Thursday, 17 December 2015

The sea and the teaspoon

It is hard to write about many things at once. Here, a whirl of impressions...

We are in Lithuania trying to explain our work in community arts (to ourselves as much as to anyone else) and setting up a new project SING ME TO SLEEP. This time has been a tumble of experiences, filtered through curiosity, tiredness, happiness and a snifter of vodka. We are tourists here and so we touch briefly on the surface, but at least we touch it... and are touched.

Replica room at the Folk Museum

Yesterday we visited the Folk Museum in Vilnius, looking at textiles, religious figures, fascinated. We are trying to understand the many layers of another country's history, opening as many questions as we answer. Meeting many people and looking at many intricate textiles, many pensive Christs, many devotional pagan symbols, I feel that we are in the dreaming of a whole land.

Then, meeting with Vladyslav, the manager at the 'Betanija' social support and integration centre, which will be one of the sites of our project. Seeing the inspiration of this social hub on the vulnerable and homeless people who use it. The fundamental problems and issues seem to be similar to the UK. How much there is to learn from each other. What good people are out there, what troubled people are out there.

Today, a public discussion and workshop in the vast National Art Gallery. Our discussion facilitator Ed Carroll uses many water metaphors.  (Co-incidentally after Lois's recent flooded house) So we are riding amazing and powerful currents. 

arthur+martha workshop at the National Gallery of Lithuania

Vita Geluniene sketches out the work that she and Ed have embarked upon in their town, reclaiming space. We still feel we are very much tourists, a role which perhaps brings fresh eyes but also the possibility of much misunderstanding. We need to speak the language - not just spoken language, but the language of bodies, of perceptions.

The desire to speak and to express and the value of art (we guess) are the same in the UK and Lithuania. We were humbled by the welcomes, embarrassed by our lack of language, delighted by the results of our discussions and workshops. To meet the team here in Lithuania has been a delight. It is all a start.

Crucially, meeting the writer Vidas Dusevicius and the sculptor Egle Gudonyte and talking through Sunday afternoon, plans slowly hatching...

Saturday, Ed Carroll guided the discussion we had on socially engaged art and our place in it. Ed's phrase was: "There is an ocean of experience and we have a teaspoon and have scooped up a teardrop." 

Thanks again to Ieva Petkute and Simona, we would have been lost without you both.


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