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Choreographer who created a performance in a unique space: “Just being there made me shiver”

Commemorating the Holocaust Victims Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah), Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum invites you to watch an exceptional staging, the performance “To Retain” by the Golden Stage Cross winner, dancer and choreographer Erika Vizbaraitė and video artist Marius Paplauskas on May 5-6. This artistic solution aims to honour and remember those we have lost.

New solutions

“We cannot escape the past, no matter how painful it is and no matter how much we don’t want to remember it or would be eager to forget it. Unlived experience does not help us to move forward and create the future; it rather closes us in the tunnels of our consciousness, which is reflected in Erika Vizbaraitė’s performance,” says Marius Pečiulis, the director of Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum.

According to him, every creative, not only artistic project, can be called a success if, after seeing it, one wants to analyse, evaluate and find what else the author has hidden, what one might not have been able to see at first glance and discuss it with others.

“The same applies to traumatic historical experiences. One needs to talk about it because only talking can lead to healing,” he claims.

According to him, the performance was filmed in advance in various spaces of the museum, and will be revived again in early May with new inspiration, commemorating the tragic events.

“Possibly, earlier it was more usual for a museum to talk about the past through static means of expression: physical infrastructure, displays, exhibitions and as much concise information as possible. However, times have changed, or rather, people have changed and, accordingly, have changed times. Museums have become dynamic institutions responding to the challenges and needs of our times. Static forms are no longer sufficient; we need a live talk and a live rendering of past events. It is the use of artistic means that has allowed us to discover new forms of speaking, both for our visitors and for ourselves, the museum staff,” explains M. Pečiulis.

It gives shivers

Today, more than 80 years after the tragic Holocaust process, it is irrational to try to determine which particular event was the most important or the most significant in a horrific series.

“This is not our goal. What is important is talking about each of them. It is important to bring as many events as possible out of oblivion because there are people in each one. Most importantly, we lost people during the Holocaust. Therefore, when we create projects presenting historical memory in Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum, we first and foremost aim to preserve the memory of the people themselves,” says M. Pečiulis.

At the end of last summer, “When I received an invitation to organise a live performance, I had the idea to create a video project in memory of the victims of the Holocaust and to donate it to the museum,” tells E. Vizbaraitė. “Together with video artist Marius Paplauskas, we first delved deeper into the history of the Ninth Fort, taking guided tours, reading historical sources, watching documentaries and films related to the mass murders at the site. We also had the opportunity to be present and spend time in the places, in the spaces of the Ninth Fort, where more than 50,000 men, women and children were brutally deprived of their lives.”

According to the artist, it touched her deeply and profoundly, as if she were witnessing the extremely cruel crimes of humanity once again. Emotionally, it was not easy for her to stay in this topic, realising the horrors that people had to undergo here.

“Even my body was affected by the heaviness of these spaces: the heaviness of the concrete walls replete with the messages of the victims, the oppressive ceilings or the cracks in the floors charged with grief. Although we didn’t actually experience it, it gave us shivers just being there. I think that these experiences can be explained by the fact that we, humans, are more closely connected and carry all of humanity’s traumatic experiences from generation to generation until we heal,” shares E. Vizbaraitė.

Educating young people

She claims it has not been easy, but it is very important to talk about all this through artistic means: to look deeply, to analyse the past and to look at it from the present perspective and with respect.

“I think that art has a very important voice, and it is our duty and responsibility as artists to talk about painful topics educating people and expressing difficult topics through various artistic means. It is important to remember, to recall and to remind, so that one day we can stop the atrocities of humanity,” the artist believes.

Speaking about the meaning of the performance, Gercas Žakas, the chairman of Kaunas Jewish Community, supported the well-known idea that those who are forgotten die again.

“People are gone, but history must speak about such atrocities and the world must do everything to prevent such tragedies,” explains G. Žakas.

He appreciated the fact that the different artistic solutions commemorating the victims of the Holocaust also attract the attention of the younger generation.

“In these times of sufficient amount of sadness, darkness and hatred, one of the strongest sources of consolation and hope that maybe one day someone will learn the painful lessons of history are the bright young people and their educators, who devote their time, energy and creativity not only to the pursuit of good academic results, but also to the education of good, sincere people and curious, tolerant, civic-minded personalities who are not indifferent to the problems or painful experiences of the world and other society members,” claims G. Žakas.