From 28 August, Nida Art Colony of Vilnius Academy of Arts is showing “The Spectral Forest“ – an international group exhibition of eight contemporary artists working across a range of media and themes, exploring a spectrum of histories, ecologies, and mythologies intertwined with both local and planetary woodlands. The group exhibition, curated by Stockholm-based curator Rado Ištok, marks the final chapter of 4Cs: From Conflict to Conviviality through Creativity and Culture, a continuous European Cooperation Project carried out at the NAC since 2017, focused on themes of liminality, reconciliation, and passage. 

“The Spectral Forest“ presents newly commissioned and existing works as a promenade through an enchanted forest – a concept based on the significance of the sacred groves in the Baltic region, as well as on-going deforestation and afforestation, and past displacement and resettlement on the Curonian Spit. Referring not only to spectres, ghosts, and spirits traditionally residing in the forest, but also to the notion of the spectrum as a condition that is not limited to a specific set of values, the exhibition poses continuity, fluidity, and permeability against the reductive binaries and divisive language increasingly dominating the political climate.

While some works presented in The Spectral Forest are rooted in the locality of Nida, they are not limited to it. Eglė Budvytytė’s inter-species film Songs from the Compost: Mutating Bodies, Imploding Stars, in collaboration with Marija Olšauskaitė and Julija Steponaityte and co-produced by the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA), or Mark Ther’s Golo, were shot in the surroundings of Nida. While Golo is an exploration of the LGBTIQ+ potentialities in the region through the figure of Golo Mann, the son of locally and internationally renowned writer Thomas Mann, works by Elin Már Øyen Vister and Santiago Mostyn attempt to reconnect the entangled histories of the Baltic coast with the shores of Scandinavia and the Carribean islands respectively. The  monumental new series of bleached drawings by Paul Maheke, currently nominated for The Future Generation Art Prize, is a continuation of his interest in cosmology and communication between different worlds and times, a theme also explored in the work of Jin Mustafa, including in her new film Ahead of Sight. In comparison, Susanna Jablonski’s sculptures and Ieva Rojūtė’s textual and spatial installations offer glimpses into intimate worlds through their affective charge, enveloping us like a forest growing from the deep roots of memories and interpersonal relations. 

The exhibition, alongside an accompanying catalogue (to be published in January 2021), is the final chapter of the four formats – alongside a residency, a workshop, and two publications – guest-curated by Rado Ištok at NAC within the 4Cs: From Conflict to Conviviality through Creativity and Culture, a European Cooperation Project co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. As a part of the programme, five of the participating artists took part in a two-month residency at NAC in Autumn 2019 in order to produce newly commissioned works for the exhibition. In parallel, a three-day workshop, Dwelling on the Threshold, exploring spaces of passage, flux, and fluidity, took place at Nida Art Colony in October 2019, accompanied by an eponymous online handbook published in February 2020.

Nida Art Colony of Vilnius Academy of Arts offers space and comfortable conditions to professional artists and practitioners working with visual culture for focused and undisturbed work in Nida, a remote UNESCO World Heritage Site. NAC is surrounded by the unique landscape of the Curonian spit: forest, sand dunes, and the sea. NAC runs a residency programme, the annual Nida Doctoral School, and initiates art, education, and research projects. Opened in 2011, NAC operates all year round and provides space for workshops, intensive courses, exhibitions, seminars, rehearsals, artist talks and screenings. In 2019, NAC organized the Lithuanian national pavilion, Sun & Sea: Marina, at the 58th International Venice Art Biennial, which was awarded the Golden Lion prize for the best national participation. 

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The exhibition is open until 8 November from Tuesdays to Sundays (10 am-17 pm) at Nida Art Colony, free of charge. 

Participating artists

Eglė Budvytytė (b. 1981) is an artist based in Amsterdam. She graduated from the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam in 2008, and has been working at the intersection between performing and visual arts ever since. Budvytytė makes videos and performances exploring the relationships between bodies, public spaces, and their audience, approaching movement/gesture as technology for a possible subversion of normativity, gender, and social roles. Recent exhibitions include the 2nd Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art – RIBOCA (2020), 13th Baltic Triennial, Riga (2018); Lofoten International Art Festival (2017); and Art Dubai Commissions (2017), amongst others.

Susanna Jablonski (b. 1985) is a Stockholm-based artist working with sculpture, video, and sound composition. Often combining highly crafted sculptures with vernacular objects, her installations explore the ontological value of materials and bodies – how they sustain themselves or disintegrate, and how meaning is ascribed to the places and times they inhabit. Jablonski's works were recently exhibited at Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm (2020), Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge (2020), and OBRA, Malmö (2019). Since 2017, Jablonski has been working on the ongoing artistic research project Gender of Sound at the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm.

Paul Maheke (b. 1985) lives and works in London. He is a Master of Art Practice in École Nationale Supérieure d’arts de Cergy  and completed the Associate Programme in the Open School East, London/Margate . In his works, spanning performance, installation, sound and video, Maheke considers the potential of the body as an archive, examining how memory and identity are constituted. Selected solo exhibitions include OOLOI, Triangle France, Marseille (2019); A fire circle for a public hearing, Vleeshal, Middelburg (2019) and Chisenhale Gallery, London (2018); and Letter to a Barn Owl, Kevin Space, Vienna (2018). Selected group exhibitions include Meetings on Art, 58th Venice Biennale (2019) and 13th Baltic Triennial, Tallinn Art Hall (2018), amongst others. 

