2016 April – May | Free magazine
CREATIVE NORTHERN ENERGY
Baserange, Spring & Summer 2016 Paris, Copenhagen
Dominikonu st. 5, Vilnius
N WIND ENCOURAGES EXCHANGES OF CREATIVE NORTHERN ENERGY
Three Baltic sisters? Yes, this edition will only feature three, even though now there are eight of them. We speak of the eight Finno-Ugric, Baltic, Scandinavian sisters of the North. It seems like it was only yesterday that there were five adults and three Baltic teenagers, but the youngsters grew up and they don’t want to be copies of their elder siblings. They want to be themselves. If it wasn’t for them, the life for the older sisters would be much more boring. The world will surely benefit from the creative identity of these former teenagers. It’s just hard for them to talk about themselves yet, but that’s textbook Nordic modesty. These eight sisters are the strongest sisters in the world. They have a secret arrangement to help each other, and it’s forbidden to mention it to others outside the family. Organisations, politics, businesses and a mutual mother – the Baltic Sea – are not the only elements connecting them; people who create inside this region act as a link as well. A strong link between strong sisters brought up by the North, where sunshine is rare and the weather is cold, where locals have a windy sense of aesthetics that smells of the sea, dunes, rocks, steel, woods and resin.
N WIND Free magazine about creative business and culture in Northern Europe, distributed in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and available online.
ISSN 2351–647X 2016, No. 9 Circulation: 8 500 Created and published by BLACK SWAN BRANDS Ltd Curated by Giedrė Stabingytė, Andrius Skalandis, Denis Bondar
This is a magazine of people who create, that means it’s futuristic. However, unlike other futuristic publications, this one has ideas that will come to life, because the future is built by the hands of creators. We can let ourselves discuss the future since it’s interesting and essential to us, and we’re building it right at this moment. We feel it, see it, touch it, we know it. The project of the New North is our Magnum Opus, as we are its creators. People who don’t create don’t know the future – they can’t talk about it, lacking words to describe it. We own all that, and it makes us responsible to tell the world stories of the future. Aksel Sandemose would probably be very disappointed to hear this, but the era of people who are all the same ended with the 20 th century.
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The project is partly financed by Lithuanian Council for Culture. Cover Photographer: Linas Masiokas Make-up and hair: Greta Juozaponytė Model: Ieva Palionytė, IMAGE GROUP model management Postproduction: Alina Skripkienė Authors Monika Lipšic, Frans Robert, Mindaugas Jurkynas, Paul Emmet, Emanuelis Ryklys, Aušra Prasauskaitė, Brigita Stroda, Silvia Urgas, Victoria Diaz, Daina Dubauskaitė. Text editing Brigita Stroda Advertising and projects email@example.com Printed by Lietuvos rytas print, www.print.lrytas.lt
The Venice Architecture Biennale is the most significant event in the world of architecture, with numerous countries displaying their national pavilions. Alongside the cultural representation, the biennale has become a reflection of current issues and processes in global society, proving once again that architecture cannot be disassociated from the social structures as it is an integral part of them. This year will see Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia represented in a joint exhibition, the Baltic Pavilion, installed at Palasport “Giobatta Gianquinto”, very close to the Arsenale grounds. The Baltic States share a built architectural environment that was shaped by a common timeline; the pavilion also generates discussions that enter the socio-geographical realms of Baltic infrastructure while assessing common parameters and resources defining the future of the Baltics and the surrounding region. Young Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian architects, theoreticians and practitioners are the curatorial team for this project. The Baltic Pavilion will open on the 27th of May with a talk by Keller Easterling at 11:00, followed by the official opening at 17:00. For Latvia, this will be the seventh time it participates in the biennale, for Estonians, the eighth, and for Lithuanians, the first time. This count clear-
ly shows the differing levels of attention paid to architecture as a cultural project; nevertheless, this project serves as an unprecedented act of cultural diplomacy that will hopefully set a pattern for the future of sharing cultural processes in the region. Isn’t the Baltic alliance a piece of fiction?, and why is it crucial to keep this alliance vibrant today? Niklavs Paegle, one of the project’s Latvian curators, admits that the alliance has more of an occasional nature than a constant: “Unity is more external than internal. The Estonian President Toomas Ilves said on Latvian TV that unity doesn’t mean holding hands and singing together, it implies doing real projects together. Just like this interview, over time we see how ideas circulate in the cultural space first, only later materialising in our surroundings and becoming real, tangible things. We are very different and often irrational, but we are rational when we need to act and when there’s a common problem at hand. Perhaps the Baltic Pavilion will become a precedent for such action in cultural space, a stimulus for our built futures.” Instead of focusing just on ideology to bridge Baltic countries, the pavilion emphasises material elements first – architecture, infrastructure, roads, geological operations.
Liepa clay quarry, Latvia, Jonathan Lovekin, 2015
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Contemporary architecture is a complex discipline mediating a great deal of practices. “Architecture is a composed space carrying the forms of action”, claims Jonas Žukauskas, setting this as a constant at the beginning of our conversation. We met in early March, in Vilnius. A year ago, when Jonas found out that the project for the Baltic Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale had won the national competition in Lithuania, he came back from London, where he had graduated from the Architectural Association School of Architecture. Niklavs Paegle had also graduated from its Diploma School. Jonas’ graduation project, titled Inert Baltics (tutors: Territorial Agency (John Palmesino, Ann-Sofi Ronskog)), envisioned transformation of the built environment of the Baltic States as a geological process while re-articulating architecture within a wide ecology of spatial practices.
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Decommissioned Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1 floor in the reactor room, Lithuania, Jonathan Lovekin, 2015
The idea to organise a Baltic Pavilion initially came from a group of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian friends who are now the curatorial team of the project. At the time, scattered in various architectural practices all over Europe, all of them simultaneously became aware of the relationship to each other through the shared space of the Baltics. In 2014, The Venice Architecture Biennale
Electricity pylons Near Narva, Estonia, David Grandorge, 2016
had an opening where Johan Tali was celebrating his co-curated Estonian pavilion “Interspace”. Enjoying this moment of coming together, the Latvians and Estonians wrote an open letter titled “Baltic Pavilion?” that was published in artterritory.lv and became a public call to unite in Venice.
The Baltic Pavilion delves into the infrastructural space of the three countries – from roads and water resources to projects of both national and regional importance. Some of the things on the radar here are FSRU Independence (the natural gas storage ship in Klaipeda), the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant’s closure project, Estonian phosphorite deposits, “Rail Baltica” (the pan-Baltic railway project), electrical grids. “Everything in the infrastructural space has a public face at the moment – we witness the processes that transform the Baltic Countries on the news every day. At the same time, a single case or one national story is not enough to establish a critical perception, so we started taking a wider approach,” Jonas Žukauskas explains. The exhibition at the Venice Biennale will present a horizon of artefacts that are connected and derived from these processes.
Both supporters and opponents of phosphorite mining were invited by the curators of the Baltic Pavilion to sit at one table in Tallinn. “Of course, the most diligent activists didn’t like the idea of sitting next to their rivals, so we had separate days for discussions going into the details of geological research, institutional frameworks and strong opposing arguments, all in the lobby of the Estonian Academy of Arts, as part of the course for architecture students (the video documentation of the talks will be released online soon). One scientist claimed that many different minerals can be obtained while digging for phosphate rocks, mostly metals, the useful substances and phosphorites amount to so much wealth that Estonians wouldn’t even have to work for some time upon exploiting these materials.” Activists on the front lines of the movements in the 1980s had various arguments against it as well. “The interesting thing about this argument is that the structure of this event repeats itself and is remarkably similar to one of the debates on decommissioning the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant and attempts to build a Japanese ABWR (advanced boiling water reactor). Civic resistance is linked to perceiving national ideas being in opposition to industrial spaces, while our goal is to ex-
The curators constantly visit relevant sites, from laser laboratories and the Lithuanian Geological Survey, to nuclear energy reactors being dismantled. “A few weeks ago we organised the Phosphorite Debate in Tallinn,” Jonas begins the story. Much like any other story of this project, this one has a rich history and conclusions that enhance the understanding of thinking about space. He continues: “The end of 1980 brought geological-industrial plans to dig for phosphate rocks in Estonia, which has some of the largest deposits of it in Europe, estimated at millions of tons... Hidden from the public, the politics of the Soviet Union resulted in secrecy about the plans to mine these resources on a large scale. However, as oppressive structures loosened up during Perestroika, opportunities emerged for public discussion and protests began after journalists disclosed the mining plans and projections of the impact on Estonia’s landscapes and the social structures. At the time, plans were al-
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The development of the project saw the Baltic Pavilion proposal winning three national competitions by the Ministries of Culture in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. “We feel that it’s urgent, for the first time, to see this region as a whole; to look beyond our borders, from space and the water, to the depths of the earth. We want to see the Baltics through a lens of the built environment and we aim to offer this horizon of possibilities that holds new briefs for our architecture to everyone, notes Niklavs Paegle. Other team members include Kārlis Bērziņš, Jurga Daubaraitė, Petras Išora, Ona Lozuraitytė, Dagnija Smilga, Johan Tali and Laila Zariņa.
ready in place to turn the Rakvere surroundings into mining areas, with calculated numbers of how many workers from the entire Soviet Union would be required, how many mass-housing neighbourhoods would have to be built and so forth. The Estonian public was shocked; activists stated that many marvellous landscapes would be destroyed and that the water would be contaminated. There is a caricature from that era, picturing a peasant working with a pitchfork to throw a big piece of manure out of the carriage, saying “It’s just shit” – that piece is Estonia-shaped. These events triggered demonstrations that basically galvanised the independence movement.”
