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Kaunas 2022 Memory Program: Bridges Between Cultures, Religions and Languages

14 October, 2021, Kaunas 2022 | Kaunas 2022, News

In 2022, the Kaunas 2022 program “Memory Office” will invite the audience to year-long cultural research of Kaunas DNA. A vibrant and multi-layered artistic program will lead to a brave confrontation with the city’s complex past like a mirror that helps you get to know yourself and your humanity better.

CityTelling festival in 2019. Photo by A. Aleksandravičius

The program of events, which brings together creators from Lithuania and worldwide, plus a group of partners, will allow locals to get to know their city better. For the visitors, it will become an atlas of new stories of Kaunas. World-renowned artists William Kentridge, Philip Miller, Jenny Kagan, the Sala-Manca Collective group of artists, and others will help to explore the city. The most important events in the city’s history, which shaped, changed, and raised the city from the Second World War, the 1972 “Kaunas Spring”, to the present-day city’s myths, stories, and legends, will be presented through exhibitions, concerts and performances.

Extensive Four-Month Programme of the CityTelling Festival

In this more than ever conflicted world, we will try to forge a new relationship with our painful history and those who live next to us today. The biggest event of the “Memory Office” program, the CityTelling Festival, which is already popular with visitors, will take place in 2022 for four months and talk about the return and the community spirit. An extensive program of the festival includes stories of various forms that build bridges between different cultures, religions and languages. Stories that teach to empathize and listen to the Other.

The international program will invite to exhibitions, performances, concerts of internationally acclaimed artists, new routes created by city history enthusiasts and excursions to explore the different sides of the city. The storytellers’ project “Where can I find you?” will spread around the city’s cafés, streets and courtyards, looking for everyone who wants to hear and share the stories of the modern world. Finally, the conference on the idea of Europe will raise one of the most pressing questions of today: what is Europe and what is our place in it?

Special Attention to the Jewish Memory of Kaunas 

The Memory Office program and the CityTelling Festival will pay special attention to the Jewish memory of the city. In 2022, the European Capital of Culture will invite Litvaks scattered worldwide to meet at the World Litvak Forum. On 29-30 September, in the program of discussions and culture, famous artists, scientists and representatives of the world of culture will talk about the Litvak identity, memory, and the role of culture in giving meaning to multicultural memory and creating new opportunities for dialogue.

One of the most anticipated events of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 is the work “Kaunas Cantata: Reconciliation” by composer Philip Miller and artist Jenny Kagan. The most extensive musical experience of Kaunas to date, dedicated to the symbolic reconciliation of nations, will be played during the Litvak Forum. More than 400 performers joined this piece of vocal-instrumental music: local musicians and singers, choirs, representatives of different genres and generations.

The significant events of the four-month CityTelling Festival program are also dedicated to the Jewish theme – exhibitions, performances, musical stories, installations devoted to the heritage of Jewish memory and cultural signs in the city spaces, and many other activities. Litvak artists who returned to Lithuania from the Republic of South Africa, Great Britain, France and Israel took a particularly active part in developing the program. Main events: William Kentridge’s exhibition “What We Don’t Remember”, musical performance “Dybbuk”, Jenny Kagan’s exhibition “Out of the Darkness”, photography exhibition “The Last Litvaks”, an art installation in public spaces “Threshold” and others.

The book “Kaunas Jews”, released in Lithuanian and English languages this year, is no less important. This is the first such presentation of the Jewish history of Kaunas from the most essential facts, concepts and names. This most comprehensive book on the subject to date does not seek to answer all the questions, but starting from the 15th century will consistently remind the contribution of Kaunas Jews to education, medicine, industry, business, culture and other areas of life, and will touch on the painful pages of history.

Events Dedicated to the Times of the Disobedient 

The unique program of events will remind of the time that led to the most significant historical turning point in the city’s life. The nineteen-year-old Romas Kalanta who set himself on fire on 14 May 1972, and the events that followed led to the birth of the so-called “Kaunas Spring” – anti-Soviet protests that involved thousands of people and took place mainly in Laisvės alėja (Liberty Avenue). These events left traumatic traces in the further development of the city, in its cultural life, and in the fates of a large number of young Kaunas residents. These historical events and the disobedient period will be revived within the Kaunas 2022 program through performances, exhibitions, concerts, discussions, meetings, etc., dedicated to this topic.

Romualdas Požerskis. Trip to Tallinn. 1972

The crucial point of this program will be the exhibition “1972: Regime, Youth and Art”, in which paintings, photographs and films, documentary testimonies of musical life, youth fashion and other artefacts will tell about alternative culture and non-Soviet way of life in Soviet Lithuania. The exhibition will reveal the diversity of mindsets and creativity in the Soviet background that levelled everyone. It will explore how aesthetic tastes and ethical attitudes in Soviet times shaped different patterns of life and the atmosphere of disobedience to the government.

A series of events dedicated to the identity of the city will invite to look at the city and its residents from a different angle. We will examine the city, re-explore the city’s industrial heritage and the histories of some factories. Perhaps the most exciting highlight of the program is the conversation between Kaunas and Vilnius about the confrontation between the two cities, the silent struggle and the mute dependence. In the exhibition, which will take place simultaneously in the two cities, the MO museum and Kaunas City Museum will remind how the big cities shaped each other and how modern Lithuania arose from the tensions between them.

Important events: Exhibition “1972: Regime, Youth and Art”, concert ” Made in Kaunas”, Historical-documentary performance “Kalanta”, rock opera “Kalanta”, the exhibition “Kaunas – Vilnius: move the mountains”, route “Memory Circle”, exhibition “The Big Industry” and others.

Walls Telling Stories

Kaunas and Kaunas district have been adorned with works of street art that bring back the faces of those who lived before us, tell their fates and present culture. This way, the poet Lea Goldberg, the charismatic Rosian with her mother Gerta, and the signs of the Tatar legacy returned to Kaunas again. The number of these meaningful wall drawings is increasing, so when wandering around Kaunas, Kulautuva or Kačerginė, don’t forget to look around and stop to read the inscriptions. Look for the special memory street art route at atmintiesvietos.lt.

Photo by A. Aleksandravičius

This is only a quick look at the Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 program “Memory Office”, which brings back the memory of the city’s ethnic communities. Next year, Kaunas and Kaunas district will become one big European stage and turn the city into a place where you will not escape culture. 

Full programme: https://kaunas2022.eu/en/programme/