Lithuania-Poland-Russia ENPI Cross-border Co-operation Programme 2007-2013
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CLOSE STRANGER: KLAIPĖDA. BLANK SPACES

Rimantas Eivenis

Hi. We are entering the city. What is its taste and smell, how do people dress here, what do they do in the evenings.Klaipėda. Here, we have both the lagoon and the sea, and the wind stretches a blanket of sand and the smell of wave crests over the city, mixed with the sounds of cranes and seagulls’ lamentations.

· Only to local people the city seems stable. Every day, they see the same houses in the same streets, meet the same people, cross the same squares, and have their lunch in the same cafés.

· For visitors, things are different. They see the city as composed of audio and visual fragments and elements. This chaotic impression is swirling, condensing and precipitating nowhere else but in public spaces, and in this manner, they become our traps.

· Find a person who likes to not revise, but requisition any environment, any fragment thereof, and to transfer it to his own, parallel, creative world, so that this fragment would be returned to us later. New, clean, and provocative.

· Urban public spaces. Marking or Artspotting?

· Public spaces contain the city’s relationship with a person.

· This is marking and artspotting. Mutual giving and taking. The city ritual.

· Alas. Klaipėda understands its public spaces more as “clean”, “functional”, “tidy”, and “neutral”.

· Instead of the usual formats and messages of public art, here they enjoy popular slogans “Let’s save the Old town”, “Let’s decorate the city” or “Let’s revive Klaipėda”.

· Let’s look round Klaipėda. What works of art strike our eye in public spaces?

· Right, first of all, monuments. Basically, these are memorial monuments that have been built to mark significant events and important dates in the nation’s political, social and cultural life.

· When the authorities play the patriotism card, there is a 100 percent guarantee that the sculptural solution will be implemented as a bust or statue focusing on a lifelike portrait, or as a trivial monumental metaphor. Because if the person is shown in any other way – see, it will be considered as disrespect for historical figures, historical ideas, the people’s feelings, etc. In this case, the canonized area around the monument becomes a churchyard, where any kind of essentially natural action will look unnatural.

· What else do we have? Thanks to patrons, the Old town is dominated by small statuary. Abstract and inexpensive, it doesn’t provoke discussion, it doesn’t irritate the eye, and well, bronze is worth something, it has some value, and bronze does not “fracture” the space. Unfortunately, these mice, puppies, kittens and other figurines in the Old Town are merely accents, they generate neither the value of public space nor the concept of context, and do not reveal spatial essence per se. This fauna is just standing there. Of course, it’s better than nothing, maybe a kind of expression of the city’s intimacy, and so on. But they do not present the city itself, do not create the style and identity that the politicians desire so much.

· The projects that have been carried out in the past decade by the group of artists “Fish Eye”, as well as KKKC performances, art installations and objects, or KKKC residency projects, now appear as a romantic past, spreading their message to the local community space, which has not provided any kind of reflection.

· Can it be that all the projects that were carried out were too lyrical, decorative, politically correct, or socially decorative, like the “Close Stranger”? In such cases, contact does not exist. There is only an implied “I” beneath the shell of a city-dweller.

· Maybe that is the reason why those shells look very similar to those pieces of small statuary that the patrons have dedicated to the city?

· And vice versa?

· The original concept of anatomy, symbolism and decor of those small “globally thematic” sculptures is something that one memorizes in a masochistic manner.

· Klaipėda is too small for reflection. At the same time, it makes great space for research.

· What would be the best scenario for public art in Klaipeda?

· What can I advise someone who is preparing to talk about it, to think and create in Klaipėda? Klaipėda is a port. A port means import and export. So before moving on to the activity, think: what would you like to leave here and what do you expect to get? Dear artist, please be artistically pragmatic.

· You will be understood here. And they will wish you a fair wind.

· “The city’s scenario – blank spaces”. The text of such concept is a seemingly meaningless algorithm. To develop it, one could use journalistic interviews, conversations between the project organizers, protocols, interviews, and excerpts from media comments.

· They resemble an unexpected meeting in “the blank space of the city” of people who are interested in the same subject matter, but belong to different fields of activities and have different interests, a meeting in a place that does not belong to a period of time and a continuous story, with the aim of discussing the marking and artspotting of the terra incognita.

· This is an opportunity for a place that once was quietly lying still or an elementary part of the urban system, and that can quite suddenly appear out of nowhere due to social, cultural and economic changes.

