The Bohemia of Laisvės Alėja: Memory Sites

On 25–27 of October 2013, VMU art gallery “101” introduced a memory project in Laisvės Alėja called “The Bohemia of Laisvės Alėja: Memory Sites”. Artists who participated in the project, namely Arnas Anskaitis, Dainius Liškevičius, Vita Gelūnienė, Ed Carroll, Gintaras Česonis and Inga Likšaitė, explored memory sites of the bohemian life in Laisvės Alėja: material and symbolic places, events, people, and rituals. They also created artistic projects (re)constructing collective and individual stories related to the memory of bohemian life in Laisvės Alėja.

To this very day, the identity of Laisvės Alėja and Kaunas city is shaped by the legends of free bohemian life bustling here in the past, cafés at Laisvės Alėja that used to thrive and are now gone, restaurants, eccentric poets, rebellious painters and genial musicians. The never-ending stories about people of the art world, memorable events and signs like gathering places of artists, journalists, professors and those who believed in the free-spirited creativity (Konrado café/Tulpė (Tulip), Laumė, Metropolis, Versalis / Jaunimo (Youth) café/ Vakaras, Orbita), creative spaces (theaters, pantomime group and other independent communes of like-minded people) are bright signs of city history and tradition of bohemian life still alive in the collective memory of city residents. The myths about the free bohemian life that buzzed in Laisvės Alėja and around it has become one of the most important part of the uniqueness of Kaunas and its identity.

This entirety of cultural sites and signs that evoke collective associations or as, named by French historian Pierre Nora, memory sites (lieux de mémoire), are not simple signs of recognition of the past. They spring from strong emotional sources and one of the most important conditions for their existence is making communicative and emotional connections: creating stories, sharing memories, listening and making them your own. Being a memory community, we remember, because we are remembered, because we can remember together with others.

The aim of this project is to remember together and tell stories about collective memory sites which are stirred in us by the myth of free, rebellious and carefree bohemian life of Laisvės Alėja. The purpose of this project is to bring the past into focus and stimulate the collective memory, create the dialogue between the memory and history that would allow us to see the history of (sub)cultural life in Laisvės Alėja in a different light.

More information about the project can be found in the published catalogue.


Programme of the project:

Art event–walk by Vita Gelūnienė and Ed Carroll called “Paldieninkas: patirk laisvę naujai” (Paldieninkas: experience freedom in a new way”).* This trip took place on a lunch break (“paldieninkas” is a word used during the inter war period to describe meetings, the participant of which “prepared themselves for the art work”), thus, it included food for body and soul: its participants started by nourishing their body with Paldieninkas soup and finished by sharing food for soul created for this occasion.

“Istorijos prie kavos: pokalbiai su jaunaisiais menininkais” (Stories with A Cup of Coffee: Conversations with Young Artists) is an initiative by Vaidė Legotaitė and Ana Čižauskienė following the project “The Bohemia of Laisvės Alėja: Memory Sites”. It is the second season of the project “Istorijos prie kavos” (Stories with A Cup of Coffee) that invited the residents of Kaunas to listen to audio recordings of the young artists of Kaunas musing over the topic of the bohemian life.

More information about the initiative and audio recordings can be found HERE.

Smoke sculpture-performance by Dainius Liškevičius “Vienos minutės Jurgio Mačiūno portretas, sakantis CIAO!” (One-minute portrait of George Mačiūnas saying CIAO!) The artist has created a ghost-like instantaneous creation, as a reference to the revolutionary events of the Soviet times as an important collective memory of this place. Together it is also a greeting of Mačiūnas to the bohemians from the times of contemporary capital, soviet occupation, current and existing in Laisvės Alėja. It is an emotional connection between the cultural life of the past and contemporary cultural event in Laisvės Alėja.

Installation by Arnas Anskaitis “Svajūnas” introduced in the cinema room of Tadas Ivanauskas Zoological Museum. It is an attempt by the artist to remember partly true, partly imagined young and unknown artist who lived in Kaunas in the 1970s.

Project by Gintaras Česonis “Bohemos būvis, 2013, Kaunas” (The State of Bohemia, 2013, Kaunas) was presented in the former vine café Taškas A. In this project, the artist is looking for the answer what are the bohemians? A legend, phenomenon of the past or reality and the present?

The event also featured a video project by Inga Likšaitė “Dingę” (Lost) based on a poem by Gintaras Patackas “Myriop išėjusi bohema” (Bohemians that Followed Death) Claudia Rohrmoser/AU, music: Angela Aux /DE).

At the end of the day, everyone who loves Laisvės Alėja were invited to an open discussion about the future of cultural life in Laisvės Alėja.