54°53’50”N, 23°53’10”E No One's City (Niekieno miestas)
I was inspired to create the exposition “54°53’50”N, 23°53’10”E Niekieno miestas” (Nobodies city) by the pre-war image of Kaunas in photos by Mečys Brazaitis. They perfectly captured the vision of a developing European city. Similarly, as in the book by Marcelijus Martinaitis “Mes gyvenome. Biografiniai užrašai” (We Lived. Biographic Notes), Marcelijus Martinaitis recalls: “Even though the work was hard and lasted long hours, but after making the living, the last years of Independence have remained in my memory as very bright. There appeared various things, clothes, all sorts of nice little boxes, tools worth buying, I used to play with my father’s new hat, inside of which, there was a picture of some artist, perhaps a soloist, maybe even Kipras Petrauskas himself; soap “Žuvelis” smelled really nice, my mother had an eye-catching leather handbag and when she returned from the city, she used to pull a candy or a sweet bun and give it to me. When my mother could not see, I used to open that handbag and smell the aromas of candy, buns, perfume and money. (...) Now when I think of it, this leap bringing us close to Europe and all these cute little knick-knacks disappeared with the lives of people, with Bolshevik enslavement of things and people themselves!” The fact that after the war people could no longer pass their family history and values to their children, made Marcelijus Martinaitis feel despair and terror.
The pictures of Kaunas before the war and stories of my own parents and grandparents, as well as old family photos makes me nostalgic to this day. The city captured by Mečys Brazaitis 80 years age does not seem as having changed much, and yet something is missing. Most of the things disappeared and cannot be returned. The greatest loss is people who created and worked in it. The actual owners of the buildings and old city residents are gone. The city belongs to everyone and, at the same time, to no one.
Instead of people, there are numerous memorial plaques that turns a living city into a necropolis. The connection between certain buildings marked by these plaques and the people mentioned in them is very vague. Architecture of the city itself reminds of decorations from old theatrical performances which look out of place compared in today's show parades. Parades that are best suited by glass aquariums decorated with the imagery of the national currency. By the number of ads and supermarkets, we are ahead of New York. Sculptures breeds in the city like cats, there is Valančius at the corner of the street, the Pope is visiting the former stadium of “Darbo rezervai”. The city as at the confluence of two rivers, with navigation only on Sundays... In general, everything is great, in geographical terms, we are in a perfect location: 54°53’50”N, 23°53’10”E, and our environment is shaped by people who are not going to live forever.
To tell the story of a city – it is not work solely for a photographer, and with my exhibition I do not expect to accomplish such a task. I would like for it to be treated like a stimulus for others to take a look around the place they live, their street, block or neighborhood...
Photo exhibition “54°53’50”N, 23°53’10”E. Niekieno miestas” was exhibited in February 2013, Gallery “101” in Kaunas. “Latitudė55.lt” introduced it in April, “Statyba ir architektūra” magazine published an interview on this topic on the same month called “A look at the city, a look at yourself”... With the population in our cities reducing, historians, architects, anthropologists start to look for new signs of urban identity, analyze problems of shared life and revive the heritage of Lithuania during the interwar period.
It seems that people are interested in where and how they live but when they go to the street, this impression starts to fade away. This time, I would like end with what does not end, because the stories continue, only storytellers change. The project „54°53’50”N, 23°53’10” E. Niekieno miestas”, ends with 11 photos that speak about the division of city spaces on the basis of individual interests, disregarding all principles of living in a community: the most important thing is ME and my needs, who cares about ethics and aesthetics...