Dislocation: The Conflict of Photographic and Cinematographic Representations of War in Soviet Lithuania

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Summary

The Cold War that shaped the societies of late modernity had penetrated everyday life with constant messages about the nuclear threat and demonstrations of military power. On the one hand, Soviet republics such as Lithuania were occupied by the enemy of Western democracies, and the nuclear threat would apply to their territory as well. On the other hand, many people secretly sided with the West. But information about the world behind the Iron Curtain was filtered ideologically. Images of Vietnam War and civil unrest in Western countries were broadcasted by the state controlled media as a counterpoint to the orderly and optimistic Soviet life idealised in chronicles and photographs. This positive image was shown to rest on the victory of the Great Patriotic War as well as October Revolution. Those events were represented by iconic monuments in the public space as well as by memorialization rituals taking place every half-year. Their visual documentation was an important part of Soviet culture. Photo journalists like Ilja Fišeris were assigned to record the parades of May the 1st, the 9th and November the 7th. Art photographers treated such images as a tribute to authorities exchanged for a measure of artistic freedom. But in the 1980s, the memorialization rituals, the monuments and other ideological signs became the focus of “rogue” art photographers and cinematographers: Artūras Barysas-Baras, Vytautas Balčytis, Vitas Luckus, Alfonsas Maldutis, Algirdas Šeškus, Remigijus Pačėsa and Gintaras Zinkevičius. Their ironic and reflective images worked as dislocating counter-memorials against the stale reconstructions of the past. Referring to theories of Svetlana Boym, Verónica Tello and Ariella Azoulay, the paper discusses the complicated relationships between the different memorializations of war, including the absence of the Holocaust in collective memory.

Summary

The Cold War that shaped the societies of late modernity had penetrated everyday life with constant messages about the nuclear threat and demonstrations of military power. On the one hand, Soviet republics such as Lithuania were occupied by the enemy of Western democracies, and the nuclear threat would apply to their territory as well. On the other hand, many people secretly sided with the West. But information about the world behind the Iron Curtain was filtered ideologically. Images of Vietnam War and civil unrest in Western countries were broadcasted by the state controlled media as a counterpoint to the orderly and optimistic Soviet life idealised in chronicles and photographs. This positive image was shown to rest on the victory of the Great Patriotic War as well as October Revolution. Those events were represented by iconic monuments in the public space as well as by memorialization rituals taking place every half-year. Their visual documentation was an important part of Soviet culture. Photo journalists like Ilja Fišeris were assigned to record the parades of May the 1st, the 9th and November the 7th. Art photographers treated such images as a tribute to authorities exchanged for a measure of artistic freedom. But in the 1980s, the memorialization rituals, the monuments and other ideological signs became the focus of “rogue” art photographers and cinematographers: Artūras Barysas-Baras, Vytautas Balčytis, Vitas Luckus, Alfonsas Maldutis, Algirdas Šeškus, Remigijus Pačėsa and Gintaras Zinkevičius. Their ironic and reflective images worked as dislocating counter-memorials against the stale reconstructions of the past. Referring to theories of Svetlana Boym, Verónica Tello and Ariella Azoulay, the paper discusses the complicated relationships between the different memorializations of war, including the absence of the Holocaust in collective memory.

References

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  • Tello, Verónica. Counter-Memorial Aesthetics. Refugee Histories and the Politics of Contemporary Art. London: Bloomsbury, 2016. “The March. The Photographs of Ilja Fišeris from 1946-1953.” Nacionalinė dailės galerija [National Gallery of Art]. December 7, 2012-February 17 (2013). http://www.ndg.lt/exhibitions/archive.aspx?year=2012&id=3161.

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  • Young, James E. “Memory and Counter-Memory.” Harvard Design Magazine 9, Constructions of Memory: On Monuments Old and New. Fall 1999. http://www.harvarddesignmagazine.org/issues/9/memory-andcounter-memory.

Adgie, Kenneth P. The Army‘s Gambit: Dislocation Theory and the Development of Doctrine for the Interim Brigade Combat Team. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College, 2001.

Antanavičiūtė, Rasa. “Politinės galios simboliai Vilniaus viešojoje erdvėje 1895-1953 metais.” PhD diss., Vilnius Academy of Arts, Lithuanian Culture Research Institute, 2015.

