The organizers of the European Capital of Culture 2022 event in Kaunas, Lithuania this year scored a remarkable coup with the staging of an installation/exhibition by New York-based Japanese-American artist Yoko Ono.

The world famous artist’s installation is called “Ex It” and was exhibited on January 23 in the main operations room of the Kaunas branch of the Bank of Lithuania, a famous example of the architecture of the between the wars in the second city of Lithuania. The artistic piece consists of 100 wooden coffins of different sizes on which grow fruit trees and a sound recording of living nature.

It is described as a powerful image of the aftermath of war or natural disaster, a metaphor for the resilience of life and the vitality of nature. As the artist herself says: “Ex It’s life as a continuation.”

It is the precursor to Ono’s major retrospective which will be presented at the Kaunas Picture Gallery in September this year. The upcoming exhibition, titled “The Learning Garden of Freedom”, will showcase a wide range of works reflecting his different periods and creative practices, from conceptual art and experimental filmmaking to spatial installations, objects and textual works.

It is also symbolic that the exhibition is held at the Kaunas Picture Gallery located right next to the childhood home of George Mačiūnas, who was born in Kaunas in 1931 and became the founder of the Fluxus movement. Fluxus is a Latin word meaning to flow, and in English a flux is a flow.

Mačiūnas, who died in Boston, USA, in 1978, said that the purpose of Fluxus was “to promote a revolutionary flood and tide in art, to promote living art, anti-art”. This gallery also houses a special Fluxus cabinet dedicated to the Mačiūnas.

“The Learning Garden of Freedom” is an invitation to see freedom in everyday life, including outside the exhibition gallery. Ono’s works will also be exhibited in public spaces in Kaunas and at the Emanuel Levinas Center of the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences.

Yoko Ono was born in Tokyo in 1933 and is a renowned pacifist and artist of world significance. Beginning her artistic career in the avant-garde art scene in New York in the 1950s and 1960s, Ono established herself in the field of conceptual art, creating performances, music, films, sculptures and facilities.

Early in her career, she worked closely with the founder of Fluxus Mačiūnas. She received the Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009. Her work is highly political and social, while her artistic practice is inspired by everyday life and the desire to preserve the delicate balance between forces of power and good.

Ono is the widow of Beatle John Lennon, who was murdered outside their New York home, the Dakota Building, in 1980. They had met in a London gallery in November 1966 and were married in Gibraltar in March 1969. After her death she had a 20 year companionship with Sámuel Havadtõy who was born in London in 1952 to Hungarian parents who had settled there after World War II. He was just a boy when his family returned home to Hungary in 1956, months before the uprising.

Havadtõy left Hungary in 1971 through the former Yugoslavia, moving to the United Kingdom and then to the United States. His destiny takes another turn 20 years later when two famous clients enter his New York boutique: John Lennon and Yoko Ono, with whom he becomes friends.

The Kaunas exhibition is curated by the Center for Contemporary Art in collaboration with the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art (Porto, Portugal) and Studio One (New York, USA), and curated by longtime friend of Ono and curator of the Fluxus exhibitions, Jon Hendricks.

It is a continuation of the exhibition held at the Museum of Serralves in 2020, specially adapted for Kaunas, the birthplace of George Mačiūnas. The exhibition is part of Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022. Visiting the facility is free.

Lithuania and its two other Baltic states are often mentioned as a future target of the deranged monster Putin. Kaunas reacted to Russia’s war on Ukraine by canceling International Day of Happiness events scheduled for March 20. Organizers of the European Capital of Culture in the city say it’s hard to talk about happiness when Lithuania’s close friends in Ukraine are going through the darkest times in the country’s history.

“We are wholeheartedly with Ukraine and want to contribute not only with our thoughts but also with our deeds to support it,” the organizers say. “By canceling the International Day of Happiness events, we are devoting all our energy to other initiatives that mobilize aid and support for the victims of war. “

Kaunas 2022 will join the international campaign in support of Ukraine on March 17. Various activations as well as fundraising for Ukraine will take place during the campaign. This support initiative will be far-reaching and will seek to unite partners not only in Lithuania but also in Europe.

“We also pay great attention to supporting representatives of Ukrainian culture and art. Kaunas 2022 is launching an initiative to transform the Kaunas Central Post Office (which has just been opened to the public and where art events will take place throughout the year) into a residential space for Ukrainian artists, who will choose Kaunas as their temporary residence during the war, to continue creating.

“Ukrainian creators will also be invited to the cultural visibility platform in Kaunas through cultural organizations in Kaunas, which maintain contacts and have partnerships with Ukrainian artists”, specify the organizers.

“Together with our partners, we also plan to manufacture special merchandise to support Ukraine. The funds collected from these merchandise will be used for scholarships dedicated to Ukrainian artists and for the implementation of a residential program at the central post office of Kaunas The Kaunas – European Capital of Culture project has more than 800 volunteers who will be encouraged to join organizations helping Ukraine.

“Kaunas 2022 is already inviting to join other initiatives organized by our partners who contribute to the support of Ukraine. For example, the cultural initiative ‘Kaunas Full of Culture’ and ‘Hands on Press’ ‘Colors for Ukraine’. It brought together creators for one purpose: posters and other designs through which artists express their creativity, support Ukraine and protest against the war that Russia has started.

Artists can contribute to this initiative by creating, while society can help by buying the works. The developers will transfer the money to a charity of their choice to help Ukraine and its people.