· Like something new, undiscovered, and unidentified. This crazy algorithm of the miscommunication between politicians, artists, cultural strategists, urbanists and town planners is a scheme that the artists, in implementing their creative plan, can lay down on the geographical map of the city to see the blank urban spaces.

· Whatever we have to offer, whatever kind of instructions we write – even those meant for art on its own – let us not forget that public art can lose its principal relevance if the artistic action in the selected area is not relevant or interesting in itself.

· So let’s write a guide on how to treat public art for a politician! Let’s applyurban acupuncture to the blank spaces only for that generation of politicians that, in the near future, may perceive the city development strategy (including the urban one) as a whole.

· Let’s write a guide on the treatment of public art for an artist!

· One just needs to find the “blank spaces” and mark them with his/her artworks. Because in changing at least one constituent that determines the existence of a space, you will need to change another one too, i.e., the one that the artist is not able to change. Then we would have to answer completely different questions than the work of art, designed for a specific site, was raising at the beginning.

· Let us write a guide for urban planners! Public art is, first of all, one‘s presence in the city, the observation of its rhythm and originality that is based on a variety of creative tactics, the ability to link your creative strategies with the context that has been imposed on you.

· In short, if you are an artist, you should not come to Klaipėda with prejudice and a ready-made installation or performance after having looked through the photos on Google.

· You should not be cheated by architecture, which is the first to greet a guest. Yes, yes. In an unfamiliar place, one unconsciously begins to look for a reference point, for security, for a reverse, and so on. In your moment of weakness, any kind of architectural haven may become one of those.

· Do not forget: your potential fans are hiding in the wombs of cafés, embracing the verticals of historical architecture or memorial monuments, others are looking for shopping centres, still others like squares and public gardens. Pluck them out of there.

· Undress them and shock them with the goodness of your mission, let them believe in the miracle of the renovated Western Kaliningrad. Do not put out your cigarettes in their eyes that are wide open in surprise.

· I got you! It will not happen. It’s a joke.

· Reject the already mentioned, popular, but abstract slogans of Klaipėda: “freestyle”, “Let’s revive the Old Town”, and so on.

· Public art in Klaipėda is a logical continuation in urban space of those demonstrative exchanges and discussions that are taking place in the event halls.

· Do not torment yourself and others by reflecting upon whether institutional actions can make the city fascinating. If you have come here – simply do what you have come for.

· However, please remember that “there are plenty of artists nowadays, even too many, it‘s time for those artists to open their eyes and take on some simple work, for example, artistically repair apartments, paint them as nicely as possible, sure enough, for low prices … ” (klaipedis. 2010 03 14 20:31, in daily newspaper “Klaipėda”)

· For your attention: “Lithuania‘s Laws define the city’s public spaces as “areas for common use: land plots that are or are expected to be developed into parks, squares and other green areas”.

· And once again. In Klaipėda, public art is usually seen as a traditional monument – a modern, decorative work of art.

· And now imagine yourself standing in a beautiful square, surrounded by not-so-beautiful lampposts and the worn-down flagstones of the pavement, of which nobody knows when they used to be fashionable. In a square, a beautiful square, where dogs do not shit, but some hobos will surely appear (as nature does not like emptiness!), and where you are going to implement your radical, socially engaged artistic happening or just a beautiful artistic action, created both by individual artists and art groups, separately from or together with the audience.

· Do you think you would be feeling uncomfortable?

· WTF?

· Recently, the development of interactivity has been growing increasingly popular. Maybe it is worth thinking about this, and turning the bronze sculptures of the Old Town into cartoon characters?

· PR is always a good thing.

· Public space is both cybernetic and physical. Therefore, we suggest linking these two aspects in talking about the most problematic architectural context of Klaipėda – the legacy of Soviet architecture.

· In this manner, urban areas would begin to see the expression of the social identity and social climate of the various elements and fragments composing the community of culture fans, which would allow us to humanize the space and personalize one’s relationship with the space, and turn it into “one’s own” leisure place or meeting place.

· YES. You can be a useful thing! The development development development of public art directly supports cultural industries, creating opportunities in this area for artists, designers, architects, the real estate sector, and patrons to work together. And what is the benefit of your project?

· You know, a good public art project will not only meet aesthetic needs, but by attracting the curious and related investments, will promote growth and economic development, and will also reduce social tensions.

· There is no good or bad public art. There is just art that is not fascinating and not affecting. A good work of art always works. It is only you who feels good or bad.

· Art in public space is a blank space.

· A blank space is both research and its result.

· The result in itself does not make any sense.

· Therefore, we attribute the meaning of an artwork to the result.

· Close Stranger.