Antanavičiūtė, Rasa. “Stalininis “penkmetis”: Vilniaus viešųjų erdvių įprasminimo darbai 1947-1952 m.” Menotyra 16 (2009): 150-169.

Azoulay, Ariella. Civil Imagination: A Political Ontology of Photography, London: Verso, 2015.

Bassnett, Sarah, and Noble, Andrea. “Introduction. Cold War Visual Alliances.” Cold War Visual Alliances, Visual Studies 30, No. 2, 2015: 119-122, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1472586X.2015.1024976.

Boym, Svetlana. The Future of Nostalgia. New York: Basic Books, 2001.

Čepaitienė, Rasa. “ “Tarybinės sostinės” konstravimas J. Stalino epochoje: Minsko ir Vilniaus atvejai.” In Nikžentaitis, Alvydas, ed. Nuo Basanavičiaus, Vytauto Didžiojo iki Molotovo ir Ribbentropo. Atminties ir atminimo kultūrų transformacijos XX-XXI amžiuje. Vilnius: Lietuvos istorijos instituto leidykla, 2011. 171-224.

Danto, Arthur C. After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History, The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, 1995. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.

Dirvelė, Eugenijus, and Kancedikas, Solomonas, eds. Kovų keliais. Lietuviškoji divizija Didžiajame Tėvynės kare. Tarybų Lietuvos išvadavimas. Vilnius: Vaga, 1965.

Grigoravičienė, Erika. “Hegemonija ir homoseksualumas, arba kam atstovauja Žaliojo tilto skulptūros.” In Grigoravičienė, Erika, and Kreivytė, Laima, eds. Reprezentacijos iššūkiai. Vilnius: Tarptautinės dailės kritikų asociacijos Lietuvos sekcija, 2005. 47-52.

Ivanauskas, Tomas. “Laimės paieškos.” Fotografija 1 (26) (2013): 6-11.

Kajėnas, Gediminas, ed. Pasaulis pagal Barą. Kaunas: Kitos knygos, 2012.

Kinomanai. “A. Barysas apie filmą „Mes“.” In youtube. com. June 4, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d39aYCyOGk8.

Linnap, Peeter. “Everyday Absurdieties. The Techno-Realism of Gvido Kajons” and “Self - Performance. Peeter Linnap: The Critic in Conversation with The Artist.” In McCulloch, Martha J., ed. Borderlands. Contemporary Photography from the Baltic States. Glasgow: Street Level, 1993, pages not numbered.

Matulytė, Margarita. “Pergalės maršas: Iljos Fišerio sovietinių demonstracijų fotoarchyvas.” Metraštis 15 (2012): 23-24.

Matulytė, Margarita. Nihil obstat. Lietuvos fotografija sovietmečiu. Vilnius: Vilniaus dailės akademijos leidykla, 2011.

Pukytė, Paulina, ed. There and Not There: (Im)Possibility of a Monument. Kaunas: Kauno bienalė, 2017.

Saunders, Frances Stonor. The Cultural Cold War. The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters. London: The New Press, 2013.

Šeškus, Algirdas. Variation on the Theme of Being Outside. Parts: leelya, pure life, blue, yet bluer. Jelinskaitė, Malvina, ed. Vilnius: TV Play, 2012.

Šeškus, Algirdas. Žaliasis tiltas. Matulytė, Margarita, and Malvina, Jelinskaitė, eds. Kaunas: Kitos knygos, 2009.

Tello, Verónica. Counter-Memorial Aesthetics. Refugee Histories and the Politics of Contemporary Art. London: Bloomsbury, 2016. “The March. The Photographs of Ilja Fišeris from 1946-1953.” Nacionalinė dailės galerija [National Gallery of Art]. December 7, 2012-February 17 (2013). http://www.ndg.lt/exhibitions/archive.aspx?year=2012&id=3161.

Vaiseta, Tomas. Nuobodulio visuomenė. Kasdienybė ir ideologija vėlyvuoju sovietmečiu (1964-1984. Vilnius: Naujasis Židinys-Aidai, 2014.)

Young, James E. “Memory and Counter-Memory.” Harvard Design Magazine 9, Constructions of Memory: On Monuments Old and New. Fall 1999. http://www.harvarddesignmagazine.org/issues/9/memory-andcounter-memory.

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