The morning of day 3 is a sleepy affair. That's a welcome reprieve, actually - a chance to catch up on some work, some sun, and not to have that 90s radio blasting in your ear, punctuated by Serbian or Croatian exclamations (often a corrupt-sounding cackle). The silence doesn't last long, of course. Pretty soon lunch is prepared, and the camaraderie and banter returns to the round table in the middle of the apartment at the top of the building, where Lithuania’s superstar critic Monika Jašinskaitė and I are coexisting alongside many guests and permanent residents.
I've been coming here, somewhat shockingly, for 5 years now. So sometimes I get roped into different labour, like finding the secret stash of toilet paper, or showing around new guests. I'm fine with that - it reminds me that art doesn't exist without community, and that the privileged position of artists as somehow 'above' everyday labour is a lie - a philosophy that inevitable enters my writing. As a critic, therefore, I'm never afraid to get my hands dirty.
Two great shows happened on day 2, the remarkable FEST from Finnish duo Marje Hirvonen and Anni Taskula, and a first choreography from Katarina Ilijašević called (UMRE)ŽENE (roughly meaning 'interconnected', but the two words 'Umre Zene' can also mean 'dead women'). While both left food for thought, FEST, in particular, sparked some unusual conversation between me and Monika, perhaps on account of the nature of its invitation.
Richard Pettifer: It’s day 3. How are you?
Monika Jašinskaitė: Fine! I feel comfortable, curious, free in a way, because very small and unimportant. Like I can do what I want, and nobody will care what I say. Although, just because I have freedom doesn’t mean the responsibility doesn’t exist. Sometimes criticism has too much importance in Lithuania, even though it is not influential. What about you?
Pettifer: I am feeling very relaxed. I stopped thinking about the other work I have to do, because Faki is its own world, its own reality, so now the outside world does not exist for me. I look forward to our conversation today.
Jašinskaitė: (laughs) Do you remember in the first performance, FEST, by the Finnish duo Anni Taskula and Marje Hirvonen, there was the sound of birds singing?
Pettifer: I don’t remember this directly, but now that you mention it...
Jašinskaitė: I thought it was just birds outside the building, but now I am reading about the performance, and I think it was from the audio!
Pettifer: Why do you say that?
Jašinskaitė: In the text about the work, they say that they use ‘silence, nature sounds, and karaoke’, so I think the sound of birds is what they mean there.
Pettifer: That was a confusing point for me – how was this work about environment? At one point they asked the audience ‘who wants to save the environment with us?’ or something.
Jašinskaitė: It was ‘Who wants to save Mother Earth, not Fatherland?!’ I thought this was a pertinent question.
Pettifer: It was pertinent in that it was part of their critique of nationalism, or nationhood, in favour of a freer idea of ‘home’. But I don’t understand the ‘mother earth’ part of that.
Jašinskaitė: I have never been to Finland, but I am from the northern part of Europe where quite often we confront nature and culture (or social being) – ok, there is a confrontation between nature and civilisation, and I think what they are looking for in their work is balance.
Pettifer: Like equality? Balance like equality?
Jašinskaitė: If equality is balance, then yes.
Photo: Ivan Marenic
Pettifer: A big question for me in the work was how to make an ‘equal relationship’, with the audience, and us audience members with each other.
Jašinskaitė: I think they explore the balance of many dualisms, or many poles. One was nature and human, the other one I think is two human beings in general, then man and woman (even though they are two women on stage), and then it was very beautiful how – we talked a little bit with Marje Hirvonen after, and she talked about ‘receiving the guests’ – they were welcoming us. It was a situation of guest and host. And this is the relationship between artist and spectator as well.