Frozen Baltic sea with factories and radioactive waste depository at Sillamäe, Estonia, David Grandorge, 2016
plore these relationships and to look at this space in the wider, regional context as a shared issue,” says Jonas as he raises his hand and asks for another jug of coffee. Another aim of this project is to apply methodologies and strategies developed in other disciplines to enhance architecture, making it stronger and more relevant as a discipline. Jonas mentions Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari – philosophers of the 20th century – who analysed different areas of science, but not to achieve proficiency in biology or chemistry, rather, to apply the thinking structures of these disciplines in their work. The Baltic Pavilion employs philosophy, history, art and takes a geological approach too, reading things that compose this flat landscape as an intertwined stack of stratigraphic layers. Here the term of the Anthropocene becomes very important. The Anthropocene is a newly proposed geological epoch that coincides with human activities having a significant global impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems. “Today we see human activity as the most substantial at the geological scale, able to change the planet. It’s important to explore that activity and its logics. The Anthropocene essentially is a technical term helping us understand that we can calculate our impact on the environment; it’s a complex idea, yet it allows humans to develop ways of witnessing what they’re doing. The Romantic era saw nature as a chaotic elemental force, whereas today even the biggest swamp in Latvia is measured, registered and administrated. Our ability to operate complexity connects everything into systems, depriving us of nature that is unknowable. That nature as a concept is gone, and that is evident in the Baltic region too, therefore it’s crucial to understand this changing relationship between the society and its living space as a particular scenario taking place while assessing it through case studies. Baltic countries are highly industrialised, which is why people need to perceive the viewpoint of built space as a complex process with many parameters in place.” One Baltic Pavilion event during the XII Baltic Triennial at the Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius had Gražina Skridlaitė (PhD in geology) giving a lecture on the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates that resulted in a crust forming under the Baltic States. “We can see how specific territorial sovereignties develop because of that, adopting fairly objective elements – earth, mineral resources, bodies of water and so on. If we add human activity to the picture, the nation state becomes a dated structure, so perhaps we could hope for a more complex understanding of space,” Jonas clarifies. Oil shale is closer to the earth’s surface in Estonia: mining and industrial use result in a similar amount of CO2 emitted to that of the USA (per capita). “The Baltic countries
are a multi-layered junction of networks and processes, there is an articulation of shifting and changing of form in space and time instead of there being a clear and defined structure. It’s an entanglement of flows of materials and geological resources with spiritual and cultural phenomena. The ‘non-linear stack’ is a definition we could borrow from seismic data processing to illustrate the method we use in order to understand these processes. It’s all connected, all in one system,” – this constant zooming in and out through a stack of concepts is one of the characteristics of the project. “The Baltic States are in the fold previously occupied by the Soviet Union, becoming increasingly integrated into the governmentality of the European Union, and the physical, inert infrastructure carries various models of thinking (infrastructure of thought). It appears, for example, as if what’s happening in the gas sector is not that different from the concepts in education. This entire space physically still has ‘old electrical grids’, while its bureaucracy claims to correspond to European regulations. The discourse gets very complicated, multi-angled and, in my opinion, very architectural”, Jonas says. A joint pavilion of the Baltics was presented once before, during the international Paris Exposition in 1937. Nationalist, totalitarian ideas were gaining momentum before World War II, so the proposed Baltic Union idea was a solid opposition to strong nationalist states. Similar to the situation today, the Baltic Pavilion was considered to be an example of cultural diplomacy. However, if ideology doesn’t connect the Baltic countries, what does? The answer is infrastructure, shared tangible-material affairs. “The European Union has its roots in the 1951 European Coal and Steel Community – the unity inscribed into infrastructure space, making future wars impossible”, Jonas reminds us. The presence of the Baltic Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale is a part of larger, worldwide, historical, political, cultural and economic processes. balticpavilion.eu
Monika Lipšic is a curator and artist working in the field of art, performance and public interest.
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Precast concrete panel housing in Tallinn, Estonia, David Grandorge, 2016
safety. Therefore, we felt it was time to also focus on what we can achieve together across borders, rather than how we tackle the negative aspects. The SI already had extensive experience in this area, so it felt very natural to team up.
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Olga: True, we strongly believe that the future of our region is built through reliable networks, trust and creativity. The difference in cultures, traditions, experiences and values is most crucial in letting the participants create something important not only for themselves but also for the community. The network of hundreds of BalticLab soul mates has spread from Sweden to Ukraine
including Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Norway, Belarus and the sky is the limit.
“Young, creative minds in the Baltic Sea region can drive innovation and integration. BalticLab brings these minds together in the same space to create and explore new perspectives and sources for inspiration.” The people behind BalticLab do not beat around the bush; they want to explore the future and potential of the Baltic Sea region. This innovation programme brings entrepreneurs and creatives in the Baltic Sea region together to form a community and network that can empower the region as a whole to become more innovative, creative and prosperous. In addition to plenty of very tasty meals – one of the main topics of conversation, BalticLab consists of speed dating sessions, workshops, lectures and much more; so we wanted to find out what BalticLab is all about. That is why we met with Mirjam (Külm) from the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) and Olga (Knudsen) from the Swedish Institute (SI) for – of course – a dinner. Together we talked about what BalticLab is today, how it could evolve in the future and about the potential of increased integration in the Baltic Sea region. What vision drove the start of BalticLab 4 years ago? Mirjam: When BalticLab first came up as a concept, one of the ideas was that there are not enough platforms for young talents to meet and
How would you define the Baltic Sea region now and how do you envision it in the future? Mirjam: There is a certain emotional landscape which binds the peoples of the Baltic Sea region together. Like the North Wind, there is a sense and appreciation that comes from living in a place that enjoys short but light summers, tempered by long and dark winters.
collaborate in our region, especially for young talented women. There were several national platforms and Nordic platforms but nothing that would really give space to bring together the talent from across Sweden to Russia, to the Baltics and to Poland. So we wanted to do something for the creative and entrepreneurial professionals, as opposed to politicians and other groups, who already had established networks in the region. Another aspect of the founding was the fact that a lot of the work of the CBSS was linked to tackling the negative aspects of borders – human trafficking, civil security emergencies and nuclear
That essence engenders a certain “can do culture”. The somewhat “harshness” of our past has entrenched in us an understanding that some things need to get done, and that whatever happens we must continue moving forward. This is very close to an almost entrepreneurial mindset, which can be very beneficial for the region in the years to come. This is something we would like to build on in the future. How does the inclusion of Belarus and Ukraine in the BalticLab programme fit into this entrepreneurial mindset? Mirjam: For us, the definition of the Baltic Sea region is broad, it includes our neighbouring countries, with whom we have historical ties. We believe the spirit of inclusiveness is enriching for all aspects of our lives in this region. In today’s world, neither natural forces nor even economic
or cultural forces, know country boundaries. For us, to meet the challenges, as well as the opportunities of the future, we need to bear this in mind.
Source: BalticLab on Instagram
lives? Ultimately the future is in our hands. Olga: Yeah, I have noticed a marked shift in the projects from last year to social responsibility and community. We are really happy about that and strongly believe we can continue working towards sustainability.
believe that together we can build our own future based on respect and understanding and not on borders and limitations.
Are there actual models for creating those strong networks and the projects that flow out of them? Olga: The programme is an open platform. We give space and opportunities to learn yourself, to celebrate your success and learn from your mistakes. We want the participants to be a part
Mirjam: The Networking Weekends and the Ideation Programme are all linked to strengthening the BalticLab network. Nothing unites a group of people more than finding a common topic of interest, a cause or an idea, and working on it over an extended period of time. Personal skillset-building and coming up with innovative new ideas are of course immensely important parts of the programme and add tangible results and value to the programme, but itâ€™s the network which will ultimately live on for years to come.
of a community that cares for each other and supports each otherâ€™s ideas. It is so great to see that the participants find real friends, business partners, create communities and continue sharing their ideas even after the programme has finished. A big part of the network uses the skills from the programme to develop themselves in their existing businesses, others start doing something completely different. We strongly
The BalticLab Network is not an overly formalised concept. We provide the space and the tools, which the participants themselves have to use accordingly. Ultimately itâ€™s up to each individual to keep their own BalticLab Network alive. We are very happy to see that that has been working, and people in fact do stay in touch, do consult their peers even when they leave the programme, do visit each other and continue to work together. As we move into our fourth year we will also be
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After these 4 years, which opportunities for BalticLab lie ahead in the future? Mirjam: I believe that for the future we could even go wider in terms of our country scope and go deeper into the societal challenges we face. I personally would like to see us focus more on climate change and as a result, also the social shifts we will be facing in the Baltic Sea region in the future. How to tackle that, how to improve our
Source: BalticLab on Instagram focusing more on mapping these connections and how they have grown over the years.
The Beach Institute is a contemporary expedition, led by three art & design professionals set to discover the uniqueness of the 10 000 km long shoreline around the Baltic Sea. Through an anthropological study, the Beach Institute’s intention is to investigate the coastal state-of-mind and all the extraordinary qualities surrounding the Baltic beachroject is the thought that death, which is a part of each individual’s life, should be more spoken about as celebration of the lives lived rather than the time lost. The project hence imagines a physical as well as a virtual library documenting the lives of the people around us.
As you said, people sustain their own BalticLab network. Do you, as organizers, provide a helping hand in this process? Mirjam: Whenever we have a BalticLab programme event, we always try to incorporate space for including the former BalticLab alumni (280 now in total), so that the different years of the programme get a chance to also meet each other. We recently had a SI alumni event, where all BalticLab alumni were invited. This was the first time for such an event and it was really great to see everyone meet each other and exchange ideas. I’m sure we will carry out more of such initiatives in the future. In the end, it’s the enthusiasm and passion of the people participating in BalticLab that determines whether a project continues or not. BalticLab itself is a platform for which the organizers define the framework; it’s an opportunity to meet. The platform is already a result in its own. In those 4 years 280 creatives and entrepreneurs, together with 60 mentors, experts and partners have helped to build this platform. Working together on a common project unites people of the Baltic Sea region and adds tangible results and values to the platform. Yet the meaning lies in the meeting itself, in building up trust. And that makes BalticLab a long-term project with an intangible outcome. “It’s about developing trust and creativity and strong networks”. This is where BalticLab’s definition
Mind Mill builds on creativity in the Baltic Sea region, with the aim of transforming the region into the most creative place for business on the continent. This will be achieved by creating a space, where young creative people can come together and work on the issues that are affecting the Baltic Sea Region. themindmill.eu
At the heart of the Library of People project is the thought that death, which is a part of each individual’s life, should be more spoken about as celebration of the lives lived rather than the time lost. The project imagines a physical as well as a virtual library documenting the lives of the people around us. of the future Baltic Sea region lies. A region that connects and breaks borders in order to realise innovative ideas. “As the network flourishes, new opportunities for collaboration open up.” In short, BalticLab brings the potential of the Baltic Sea region together to share experiences and ultimately, the future.
Frans Robert is a festival promotor and band manager of the Latvian band ‘The Pink Elephant’. Currently he’s residing in Brussels, Belgium. He participated in BalticLab 3.0 with the ‘silence project’.
