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The Entire Territory of Ukraine Is One Extremely Painful Place of Memory of a Former Life

Published: 20.12.2022
Jurgita Ludavičienė Jurgita Ludavičienė
Author:
Loukia Richards
Edited by:
ZLR Betriebsimperium
Edited at:
Hamburg / Athens
Edited on:
2022
Memory of a Place's exhibition view.
. Photography by Gintare Grigenaite..
Memory of a Place's exhibition view.
Photography by Gintare Grigenaite.

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.

Intro
Jurgita Ludavičienė, curator of the Vilnius Biennale of contemporary jewelry Metallophone, talks about the group exhibition Memory of a Place* and how remembering shapes human destinies, ideas – and jewelry.
Interview by Loukia Richards.

LR: The title Memories of a Place is particularly striking if one considers the war in Ukraine that has devastated people’s lives and forced many to flee their homes, as well as the previous two years of lockdowns and immobility.

JL: Indeed, the theme of this year's Biennial seems to be designed to reflect on the war in Ukraine – so many people have had to flee their homelands, so much pain is now concentrated in one territory. After all, there are now cities in Ukraine that exist only in the memory of the people who lived there, and there are places that no longer exist and are preserved only by memory. The entire territory of Ukraine is one extremely painful place of memory of a former life.
However, the Biennale is always planned at least six months before the deadlines for participation and the opening date are announced. So, last autumn when I was thinking about what theme might be relevant to the artists, I realized that I would like to invite them to think about ‘place’.
We are all connected to a place from which we draw strength, a place we return to in our memories, even if it no longer exists. It seems to me that in recent years there has been a great increase in people's attachment to a particular place, and perhaps the pandemic has contributed to this; not being able to change locations easily, we have been forced to look more closely at the place we are in and to find our world in it.
But maybe the places remember us too, maybe there is some trace of us left in those places, in those cities, and in those rooms where we lived?
Contemporary jewelry is very much about the personal: memories, experiences, feelings, emotions. But all of this is often conveyed using local materials, particular stones or found objects, traditional techniques that are specific to one place or another. 


A wide panorama of the richness and diversity of contemporary jewelry 


LR:With many arts Biennales taking place around the globe, what is the main characteristic and purpose of the Vilnius Biennale? 

JL: One of our main objectives is to give Lithuanian viewers the opportunity to see the widest possible panorama of contemporary jewelry. With more than 130 artists taking part this year, the diversity of artists and works is bound to be enormous. And I still have the desire to show that contemporary jewelry is no longer something that can be put on the body to dress up, that the works on display are meant to express the artists’ ideas.
At the same time, it is also a desire to give Lithuanian artists the opportunity to see their work in an international context and for participants from other countries to learn more about Lithuanian jewelry, which rarely goes international.
I am happy to say that from this year onwards, the Biennale will present solo exhibitions of one Lithuanian jeweler and one foreign jeweler in addition to the main exhibition. This year's invited guests are Sigitas Virpilaitis from Lithuania and Catarina Hällzon from Sweden as well as Emmannuel Lacoste from France who opened the exhibition with a performance.


LR: What criteria did you apply in the selection of participating artists? 

JL: The criteria are formal – the work must be no bigger or heavier than the parameters, must have been created within the last two years, and must not have been exhibited in Lithuania. So far, the Biennale presents EU artists, but I don't exclude the possibility that it will expand.
However, what is much more important is the conceptual relevance to the theme. I look at a lot of artists’ work to find those artists who I think might be relevant. Every time I invite an artist to take part in the Biennale and I get a positive reply I feel like I've won the lottery: I’ve guessed right again! 


LR: Briefly describe the Lithuanian jewelry scene. 

JL: The Biennale started in 2011 as an artists’ initiative, with 25 participants. The organizers are currently the Lithuanian National Museum of Art and the Vilnensis Gallery. This is the fourth time that I am responsible for the concept of the Biennale. The Biennale has changed venues and themes, but the the mission and the name have remained the same.
Metallophone in Lithuanian is a metal musical instrument that most of us had as children. But when you break the word down, it also means metal background. I really like this double meaning; it implies to me that when life is going on in Lithuania, when people are doing their daily chores, when children are going to school, there is always metal in the background somewhere.
I wouldn't describe the Lithuanian jewelry scene as very lively. There is not currently a gallery in Vilnius that exhibits contemporary author jewelry; artists work in their studios and rarely have solo shows, and there is a severe lack of critical discourse in this field. The Metallophone Biennial is therefore the most important event in this field in Lithuania. This year it will be held at the Museum of Applied Arts and Design, a division of the Lithuanian National Museum of Art. I am very happy about this because the museum is prestigious and its acceptance of jewelers shows a serious approach to this field. 


