“If we wrote about everyone who is worth it in every issue, it wouldn’t be a magazine or a newspaper, but a telephone book,” I have heard this joke from colleagues, who, like us, cannot fit everything that would be interesting into one issue. But Donatas Stankevičius, Kaunas Full of Culture collaborator, did precisely that. The Kaunas Photography Gallery has indeed published a telephone book – Kauno miesto ir rajono kultūros abonentų sąrašas (The Directory of Culture Subscribers in Kaunas and Kaunas District). The green news of autumn unexpectedly fit with a somewhat larger object, also presented in the October issue of Kaunas Full of Culture: a kiosk starting a second life in Petrašiūnai. If the publication is not already there, I will take it and put it in the window myself.
What does it look like?
The phone book fascinates with the details that take you back to the era when such a publication was as necessary as payphones. The last one, by the way, left the Vilnius bus station this June. I flip through A5 size publication (maybe phone books back in the day used to be bigger or perhaps it was I who was smaller) with 750 pages and I feel nostalgic. A map of the city on one of the first pages is mandatory. Of course, the scale is so small that it is difficult to decipher the marked objects. I want to believe that this is not a layout error, but a courtesy to those times when it was important to just do as instructed and no one cared if it would work in practice.
You get a similar feeling when looking at the advertising layouts that decorate the book (and support it whether financially or morally). Some of the designs or texts are obviously cartoonish, while others make you wonder whether the publishers were serious or were they joking. And this is a compliment. The content is truly valuable, so if the design was 100 percent humorous, the two parts would be in discord.
The paper was chosen very aptly. It is thin and light enough for this type of publication. The texture is authentic and pleasant to the touch, pastel colors make it easy to choose a block of content and advertisements are published on glossy coated paper. I’m not sure what factors contributed to choosing the paper for old phone books (and the tear-off desk calendars, which, by the way, did not disappear and still make a great economical and practical Christmas gift) but I guess mostly economic and otherwise lifelike. However, torn t-shirts also did not always cost 500 euros.
The map of Kaunas starts the publication, which ends – as well as each chapter – with lined pages for notes or comments. At the back, you will also find a coloring task for the little ones and an eye-catching winding calendar. It is a pity that the calendar is only for this year, 2022, since at least I will be using the book for many more years because I am in constant search for new topics and interviewees as well as collaborators.
How to use it?
This directory, unlike its predecessors, is not just a list of names, addresses, and telephone numbers. No, it is a democratic guide of Kaunas full of hidden and completely open messages written by people themselves, which you can flip through in your preferred order, and turn the people, institutions, and businesses presented here into participants of your own secret cultural game. This is a look at Kaunas as it is in 2022 – neither prettier nor uglier – when the flags of the European Capital of Culture are flying over the institutions. It is democratic because people were invited to register on the list in different ways in different places and for a rather extensive period of time. Even on the radio, which is listened to by those who don’t see ads on Facebook. Nobody edited the introductions too much. The way people see themselves, and how they want to broadcast it to the world can be found printed in the book.
Being on this list means that the person or institution is open and ready for adventure and new opportunities. You can know all the people in a theater, work there as well, but isn’t it interesting to expand your approach to a new project by including a guide or a philosopher from a specific Kaunas district? You can find the philosopher’s contacts in the book, and you shouldn’t be afraid to call or write (not everyone has provided their phone numbers but then again, the publication is called a telephone book), which can happen sometimes when you ask for recommendations from friends or look for them online because you never know if you will not interrupt or whether the person even wants to cooperate. In addition, the actors of the cultural field present themselves here in both Lithuanian and English, so borders open up.
You can find the place, activity, or person you need, listed in alphabetical order or area of expertise, although it is the most fun to just choose blindly. That’s how I found out about Rita from Kaunas, who knows interwar period traditions and even food recipes from that time. Immediately after that, I discovered Birutė, who draws comics and now I wonder what would happen creatively if we all sat down together. “I can make South Korean food,” Emilija intrigues a few pages later, and my mind explodes with the image of an interwar period soup bowl full of kimchi. Kaunas is a city of opportunities, so a big thank you to Donatas and the Photography Gallery team as well as others, who contributed to the directory turning into an actual book, for reminding me of that.