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Some BalticLab Projects that are interesting to us
Countries of the Baltic region – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – are small states or rather small powers in international relations. Traditionally countries are considered small if they have a narrow range of actions, little say in international/regional politics and an inability to maintain autonomy visà-vis the bigger powers. The size and power of a country are highly dependent on historical and geographical circumstances. However, often territorial size is relative, as it can be influenced by interacting with another country or organisation. If the collaboration (or conflict) takes place between two power units of similar size, smallness doesn’t matter anymore. Small countries – when securing their territorial integrity, political sovereignty, national identity and the freedom of action – have two choices: autonomy and neutrality or partnership and collaboration. The latter usually implies adjusting to the elements of neighbouring (regional) empathy towards each other and mutual regional interests. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are usually all assigned to one region, at least in the foreign media. Academic research has several theories on how this region and its identity have originated. Some believe that regions appear whenever similarities occur (language, religion, traditions, culture). Others argue that regional or larger powers turn a certain geographical area of smaller states into a region. One more theory ponders that only the creators of the region – foreign policy makers, intellectuals, scientists – construct ideas of regional proximity and empathy that can be called an identity; therefore, the region will cease to exist if its creators don’t feel part of it, despite what others may think. The community feeling is a result of mutual and empathically sustainable experiences and it forms a circle of insiders and draws a line between “us” and the clearly separated “them”. We feel safe among insiders, our common experiences create and sustain kindred values and norms. However, the creation of togetherness, including a regional one, is cherry-picking: a common past and closeness, displays of similarities and differences, pride and bitterness; yet creating an identity requires focusing on things that unite rather than separate, as segregation disturbs the feeling of community. The idea of the Baltic region is now split in two, the traditional one being just about Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, while the new one involves other littoral countries around the Baltic Sea, which are based on regional cooperation after the Cold War to avoid lines of separation and include Russia in communication and cooperation. The trilateral Baltic region concept started to emerge in the interwar period – sometimes Finland and even Poland was assigned to it – but the Baltic region that we know now has been fully formed only after the Soviet occupation/annexation, which led to “Pribaltika”: a formation which started striving for independence and sovereignty outside the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s. The image of the united Baltic region was supported by Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians, all fighting for freedom together; politicians and national fronts collaborating on issues of
However, one of the most interesting points to consider is, what will happen to the Baltic idea? Is it a bridging link to Baltoscandia, or will it survive as a symbolically valuable and useful brand, as a winner against totalitarianism, a fighter for freedom and democracy, a bearer of the experience of post-communist transformation, an example to other eastern Europeans while also criticising the politics of the Kremlin? A mental turn to the north is possible, and Finland is a great example. From establishing the state in 1917, all the way to 1930s, Finland was looking for its place in central Europe. The political, economic and social development of the Baltics (yes, there are still flaws) to date has been noticed by others. The winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, Svetlana Alexievich stated in September: “I wish to live in a Belarus that would be similar to Scandinavia or at least the Baltic countries.” The success stories (even if they’re of differing scales) of the Nordic countries and the Baltics are similar, and it’s up to us whether we’ll become even closer. The potential to implement Kazys Pakštas’ vision of Baltoscandia is growing. The increasing assertion of Russia in northern Europe, the Arctic and other locations are waking Sweden and Finland up from a geopolitical snooze, both of which are collaborating more with the Baltic States in terms of security and defence. If Sweden and Finland joined NATO, the affairs of regional security and collaboration would unite northern Europeans even more. The economic growth of the Baltics results in more opportunities to finance mutual projects with the Nordic countries. The Scandinavian capital here, energy grids, even Baltic emigration to Scandinavia strengthens economic and social bonds in the region. The presence of traditional NB6 and NB8 collaboration formats and the absence of historic grievances serve for better political understanding, socialising and the creation of new initiatives. The last twenty years saw us connecting with northern Europe more, yet the potential of having a common society is still untapped. The author is Professor of Political Science at Vytautas Magnus University, head of the Department of Public Administration and Northern European and Baltic Study Hive
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geopolitical security and post-communist transformation. Academic research on regional identities shows us that up until 2004, the political elite of these three countries demonstrated a strong link to the Baltic region, because it was a way to disassociate themselves from the USSR and integrate into the EU and NATO, or more generally, to get back to Western society. Now the Baltic identity is connected to geopolitical concerns about Russia becoming more and more aggressive. Moreover, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, in relation to the Irish example of an economic miracle, were called “the Baltic tigers” due to a successful post-communist transition and speedy economic recovery after the economic recession of 2008. It is precisely the success stories, a source of pride and joy, that are at the core of regional or even civilized attractiveness. We are used to seeing a clear difference between the developed West and the East catching up, and some time ago there was also a similar contrast between Europe’s barbarian north and the Roman south. The British cult comedians Monty Python reminded us of the Roman civilisation being superior in their movie The Life of Brian (in the episode “What have the Romans ever done for us?”). Today it’s the north of Europe that can tell success stories, according to the statistics of international organisations: competitiveness, human development, the perception of corruption and so forth. On one hand, this region is attractive, who wouldn’t want to be a part of it? But if we were to ask whether the Baltic countries are or should be part of a more successful formation, that is, to be more northern (and whether Nordic countries should be more Baltic), there are a few answers. Firstly, Scandinavians might see good Baltic experiences and accept us as close, or even as their own. We don’t share the responsibility for colonialism, we’re small and open economies full of direct Nordic investment, we don’t have historical complexes towards each other, our politicians regularly cooperate and network with Nordic counterparts, we have a common Nordic-Baltic seat in the IMF and the World Bank, we’re shareholders of the Nordic Investment Bank, members of the Nordic Battlegroup, our heritage has a lot of Nordic traces, including the Vasa Dynasty ruling Lithuania and with the NordBalt link we are a part of the Baltoscandia electricity market. On the other hand, differences are also evident: the northerners have higher living standards, a more generous welfare state and consensus democracy, which have never been strong features of the Baltic States. While euroscepticism, gender equality and the rights of minorities are a significant part of the Scandinavian political culture, our views on geopolitical threats also differ.
The third international coffee conference DARK TIMES, focusing on the coffee cultures in the Baltic and Northern countries, took place in Vilnius last year in November. DARK TIMES posed a rhetorical question (it is a cup of coffee after all!) – where does the commonality lie amongst all the unique countries of the region? Are the coffee rituals alike? Are the coffee breaks of the same importance? Some of the stories were heard at the event, but some are also available here in this magazine, as I tried to ask more questions about coffee culture, identity and personal experience from some of the speakers at DARK TIMES. The conference was organized by coffee enthusiasts CROOKED NOSE & COFFEE STORIES and another is already being planned for autumn.
it starts to affect me negatively – causing stress and exhaustion after being energetic. A lot of things are good if you enjoy them responsibly and don’t over-do it.
JURIS KRŪMIŅŠ from Riga has been working as a barista for almost a year now. At the moment he is the head-barista at MIIT COFFEE. What really drives Juris to explore specialty coffee is the value that comes from not only having an excellent, tasty and complex cup of coffee, but also knowing exactly where the beans come from and that the farmer gets fairly rewarded for his input. Juris says it’s a privilege to work in a place like MIIT COFFEE, where everything is done with awareness and to strive for high quality, and where questions are asked – is this genuine; can we make this better, more tasty? Juris, can you tell us a bit about your country’s identity? Do you think you are a part of it? Latvians are pretty inward and closed, although it is changing and I think people are becoming more open... Still, it’s not easy, or common, for people to strike up a conversation with a stranger, engage in small talk. Also, my folks are still a bit slow to change. However, people really like going out – to cafes, coffee-shops, restaurants; they are just not so open to meeting other strangers. I consider myself to be a part of the changing culture. I like changes, if they make sense, and if there is logic and efficiency in the changes. I’m all up for it; I like meeting new people and hearing their stories. Does coffee help you to stay focused on what you do, or is it more an inspiring drink for your future plans? It helps me to stay focused for a while. My problem is that I probably drink too much of it, so sometimes
How do you see coffee culture at the moment? Do you like what it is or do you want to change/improve/ recreate it? I like the coffee culture in Latvia, because we have just hit the second wave. A lot of people are drinking coffee outside their homes, and you see a lot of people walking around with coffees in their take-away cups. Therefore, we get to be some sort of pioneers to ensure that the 3rd wave comes and breaks over us. We get to teach people about specialty and we get to show them that coffee can actually be very tasty.
JOANNA ALM is from Stockholm. Her coffee career began working as a barista in Oslo. On returning to Sweden, Joanna started working at DROP COFFEE in Stockholm, and now she is not only a valuable member of the team, but also a partner in the business and Head Master Roaster. The process of roasting has become second nature, enabling her to win at the Swedish Roasting Championships in 2014 and 2015. Building a tremendous brand and reputation, DROP COFFEE has gone from strength to strength with their coffee being sold and used in many of the well-known and top-notch coffee places all over the world. Furthermore, their own shop was included in the list of “25 Coffee Shops Around The World You Have To See Before You Die”.
Joanna, can you describe Sweden and how do you feel being a part of it? Sweden is a kind country, aware of climate and in generally looking after each other. We have a lot of nature that is very different from north to south since the country is so long. The country has had a good insurance system and social welfare. Swedes are kind and polite, standing in line and taking very few risks. I think I’m rather blinkered because I follow my own vision and dreams that aren’t necessarily by the book. I’ve been working very hard on a very narrow focus, so today I’m in a good place where I want to be. And what about coffee? We are conservative about how we like our drink. The knowledge of the origin of coffee is fairly low and most people are buying the same coffee as they did a year ago at the supermarket. Yet, we’re trying to do what’s right and fair. We want the baristas as well as the farmers to be treated fairly. Consumer power is important, and ecologically certified and better produced products are selling very well. How do you see coffee culture at the moment? Coffee became our national drink in 1900, and no matter what the
BALTIC. THROUGH TIME & SPACE
occasion (home, funeral, meeting a friend, dinner) we’re certainly drinking coffee and everyone has a strong relation to and an opinion about coffee. However, in the Nordic countries, coffee has been a product that you would get free with your food. At cafes you’ll get a free refill of the batch brew. Most coffee is still bought at the supermarket for 3-4€ for 500g, and brewed at home. This expectation and the price paid are habits that take a while to break before people are willing to start paying for coffee. On the other hand, interest and a willingness amongst consumers to buy sustainable products are strong. As long as we are clear in our communication about why the coffee might be tastier or more sustainably produced etc., then there is a market for it. What do you think you have in common with your neighbors? Do you think you share the same stories and rituals with the help of coffee? We have a strong culture of brewing coffee at home and most of the cups being served in the home are automatically brewed filter coffee. This is where you meet and have a talk over a cup of coffee. In the Nordic countries, in a way, the clock circles around the coffee each day – breakfast, coffee break, coffee with lunch, afternoon coffee.
TRIIN SIBUL is from Tallinn. She is a vocalist, a coffee enthusiast and a roaster. She is also head barista at “The Living Room Café”. A great coffee experience takes a great deal of effort to make. That is
why Triin loves to learn, experiment and try new things. She also believes that to make a good cup of coffee you need time. Triin, can you tell us a bit about your country’s identity? Do you think you are a part of it? Estonia has come very far from being under the rule of the Soviet Union to presently becoming one of Europe’s leading countries in the area of advanced internet and related technologies. The history that lies in the foundation of our country has left a mark in our identity as a nation and still greatly impacts our daily life. We have embraced the freedom that we have fought for, yet we silently hold on to the past. I’m proud of my Estonian history and heritage, but I can also easily associate myself with other countries and peoples. What I mean is that I try not to limit my view and to be defined by it, as there is a whole world out there to explore. Does coffee help you to stay focused on what you do or is it more an inspiring drink for your future plans? For me, coffee has never been the dark liquid I drink in the morning to get my brain started and limbs moving. It has always been the drink that inspired me for greatness. I am more excited about all the different flavors I am about to extract while I am making coffee, than getting the buzz. I love to experiment. Right now, we’re just roasting and brewing for our coffee shop, but our future plans include opening a roaster for locals to come and be able to get their coffee beans fresh every time. How do you see coffee culture at the moment? Do you like what it is or do you want to change, improve or recreate it? There are a lot of new coffee shops springing up on the scene, but when it comes to serving quality coffee, there’s a lot of improvement that needs to take place. One of my desires or goals is to promote more awareness on what a really good cup of coffee is. We use our time at the café to slowly reeducate the people that come in, of course people must want to listen to you, because you can’t just push
your ideas. It’s a slow process of unravelling the false foundations and perceptions about coffee that have been built up in their minds, in order to establish new foundation or to just inspire people to dig a little deeper. These conversations are presented by the founder of CROOKED NOSE & COFFEE STORIES Emanuelis Ryklys. CROOKED NOSE & COFFEE STORIES are coffee enthusiasts and original coffee product creators based in Vilnius. At their coffee house, they freshly roast micro batches of different beans from all over the world and invite customers to taste them with various tools in their brew bar.
