On Friday 29 April the exhibition Difficult Pasts. Connected Worlds dedicated to the painful histories of Eastern European countries will open at the National Gallery of Art (Konstitucijos ave. 22, Vilnius, Lithuania). The exhibition will be held at the National Gallery of Art until 28 August.
The press conference will be held at 11 am at the auditorium of the National Gallery of Art. The chief curator of the NGA, Lolita Jablonskienė, and the exhibition curators Ieva Astahovska (LV), Margaret Tali (EE/NL) and Eglė Mikalajūnė (LT) will present the exhibition. The artists will be available for interviews after the presentation: Anastasia Sosunova (LT), Eléonore de Montesquiou (FR/EE), Jaana Kokko (FI), Laima Kreivytė (LT), Lia Dostlieva & Andrii Dostliev (UA/PL), Matīss Gricmanis (LV) & Ona Juciūtė (LT), Quinsy Gario & Mina Ouaouirst (NL), Paulina Pukytė (LT/GB), Ülo Pikkov (EE), Vika Eksta (LV) and Zuzanna Hertzberg (PL).
With the beginning of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the past has returned in Eastern Europe, changing from something distant into a present-day disaster for millions of people. The invasion that started in 2014 with Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk was often dismissed by the international community, but has now grown into a situation that is affecting the whole world. This war hits Eastern Europe most alarmingly, reviving many silences, unhealed wounds and unprocessed memories of the totalitarian past.
Difficult Pasts. Connected Worlds includes works by artists from the three Baltic countries, Ukraine, Poland, Finland and the Netherlands. The experiences the works evoke are ones that are often forgotten or ignored, excluded from official histories. Artists included in the exhibition narrate those experiences through individual stories, while evoking broader layers of cultural memory. What is the place of these stories in the present? How could we integrate them in our understanding of history? What do they change in our perception of the world around us? Overcoming local and national borders, the exhibition calls for reflection on the relationships between difficult pasts and their impact today through the perspective of a shared history by opening dialogue, forging connections and foregrounding solidarities between the different difficult histories.
The exhibition was first shown in 2020 at the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga, as part of Communicating Difficult Pasts, an international project which engages with the uncomfortable and often forgotten sides of history in order to understand their influences in the Baltic region and neighboring countries. It is now organized within the framework of From Complicated Past Towards Shared Futures, a collaboration between the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art in Riga, the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius (Lithuanian National Museum of Art), OFF-Biennale in Budapest, Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz and Malmö Art Museum. The project seeks to explore and communicate the entanglements of past and present, searching for new ways in which art and culture can raise awareness of these issues for the wider public and influence current realities.
We are used to thinking about past times through the lens of national histories, with their selective, smoothed and linear narrations, instead of the plural and messy stories shared in daily life. The difficult sides of these histories have often been neglected; instead, comforting stories are told that stress positive narratives and ways of overcoming challenges. This exhibition brings together difficult and often-silenced aspects of pasts that include violent conflicts, traumatic losses and their long-term legacies. The difficult pasts addressed here involve recent warfare and histories of colonialism, the uneasy balances between modes of survival and collaboration and the ways that post-soviet societies have found to cope with the shadows of the past.
During the opening of the exhibition, at 6 pm on Friday 29 April, there will be a performance of Difficult Present. 65 Days (saxophone, tube, gas pipe) by Laima Kreivytė, Arminas Bižys, Simonas Kaupinis and Vladas Urbanavičius. The score is a sonic diary of the war in Ukraine. Wind instruments combine breath and metal; every day of the war is marked by the sound of a gas pipe. The echoing object is welded from the remains of the gas pipe used for the sculpture The Embankment Arch—the most debated public art piece in the history of independent Lithuania.
At 1 pm on Saturday 30 April, artist Zuzanna Hertzberg will hold a spoken word performance that accompanies her artwork Volunteers for Freedom and is based on the archives, autobiographies and memories of the protagonists of her work.
After the performance, at 2 pm, the exhibition’s artists will present their works for the audience. Registration is required for the guided tour: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Both events will be held in English.
The exhibition is organized by the Latvian Center for Contemporary Art and the National Gallery of Art (Lithuanian National Museum of Art). The project is financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture. Sponsors: European Union Programme “Creative Europe,” Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Frame Contemporary Art Finland, Nordic Council of Ministers, Mondriaan Fund, Exterus, Imparat. Media sponsor: lrytas.lt