photo: Remis Ščerbauskas
Changing the Climate
Performance in collaboration with 1.Artūras Savickas 2. Žydūnas Šlajus 3. Gintaras Zubrys 4. Rūta Naujalytė 5. Mykolas Deveikis 6. Saulė Poškutė 7. Toma Kanytė 8. Tadas Zebrauskas 9. Pajauta Zabrauskaitė 10. Romanas Togobickij 11. Darius Rakauskas 12. Greta Šliažaitė 13. Daiva Zubrienė 14. Lina Jonikė 15. Merkys Zebrauskas
Special thanks to: Daniel Milnes, Monika Žaltauskaitė Grašienė and Neringa Stoškute
In her latest project specifically developed for Kaunas Biennial with the title Changing the Climate, Jasmina Cibic intervenes in one of the central architectural signifiers of Lithuanian national identity: The Vytautas the Great War Museum. Part of a building complex which houses both The War Museum and the M.K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, the site presents a curious two-sides-of-the-same-coin duality of nation building by uniting the notions of soft and hard power under one roof – even more, the two museums share a wall, but the intraconnecting doors have been sealed. Changing the Climate, a humorous take on the phrase ‘political climate’, is a performance that speaks of the constantly shifting nature of Kaunas’ ideological – and subsequently visual – landscape throughout the 20th century. The latest stage in this development is the current drive toward a new European stance, illustrated well by the questioning of the nature and values of national culture within the framework of the upcoming European Capital of Culture project in 2022. In line with the historical function of The War Museum as a setting that manifests national political sentiment, Cibic has symbolically installed the figure of Europa-the classical female embodiment of the European continent-in the centre of the main hall of the museum.
During the opening weekend of the exhibition, Cibic invited a group of Kaunas artiststo form the central performing body of her perfromance work Changing the Climate. The artists were carefully choreographed within the central, almost church like arena of the entrance hall of the War Museum, and positioned directly between the two currently installed ideological monikers overlooking the hall: Vytautas the Great and the map of Europe. The elements adorning this central – nation building edifice – were throughout history accordingly exchanged by the subsequent ideological and/or national regime which descended upon the country (Soviet and Nazi occupation).
The artists stood behind painting easels and encircled an empty pedestal, intended for a life model. During the performance the artists attentively studied the void in front of them; taking vistual measurments and sketching the model – which was in reality absent. Their perfromance alluded to an attempt to create a representation of the female allegory of Europa as described in Cesare Ripa’s book of emblems titled Iconologia(1593/1603). In this classical source, which was used widely throughout the Renaissance period and was highly influential in the formation of the classical canon (and subsequently Eropean identity), Ripa describes Europa as „a lady in rich robes, surrounded by sacks of grain, grapes, crowns and sceptres, a horse among trophies and arms, a book with an owl upon it, palettes and pencils, and musical instruments.“ Curiously, Ripa quite literally elevates one emblem into the foreground of this depiction: a temple, which Europa holds aloft in her right hand. For Changing the Climate, Cibic invites the artists to consider this attribute of the allegory. The temple, which quite literally represents the soft power realised, the protocol architecture where power resides; not unlike the War Museum itself. It is art and architecture that are continuously called upon to create the always-evolving-scenographic-spectacle for ensuing ideologies. Within her perfromance piece, Cibic delegates the question of ideological permutation to the artists working within the context of contemporary Lithuania; and asks them to rework the political style of this tokenistic attribute of Europa – in what they consider to be Lithuanian national style architecture. In this playful performance, Cibic interrogates the geo-politcal exoticism, national souvenirs and other ideological permutations that come to play within the double game of cultural and political capital.
By virtue of their position in the palm of Europa, the buildings in the sketches metaphorically underscore how the conundrum of nation building is influenced not only by external political forces but also by the conscious self-design of the creative capital.