Portraits by Visvaldas Morkevičius
Photography Darius Petrulaitis
Socifaction is a springboard for young socially and environmentally active entrepreneurs, wrapped up a 21st century mentoring programme. Targeted to the under 29’s, Socifaction is the Millennial’s programme designed to actualise young business ideas, specifically related to the environment and society. It reflects back young peoples’ concern for the issues that mostly affect them. Its aim is to accelerate the growth of new businesses, in Latvia and Lithuania (for now), by engaging those who dream of having a business that enriches their community and environment. Cyclical in nature, at the time of this article they are running their third wave. Over 200 alumni have graduated from the programme, creating dozens of new businesses, reflecting the passions and interests of the young entrepreneurs. Using the Social Business model pioneered by the Grameen Creative Lab, various startups so far include: organic smoothies, recycled clothing, Fairtrade rice, custom treehouses, colourful mittens knitted by pensioners, and others. The Socifaction programme is hands-on, learning through doing, yet backed up by theory, consulting and three months of mentoring. Project manager Zane Skuja talks about what unites Socifaction in Latvia and Lithuania, “there is a common appreciation of nature and quality food. Also, we have quite similar social issues, such as lonely elderly people, lack of infrastructure for people with disabilities, a challenged education system and so on. I see that both Latvians and Lithuanians are quite opportunistic and entrepreneurial – we find ways to do what may seem impossible at first. We also work hard.” Today it has never been easier to feel overwhelmed with information about social and environmental problems; it can leave us paralysed, uncaring or depressed. In addition, if politicians lack credibility and clout, the new world economy has given birth to a new
‘precareriat’ – people living precariously. According to the Economist, during the next 10 years there will be 1 billion more 16-24 year olds on the planet, only 40% will be working in jobs that currently exist. So it’s now common to travel overseas in search of work. In the Baltics an entire new generation languishes, overqualified, performing menial jobs, contract work, etc. While the traditional structures seem to be faltering, below the economic scorched earth, new seeds are beginning to stir, in the form of NGO’s, grassroots movements and increased civic action. Investors in Socifaction companies do so to
succeed, but the truth is that you have to start small, and see what people actually like and need. That’s why applying Design Thinking and going out to tell everyone about your idea is so great you must get feedback to actually see if your idea is needed at all, to see what people genuinely need. Especially for social entrepreneurs, the idea must come from a need in the society, and the best way to find out about it is to go and experience it yourself – talk to the people, go to the environment, find out their pains and wishes.’ By working together at a local level, understanding a community’s needs, and working with skilled and experienced practitioners,
BALTICs. THROUGH TIME & SPACE
Somebody once said, ‘there is no such thing as a stupid person, only a person making stupid decisions’. If we reflect on our own experiences, can we discern a pattern of smart or stupid decision making? One way of learning is through mistakes, another, the ancient process of mentoring – where someone usually older, more experienced, who has achieved some success, is able to share their experience, thereby helping us to reduce painful learning curves.
receive back their initial investment and no more, profits from the company go to paying the staff a decent wage and are re-invested in the companies’ growth. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have experienced large numbers of disenchanted youth who leave their homeland in search of new pastures, yet many have also returned, with new ideas, experience and energy. Zane Skuja continues: ‘I see quite a lot of such young talented people coming back – myself included. The issue is that in Latvia a lot of these young people may not find jobs that actually fit their level of expertise and they may also be used to working in more open, innovative environments. Some of them go on to create their own companies, which is great! So, there is a positive aspect to it as well.’ Socifaction facilitates ideas, turning them into reality, teaching ways to access funding, providing consulting and encouraging young start-ups to adopt the best practices for the best chance of success. It’s not just about funding, sustainability is a key word, and starting small means that your mistakes are small. Beginning a successful company is about taking small steps while dreaming big. According to Zane, ‘There is often a trend that people think they must first get tons of money and then they will be able to
Socifaction offers young people a chance to start a business they can take pride in. The mentors are specialists from diverse backgrounds and countries, owners and creators of successful businesses, putting society and the environment at the heart of what they do. The new cycle in late March, involves 25 people from Latvia and 25 people from Lithuania with some form of disability, working together to create the next crop of socially aware businesses, meeting the needs of their communities. Socifaction is currently consolidating in Latvia and Lithuania. The response they have had is encouraging and it’s only a matter of time until the baton will be picked up in Estonia and the youth of the Baltic states contribute to the groundswell of innovation and activity, rooted in eliminating poverty, actualizing businesses which contribute to society and are based on the needs and desires of local people. socifaction.com
Paul Emmet is a freelance writer, environmentalist, avid reader, and part-time DJ. Lives in Tallinn and his imagination. Likes the sea and also old forests.
Photographer: Linas Masiokas Make-up and hair: Greta Juozaponytė Clothes by Marit Ilison, Keta Gutmane, Liucija Kvašytė Model: Ieva Palionytė, IMAGE GROUP model management Postproduction: Alina Skripkienė
Within the three daughters with the Baltic Sea in their eyes, three distinct waves of creativity flow – a shimmering Nordic lullaby that wraps up our wandering souls, a surf of potent, dark energy and a deep splash. As the creative psyche of this seashore is discernably feminine, and the regional moniker unfamiliar at large, The Baltic Sisters, with its allusion to a familial bond, is a pretty fair marker for the creative force what lies within. Three designers – Estonian Marit Ilison, Latvian Keta Gutmane and Lithuanian Liucija Kvašytė – cut the shapes of modern Baltic outfits and are the cutting edge of the future in this area.
They say that the best inventions are born out of a personal need, but can the same be applied to creations by fashion designers? Estonian Marit Ilison quickly shot to international fame after introducing her collection of coats, titled “Longing for Sleep”, made out of… blankets from the Soviet era. With their clean, minimalist shapes and beautiful crystal embroidery, each one of them looks like a little piece of magic. Meet Marit, the pearl of the Estonian creative scene and the woman bringing storytelling back to fashion. - How does your story begin? - I made my first dress when I was 2 and a half years old and I have always loved making things with my own hands, like dresses for my Barbies. At school I was making the most complicated aprons and vests. When I was in 8th grade, one day my desk mate Aliis came to school with a denim skirt she had made herself and I instantly wanted to have the same, so we went to buy some fabric after school. I got the patterns from my godmother Kerttu who is a pattern maker and since that day I stitched all of my clothes. After high school I went to study pattern making and not design, because I thought I am not creative enough to become a designer. After graduating from the pattern making course and internship in London, I had a chance to apply for a fashion design course and once I discovered conceptual fashion, it really spoke to me. By that time, I already felt allergic to glamorous fashion and all the focus on the surface and nothing else. Getting to know the work of Margiela in fashion and The Knife in music, showed me that there were other options to approach mainstream mediums. - Don’t you buy any clothes nowadays? - I do, but very rarely. I mostly buy things that I cannot make myself, like stockings, earrings and shoes. As for clothes, I usually wear prototypes of my own collections. But my style is very simple, I don’t have many clothes, just a few favourites that change once in a while that I keep wearing and washing. It’s because it is a lot easier that way – I have to make many decisions during the day, so I don’t want to bother my
mind with my own clothes and also, I’d rather stand behind the projects, not in front of them. I work on so many different projects and I always want to keep the work in the limelight. It doesn’t matter how I look. It’s also interesting to meet new people face-to-face and discover them this way, not from the photos. - How do you feel about the idea that nowadays a designer has to be not just a master of creativity, but also a master of self-promotion? - It’s very hard, especially for introverted people. With this, we also lose a lot of magic – everything is in our faces instantly. Just as once before, I hope that there are other ways too. I believe that analogue will be The Thing one day, and human touch will be big, as well as eye contact! - Alongside designing the collections, you also work on various freelance projects. Is fashion not enough? - I have been working as a freelance artist and designer since 2009 and all these different things – conceptual art projects, site specific installations, interior design projects, exhibitions, creating costumes, teaching - make up my world. I think I would go crazy if I would only have to focus on one thing.
Borrowing its name from the Estonian title for Chekhov’s novel “Let Me Sleep”, the conceptual collection “Longing for Sleep” is about the haunting wish to sleep during dark wintery times, kaamos. "Kaamos" is an untranslatable word only known in Estonian and Finnish languages, referring to the period in the Northern Hemisphere when the days are very short and it barely gets light outside. To materialize the feeling of a wish to stay in bed wrapped in a blanket all day long, Marit Ilison has created a collection using vintage Soviet wool blankets.
Photography Maiken Staak
- And then there is Marit Ilison the musician. - Hihi. We’re hibernating at the moment, but I long for getting back to the music. The whole story is a little bit unreal and funny: once, when I was feeling low, I was dreaming about being in a band and playing drums, but who would like to have a drummer with no experience?! Then, a few months later I met my old friend Eiko and he told me that he had just formed a band with his friends where no one had played any musical instruments before. Exactly at the same time when I said I’d like to play drums, he said that they didn’t have a drummer yet. Jackpot! So, a few weeks later Eiko called me on a Sunday afternoon to say that they were having a rehearsal and check if I was coming or not. I immediately borrowed drumsticks from my brother, went to the rehearsal and repeated the rhythm they gave me. I later googled my new band mates and found out that two of the guys had actually been playing music for a very long time. I was cheated, but I stayed. The band is called Väljasõit rohelisse and we even released a 10” vinyl in 2012. My bandmates are all very talented and we are all busy now with our professional lives, but I really miss it. It wasn’t just for the sake of music, but playing in a band has taught me a lot on how to work with a group of people and how to stay calm in every situation. Changing the discipline from fashion presentation to music presentation was a huge leap for me as these two are very different. - Out of all your projects, it’s the “Longing For Sleep” collections that brought you the most recognition. Where did the idea to create blanket coats come from? - It all started with a very personal idea – my constant wish to sleep more. But I think it’s a very broad theme, because I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like to sleep more. Sleep is so important and this is how we restart our lives every day. I read a novel by Anton Chekhov called “Sleepy” (the direct translation from Estonian title “Magada tahaks” would be “I long for sleep”) in high school and the phrase has haunted me ever since, because there is always so much to do, many deadlines and I often feel very tired. Three years ago, I moved into my new apartment and along with the interior I also got few of those nostalgic blankets. I saw them as an interesting textile and I knew I wanted to use them in some way, but it wasn’t clear yet, how. In 2013 I was asked to take part in an Estonian fashion design exhibition “Kaamos”. Kaamos is a word known only in Estonian and Finnish, which refers to the time between November and January, the darkest and most depressing time of year. However, I didn’t want to express the dark side of the theme, rather, the feeling that I have at that time. This was my ever-lasting wish to sleep more and stay wrapped in a blanket all day long. I was living
As a curious human being and an artist, I’m interested in the human body and the space around it. I see clothes as the primary space around us. Most designers don’t think about it, they design the surface, but I like to design from the inside out, thinking about the feeling being inside the garment and designing the space between the body and the garment.
