskaitė, called Audio Pirtis (Audio bath). The installation created together with the community of Kaunas sauna afficionados aims at conveying the experiences of the sauna through sounds as well as reveal the exclusive features of the Lithuanian sauna and its value. Since the ancient times, visiting sauna for Lithuanians has been one of the forms of communication that helps maintaining good physical and emotional health, overcome personal and seasonal changes and experience the sense of a ritual. Traditions that have reborn during the times of independence are cherished by sauna enthusiasts, gathered in small communities, that strive to maintain the connection between nature and Lithuanian traditions. This sound installation strives to capture the stories of these communities that are small and unique to our region. Later they will be available online as podcasts.
The installation consists of headphones with different recordings of sauna sounds that can be heard on them: bathing birch-rod in action, water, noises people make, etc. When listening to these sounds with one’s eyes closed, to travel in your thoughts to a steamy sauna, feel water splashes and steamy warmth. With the help of sounds, you can experience the senses evoked by the sauna.
The hope remains that this installation will move to a more confined space, for example, a cultural institution, where extraneous sounds and interference would not hinder them. This installation can also be incorporated using other senses, for example, olfactory and tactile ones, thus expanding the sense the sauna can be felt. In any case, young creators who use new technologies and artistic means of expression manage to find a niche community and through the help of sounds, convey the senses and experiences of visiting a sauna.
The final accent of the project is the nocturnal climbing to Parodos Hill, which summarises the ideas on the sense of community and creative identity raised throughout the day, and also provide a platform for city residents to manifest their weirdest fancies. All participants wearing their home-made costumes are encouraged by ovations, shouts and audio signals. For at least a few hours, in this short stretch of the city, the fear of the pandemic is forgotten, and festival participants indulge in the mass Fluxus ecstasy.
In conclusion, this year’s Fluxus Festival and MagiC Carpets projects bring joy because of artists representing different disciplines and the creative results of Kaunas city communities. Under challenging conditions, the projects were able to discover and interestingly convey the identities of the communities. Using various techniques and media, the said communities had an opportunity to reveal their individuality and provide a unique shape for their identities. At the end of the day, everyone meets on the top of Parodos Hill and forget, at least for a short while, the fears and limitations. The festival ends with the Fluxus rebellion against the fear stirred by the pandemic.
Art critic, Justina Kiuršinaitė
 Fluxus Festival transforms the ideas of the Fluxus movement that has started in the 1960s in New York. This movement that has gathered the international group of artists resulted in a variety of experiments and pursuits of opportunities to connect various artistic techniques and disciplines in order to achieve the element of surprise and adventure and rejection of business related to art. Fluxus movement was based on do-it-yourself aesthetics, it was against commercialism and institutional art and strove to set artists free from the dictate of the art market and the production of art. The Fluxus movement sought to democratize the art market, bringing to it playfulness, as well as the sense of adventure and freedom on the ideological and material levels of art. It was a playful rebellion against the then perception of the work of art and the artist.