Commemorating Vilnius’ 700th anniversary to the very day, the 1st Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art presented its opening event: Aphotia – a new work by artist Emilija Škarnulytė.

This site-specific, one-time-only performance will spread across the entire building of the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre (LNOBT) – designed by another female artist, Elena Nijolė Bučiūtė. Establishing an active relationship with the theatre premises, the work will immerse the audience in depths of distinctive ideas and sensations.

The performance consists of specially choreographed sound and lighting, large-format video projections and live performances. The music is written by Suzanne Kite, an award-winning Oglála Lakȟóta composer who was raised in Southern California, in collaboration with Emilija Škarnulytė.

The title of the work derives from the term ‘aphotic zone’, also known as the ‘dark ocean’ – the depths of the ocean that are inaccessible to sunlight. In the summer of 2022, Škarnulytė premiered a video work by the same title for an exhibition in Venice. The one-off performance Aphotia at LNOBT personifies the term, combining aspects of nature, deity, human and animal, and providing a metaphorical seedbed for promiscuous forms of being to flourish.

The theme at the heart of the performance – invisible worlds (depths of water and of (sub)consciousness) – continues the artist’s enduring field of interest while closely overlapping with the Biennial’s central topic of the city, seen from the perspective of a speculative future, in the face of climate change and rising water levels.

A poetic reflection by Quinn Latimer on Aphotic Zone.

Emilija Škarnulytė (b. Vilnius, Lithuania 1987) is an artist and filmmaker. Working between documentary and the imaginary, Škarnulytė makes films, immersive installations and performances exploring invisible structures and deep time – from the cosmic and geologic to the ecological and political. Winner of the 2019 Future Generation Art Prize, Škarnulytė represented Lithuania at the 22nd Triennale di Milano. Recent solo exhibitions include Radvila Palace Museum of Art (2022), Tate Modern (2021), Kunsthaus Pasquart (2021), and the National Gallery in Vilnius (2021). Her films are in the IFA, Kadist Foundation and Centre Pompidou collections and have been screened at the Serpentine Galleries in London, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and numerous film festivals including Visions du Reel, HOT DOCS, Rotterdam, Busan and Oberhausen. Škarnulytė is the founder and co-director of Polar Film Lab and a member of the artist duo New Mineral Collective.



Composers: Suzanne Kite, Jokūbas Čižikas, Emilija Škarnulytė
Sound Director: Vytis Puronas
Video Editor: Vytautas Tinteris
Lasers: Evaldas Lapėnas
Sound Technicians: Nepriklausomi Garso Režisieriai
Cameramen: Eitvydas Doškus, Vytenis Jankauskas, Vytautas Tinteris

Lighting Director: Eugenijus Sabaliauskas
Costume Designer: Deividas Katkus
Performers: Edvinas Grinkevičius/Querelle, Julius Jančauskas, M. Kartan/Umiko, King A, Miss Plastica, Edvinas Mikulskis
Harpists: Elsė Saldžiūnaitė and Žiedė Bružaitė
Vilnius University choirs VirgoGaudeamus and Pro Musica (Artistic Director Rasa Gelgotienė)
Translations: Alexandra Bondarev
Text Editing: Alexandra Bondarev, Gemma Lloyd

Special thanks to Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, Erik Cordes and the Schmidt Ocean Institute
Performance partner: Vilnius University Cultural Center


Photos by Andrej Vasilenko, Gintarė Grigėnaitė and Marius Žičius