Reflecting Marit Ilison’s trademark of translating feelings into beautiful physical matter, there is a reason why the embellishment is discretely hidden inside the coats. It is a feeling of conscience whispering in her ear that she should be working instead of staying wrapped in the blanket, translated into the rich embellishments inside of the coats.
I constantly ask myself why am I doing things and with my collections I am aiming to create timeless fashion, coats that our clients would later pass on to the next generations with the stories they have collected along the way. Everyone keeps looking for “the new thing”, but I don’t think you have to deliver totally new things all the time.
In the project “70 Cotton Smocks”, Ilison deals with themes of assimilating values and information noise from the surrounding environment, weaving nostalgia, memories, stereotyped thought patterns and the artist’s own views on the nature of life. The project is physically manifested in 70 individually hand-dyed cotton smocks ranging in colour from white to saturated dark purple. (2008-2011) Photography Maiken Staak
- Your ideas about sleep are so relevant in today’s world, as “I am so busy” has become one of the most popular phrases and generation Y is in a constant rush. - I have been thinking about this a lot, questioning why do I do what I do and what is the thing that gets me out of bed every morning. It’s like a game. The very practical answer is that I need to get things done. But why do I need to get those things done? I still haven’t answered this question. We are the ones who have created this state of being constantly busy. What if everybody stopped? I am very curious about existence. Most people focus on the things that are already done. What excites me is that precious moment just before the execution of something, like a leaf that has raindrops on it, all the drops gather into one and there is that precious second just before the big drop falls down… This is what I’m curious about. When I see some intriguing artwork, I’m much more interested in the story behind it, rather than the piece itself. - Would you call your blanket clothes an example of Baltic identity? - Across our Baltic region there are so many new brands popping up, that I think it’s hard to distinguish something as being particularly
at my mother’s house at the time and we have wood heating there, which means that when you wake up in the morning, the room is chilly and you really don’t want to leave your bed. So during kaamos I would like to stay in a warm bed and daydream all day long. But then, I always feel guilty when I sleep too much and then I have this voice in my head, a pricking conscience telling me that I should get up and start working if I want to fulfil my dreams. This voice is like the crying baby in Chekhov’s novel or a grain of sand in your sheets, or a pea under the mattress that doesn’t allow you to fully fall into slumber. This is why the crystal embellishments are on the inside of the coats – on one side it’s referring to our beautiful dreamlands, but on the other side, to the pricking voice.
- Even if it’s unconsciously, the history of our countries has influenced us and the way we see the world. - Well, yes, but only up to some point. The rest is our own life experience and the way each person sees the world, depends on that. The main common thing for us is that we are three small countries and we’ve shared the same struggle as political units. But generally I don’t think that there is such a thing as Baltic identity, like there is Scandinavian style. I think our strength lies in the ability to mix the unique Soviet experience with Western experience. I’m very happy with the time and place I was born because that allowed me to experience a few years of life in the Soviet Union, but I also got to see the exciting time of building up a country. I wouldn’t change it. I think that being so small is also an advantage – we are very active and take a lot of initiative. Many of my friends in Estonia have their own businesses in order to create the job that they feel passionate about. I don’t see that courage much in Central Europe, in example. - Do you find the fact that you are based in Estonia an obstacle to your success? - I don’t think it’s particularly about Estonia, but it’s really hard when you haven’t graduated from a world-famous fashion school and gotten your first industry connections from there – press, buyers, mentors. It’s important to be constantly visible and present at various fashion events, constantly meet new people. The close connections don’t just happen instantly, so it’s important to be going to the parties and just be hanging around at the right places. Being based in Estonia, it’s a little hard. But I also believe that there’s a way for us too, we just need to work hard and find other ways. We need to find our tribe and soulmates. It’s a slow process, but it will pay off one day. I am very thankful to Not Just A Label and Stefan Siegel. Also Hyères Festival family has been very supportive.
Baltic, especially if it’s coming from our generation, when many people have studied abroad. I see the whole world as my playground. The blankets originate from the time when Estonia was occupied by Russia and was a part of the Soviet Union, so this is my cultural background, my history and one of the elements that I synthesize my ideas from.
Marit Ilison. Photography Flep Motwary
- What are the best and worst things about living in Estonia? - I really like the nature. Also, our creative scene is very hot right now. The worst things must be the expensive flights, bad flight connections and high transportation costs. - What is the ultimate thing you would recommend for me to do when coming to visit Estonia? - Come for a cake at my home? It’s my favourite place, my castle and I have even held a popup restaurant here. Another great thing I would suggest are the Forest Megaphones in Southern Estonia created by the students of the Estonian Academy of Arts as the forest library, amplifying the sounds of the forest. I think this has been the best PR campaign for Estonia recently, a mustsee visit. maritilison.com
Her two-year old namesake label is her main focus at the moment. “Focus” is the word this Latvian creative mentions over and over again during the interview. After dipping her toes in a variety of creative projects, having collaborated with artists, musicians and film directors she has finally found her focus. It lies in designing her own collections, which are gaining more and more international recognition. Ironically, she hasn’t made any films for her own brand.
I discovered Keta’s work after the film “Lust Lust”, that she was involved with, which won “A Shaded View on Fashion Film Festival” award back in 2010. It was a part of my fashion film study program at the London College of Fashion. “Lust Lust” was seen as a great example of a novel genre of fashion films. But Keta’s love for it didn’t last.
KETA GUTMANE, Spring-Summer 2016 Photography Mārtiņš Cīrulis
- Do you think your work would be any different if you came from a completely different cultural background? - It’s not quite precise to make a comparison between me and a specific cultural background. Of course the environment where you live leaves an impression on you, but it’s a big question if it directly influences my creation. I haven’t used the Soviet Union background consciously. I am not interested in exploring those roots this way. There are many other aspects that form me, like family, karma, etc. This is a relative question for me. In this life you were born as a Latvian, but in some previous and future ones it’s something else. Through the 90ies rave scene happenings in Riga I could live my outsider nature, and since then I have always been looking towards the outside, looking west.
- Your studies started at the end of the 90ies, a completely different era for fashion from what we have now. What was going on back then and how has it shaped your work ideas? - My studies started with me discovering the phenomenon of anti-fashion. Back then, we were very focused on individualism, on the inner world of people. I completely fell in love with the designers that came with a big manifesto, for example, Belgian or Japanese creators. Fashion is about producing a small art piece as a series, and each collection starts differently. I noticed that I mostly concentrate on the questions exploring my darkest fantasies, my inner world. You can see that through my images. My brand images tell a better story about my influences and ideas than I do.
- Is it hard to find the balance between what you want to create and what the stores and customers want you to create? - When I build my collections, it starts with me and the concept of the collection. Then, my team comes in and tackles pricing and other issues outside design. We have our own vision, handwriting and style that we work with, and as we can see, there is a rising demand for this. The buyers understand and want to be a part of this and sell it.
I am not making fantasy clothes, I make quality everyday clothing, it’s very wearable, this is my main task. I make no abstractions about relics or parquet floors. - What is the essence of Keta Gutmane as a brand? - Keta Gutmane is a brand of womenswear that bridges classic tailoring with urban aesthetics. We choose to work with quality and natural fabrics and our garments are well thought out in their technological solutions. Quality is of utmost importance. The brand outfits form a language that always stretches into a deeper search for convictions and seeks the mystery in the image of a woman, where the masculine and feminine unite. Beauty is emphasized not in a physical sense but in an unworldly one, which has great physical and spiritual power. - What do you lack the most for your brand to succeed? - We need more knowledge, to discover better ways to how to work with international teams, sales and PR agents, stylists – it’s all very important and interconnected.
- Do you follow the work of other designers? - “Follow” wouldn’t be the right word. I wonder about the way designers can express their ideas and create history. In order to make history, your work needs to leave a very big impact on the society. This is what I’m interested in, not following them, as that sounds a lot like “copying”. It’s important to know your history, know the history of fashion and create your own path. It is very important to concentrate on yourself. However, it’s hard to do that as we live in a digital era and see many pictures every day, each of them quietly leaving an impact on us. One needs to be very careful in observing and working with this visual info in the right way.
- We do not have big success stories of great fashion designers coming from the Baltic region. What do you think needs to be done to change that? We already have the advantage of great locally based factories, producing clothes for the best brands from all over the world, and yet, Baltic designers are struggling. - This is an interesting issue, I think it all starts with individuals, with personalities. If you look at the history of fashion, it’s great personalities that make great impact. I think we need to start with education. It would be great to have one institution in the Baltic States, bringing together designers from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Professors and teams working there should all have international experience. The biggest problem for the Baltic States is that we lack connections and dialogues. I have spent one year teaching at the Academy of Art here in Riga and I noticed that we have talented students, but they have nothing to do here after finishing their studies, no-one to help, advise or guide them. So, we end up having that very unfortunate situation where those talents go outside to learn more – be it London, Belgium or any other place – and do not return. It’s an inadequately structured educational system issue…
- Your designs are very particular, they’re not for everyone’s taste. How do you do in Latvia, where you have such a tiny market? - My clients are from abroad. In the Baltics, we need a longer time to enter the market in order to be perceived as equals to those brands who are from abroad. Everything is unfortunately very slow and happens too late here, like the arrival of trends or fashion seasons. At the same time, we try to enter the market anyway. - It seems like it’s fashionable to be in fashion now, with so many small, new, amateur fashion brands popping up. Have you noticed this trend in Latvia? - Yes, definitely. We’re living in times when anybody can be a designer, with or without education, it’s just a question of how one handles it, what kind of ambition one has. I however, am at the point in my life where I care more about focusing on the things I have to do personally, not looking at others. I understand that if I reach more people internationally, I will be successful the way I want to be. I don’t really look at the local scene. We live in a democratic society and each one of us can be a creator. It’s also a question of taste. The young generation is educated and cultured; they’re in tune with what is happening around us and where to go if they need to buy quality clothes. They question things. - You have witnessed a lot of changes in fashion, can you guess what will be next? - It’s very difficult to predict something. I think the recent situation in luxury fashion houses such as Dior and Balenciaga is really sad, when
- Do you show your collections at Riga Fashion Week? - I wanted to have that experience, so I did try it a year ago. But it didn’t have any impact on sales or press – absolutely zero. I think it might only be useful for established brands, which are only focused on the local market.