Amber has accumulated a symbolic capital in Lithuania 


LR: What is traditional Lithuanian jewelry and what is its cultural meaning? 

JL: One of the most important jewelry-related items in Lithuania is amber. Lithuanians have a special connection to this mineral, which has been considered sacred in a way, and we have legends about its origin. In the first half of the 20th century, amber became part of the national costume and has remained so ever since. However, over time, at the end of the 20th century, it accumulated a symbolic capital that encompassed not only a sacred aura and nationalism, but also a national and mass-produced kitsch. 


LR: National Archaeological Museum of Athens exhibits document the trade between Copper Age Greece and the Baltic. Even the name Electra/Amber, the daughter of Agamemnon who led the Greeks in the Trojan War, attests to these cultural and commercial ties. How can jewelry establish similar connections between distinctive cultures today? 

JL: Indeed, we can look back to the Amber Road that linked the Baltic tribes to the Roman Empire, when cultural influences came to our territories through amber.
But when I think about the present, I see that contemporary jewelry artists in all countries are following similar paths – creating very personal, idea-based pieces, trying to express the things they care about, which then move onto the wearers’ bodies and carry the message further. Jewelry schools, workshops, seminars, symposia, biennales, collectors, galleries, and museums create and sustain the existence of that rather narrow field of art – a field in which, it seems to me, new connections are being made all the time. 


'My biggest hope is that catastrophe will be avoided.' 


LR: In times of war, financial crisis, and a changing world, how do you envision the future of jewelry? 

JL: As I write these lines, I keep my eyes on the war coverage, I keep up to date with what is going on, and I have been doing so since the war began. That is why when things are changing so fast, when the situation in the world is so unpredictable and, in fact, so threatening, I avoid making predictions about the future. But when it comes to jewelry, gold and precious stones have always been something that people have kept as a guarantee of survival in times of crises and wars. Of course, modern jewelry, which often uses wood, eggshells, plastic, or other materials that have no intrinsic material value hardly fall into the category of material resources. But I believe that even the longest wars come to an end, that crises are replaced by periods of prosperity, and that artistic thought will never lose its value. 

LR: What is your fear and hope for the future?

JL: My biggest fear is that tensions in the world will erupt in catastrophe and that the current war in Ukraine will be just one part of a terrible present, a present after which there will be no future. And my biggest hope is that this will not happen after all.

*The exhibition Memory of a Place runs until 28 February 2023. 


Metallophone biennial: https://metalofonas.eu/en/2022-memory-of-the-place/
SMCK On Reel Leipizg/ Kyiv/ Vilnius: http://smck.org/smck-reel/leipzig_kyiv_vilnius2022.html
 

About the author


Loukia Richards (Athens, 1965) Visual artist, curator, and co-publisher of SMCK Magazine. Scholarships by Onassis Foundation (1989-1993), Fulbright Foundation (2008), Künstlerdorf Schöppingen Foundation (2011-2012). “Selected Maker” of Crafts Council England (2006). Nominations: European Prize for Applied Arts (Jewellery/Belgium, 2018 and 2021), Herbert Hofmann Prize (Jewellery/Germany, 2017 and 2020). EU Media program funding for Film Script (1998). Research of the Greek embroidery collection at The Textile Museum Washington DC (2008), and internship at Christie's NYC (19th century European painting, 1995). Richards graduated from National Kapodistrian University of Athens (Economics) and University of the Arts Berlin (Visual Communication). Journalism at Reuters News Agency/School of Journalism (London and Athens, 2000). Along with her partner Christoph Ziegler, she curates and produces SMCK On Reel - the first international video festival inspired by jewelry.
Memory of a Place's exhibition view.
. Photography by Gintare Grigenaite..
Memory of a Place's exhibition view.
Photography by Gintare Grigenaite.

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.
Memory of a Place's exhibition view.
. Photography by Gintare Grigenaite..
Memory of a Place's exhibition view.
Photography by Gintare Grigenaite.

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.
Memory of a Place's exhibition view.
. Photography by Gintare Grigenaite..
Memory of a Place's exhibition view.
Photography by Gintare Grigenaite.

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.
Memory of a Place's exhibition view.
. Photography by Gintare Grigenaite..
Memory of a Place's exhibition view.
Photography by Gintare Grigenaite.

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.
Loukia Richards' work.
. Photography by Gintare Grigenaite..
Loukia Richards' work.
Photography by Gintare Grigenaite.

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.
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