Milda and Stanislav On NeoOptimism in Kaunas Stanislav Drča (Cultural Center LAB) joined our Tandem Cultural Capitals programme, and worked on Reciprocal Residency Program with Milda Šarpnickytė (Kauno menininkų namai). In this story, he shares insights from his visit to Kaunas. Aliens of Kaunas. Photos by Annie Leibovitz. After a 30-hour ride through 4 countries, 5 transfers, 2 missed busses, meeting a Nigerian prince preacher, almost winding up in Minsk, Lukashenko Land and a stand of with Hungarian nationalists at the Kelenfold so-called bus station, I arrived at my destination: Kaunas, Lithuania, land of amber, tall people, indo-European language similar to … well … nothing and a vibrant and thriving above and underground cultural scene. With a brilliant host like Milda Šarpnickytė, a few social drinks and energy to constantly be on the move you get to know the town and art scene in just a couple of intense days. From her “native” organization Kaunas Artist House where I met with the brain of the house, Ruta, to propose our project, we set out to conquer Mildas hometown. Discovering the dynamic past of the centuries-old city, its modernistic buildings that count up to hundreds and many small cultural spaces I felt very lucky to have gotten a chance to engage with this community and start developing a project with my Tandem partner. When it comes to Lithuanian and on a micro-scale Kaunas culture and heritage, one term that defines the time of its golden age frequently pops up, “Optimism”. The interwar period of the 20th century saw Lithuanian fight for its economical and territorial independence through the medium of culture and heritage. The Lithuanian modernism style was born with an experimental fluxus mindset. Dynamics of Kaunas. Photos by Irving Penn Both Lithuania and Serbia were, each in their own sense, behind the iron curtain of the former socialistic and communistic regimes for decades. Being closed off and introverted we see a lack of residential programmes and exchanges, especially when it comes to art and culture. Our project aims to change that, and develop a sustainable bridge between our two countries for ongoing exchange of artists, curators, musicians and other creatives. But wait, there is also a little twist to the whole story. Our residency programme will have an architectural focus with the idea of reviving old, less used modernistic jewels of Kaunas and Novi Sad giving them a new breath of life and raising their heritage value trough reevaluating their purpose. As I spent more time in Kaunas, parallels between our two cities, countries and mentalities became apparent and clear, and there is a lot of them. Our project requires a lot of research and urban exploration and that’s why we set out to get to know as much as we can each other’s communities and experts. Meeting so many open-minded people with a shared passion, especially the crew from the “Modernism for the Future” project, we got the needed wind in our backs. Besides this boost, we also managed to acquire a steroid injection from both our European Capitals Of Cultures (ECOC) in the form of a seed funding. Shout out to Agne Bo from Kaunas 2022 and Vladimir Radmanović from Novi Sad 2021. The ingredients are here, now its time to start combining them and developing our project with a focus on heritage and sustainability on our minds. I could go on and list all the interesting, crazy, loving people I met and all the ideal, wired, unique places Milda introduced me to, during my first stay in Kaunas but the Tandem servers would crash from emotional overload, so I am going to leave this essay with one final thought. Beetroot soup is tastier when it is cold. Ačiū.