art 2003/2
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Valmantas Gutauskas. Atspindžiai. 2002, laminuotas stiklas, 315 x 90 x 90

Arūnas Sakalauskas. Paminklas Vieningai Lietuvai. 2003, granitas, h 900. Architektas Ričardas Krištapavičius


Historical Past and Present in the Future Vilnius

by Alvydas Nikžentaitis

In contrast to historical facts, interpretations of history keep changing to reflect the changing human needs. Interpretation of history is a continuous process, with its actors being not only historians, but also the thinking part of the society. By drafting new legislation, by building new towns and reconstructing the destroyed structures, we set out to interpret history in a new way. In all of these actions, we inevitably face either the culture of memory, or oblivion, these two extremes being the driving force both, behind creation of historical culture, or the destruction of it.
In the course of centuries of creating historical culture, people have invented tools to strengthen historical memory. Historical monument, erected to either key history figures or memorial events, is one of these. Yet it might also be instrumental in strengthening the culture of oblivion. The key mission of any historical monument is to highlight to the wide public what it is supposed to remember. It’s mission is to stimulate the cohesion of the society, yet occasionally, unless all the implications of it are taken into account, it may turn out into a bone of discontent. In making decisions on putting up a new monument, one has to be able not only comprehend the current expectations of the society, but to foresee how they are likely to change in the future. We have seen monuments that have been made objects of ridicule by new generations.
There is a full awareness of the dangers inherent in erecting monuments, yet no ways to avoid them have been discovered. That is probably the reason why the boom of historical monuments in Western Europe is over. Lithuania is preoccupied with the theory that we have to repeat everything what was done in Europe some 50-30 years ago, as we have to recompense for the 50 years of stagnation. It is essential the policy underpinning the current processes in Vilnius. Unfortunately, in building monuments, the focus remains on Lithuanian identity as determined on linguistic criteria, and it is for the lack of a wider concept of historical Lithuanian identity. Over the last 13 years, two monuments to the ancient Lithuanian dukes were put up in Vilnius. Even more disappointing is the fact, that even sculptural forms chosen for the monuments are characteristic of the turn of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. The narrow understanding of Lithuanian identity has also led to improper alterations on the University ensemble.
The 21st century had expanded the traditional concept of a monument worldwide, making it a multifunctional phenomenon. The current tendency is to integrate functions of a traditional monument and a modern museum. This should be kept in mind when design new memorials in Vilnius, especially the one to commemorate the victims of January 13.
The turn of the 20th century brought along a very strong realisation of the importance to foster historical culture. These tendencies are especially prominent in the field of urban architecture. In countries with deep cultural traditions towns become objects of historical culture, alongside, centres of attraction for cultural tourism. Commercialisation of historical culture is taking place in most European countries, but there is at least an aspiration to comply with the regulations established by the world practice in heritage protection.
In Lithuania, this tendency needs a much deeper discussion and understanding. Many questions remain open as of yet, both in regard to the future application of the Lower Castle, and the potential historical centre of the Old Town of Vilnius. It is vital to ensure that the discussions how to marry the past and the present of Vilnius, do not loose awareness of the dimension of the future.

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