Justina Gražytė | 2052
8 – 26 February 2022
The news media reveal frightening statistics: retirees in Lithuania currently receive a meagre EUR 215.09 per month as basic state pension; the average retirement pension is now EUR 465 a month, and around 52,000 Lithuanian citizens received an old-age pension of less than EUR 200 a month in 2019. Around 70 percent of people of retirement age are lone pensioners (widowed or without a family). So how does one lead a decent life when the sums of money that the majority of the elderly are expected to survive on can be seen as nothing but an insult to their dignity? Navigating through life under these circumstances is a feat in itself even for a superhero movie.
The aim of the project is to raise awareness about the issue of meaningful activities and loneliness among older people. There are two factors that influenced the choice of this topic. The first one is a kind of monophobia (isolophobia, autophobia) or, in other words, the fear of being lonely, which is one of the oldest fears to haunt mankind and which gets stronger when observing lonely seniors, communicating with them or seeing their daily habits. Despite today’s digital-driven environment, the abundance of social networking sites, and being always surrounded by people, there is a growing number of people that have this fear and many crave sincere human connection and physical contact. The second factor is the intense debates in the media about pension reforms, pension savings, increasing state pension age, pension levels, and rising prices. The main message is that we should start planning now for our retirement to ensure post-retirement wellbeing. But can we really count on those plans? Is there a way to know what awaits us? Will we be happy?
Since 2019, Justina Gražytė has been researching the past-time activities of lonely seniors living in the city. From an outside perspective, some obsessions may seem funny or ridiculous: regular trolleybus trips to polyclinics (even without a good reason), intricate stairwell decorations, over-focusing on news and information, unnecessary trips to the shop to buy one pack of sour cream, the desire to take care of stray animals, etc. But when we dig a little bit deeper, we can see that for the elderly these activities become the greatest and sometimes the only form of “entertainment” giving them the feeling of being needed and having something to do.
Based on the material collected during the research project, a series of works was created using a mixed technique of patchwork and appliqué work, which, compared to modern forms of expression (performance, media arts, etc.) is traditionally more acceptable to the elderly, and also resonates with the past-time activities that the elderly enjoy doing – handicrafts. To make this creative project even more meaningful, the author incorporated the fabrics donated by the seniors into her creative process. The exhibition also features the items donated by the seniors.
The project involved collaboration with the Order of Malta Relief Organisation, which hosted creative sessions for seniors. The result of this collaboration was the joint art work titled “Friendship”, which is also displayed in the exhibition.
In this exhibition, we see a world where seniors live a normal life, are happy and have fun. Visitors may even find themselves thinking about the possible scenarios of their own life in the future while watching the characters unfolding in this exhibition. What form of “entertainment” will you engage in?
Artist Justina Gražytė will retire in 2052.
Curator of the exhibition Evelina Bukauskaitė will retire in 2051.
Justina Gražytė (born 1987) graduated from Vilnius Academy of Arts (VAA) Faculty of Visual and Applied Arts with a Master’s Degree in Textiles in 2012. Throughout her extensive career she has worked in theatre, graphic design, and art galleries. Currently she serves as the head of the VAA Artifex textile gallery. Since 2008, she has been actively involved in cultural events and exhibitions, both as an artist and curator. She has initiated and implemented various cultural and cultural education projects. In 2020, she was granted the Status of Art Creator, and in 2021, she became a member of the Lithuanian Artists’ Association. In 2020 and 2021, she received individual Lithuanian Council for Culture scholarships for culture and art creators. The artist lives and works in Vilnius.
The opening of the exhibition* will take place on 8 February at the VAA gallery "Akademija", Pilies str. 44, Vilnius.
* All attendees must have a valid vaccination certificate in order to enter the opening event. Please wear a respirator at all times during the event.
Exhibition "2052" is open until 26th February.
The exhibition is co-funded by the Lithuanian Council for Culture.
Special thanks to the Order of Malta Relief Organisation and the seniors who worked with me for their kind cooperation, pleasant conversations and delicious cakes.