Elin Már Øyen Vister (b. 1976) is an artist, composer, and forager based in Røst, Norway. With a background in audio, music, field recording, and radio, they bring an interdisciplinary approach to their expression, exploring listening as an artistic practice and as a way to compose and experience the world. Striving to break with Western patriarchal hegemonic narratives, Már’s work focuses on the landscape’s innate knowledge, influenced by Indigenous methodologies and indebted to queer, multicultural, and pluriversal understandings of the cosmos. Their ongoing projects include Soundscape Røst and Deconstructing Norwegian-ness. They co-run Røst Artist in Residence at Skomvær Fyr in Røst.

Santiago Mostyn (b. 1981) lives and works in Sweden, but maintains strong ties to Zimbabwe and Trinidad and Tobago, the countries of his upbringing. He makes films, installations, and performances that test the divide between disparate cultural spheres, engaging with knowledge and history grounded equally in the body and the rational mind. Mostyn has exhibited at venues and events including the 12th Rencontres de Bamako – African Biennale of Photography, Bamako (2019), Gothenburg Biennial (2017), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2016), Kunsthall Stavanger (2014), and Malmö Konsthall (2013). Recent exhibitions include Not a Single Story II at Wanås Konst (2019), Survival Kit 10.1 at LCCA Riga (2019), and The Measure of All Things: On the (In)Human at Lunds Konsthall (2019). In 2018, Mostyn co-curated With the Future Behind Us, Moderna Museet’s survey of contemporary art in Sweden. 

Ieva Rojūtė (b. 1989) lives and works in Vilnius. In her text-based works, executed as spatial installations, the artist investigates daily interactions, familial and identity conflicts, and the folklore of the everyday, returning constantly to the themes of fear, failure, misfortune, and anxiety. She has held solo exhibitions at PS2 in Belfast (2019) and Editorial in Vilnius (2018). She participated in group exhibitions at Autarkia in Vilnius (2019), 13th Baltic Triennial in Vilnius and Tallinn (2018), Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw (2018), TUM Cultural Association, Le Murate in Florence (2018), and Vartai Gallery, Vilnius (2017), amongst others.

Mark Ther (b. 1977) is a visual artist and filmmaker based in Prague. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, including an exchange at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York. Ther’s videos and films, which often combine reality with fiction, take as a subject traumatic, controversial, and suppressed issues in relation to gender, sexuality, and the Sudetenland identity alongside the history and deportation of the Sudeten Germans from the Czech borderlands after WWII. These issues are complemented with elements of humour, pop culture, sensuality, camp, and queer aesthetics. 

Jin Mustafa (b. 1988) is a visual artist, DJ, and electronic music producer based in Stockholm. She works with moving image, objects, sound, and music, exploring the relationship between technology, imaginary spaces, and questions of personal and collective memory. Recent exhibitions include The Shift, Haninge Konsthall, Stockholm (2019), Ripple at Alta Art Space in collaboration with Signal, Malmö (2018); If she wanted I would have been there once, twice or again at Zeller Van Almsick Gallery, Vienna (2018); a collaborative work with Natália Rebelo for Chart Emerging at Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2018); and I’m fine, on my way home now, Mossutställningar, Stockholm (2017).

Rado Ištok is a curator, writer, and editor based in Stockholm. As the curator of the European Cooperation Project 4Cs: From Conflict to Conviviality through Creativity and Culture at Nida Art Colony of Vilnius Academy of Arts, he curated artist residencies leading to the exhibition The Spectral Forest (2020) and the workshop Dwelling on the Threshold (2019). He is also a project leader of Spaces of Care, Disobedience and Desire (2018-2020), a discursive research platform in collaboration with Marie-Louise Richards and Natália Rebelo, at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. In 2020, he was awarded research stipends from the Helge Ax:son Johnson’s Foundation and the Slovak Arts Council. Recent exhibitions include Black Atlas at the Július Koller Society in Bratislava (2019); Liquid Horizons at in Bratislava (2019); Other Visions within the PAF – Festival of Film Animation in Olomouc (2018); I’m fine, on my way home now at Allkonstrummet, Stockholm (2017). Editorial work includes the artist book by Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn Crating the World (Athénée Press, 2019) and e-publications Dwelling on the Threshold (Nida Art Colony, 2020) and Decolonising Archives (L’Internationale Online, 2016). 

The exhibition is part of the project 4Cs: From Conflict to Conviviality through Creativity and Culture, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the EU and the Lithuanian Council for Culture. 

NAC is employing the appropriate measures against the spread of COVID-19 – please note that wearing masks is mandatory for both indoor and outdoor events. Be cautious and pay attention to keeping a distance of at least 1m from the other guests when attending the event. Please stay home if you are showing COVID-19 symptoms or suspect you have been in contact with an infected person.