Rene (+ Rai) — 16 Reports from Vilnius (#1) 09.17.03

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Journalisms — Rene (+ Rai) — 16 Reports from Vilnius (#1) 09.17.03
“Journalisms:” or “Our Correspondent:” or “?”
The title and mission of this collective project
is a work in progress. But the general idea is
that we cannot be in all places at all times.
So those who would like to can write a “report”
or “editorial” or “correspondence” to share
experiences for the benefit of others.
To take part, send submission or for more information
please write to journalisms@16beavergroup.org
or post online:
As a part of the common project, I will be attempting to make 16 reports from Vilnius, this is Report #1. -rg
Diary of Vilnius: Day 1.
I arrive at the airport via Helsinki and outside of being one of the closest airports to the center of a city, there is not much to comment on. But it is day one, and I am excited to write, so I will try.
Raimundas (Malasauskas + Kestutis Kuizinas = curators of the 24/7 exhibition) picks me up, we enter a cab that is deeply reminiscent of Yerevan. I would like to say that it is the make of the cars, but most of the cars are newish european cars. So no Soveit style Ladas in sight yet, our’s is a refreshingly old Audi. So my guess is that this link to Armenia is largely by smell, something about the way the cigarette smoke enters the seams of car seats maybe, or just the volume of cigarettes smoked.
And quite possibly the link I am making is beyond smell, maybe it is in the seams, or wrinkles, in understanding, in passing, in time, our driver seems hardened by them, his hair a greasy graying blonde, this is not his time, his system, it matters little what I say or think, we drive, blip blip, but history has its way with us, as we with it, with time, with wrinkles.
A glance left and right, we are in the center of town, we are at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius.
Quick tour and all looks in tip top shape. The building is a cross between Bauhaus and something my architectural knowledge limits me from connecting to, but there is a cross, and the first floor stone /granite /marble like tiles are a telling indication. Upstairs (where the main galleries are), very little of this past legacy remains, in fact the spaces are remarkably pristine, resembling any really cool contemporary art space, possibly cooler. Incredible spaces, airy, white rooms, halls really, with ceilings comparable to a large movie house. For 16beaver, Raimundas has enlisted the architect of the CAC, Valdas Ozarinskas to construct a platform, resembling a sort of small scale oil rig, it remains to be seen what exactly this space will function as. For now, we will put a monitor for viewing some DVD’s, bring an internet connection, and some electricity. More reports to follow here.
The center piece of this exhibition is an immense hall that resembles the size of two or three large basketball courts, and on one side of the hall, a huge bleacher like structure has been constructed to accommodate seating for viewing the large video projections and for monitors which will be spaced equally in different sections of the bleachers.
Although I know that this description of the Center is riveting for you, we must move on, and we do.
Vilnius, old town
We take a walk to get some borsht and I am taken aback by the absolute cleanliness of the city. Most buildings in the old city have been reconstructed, repolished, repainted, restated, redirected, re-ified so that it is hard to imagine that the Soviet Union was alive and weak nearly a decade ago here. Shops have all the familiar names, Adidas, Hugo Boss, Max Mara, ++ and of course a few odd ones like Audimas,and ‘Nude in the Mood’… and the point is that (despite the occasional wrinkles) Capitalism seems to have settled in nicely in Lithuania, or at least in Vilnius, or at least in this part of Vilnius which I happen to be walking through on a Saturday afternoon. Tourists, ice cream, sun in September (global warming anyone?), you know what I am talking about? A few too many lingerie shops I notice, Vilnius must hold the record for most lingerie shops per capita. But no one is complaining, so why bother talking about it further.
We find a place, but no cold borscht as Raimundas had craved, we settle for a little something with a little salad somewhere else. And we walk further, further into the future. I could fast forward days, like eternities that have yet to arrive or expire, but remain essentially empty, or I could live them like this day, with details that may take me days just to recollect, gather, construct and edit.
Some Background
This note arrived a few days prior to my visit to Vilnius had started from Raimundas.
“’we are moving toward control societies that no longer operate by
confining people but through continuous control and instant
communication’ says deleuze in the interview with antonio negri (1990).

