21 February – 23 April 2023
The exhibition The City Passes Through Time in the Exhibition hall (3rd floor) of the National Library of Lithuania presented two projects by two well-known Lithuanian contemporary artists, Mindaugas Navakas (b. 1952) and Arūnas Gudaitis (b. 1973) – the former’s Vilnius Notebook No. 1 (1981–1985), and the latter’s Vilnius Postcards (2009).
Both of these projects are considered to be of pivotal significance in the history of Lithuanian contemporary art, and the one of Navakas, also one of the first examples of post-modernist gestures and site-specific sculpture. During the period between 1981 and 1985, the sculptor wandered around the city and took photographs of representative and contemporary architectural buildings and industrial spaces. Later, employing photomontage, he created a series of sketches which went through the process of being etched on zincographic plates and then reached the printing house with the help of his friends. These prints, eventually bound in the first Vilnius Notebook, were first presented to the public in 1986 in Navakas’s solo exhibition at the Lithuanian SSR Architects’ Union in Vilnius, but the show only ran for a few hours (according to some sources, a few days). As a response to Navakas’s project, Gudaitis created the series Vilnius Postcards: more than 20 years after the “notebook” project was done, the artist “followed in Navakas’s footsteps”, thus providing an opportunity to re-examine not only the city’s urban situation, but also its transformation. The series was presented at the 10th Baltic Triennial of International Art, Urban Stories, in 2009 (organised by the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius).
Both artists are known for their wit, which makes them a perfect match for an artistic dialogue. The joint exhibition, featuring the above-mentioned projects together for the first time, encompasses a wide range of themes: it presents the history of Lithuanian contemporary art and the city of Vilnius as a source of inspiration; it explores the socio-political issues of the pretext and context of an artwork’s emergence; it comments on the changes of creative freedom; and reveals the nuances of sculpture in the “expanded field” and its relationship with the city’s architecture (Navakas), as well as variations in the strategies of dialogue and appropriation as a creative method (Gudaitis).
This exhibition is not only retroactive, as the two projects are presented side by side for the first time, but also retrospective, as the display includes the originals of these works, i.e. the initial formats of Navakas’s “notebook” and A. Gudaitis’s “postcards” (exhibited under a glass enclosure, as a museum exhibit). It is no coincidence that the exhibition is held at the National Library: it is the only exhibition-hosting building included in Navakas’s first “notebook” (as well as in the second one (1988–1994). The title of the exhibition is borrowed from Almantas Griškevičius’s film Time Passes Through the City (Lithuanian Film Studio, 1966), but “the city” and “time” here are interchanged, encouraging to rethink not that much the aspect of time, but rather the context of the city as a (creative) space in the broader field of contemporary art and in relation to today’s issues.
Exhibition Curator: Aušra Trakšelytė
Exhibition Architect: Gediminas G. Akstinas
Design: Vaida Gasiūnaitė
Textual Editor and Translator: Alexandra Bondarev
Organiser: Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania
Partners: Vilnius Contexts
Navakas’s Vilnius Notebook No. 1 was exhibited courtesy of MO museum
The exhibition was partly funded by the Lithuanian Council for Culture.
Click the link to see a video report of the exhibition.