On Sunday 23 July the Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art opened in celebration of the 700th anniversary of Vilnius. Among the highlights of the Biennial was the premiere of A Guided Light Part 2, a performance by internationally acclaimed artists Liam Gillick and Anton Vidokle, which was presented on July 24 to a large audience gathered at the Grizratas field, at the railway turntable of the Train Repair Depot.
A successful opening
Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art (VB23) opened on Sunday at the Arts Printing House with the performance Song Sing Soil by Eglė Budvytytė and Marija Olšauskaitė, the artists who participated in the main exhibition of last year's Venice Art Biennial. On the same day, visitors congregated in front of the Pamėnkalnio Gallery, where they experienced a series of performances entitled Gimbutas Street Band, created by artist, poet, and art critic Laima Kreivytė and poets/writers Eileen Myles (they/them), in collaboration with curator Justė Kostikovaitė.
The Biennial highlight at the Train Repair Depot
On Tuesday evening, a large crowd of visitors gathered at an unusual location – the railway turntable at the Train Repair Depot – where the premiere of A Guiding Light Part 2, a performance by internationally acclaimed artists Liam Gillick and Anton Vidokle, who has Lithuanian roots, took place.
The sources of inspiration for the artists include songs of independence, created and performed in various parts of the world from the 1960s to the present day and the Vilnius Television Tower, due to its exceptional significance in the country’s history and its dominant vertical presence in the capital’s urban landscape. A Guiding Light Part 2 also served as a shooting location, with the territory of the Vilnius train depot selected as a cinematic environment, acting as a double of the revolving restaurant of the TV tower. A film by the artists will be created at a later date from the footage filmed during the performance.
What else can you see at Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art?
On the evening of 25 July, the National Drama Theatre hosted the performance -lalia by Basel-based artists Dorota Gawęda and Eglė Kulbokaitė, who won the Swiss Performance Art Award in 2021 and were nominated for this year’s main Swiss Art Prize. The evening of 26 July was in turn marked by the renowned Portuguese artist Pedro Barateiro’s performance My body, this paper, this fire at the National Gallery of Art.
Some of the VB23 performances will make use of the city’s open-air public spaces. On 28 July, Swedish artist and choreographer Pontus Pettersson’s performance Cat Practice will unfold at the fountain of the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, while British interdisciplinary artist Adam Christensen will perform his latest work Damascus, Copenhagen, Fetish Shop in the newly installed Vingriai Springs Square on the same day. A unique opportunity to take on a revelatory perspective on the city’s history will be offered by a trio of Polish artists, consisting of Aleksandra Janus, Weronika Pelczyńska and Monika Szpunar, whose performance Still Standing will take place on 29 July next to the site of the Piromontas Old Jewish Cemetery (by the Vilnius Sports Palace).
One of the most impressive underground structures in Vilnius, the Liepkalnis Water Storage, will host the performance What Are the Dreams of Concrete? by the experimental music and performance duo Eye Gymnastics (Viktorija Damerell and Gailė Griciūtė). This event, for which the public will need to purchase tickets, takes place on 2 and 3 August. Another Biennial artist, Kris Lemsalu, who represented Estonia at the 2019 Venice Biennale, is also turning to water structures and will present her performance Lust Fest at the Lazdynai swimming pool on 5 August.
On 1 and 2 August, VB23 will invite viewers to visit the Kalvarijos Market, where the Ukrainian-Polish artist trio Yuliya Krivich, Marta Romankiv and Weronika Zalewska will reflect on the Ukrainian war crisis in their performance Kiosk Kłącza (Kiosk of Crisis).
Two performances will take place on 31 July and 1 August at the Tech Zity Vilnius tech campus: Enter Exude by Finnish queer-theme-exploring artist Teo Ala-Ruona, and False Fall by Estonian artist Keithy Kuuspu, who works in the field of contemporary physical theatre. The performance Egghorsecizmus by Robertas Narkus, who represented Lithuania at last year’s Venice Biennale, will take place on 4 August in the square of the CORE Business Centre.
The rich programme of the first Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art will conclude on 6 August at sunset (10 pm) with the Italian artist Jacopo Miliani’s performance Throwing Balls at Night on the tennis court of the Vilnius Bernardinai Gardens.
A two-week programme of performances and the beginning of an ongoing international Biennial for Vilnius
Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art (VB23) is a new, ongoing international event dedicated to contemporary performance art, organised by the Vilnius City Gallery Meno Niša as an official part of the Vilnius 700th anniversary programme. Biennial's director is Diana Stomienė and its artistic director is Neringa Bumblienė. The main theme of the inaugural Biennial is Vilnius, but also the city per se – as a human-made and human-dominated environment that we share with other life forms, where different histories, myths, activities, interests, desires and visions collide, coexist and overlap.
The VB23 programme, which spans two weeks until August 6, will showcase 38 artists who will deliver a total of 31 performances in 17 different locations in Vilnius. Almost all events of the biennial are freely accessible and free of charge.
The anniversary program for Vilnius’ birthday was initiated by the Vilnius City Municipality and is being curated by the official Vilnius City Business and Tourism Development Agency Go Vilnius. VB23 is funded by Vilnius City Municipality, the Office of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, and the Lithuanian Council for Culture. The main partner is JCDecaux Lithuania. You can find the detailed VB23 programme here https://vilniusbiennial.com/en