great fashion personalities are leaving. Whatever happens, it will have a big impact on society. My guess is that fashion will become merely a playground for big, corporate companies. Big fashion houses have become corporate businesses, I think that the time of personalities is over. - What are the best and worst things about living in Latvia? - I love my country very much, and I believe in the people living here and in those who try to make our living environment better and smarter. But I’m also upset about the political situation here, it’s like two different parts of society who do not understand each other. It’s as if the politicians are trying to do everything in order to make people feel unnecessary here. It’s sad that many young people move abroad looking for a better life or better education and are not coming back. I love, however, how calm Latvia is, I feel comfortable living here. - What’s the one ultimate thing that you would recommend for me to do when visiting Latvia? - Gastronomic culture is now booming in Latvia. We have great new restaurants, boulangeries, serving very tasteful and interesting things. My current favourite is Kolekcionārs café. ketagutmane.com
Menswear designer Liucija Kvasyte is one of the youngest and most promising talents in Lithuania. Her final BA collection at The Vilnius Academy of Arts was widely praised both at home and abroad and it seems that the newest one will initiate just as many conversations. One could argue about where the roots of her success start. Is it all thanks to creativity, or, is it because she’s so opinionated and certain of the values she believes in, without worrying that it might not please everyone? In an era where shocking or criticizing others is used to stand out and gain more likes, followers and shares, it feels refreshing to meet someone with an “I don’t want to insult anybody” attitude. And yet, this doesn’t mean she will make compromises on joining her morals to her creative vision. - Your BA graduate collection Journey has been widely celebrated. You had big shoes to fill afterwards – hod did you feel about it? - I have been asked this question more than once, there is certainly pressure not to fail. I always want to create a collection that I would personally be proud of. Who can tell me if it’s good or not? “Good” or “bad” are very subjective words. I know I still have so much to learn, but I’m trying to think that it’s up to me to decide if I’ve succeeded or failed, if I managed to execute the vision that I had. - Your newest collection explores how religious symbols are reflected and used in modern fashion. Has religion really influenced our style? - I believe that the aesthetics of fashion have derived from religion. Our perception of fashion as a tool to become more beautiful and to express our personality is also based on the notion of religion. Certain religious gestures are so rooted in our culture that we’ve never even noticed how it happened. For example, when a man takes off his hat when entering the church, he is showing his respect to God. Women used to cover their hair with a scarf in church because hair was considered a sexual symbol (and it still is in some societies). When I’m creating, I am of course trying to create clothes that would be comfortable, unique, but it is of equal importance to create fashion with a message, things that feel important to me at this very given moment. Religion is one of them.
- So, what should be expected from your newest collection? - Matching paradoxes and contrasts is an idea that is always present in my style. Journey saw very old scarves which I discovered in my father’s closet, matched with completely modern golden lamé fabrics. The collection I have been working recently sees the anarchy of punk subculture juxtaposed with the harmony of the Church. Personally, I see a lot of similarities between these two sides. So, while everyone is talking about various paradoxes, there are always different ways to approach them. Historically, punks have always been the ones that were not afraid to go against the rules, to express their opinions and fight for their beliefs. I call every single person a punk if they are still wandering, looking to build their place under the sun. - How important is it for you to make a political or cultural statement through your work? - Values which are very important to me, such as family and religion, face a lot of criticism in today’s society. I don’t consider myself to be a political activist, but of course I care about the things that are happening around us. It’s only natural that to be discussing these topics with my friends, while sipping on our drinks in a bar. As an artist, I have to express my opinions through my work. With my newest collection, I’m well prepared that it might appear very controversial as the topic of religion always provokes discussion. I will not please everyone, but what matters to me is to express my vision in a way I’d be proud of and without insulting anyone. - Millennials are not very religious nowadays or it’s just not something that young people actually talk about… - It’s because of this weird mentality that if you are religious, you cannot enjoy life, cannot dance, drink, smoke or have fun the way you want to. By creating this collection, I also want to educate people and show them that religion isn’t just old ladies rattling their rosaries in the corner of the church. The people who don’t know religion at all are the ones who misinterpret it. I want to show what religion really is, at least, the way I see it. Religion was always present in our family, I accepted
27 Journey, BA graduation collection by Liucija Kvašytė. Photography Lukas Keizikas
God Save The Punks, collection by Liucija Kvašytė Photography Mark & Miglė
sire to see the whole town wearing golden bombers. I can wait. At the moment I am enjoying meeting my clients in person, having a cup of tea with them, getting to know who that person is. I have the collection, but is there anything new I could create for that person on discovering his personality? There are plenty of small labels that create five bracelets and a logo and already call themselves a fashion brand, but this is not my style. - How do you see Baltic designers? What do you think unites them all? - What we all have in common, is history and our journey to independence, so we are just starting to build fashion culture in the region. I think Baltic people started getting interested in fashion only at the beginning of this millennium, so we are still looking for our identities and strengths. It will be very interesting to see how everything grows and which paths our designers will choose. Now we are at the searching phase, but I think we will have to wait five more years to see what will be the outcome of this phase.
God Save The Punks, collection by Liucija Kvašytė Photography Mark & Miglė
it as something of my own very organically. For me it’s not an institution, it’s a community. I have plenty of friends, who, without being religious, will join me when I go to mass on Sunday and then we all go to dine with my family. Some people will spend that time going to the gym, some will go to church. I find it weird analysing my beliefs in our conversation because this is just so natural to me, it’s the basis of life. I have learned to understand that I am not living for religion, but religion is here for me. It makes everything in my life so clear, I don’t have any questions any more on how I should act in one situation or another. - Having eight more siblings, how do you think this has shaped you as a person? - It is very important for me to share everything. I studied abroad for one semester and that is where I realized that it doesn’t matter if you have money or not, what matters is having someone by your side to share your life with. I am just used to sharing – food, things, impressions. I’m a people person, very social. - What are your plans and ambitions? - My goal no.1 is to finish my Master’s studies here in Vilnius. There is still so much I have to learn, so I am in no rush to start my own label. I have no de-
- As you mentioned sustainability, I was wondering, what are your views on sustainable fashion? - By their very nature, the two words contradict each other. Fashion is a thing of luxury, it is about consumption and sustainability is not. So what, if this is a sweater made from wool from an ecological sheep farm? In order to grow that wool, prepare it and make it suitable for fashion so many natural resources will be wasted – how can this ever be perceived as sustainable? Shopping second-hand and recycling is a lot more sustainable. As a designer, it’s important to think conceptually as you can’t tick all the boxes. I don’t think it’s up to the fashion business to take care of sustainability. Of course we have to make the right choices, but the right choice is also to drink coffee from reusable ceramic cups instead of using the paper ones. - Are the ideas of sustainability important to you personally? - I think it’d be better to focus on nurturing relationships with our loved ones, if we don’t do it now, we will really regret it later. It’s the same thing with animal rights – I absolutely don’t support cruel behaviour to animals, but I’m much more concerned about the decisions and relationships of people. What’s important is to stay sane and to pick the causes that are of greatest importance rather than causes that are purely on trend right now. It’s all useful to someone, it’s marketing, and ecology is what is being marketed the most at the moment. Once the trend of ecology will pass, some other trend will come up. I am much more concerned about what’s happening around me, my family and friends. You won’t be seeing me creating coats out of recycled paper any time soon. - How does your creative process look like? - I have a sketchbook full of ideas, so you name it, I will open a page and find something for that theme. Generally, I am very inspired by fabrics and textures. I’m really bad at illustrating, so my work
I also see Baltic designers being very passionate about sustainability, but that’s because we all have a very close relationship with nature.
Journey, BA graduation collection by Liucija Kvašytė. Photography Paulius Šaparnis
- As a designer, how interested are you in the work of other designers? - Not too much, actually. If someone really interesting crosses my eye, I will dedicate time for discovering more about them. However, I don’t think it’s very healthy for designers to follow other designers, as you won’t even notice how their influence impacts on your own work.
starts with draping fabric on a mannequin – the fabric kind of takes the lead. I will create a lot, but then I will bin the majority of it. I have a choleric personality, so I need to see the results of my ideas very fast. However, they aren’t precious to me at all, it’s easy to say goodbye to the prototypes which are not right.
On the other hand, give us all the same image and each one of us will take something different from it and will interpret it differently. I have a friend in my course with who we share ideas and discuss it all together. I’m not at all scared that he might copy me, even if it happened unconsciously. He’d have a completely different take on the same references. If it’s just a piece of clothing – then yes, this is easy to copy. But conceptual fashion is not. - What do you like and dislike about living in Lithuania? - I love the fact that we live in such a young country and each one of us has a chance to have an impact on the future of Lithuania, to build and create something new and to have a real influence. - What would you absolutely recommend for a tourist to do in Lithuania? - Vilnius is a very beautiful town and I love walking around the city centre. When in town, one should definitely mingle with the locals – a couple of my favourite bars are “Bukowski” and “Gringo Pub”. The last one is my local! In summer, I would definitely recommend getting out of town, visiting Nida, Neringa. liucijakvasyte.weebly.com Aušra Prasauskaitė tells stories. Sometimes real. Sometimes not.
Liucija Kvašytė. Photography STUL
Denied an identity under the Soviets, all three Baltic countries put up borders between themselves as soon as they were independent. Having now “found themselves” they are ready to start collaborating to build the next layer of identity – the Baltic one – and whether you like it or not, it does take time. However, just as you are doing this, the rules and criteria change fast! Museums and cups of tea have radically changed. Everything is digital but the creatives are going analogue, and when we refer to the mining industry, it’s literally off the planet! A future Nordic sensibility that includes the Baltics is perhaps less about design and colours but more about a space in which to stop, think differently and contemplate. This is the nature of the new north breeze. It’s not quite tangible yet, but here are some Latvians that are moving the air.
Photography Agnese Aljēna
Kaspars Vanags For a curator and art theoretician, the job of being the key person from the Latvian Museum of Contemporary Art’s Board of Experts responsible for formulating the future museum’s conceptual perspective, must be “as good as it gets”! A quick scan of Kaspars’ recent interviews however, indicates that a conceptual paradox is closer to the truth. The challenge is to understand the notion of a local audience (that has changed rapidly) at the same time offering an interpretation of a regional and international dimension that can result in a locally specific instrumentation of universal communication. This takes place in a milieu wherein the era of the monumental grandiosity of museums has drawn to a close; and the fundamental cornerstones of a museum’s raison d’etre – stability, unchangeability and perpetuity, expressed best by the German word “gruntig”, are themselves facing review. The “order of higher things” and the “administration of memory” – the main tasks of the “House of the Muses” remain, but suddenly, there are many truths, memories are contradictory, and administrating or collecting itself can be virtual or conceptual. The key stakeholders – the Latvian Ministry of Culture, The ABLV Charitable Foundation and the Boriss and Ināra Teterev Foundation (by their essential nature, conservative), must agree, and the audience’s need for the joy of thinking, self-reflection and an exchange of experience also cannot be compromised. So, good luck with that Kaspars! Oh, and then there’s the building...
