Vaiva Grainytė, Vilnius

Art infects life – once (once well done) – with a very bold bubble. That will enter into your flesh and synapses as nothing before, if not life itself in a climax you have certainly already tasted (if you are not afraid of reflection).

Even being a bubble, it is not at all divorced from reality, it is indeed hyper-real. It forms space-time and manages to create a place (fake, but very true) making it perpetual. Never ending like bitter fairy tales.

The space-time bubble is a heartfelt plea to save the planet.

It is an indoor beach without sea and without sun, heated with powerful lamps and enacted in a military compound (a law on devolution, which is waiting to be implemented, should open it to the city) which is a secluded part of the Venice Arsenal, home of the oldest contemporary art festival in the world.

A diverse humanity lies on the ‘beach’ – including professional singers / bathers who recite an opera part of the performance – and sunbathes, plays, eats, reads. Pastel atmospheres reign everywhere (in the colors of the costumes, of the accessories, of the games, of the cloths) within a dusty and sleepy air like only the noon in certain southern Italy.

The public enters and stays in an elevated balcony, looking from the zenith to the nadir. And listening to: in 20 minutes, everything – the bubble, the supplication, the never ending – arrives like a jab and nothing will ever be the same again.

Today we meet Vaiva Grainytė – the writer of the trio, author of the artwork Sun and Sea (Marina): the Lithuanian Pavilion won the Golden Lion for this participation at the 58th Art Biennale.

Your life in a few lines

Tragicomic series of recoveries, transformations, and discoveries; constant act of anthropology. 

You, as a writer, seem to adopt a plurality of languages and forms: from poetry to musical to opera, passing through documentation, narrative and biographies. Which was your first written work, why and where? In how many languages you love to write?

Each genre has its own characteristics, so switching from poetry to essays, form essays to radio plays, from radio plays to librettos is just a change of a form. Language – the manner I transmit my own voice as an author – remains the same. 

I write in Lithuanian mostly, this language provides me with all possible overtones of syntax, linguistic fungi, allows me playing with juxtaposition of words. I feel vigor freedom to create paradoxes out of this clay, the Lithuanian language. Nonetheless I do think of starting writing in English, even though I will always remain a stranger or the dog with a muzzle. Even so I am intrigued to play with these limitations as broken English might imply fun foreign colonies of poetic bacteria.

My first work presumably was a poem about an orphan boy, kidnapped by dogs; written in ink (in the year 1992, i.e. just after the collapse of Soviet Union, which means – kids were still writing in leaking ink pens) at my grandfather’s desk. 

My poems came out in my early years, but as a “serious” writer I was recognized in 2012 after my first book of essays Peking Diaries appeared. 

Sun And Sea (Marina) – one of your last works signed also with with filmmaker and director Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė and artist and composer Lina Lapelytė – is an artistic adaptation of Sun and Sea (an opera with strong ecological drive) winning the most important visual art prize (at Venice Art Biennale). 

Streams and streams of visitors may wait for hours to visit – on Wednesdays and Saturdays until October 31, 2019 –  the fictional and sea-deprived beach where holiday makers sing a song telling how we’ve willingfully started our collective suicide by poisoning the planet (and much more, it tells much more). 

Where everything started and which is the working method you adopt to write when you’re working also with other authors?

Each collaboration is different, so probably the main method I adopt working with other artists in other medias is listening, being in dialogue, temporary leaving the territory of solo.

In regards to our trio, everything started in Kaunas, where three of us grew up and used to hang out in the same places in our teenage years. The friendship took a form of artistic collaboration and was embodied in our first work – opera Have a Good Day! for 10 singing cashiers, supermarket sounds and piano (2013). We were touring across the globe and after having some shows in New York got to visit Guggenheim museum. Its specific architecture – spiral stairs and angle from above – sparked Rugile’s imagination. She shared her vision of singing holyday-makers, observed from Sun’s perspective. So we kept touring with cashiers, working on our own projects and mediating on this image. In for 4 or so years our contemplation became Sun and Sea – the piece on eschatology, pleasure of consumption, soundtrack of anthropocene and melancholic joy. 

We work in the mode of nonhierarchical polylogue, that is to say, neurons of our threesome are married, so the text is delivered as a consequence of this togetherness.

Can you tell us more about the Akademie Schloss Solitude? 

Our trio was honored to be selected fellows in 2016-2017. We applied to Schloss Solitude by  willingness to be with each other in one place and brainstorm on the very first ideas of Sun and Sea. The result was beyond our expectations – we met most radiant people who became life-long collaborators and friends, not to mention we got a chance to test out the “angle form above” at Palermo gallery. 

Which is your next project you’re working on now?

My book of poetry Gorilla archives just came out, opera-performance Sun and Sea (Marina) is running in Venice twice per week until the end of October. It feels like at the moment I am working on establishing the pavilion of my personal life.

 Looking forward to short nature retreat and to hearing myself better. 

(And my suspended ideas on a new book, the collection of essays.)

What do you give to your city and what do you feel to get back from it?

Currently I live in Vilnius, which surrounds me with dear people, vibrant art scene and the coziest Old Town.  I think Vilnius likes me as I pay respect with my feet taking long walks in its cemeteries.

You as a reader: which pace, which tastes, which places you prefer to have your book in your hands? By the way, what are you reading (and listening to) now?

To be honest, at this period of life I am listening only to podcasts, BBC3 (Late Junction and Free Thinking) let lone some morning news on Lithuanian National Radio.

Reading is messed up as well – started with Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights, and ended up with Charles Darwin and Tennessee Williams plus some articles on mythology. 

Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?

I can imagine myself exploring aurora borealis somewhere in Arctic Pole or hiking in Africa; sometimes I see myself living in New York, probably being a super busy artist. Sometime I see myself as a hermit, who has nothing to do with arts. Very often I see myself living peacefully and slowed downed in the woods with my partner, chasing chanterelles and writing books, growing tomatoes, from time to time touring with operas, doing audiopoetry gigs, giving lectures – I am greedy and curious to experience all of these aforementioned scenarios, but this one would be my ideal one.

What did you learn from life until now?

That learning is never-ending process.

The Vaiva Grainytė’s portrait is by Darius Jurevičius.



To watch a video of the performance:

If you’ll be in Venice on July 10, a conversation between Bruno Latour, Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė, Lina Lapelytė and Lucia Pietroiusti, moderated by curator Martin Guinard will take place at the Pavilion from 6.30 pm. It’s free. 

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