i think it would be nice to develop the concept of ‘unreal time’ as a
way of break-through or an enclave further. one could find good mojito in vilnius and sherbet – the new brand
perfume of comme des garcones. yet to find a laundromat is a task. most
of my friends either give their laundry to their parents, or have
washing machines at home.
streets are silent at night, and i want to invite some friends of mine with their cars to make an audio tour in the city playing music aloud through their speakers and thus creating an asynchronous moment of sonic public life. maybe there must be some 15 cars going in different directions on different streets and each of them playing a certain piece or a certain track of a single mix created especially for the city.
time is slow and i am happy to work on 24/7 project which gives a certain intensity of life. i feel like an alien in a place which i know by heart. or, in other words: one as the most significant other to oneself. this morning i was reading an interview by antonio negri with gilles deleuze from 1990 in a cafe, some things were pretty inspiring. ‘art is resistance, it resists death, slavery, infamy, shame’, claims deleuze.
two birds are feeding each other the remnants of a creamy cake on the opposite table, being observed by two middle aged german tourists. most of the new (or renovated) cafes here simulate history and luxury, losing any sense of authentic history it used to contain. an anonymous pseudo-baroque table replaces 70s furniture and interior details comforting the unfulfilled dreams of the poor.
I hope life is swinging, and swing is live. greetings from the reality 7 hours ahead, but 180 degrees awry.”
From one Live Stream to Another
e-Xplo resides in my heart more and more so it seems, it used to be hard to visit a city without seeing it somehow fitting in my unending city film project, once titled Los Angeles: City and Memory, then city and memory, then in-between cities, then inter-cities, and now unending city film project, but I digress.
More and more often, I think about our bus tours. I encounter a city and I look at the types of buses operating in the city, I wonder about the cost, the conditions of the roads, the different types of terrains, how long it would take to reach the periphery of the city, I think about the housing projects, the prisons, the waste management sites, the cemeteries and cement factories, and the dilapidated, no longer usable factories and plants and even military bases. I wonder about the sounds this city, Vilnius is producing, what we could record, what would be themes of this city, the questions it provokes, and I jump back to the city film, as I enter a corridor, which leads to a yard, and behind the façade of this repainted city I find another recollection, glimpse of a city, workers in workers’ clothes, women looking, well, … as if from a previous era, its about scratching the surface a little, more time needed, I think, and this stream of conscious riff is winding down, must sleep and get over the weariness, big night at the missile silo ahead.
Before sleeping of course, I consult my experimental guide to Lithuanian architecture by cultural theorist Jonas Valatkevicius and I find the following entry on facades:
“FACADE. A facade seems to be considered in Lithuania the major element of the architectural system. The restoration of the Old Town is focused on the repainting of facades. The importance of facade is witnessed by the majority of greater-scale post-Soviet buildings. For example a supermarket recently built in Vilnius. Its facade is a huge triangle made of bluish glass. By the ground – a few passages for the flow of people and a minimal detail – cash dispenser, which functions almost like holy water and the crucifix at the entrance to the church.”
Sleep. Wake up. Take a cab.
We eat at a once (and still) glorious restaurant which operated more or less for the elite during the Soviet era. A techno-love-parade outside, in addition to Raimundas I meet Chemi, Tony, Lisi, and with all three of them, there is much more to say, but as I am prone to long-windedness, I will keep it minimal and true.
‘Bunkered by the Showbiz Flannel’
The evening’s centerpiece however, was a trip to an abandoned missile silo, which will be the site of a sort of once a year rave. We travel a few miles out of the city and we get a bit lost. We stop near a petrol stop, another car, they ask for a smoke, no smoke, “damn foreigners” or something not thrilled about my english, they utter, mutter, …, and then back in the car, but then back out after a dead end along a dirt road. It seems we have come to the wrong military site, by now there is a small accident at the same petrol station, but no one arguing, or spitting verbal venom, all is cool, a few beers, and this is the kind of vibe I can get used to.
We drive, a stop here and there to appraise maps, get mobile coverage, make calls, receive calls, and finally we arrive, a make shift parking lot, no rules, no orange jackets with reflective stickers, many hundreds, park the car, short walk on a dirt road, light, noise, people, and two horizontal silos or containers, a few gas and dust masks, a friend of Rai’s manages to get us in without paying, dramatic and I wonder how much radioactive material leaked out, no one seems to mind though, so why bother talking about it, many people dancing, hard techno, dust is rising, this is the underground scene of Vilnius and around it would seem.
The speed of techno does not reduce, and at least my ability to endure the beat reaches its conclusion. Its cool though.
The time is now, to say adieu, to another day and time to sort out the sorting out.
It is usually here that the really interesting things happen, even in deep sleep.
To be Continued