art 2003/2

Algis Lankelis, Gediminas Urbonas. Objektai. 1993.
Parodos Baltai šiandien ekspozicijos fragmentas. Aukštoji nacionalinė dailės mokykla, Paryžius, Prancūzija

Ieva Iltnere (Latvija). Pingo ergo sum. 2002, drobė, aliejus, 140x190
Vartų galerija, Latvijos dailininkų paroda Labirintas (2003 11 21–12 06)

Cooperation Strategies, Networks and Economy of the Baltic States

by Lolita Jablonskienė

It was not long ago when speaking about the cooperation between the Baltic states we had in mind only the links between Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian art worlds. In the Soviet period this space witnessed constant exchange of exhibitions; artists participated in joint symposia, plain airs, gathered in creative groups, some studied in the higher art schools of neighboring republics. The imaginary Baltic art scene also separated itself symbolically from the rest USSR artistic environment. Having in mind that up to World War II intensive cultural exchange did not link Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, one could say that it was the strategy of dissociation and the preservation of regional micro-scene that supported the cooperation between the Baltic states in the Soviet period.
Recent years witness that the notion of the Baltic region already includes a much bigger entity, embracing no only the Baltic but also Nordic countries, north Germany, Poland and north-west Russia. In the early 90s with the opening of frontiers the cultural cooperation in this geopolitical space gained momentum at once. In the first half of the decade representatives of various art institutions from Nordic countries and Germany frequently visited their new eastern neighbors and stimulated the movement of Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian artists westwards. The interest towards Eastern European art in the West was very high at that time. Later, with the intensification of the local scenes of art, on the contrary – Baltic curators as well as art critics turned their glances to Nordic countries, began to more attentively study the phenomena of their contemporary art and show them to the public. Incidentally, it coincided with a general attention of international art experts to the so-called “Nordic miracle”. The summing up of both vectors, which within the decade encompassed the Nordic-Baltic states in west and east directions, leads to the conclusion that today the links between them are based on new strategy – that of opening up. Moreover that due to the active participation of artists in the international art life, dispersion of contemporary art in the region has become open in its widest sense.
Many leading contemporary Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian artists experienced their first contact with the international art scene at the Nordic-Baltic biennials which were started to be organized in the early 90s. It was also the same environment where the first generation of Baltic contemporary art curators matured together with a group of regional art experts residing in Nordic countries and Germany. Of no less importance is the fact that these events were supported by a new cooperation network set up in 1990 in Kiel (Germany). “Ars Baltica” is an interstate initiative; financing is also assigned from state budgets. Apart from the mentioned one, the 90s, particularly their second half, witnessed the emergence of more Nordic-Baltic networking projects (eg. “Artgenda”); individual institutions also have made attempts to gain the status of joint Baltic platform (BAC-Visby, CAC-Vilnius, “Mare Articum” in Szczecin). The Nordic-Baltic network born some tens years ago not only has consolidated its position, but also has matured into a complex, diversified structure. Its stability is guaranteed by close links with the formation of the integral political and economic space in the region leading to the emergence of favorable financing possibilities. Without the appreciation of these non-cultural factors, actively influencing the art life, it would be hard to reason sudden ups and unexpected downs of cooperation in the Baltics during the recent years.