Jasmīna Grase Together with Nils Chudy, Jasmīna Grase is co-founder of MIITO – a different kind of heating element. It heats water and most other liquids in the vessel of your choosing. In her TED talk, Leyla Acaroglu says that one day of extra energy use [from overfilling electric kettles] is enough to light all the streetlights in England for a night. The true elegance of MIITO is its incredible efficiency as it saves time and energy by heating only the amount you need! And yes, it looks elegant too, a masterpiece of minimalism that is easy to clean and store. With a safeto-touch base surface, it can even be used by older children. There is really nothing more to say about the energy revolution taking place before our very eyes. miito.com Source: MIITO
Sabīne Vekmane Sabine Vekmane, a silk-screen artist, is one of the 3 member Luste team who revel in the tactile, analogue world of ink, wood, silk, paper and fabric. Yes of course you can cheaply digitally print anything on any surface, as long as you order 10,000 in China! Ah, but you want to manage the process, inhale the chemicals and feel the tension of the fabric yourself! Chemicals aside, the artists’ deep love of what they do turned into an opportunity for many other creatives. Having acquired the space and equipment in 2011, Luste developed as an open studio for artists and designers and anyone else who is interested, to create their own silk-screen designs for packaging, posters, brochures, fabric, furniture and walls. The simplicity of the silkscreen print technique makes it particularly suitable for experimentation and for short print runs of limited editions for artists and designers to test the market and make samples before committing to greater expenditure. Luste runs its own design competition to choose designs for its collection and shop, and only environmentally-friendly ink is used in the process. luste.lv
“Mining the future” is a compact definition of a successful endeavour in the 21st century. As such, it owes little to any connection with the Soviet Union, in its time a metaphor for all that was backward-looking, except for the most primitive one-upmanship with the USA in the so-called space race. However, it’s precisely this abundance of Soviet-built, observatories, telescopes and facilities in Latvia and elsewhere in the Baltic region that is behind the launch of a spectacularly forward-thinking new Latvian enterprise called Deep Space Industries Latvia. The purpose of the company is to lay the groundwork – the research and analysis, for asteroid mining of the future. Dr. Amara Graps, the Chief Scientist, explains that the harvest of space resources is a long game, however, recent advances in nano-satellite technology have created a wealth of new opportunities for space businesses, providing the low-cost, robust systems needed for deep space missions. In addition, the deep sea mining industry has pioneered robotic extraction methods that operate in harsh environments without human intervention and are easily modified for use in space. Latvian scientists and facilities are already engaged in this research. Watch this space!
When you take Nordic values, design, their business approach and Nordic cuisine, and add people with pure minds, free imagination and a positive attitude, it’s a pretty good recipe for creating beautiful things. This is what Imants Gross had in mind when he co-founded the Nordic Club House, a new co-working venue in the centre of Riga’s old town. Whilst a work space is at the core of the Nordic Club House, it is so much more – it’s a supportive environment that stimulates its members with a constant programme of interesting events and opportunities. “The “Baltic mentality” is a natural part of Nordic thinking. We are all members of a much bigger “club” around the Baltic sea. We often don’t think in those terms but if we did, we would be a very powerful force to be reckoned with, as we go deeper into the creative 21st century. What we have here is just the beginning.” says Imants. Pressed to explain further, Imants paints a vision of a new generation think tank where the “space holder” goes a step further and facilitates the bringing together and collaboration of many, and all interested parties around a certain issue with a view to craft and design, if not solutions, then at least paths forward from a neutral starting point. nordicclubhouse.com
Baiba Prindule We know exactly what “The Grey Cardinal” means in politics, but what does it have to do with flowers and design? Baiba Prindule is the most sought after Event Art Director in Latvia. The fantasy worlds she creates are bright and fresh, wild and clever, grand yet very, very sincere. Surprising then, when you quickly leaf though a set of images, that the colour that predominates is grey. Baiba explains: “I have great respect for the dignity of black, white, grey – what some call non-colours. They exude some kind of Scandinavian peacefulness, a quiet wisdom. You see, I repeat this over and over to everyone – you don’t need a red dress to make an impression, you need intellect, wisdom and confidence. In this quietness, peacefulness, you notice things, There’s a lot of grey in nature - shadows are grey, the snow on the footpath is grey, so are the cobblestones. Mist, the sky when it rains, beach sand, old wooden planks, smoke from the sauna, sea-buckthorn leaves and silver. And then... the grass starts to sprout and the snowdrops poke through the soil. I adore the bright iridescent green of sprouts, any sprouts. Grey is a frame for small explosions of colour that we in the North, with the gift of 4 separate seasons, understand. Sometimes you need a frame to say – here, look at this, pay attention, appreciate the balance, look deeper”. Baiba seems to be saying that it’s not about the colour, it’s about still, contented wisdom. In everything. feja.lv
Born in Australia to Latvian parents, Brigita Stroda got used to explaining what the unknown country Latvia was about from an early age. Having moved to Latvia shortly after independence, she continued telling the story of Latvia working for the Latvian National Opera and the Latvian Tourism Development Agency. Now a crown maker and co-founder of Lakstigala, an on-line Baltic design shop, she is an insider with an outsider’s eye. lastroda.com lakstigala.com
Silvia Urgas For some time after the collapse of the Soviet Union, young Estonians wanted to identify with Scandinavia and the Nordic mentality. Our Baltic neighbours seemed to remind us too much of ourselves and our Eastern European past. Aspiring to be the new Finland was seen as more attractive than finding common ground with our Latvian and Lithuanian friends. Luckily it seems that these days Nordic and Baltic are not necessarily opposites anymore but rather two sides of the same coin. These are five young Estonians, who dare to look further than state borders and old patterns.]
Helen Tammemäe Müürileht is a fearless newspaper and online site that focuses on topics that mainstream publishers deem too controversial or insignificant and Helen Tammemäe is one of the restless souls keeping the mission alive as the chief editor. A few years ago, Müürileht also launched an English language site named Wader, which is currently in, perhaps, eternal hibernation. Sadly, the reason for this hiatus is that Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians are not yet hyped about our post-soviet Eastern Europe and do not feel confident in that position. “Periphery is the birthplace of avant-garde,” believes Tammemäe, but points out that the Baltic nations do not really care about what is happening at their neighbours’ place but rely on someone from Detroit or Berlin to point out the potential. She herself considers the Baltic States culture much wilder and cooler than the Scandinavian one. While Müürileht is both a “traditional” zine and a constantly changing online medium, Tammemäe finds there to be a market for both formats. Publishing on paper can be compared to collecting vinyl, as there are always enthusiasts who appreciate different feels, smells and sizes. Probably everyone is already growing a bit tired of the cyber world and battling the first signs of screen-hangover. muurileht.ee
The Baltic Pavilion will represent Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia 2016. Johan Tali is an architect and one of the curators of the project. His position is clear: it is important to realise the state is one of the actors operating in the built environment and to perceive this common project as more than just representing three nations but representing one spatiality and also to understand a role of a country in that spatiality. “It is a first step away from a prevailing attitude towards national narcissism, but still realising the region is important and part of global flows and influences. In the end of the day all global battles surface locally, we just have to look at our region to see and address ours. Sometimes we just need to take a step back, zoom out and see the bigger picture.” Tali sees that all three countries are stuck with the same problems of “tiny Eastern European post-soviet-current-EU-NATO states” (which actually narrows the list down to the Baltic States). Most people live in socialist housing blocks in huge districts from the modernist era, the landscapes are overburdened with Soviet Union scale industry and people have yet to reinvent ways in which to deal with all these transitions. It is actually a very natural process of coming together to do things together outside everyone’s comfort zones - the national borders. What will the Baltics look like in fifty years? For him, straightforward deductions of things to come always seem a bit ridiculous, but the Baltic States can look a lot like the dusty industrial areas of Poland or Ukraine or they can become the next shiny and eclectic Baku of a phosphorite-mining and oil-drilling society or a suburb of the dreamy Nordic or Central-European welfare state or perhaps the Hamptons of Europe, full of nature reserves and romantic eco-farmlands… balticpavilion.eu
Photography Ken Oja
Photography Renee Altrov
Reet Aus Upcycling is a process that enables the circulation of leftover materials back to production with the help of design and by doing so, significantly reduces environmental impact. And who else would know more about it than the one who did her PhD thesis on the topic? Reet Aus was recently chosen as one of the top 20 women in business in Northern Europe and it’s not hard to see why – as a fashion designer, her collections are both conscious and stylish. The whole manufacturing process is focused on reducing environmental impact and securing dignified working conditions for all the workers involved – from Bangladesh to Estonia. Aus believes that the path leading people away from fast fashion brands to a more sustainable way of consumption begins from education and awareness. “The future of Baltic fashion design could be quality design and local production on a small scale. We have a high artistic level and great handicraft skills; there are still enough small manufacturers to make high-quality fabric.” What’s the secret to her success? Find your own way and do not step aside – then all the rest will follow. reetaus.com
Kätlin Kaldmaa PEN International is a worldwide writers’ organisation which affirms that literature knows no frontiers and must remain the common currency among people in spite of political or international upheavals. Kätlin Kaldmaa is the president of PEN Estonia and knows well the sad truth that Estonian writers interact more with their Finnish colleagues than the ones right on the other side of the southern border - just like Estonian foreign policy which is aimed more at becoming a Nordic country than being a member of the Baltics. Numerous Estonian works have been translated into Latvian and Lithuanian, whilst only some enthusiastic translators are translating our neighbours’ works to Estonian. Maybe things will change after the London Book Fair 2018 where all three countries together are the guests of honour, hopes Käldmaa. But there’s at least one common aspect in the literature scene of all countries which sets them apart from Scandinavia – writing about their Soviet past. Käldmaa believes that in the near future we will be able to read unpredictable treatments of the topic, free from the Soviet burden. For example, the winner of the last Baltic Assembly prize was Māris Bērziņš for his book “The Taste of Lead” portraying Latvia at the beginning of World War II. pen-international.org
Silvia Urgas is an Estonian freelance journalist and a full-time law student who recently published her first book of poems named “Siht/koht”. A few of her favourite things are good music and the intersections between low and high culture, such as philosophical essays about Kim Kardashian’s book of selfies.
