Evelina Šimkutė

Interviewed by Raimonda Tamulevičiūtė

Photographed by Julija Rūkas

Translated by Eimantas Budrys

How was the idea of the Šilainiai project born? You are an artist yourself, did your work inspire the birth of it?

I grew up in Šilainiai, this district is very important for me. After school I went to study at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, where I lived for almost 12 years. When I started as an artist, the Šilainiai micro-district was often reflected in my work. During my studies, I experimented with many artistic branches, which in many different aspects reflected Šilainiai. I started from the photography, I was thinking about the place and changes that happened in it, I created performances, installation. Later on, I went on to the sculpture, which portrayed objects from Šilainiai, for example, details of playgrounds. For this project, I used the characteristic materials – steel and concrete. I later introduced these objects to exhibitions in England. It was interesting to analyze what they communicate to different audiences and what type of message gets sent from my side. However, the creation of various Šilainiai sculptures was not sufficient for them alone, there was a lack of a human itself, because the Šilainiai is about people, it is a residential micro-district, and things tell a very small part of the story. I had to go back and get to know the constantly changing place. When I was living in London, I realized that I was getting further and further from the culture and everyday life of Šilainiai, although my artistic creations were mainly focused on this area. The encouragement to start the Šilainiai Project occurred when I realized that there was a shortage of people in my work – a lack of resident of Šilainiai.

What activities are currently taking place in Šilainiai?

At present, the Šilainiai Project has six branches: Šilainiai historical archive, photography workshops in schools, international artists’ residences, events in unusual places, conversations involving the local community and research – this is a new activity that would help to bring together scholars interested in this micro-district: sociologists, urbanists, architects and etc. Very often, people living in a similar area like Šilainiai are lacking information about like-minded who live in their nearby environment, so this project seeks not only to get to know the area, but also for the community to get to know each other better.


One of the parts of Šilainiai Project is Šilainiai Photo, why did you choose to integrate photography into this project and it has become one of the main parts of the project?

In the summer 2015 while preparing for the launch of the Šilainiai Project I went to the section of photography documents in the Central Archive of Lithuania and I was looking for visual information about Šilainiai, after all this neighborhood is counting its 30 years! Unfortunately, I only managed to find 5 photos, it surprised me and motivated me to do more photo research. I was sure that they really exist, maybe not in the official archives, but there are definitely some in the personal ones. The search for these images and a solid commemoration encouraged me to start project with a photography section. Photography is one of the great ways to start talking about a place and its history.

You also arrange a residence of artists, why did you choose to implement this exact kind of project here? Could you choose a few of the most memorable ideas of the invited creators associated with Šilainiai?

Yes, for two years in the row now, I have organized a residence of artists from different parts of the world in Šilainiai. Invited artists create in Šilainiai public spaces, we hold public meetings with them in the Šilainiai Library and we also organize exhibitions. In this kind of project, I’m more interested in another person’s glance at Šilainiai. An artist coming from a different environment brings other knowledge and experience with him, another vision. Locals, including myself, often do not recognize certain, perhaps ordinary, but interesting and relevant events in their own environment.

Brooke Carlson, an Australian creator who works mostly in the field of performance, found several dilapidated buildings in Šilainiai, from which she took two bricks. During the performance, in one of the busiest areas of the micro-district, she turned the found bricks in to the dust. After the presentation, we discussed the performance with the team, we discussed what home meant to us, what kind of experience this performance left, and finally, what is the performance itself? The audience can give a lot to the creator, as he can to the audience.

In autumn 2017, the artist Shota Kotake spend two weeks painting portraits of the locals in Šilainiai Library. A connection was established between the artist and the project participant, sometimes even without speaking the same language. It was sharing of experiences and creativity that made it possible. he unexpected installation of the artist’s studio in the local library had unpredictable profound effects on the artist and the project participants themselves.


Community involvement is a hard task, sometimes requiring more than one-year effort. How did the community integrate into the Šilainiai Project? What was the relationship between the community and the project at the beginning of the project and what the relationship is about now?

In the case of Šilainiai, the community is rather a complicated structure, since there are over 50 thousand inhabitants. It’s impossible to bring them all together, so we are more focused on groups of people that share common interests. It would be wonderful if these groups would express their desire to create together in Šilainiai and for Šilainiai. I would like to see co-operative creative work here.

However, we not only support the ideas from bigger groups, individual ideas and their realization are more than welcome too. The exhibition in the basement, which took place this year, was a thought of one of Šilainiai inhabitants. A project on the creation of “researchers club” – proposed by a local resident. Walking in the courtyards of poets, last year, was also the idea of the inhabitant of Šilainiai. So, such cooperation is already happening, and only more time is needed for more people to be involved.

Is the personal history and experience of Šilainiai residents relevant to the project? Maybe you can tell a few of the most memorable stories related to this micro-district that you heard?

Talking about the stories of the district, most of them probably came from the installation “Network” created in Šilainiai more than 10 years ago by an artist Tadas Vosilius. The installation was his final master’s thesis. The installation is a stretched web between two apartment buildings with coppers. In addition to this work, there is no description, so the locals began to create stories about this object themselves. One of the versions was that the net was laid for a helicopter landing, which had to quickly throw out the cargo. Eventually some of the ladders were clipped. Another version is that this is the final school work of a local student. Having heard the above-mentioned ideas, Tadas did not even want to tell his own story, because his work created a myth about itself, found it’s place. The artist said that the source of his inspiration was telecommunication wires and the idea that the district is like a network that connects.

Why is the Šilainiai Project exclusive in the field of community-wide projects? Why are projects of this kind necessary in the context of Lithuania?

The role of socially affiliated, creative localization projects from the view of Lithuania and Europe is very important. I would like to highlight some of the most important aspects of such projects: psychological and physical health, experience sharing and social interaction. Participation in a community project involves making new social relationships and collaborating with people of similar interest, which always enrich the local community. We learn more about citizenship and we gain a different look at their environment and, of course, creativity improvement

On a Lithuanian scale, Šilainiai Project’s exclusivity may be complexity, variety of activities and audience. Sound, image, movement, walks and conversations, spontaneous events, local studies: all this combines the Šilainiai Project.

Paskelbta: December 31, 2017

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