On the occasion of the upcoming 700th anniversary of Vilnius, a new tradition is about to emerge in the cultural sphere of Lithuania’s capital city – the Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art. Launching in 2023, it will become a regular event in the creative calendar. The first Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art will consist of a curated programme of invited artists, and a programme of works by creators selected through an open call. The open call generated tremendous interest from all around the world: 286 applicants from 58 countries sent proposals for the jury’s consideration.

“We want Vilnius to be known as the capital of performance art, so we have invited the most outstanding artists from all over the world to create intriguing contemporary performances dedicated to Vilnius and its 700th anniversary. We have selected the strongest and most interesting proposals from almost 300 applications received from 58 countries through an open call,” says Diana Stomienė, founder and director of Gallery Meno Niša, who will be directing the Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art – the first performance art festival in the capital city.

The inaugural Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art is one of seven unique projects selected in a special competition initiated by Vilnius City Municipality and organised by Go Vilnius to celebrate Vilnius’ anniversary. According to Stomienė, residents of Vilnius and visitors to the city will have the opportunity to see and actively participate in performances by both established and emerging artists.

“The main focus of this Biennial is the city of Vilnius, but also a city per se, as a human-made and human-dominated environment that we share with other life forms, where different histories, myths, activities, interests, desires and visions collide, coexist and overlap. The city as an organism that is born, thrives, but also dies or is killed. The city as an artificial but living structure with certain rules, certain trajectories of circulation that some life forms follow and others choose to disregard, creating new ones. The city as a dense network knitted with both visible and invisible threads and charged with various tensions. The city as a platform and a stage”, says the artistic director of the upcoming festival, Neringa Bumblienė.

A programme of extraordinary performances by international and Lithuanian artists

The first Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art will launch with an opening event in January followed by the main programme in July and August 2023 in the capital’s public and semi-public spaces. The event programme will consist of two parts: a programme of invited artists, curated by the Biennial’s Artistic Director Neringa Bumblienė, and works by artists selected by an international jury through an open call. The latter received substantial interest from across the globe.

“We are delighted to have received such an impressive number of applications from all over the world – from Finland and Ukraine to Argentina and Tanzania. This abundance meant that we had to take a long time to choose the winners responsibly. The international jury tasked with making the selection has chosen ten performances by artists from Estonia, Italy, the US, Lithuania, Poland, Finland, Sweden and other countries”, says Stomienė.

An international jury of experienced curators

The performances were selected by a high-profile international jury. The first of its members is Maria Arusoo, Director of the Estonian Centre for Contemporary Art, curator, long-time commissioner of the Estonian National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and a visiting lecturer at the Estonian Academy of Arts and the Chicago Academy of Arts. Among the many projects she has curated are the performance marathon Hydrogen Nights at the Riga Contemporary Art Centre, and the exhibition Soft Scrub, Hard Body, Liquid Presence presented at Art in General in New York.

The second jury member who evaluated the applications is art historian, writer and performance art curator Joanna Zielińska. She currently works as Senior Curator at M HKA, Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp. Zielińska’s previous workplaces include the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw and the Centre of Contemporary Art “Signs of Time” in Toruń, among others. In her professional practice, Zielińska encourages discussions on adapting museum activities to the 21st century, with the focus not on physical space but on community, new media and public space.

The third and final member of the jury is Neringa Bumblienė, artistic director of the Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art and one of the curators of the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius. In 2022 she curated the Lithuanian National Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale. Bumblienė has curated numerous solo and group exhibitions of both emerging and internationally renowned artists. In recent years, she has worked with prominent artists including Liam Gillick, Pierre Huyghe, Robertas Narkus, Michael Rakowitz, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané and others. Among her many areas of interest is the art of today – art that sensitively reflects on the challenges of the current world and helps to imagine possible futures.

All artists to receive individual support

The following artists and works have been selected to be presented at the Biennial in 2023: Teo Ala-Ruona’s (Finland) performance Enter Excrete; Rūta Junevičiūtė’s (Lithuania) performance Solar; Keithy Kuuspu’s (Estonia) performance False Falling; Pontus Pettersson’s (Sweden) performance Cat Practice; Ira Melkonyan’s (Ukraine) performance Upstairs Geology; a collaborative piece by Justė Kostikovaitė, Laima Kreivytė and Eileen Myles (Lithuania/USA); Yulia Krivic, Marta Romankiv and Weronika Zalewska’s (Ukraine/Poland) performance kłącza; Aleksandra Janus, Weronika Pelczyńska and Monika Szpunar’s (Poland) performance Still standing; BRUD’s (Poland/Lithuania/Mexico/USA) performance I Am Neither A Speaker Nor A Loudspeaker; and Jacopo Miliani’s (Italy) performance Throwin Balls at Night.

The selected artists will receive curatorial and production support from the Biennial team to create and present their work at the event. Additionally, assistance will be provided by the team to secure the necessary resources to realise individual works.

The Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art is organised by the Gallery Meno Niša, which celebrates its own anniversary this year, having been operating in the heart of the capital for two decades.

The project is initiated by the Vilnius City Municipality as part of the Vilnius 700th anniversary programme. The festival programme is curated by the Vilnius Tourism and Business Development Agency Go Vilnius. More information about the event can be found at www.700vilnius.lt.

Programme sponsors: Vilnius City Municipality, the Government of the Republic of Lithuania and Lithuanian Council for Culture

Photo from Aleksandra Janus, Weronika Pelczyńska, Monika Szpunar performance „Still standing“.