Written by Anna Popper, Deputy Editor-in-Chief / Diplomatic Magazine
Kaunas is the second city in Lithuania to hold the European Capital of Culture (ECC) title after the Baltic state’s capital, Vilnius in 2009. Its slogan – “From temporary to Contemporary Capital” – illustrates the city’s ambition.
During the interwar period, Kaunas was Lithuania’s capital city. Now it’s back under the spotlight as an innovative, culturally vibrant European city. Kaunas’ modernist architecture, which was given the European Heritage Label, receives renewed attention and the city hosts many cultural events as a 2022 European Capital of Culture.
Culture was inescapable in Kaunas on 19-23 January 2022. The city and the surrounding region have officially become the European Capital of Culture. Opening weekend events, culminating with Act I of the Trilogy of the Contemporary Myth of Kaunas, turned the city into one big European stage and set everyone’s mood for the year-long cultural marathon.
So far, no city has tried to change the course of its life by creating a new myth. The Beast is a metaphor, a cultural allegory that raises questions about the Beast in the city and inside its residents. Three main events of the European Capital of Culture, the Trilogy of the Contemporary Myth of Kaunas, are the uprising, revelation and contract with it. Act I of the trilogy, called The Confusion, highlighted the first weekend of Kaunas 2022.
‘The Confusion’ formula includes 30 different performances spanning 50 locations in Kaunas and Kaunas district – and 800 artists and performers from Lithuania and abroad. Aistis Lansbergas, Technical Producer of Kaunas 2022, presents one of the most ambitious events in his career. The uprising started on 19 January in Kaunas district and moved towards the centre of Kaunas in light circles. The act peaked at 7:30 pm on 22 January 2022. More than 100 events – including premieres, exhibitions, concerts and spectacles – took place between 19-23 January, all connected through the new myth of Kaunas and the uprising of the Beast.
„The after-show events in the city of Kaunas are all incorporated into a city game – inviting the audience to play with us and look for traces of the Beast of Kaunas. I think this is like no other ECC opening, where a city game structure is used to introduce audiences and citizens to the events and themes coming up during 2022” says Chris Baldwin, the director of the grand trilogy of Kaunas 2022.
„The event will clearly be unique in so far as we have planned, designed and rehearsed it during a pandemic which has not allowed us to see one another very often, and where we were completely unsure of the restrictions in January 2022. We are very proud and excited to have created a multi-layered and almost pandemic-proof event! In other words, the main show could happen even if we face very stringent controls on public gatherings. It is contemporary, digital, yet live, international and participatory, designed as much for a mass live audience as for an international TV audience” reveals Baldwin.
The rich program of the opening weekend was tightly knitted by the dense network of Kaunas 2022 partners, including theatres, museums, galleries, communities and other artistic and cultural initiatives from Lithuania and abroad. Novi Sad and Esch, the other two European Capitals of Culture 2022, are also coming to say hi! Numerous concerts and exhibition openings took place in Kaunas on the 4th weekend of January, including That Which We Do Not Remember by William Kentridge and Ex It by Yoko Ono. At the same time, all Kaunas 2022 programs presented their key themes and events for the whole year.
Kaunas and the surrounding Kaunas district are ready to become one big European stage in 2022, offering over 1000 events. More than 40 festivals, 60 exhibitions, 250 performing arts events (more than 50 are premieres), and over 250 concerts are planned in 2022. All this is delivered by Kaunas 2022’s team of 500 people, alongside 80 local and 150 foreign partners. 140 cities in Lithuania and the world, 2,000 artists, 80 communities, and 1,000 great volunteers. http://kaunas2022.eu/en/
About the European Capitals of Culture
ECC is a great initiative by Melina Mercouri, the then Greek Minister of Culture in 1985, that illustrates the importance of culture in promoting the values on which our EU is built: diversity, solidarity, respect, tolerance and openness. Since that it has become one of the most high-profile cultural actions in Europe. In 2022, in addition to Kaunas, two more cities – Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg) and Novi Sad (Serbia) – will hold the title of European Capital of Culture for one year.