Once upon a time, all three Baltic States gave a lot to the Soviet space programme. It almost seemed like space is a barrier we are no longer able to break but as the new documentary “Instructions on How to Build A Spaceship” shows, Estonia is once again a proud space nation. The director of the movie and all-around Renaissance man, Madis Ligema says the film tries to inject its viewers with positivity, inspiration and the will to change the world. The camera crew followed the multinational team of scientists and students based at the University of Tartu who launched the first Estonian satellite ESTCube-1, around. As many of the students were also Latvian and Lithuanian, co-operation can be seen as the key to success, sending all three nations back to space. The space industry is here to stay – as NASA is already interested in ESTCube-1. Ligema himself is cooking up new ideas to make the Baltics better, being one of the forces behind the creative agency Välk which specialises in concepts, strategies, media production, user experience and design. As professional troublemakers, the Välk team create empires with savvy ideas and clever strategies. They rely on their strong roster of artists, creatives and an extensive network of pioneers to empower their projects and spread the word. eventsfilmandtrouble.com
Photography Dimitri Kotjuh
The twelve adjectives above are not some kind of haiku-esque blank verse poetry. Four times three, this is an attempt to characterize the music of Baltic countries. Each line of the nonpoem was written by a participant of Baltic Trail, the annual symposium of electronic music artists. The first was written by Miša Skalskis, a Lithuanian producer who’s also the founding member of kraut indie band Without Letters, also known as 96WRLD. The second one was coined by Anneliis Kiits, an Estonian singer, songwriter and producer. The third and the fourth lines were sent in from Latvia – DJ W3C thinks that Baltic music is captivating and jazz guitarist Jānis Ruņģis believes it’s calm and adorable. Ultimately, they are all right. There can’t be a single answer to the question because there is no such unit or genre as Baltic music. The same is true when speaking about Baltic culture in general, but the symposium that was held in Nida in November 2015 is an amazing example of the Aristotelian truth: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The description of Baltic Trail (named after The Baltic Way, the historical event that joined more than 2 million people in the 600 km long human chain across Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), held every year since 2013, says that it’s “a gathering of electronic music professionals – producers, vocalists and musicians – bringing everyone together from the three Baltic States for an intense session of making music”. In
addition, the symposium is a very convenient way of finding out more about your neighbours – and at the same time, about yourself. The differences discovered during the process can be as fascinating as the similarities, really. The first meetings were held in Latvia – in an art school in the coastal town of Liepāja and the Soviet-built premises of The Artists’ Union in Riga, to be more precise. The third one was even more private, secluded and exclusive and the participants were willing to share their feelings for the sake of this article. The 8 participants from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia had to travel at least 300 kilometres and then take a ferry to get themselves to the Curonian Spit, then drive 50 kilometres further, all the way to the border with Russia – just to find themselves in the tranquil surroundings of the Art Colony that a few years ago was established by The Vilnius Academy of Arts. The participants of Baltic Trail were lucky to be the first inhabitants of the new complex of the colony, including a brand new recording studio. The Curonian Spit has been a source of inspiration for decades. Thomas Mann, the Nobel Laureate, used to spend his summer holidays here, and Jean-Paul Sartre walked across the dunes together with Simone de Beauvoir, pictured by Antanas Sutkus who was still emerging as one of the most prolific Lithuanian photographers. Music, painting, dance, opera, photography, sculpture, you name it – numerous symposiums, gatherings, improvisations, festivals, summer schools etc. have taken place here, and, of course, the Art Colony has been a great catalyst for this activity over the past few years.
Apart from sharing their knowledge and turning their different experiences into a new stream of music, the participants of Baltic Trail spent some time outside during the field recording sessions. Some of the bits and pieces recorded were used in the tracks, and some were presented to the local radio station, Neringa FM, as its jingles. The soundscaping was inspired by a Skype lecture by John Grzinich, a mixed media artist who did a field recording project in Nida some time ago and then turned it into a film called Curonia. Sandra Kazlauskaitė, a composer and sound artist originally from Lithuania who’s currently undertaking a practice based PhD at Goldsmiths College, London, UK, introduced the class of Baltic Trail to the history of sound art. The lecture was followed by practice-bending sound experiments, which, together with the field recording sessions, were later mentioned by most of its participants as some of the most intriguing moments of the symposium. You might already be wondering what the outcome of Baltic Trail is. The first symposium was followed by a vinyl record of the tracks that were born there, and the second one was compiled into a digital album. Some great material from the Curonian Spit (rainy and foggy, most possibly, as that’s what the weather conditions were like during the symposium) is also on the way, but that’s just part of the deal. “I’m definitely more open to collaborating with artists, musicians and producers both from Latvia and Lithuania after the camp. Some are in the works, some in mind. Both of the countries have a very interest-
ing electronic music scene and the countries are extremely close geographically and culturally, background-wise. So the Pan-Baltic collaborative community just makes so much sense and I’m keen on developing it more and more”, - says Anneliis Kits, adding that Baltic Trail in fact opened her eyes in many ways. To answer to the question raised at the beginning of the article, perhaps a quote from Mi a Skalskis, who’s not only a musician but also a gifted thinker, could be used “It’s always fascinating to see that every country has its own cultural micro-climate. Despite our geographical closeness, differences in cultural environments are pretty big. Although I wouldn’t say they are caused by geo-location. To my mind, the internet, which is not bound to any particular location, is a much bigger influence on our cultural comprehension“. To add a more specific implication, Baltic Trail, is, of course, a valuable source of inspiration (both human and natural) and a springboard for future projects. The latter, and not the direct outcome of the symposium (i.e. a compilation of tracks) is the aim and end result of the project. But, frankly, there is no end to the discussion about what the Baltics sound like. www.baltictrail.eu
Daina Dubauskaitė is a Lithuanian music blogger that started observing the local nightlife and music scene back in 2004. She has interviewed dozens of Lithuanian and foreign artists and is always keen on visiting and discovering new places, sounds and personalities.
Heartening, inspiring, hospitable, Elusive, willing, imaginative, Unique, intricate, captivating, Calm, adorable, joyful.
& wide into the future of sound and its unexpected directions. Sound has an old story but the modern approach shows that the future of it has immensurable possibilities.
Immersive soundscapes are being layered onto experiences in public spaces, galleries and museums, providing a more rounded sensory experience for visitors, and will soon be used to add depth to virtual reality too. There are all kinds of projects (from apps to 3D printed albums) that convert sound into visuals as a new source of inspiration for designers and consumers. A nice example of this is the New York-based start-up Reify – a physical music platform that transforms music into something we can hear, see, touch and hold. They create 3D-printed vinyl totems. Crafted by artists to fit the soundwaves and mood of each track, the totems pulsate, spin and interact with you when viewed through an augmented reality app. “The physical object is literally generated from the sound itself” as they put it. But more experimental new approaches to art are layering sound and experience together in fresh ways. In UK, The National Gallery’s Soundscapes saw eight composers; musicians and sound artists create tracks for paintings, including Jamie xx and Turner Prize winner Susan Philipsz. Tate Britain’s Tate Sensorium, meanwhile, added touch, taste, smell and sound to four paintings, creating a richly immersive art experience that enables visitors to explore how all of the senses influence one another. Virtual reality is also set to take on an immersive soundtrack when the first advanced headsets launch in 2016. Thrive Audio (acquired by Google) and VisiSonics (used by Oculus) are two of the companies developing spatial audio – sound that appears to come from a specific location. Their aim is to make sound in virtual reality reach your ears just as it would in real life: a waterfall will become louder as you move towards it, for example. Added to devices such as SubPac, a portable subwoofer that straps to your back, and VR is set to become aurally comparable to real life.
Whispery Savoury pairs tableware with a sensory soundtrack
Victoria Diaz “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” It’s an old philosophical question, but also a tiny provocation to acknowledge reality to be aware that we are aware… In the digital age, where music is becoming less tangible and full sensory experiences are enhanced with art & technology, sound is going in a fascinating direction. Sound as another emotional sense is now under the limelight as a strong stimulator for fullyframed experiences in art, technology and retail. In this context, I wanted to research and dive deep
Bruce Mau Design’s re-designed branding for the sound company Sonos, visualises sound in a more literal way - the new logo creates an optical illusion, appearing to ripple in a way that resembles sound waves as your eyes move around it.
The taste of sound Sound has been proven to have a quantifiable effect on the taste and texture of the food we eat. Research by sensory scientist Charles Spence at Crossmodal Research Laboratory in the University of Oxford has found that playing the sound of crunching enhances the perceived texture of crisps, while high-frequency music increases the perceived sweetness of food. Spence recently worked with British Airways on Sonic Seasoning, a playlist designed to bring out the taste of airline food.
Adam Basanta’s projects, The Sound of Empty Space and A Room Listening To Itself, explore what happens when you amplify the sound of nothing. Microphones capture their own feedback, creating audible silence. The background hum of white noise, another form of empty sound, can be used to treat tinnitus, boost concentration and aid sleep. Snooz is a portable sound Beep conditioner that creates white noise using a built-in fan, helping to neutralise sound disturbances. As wellness and experience begin to define luxury, white noise is going luxe - artist Jeff Thompson opened a pop-up White Noise Boutique as part of the Brighton Digital Festival last month, selling “the finest quality white noise, cut to unique vinyl records”.
Designers are also starting to explore this fertile area, combining tableware with sound to boost the eating experience. Condiment Junkie’s Bittersweet Symphony works best on coffee, containing melodies that bring out sweet or bitter notes, while Whispery Savoury pairs tableware with a sensory soundtrack. To be aware that you are aware…
Feel the sound Gemma Roper’s bone-conducting headphone modules conduct sound through the cheekbones, turning sound from something that you hear into something that you feel. Artist Wolfgang Buttress used similar technology to help visitors connect to nature in the UK pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015. Inside the honeycomb-shaped structure, visitors could wear bone-conducting headsets to tune into the sounds of bees involved in specific rituals. Buttress also created a limited-edition vinyl, called Be One, as an audio souvenir for the event.
John Grzinich, an American mixed-media artist located in Estonia creates what I would define as “exceptionally organic & poetic” sound projects. One of my favourites is his collective “Sound Stories from the Baltic”– an extraordinary sensorial project where he approached different Baltic artists with questions such as: “ How do the sounds of the seasons and environments in the Baltic affect how you think about sound? The result of the experience is an interesting series of “portraits” (as the artist calls it himself) of situations, spaces and cities.
White Noise Boutique
Another striking environmental sound project was when Lithuanian fashion designer Julija travelled around the Baltic Sea recording the sound of nature & people. Then DJ Gerai Gerai mixed it into electronic music as the playlist for Julija Janus’ stores.
The future of sound for smartphones also promises to become much more tactile: Microsoft has recently filed a patent for a wearable interface that delivers message alerts via a gentle electric shock to the skin.
In the Baltic countries sound is still a wide niche yet to be explored with regard to both retail and technology development.
Has the tree fallen?, because now is also the perfect time for silence or white sound… or empty sound. Complete silence is thought to be impossible for humans to experience – even with no exterior noise, we can still hear the interior noise of our body functioning – but that doesn’t stop us searching for silence.
The concept of white sound is pretty Baltic to me (perhaps because people talk little & winter is white) but the quest for silence has a wider geography – it’s a reflection of our desire for a private place of our own away from the bombardment of urban life. It’s a Utopia, an open question, a secret yet to be discovered, as it is to discover the sound of our memories.
Victoria Diaz is a fashion branding & product identity consultant located in Vilnius where she works with local & international brands & agencies. She is an avid researcher and analyst of macro-trends for retail, technologies, consumer attitudes and the fashion industry in its widest possible spectrum.
N WIND is a platform for exchanges of creative Northern energy. Magazine. Events. People. Theme: See Baltic (April–May 2016)