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Powerful performance in Vilnius calls to open NATO doors for Ukraine

A prominent Lithuanian performance artist Monika Dirsytė and a public activist Agnė Grigaliūnienė are presenting a collaborative durational performance PAN/DEMOS timed to the NATO Summit in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. As the war with the occupying Russian army still rages in Ukraine, the project aims to urge the Summit attendees to open the NATO doors to Ukraine. The performance takes place at Independence Square in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, on July 10th from 10 AM to 6 PM.

The venue of the performance—Independence Square, adjacent to the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) and Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania—was the site of mass demonstrations for Lithuanian Independence, including the final stand-off on the night from January 12th to the 13th, 1991, when the Soviet tanks seized the TV Tower and occupied the radio and television headquarters. Lithuania is hosting the NATO summit at the same time as Ukraine is fighting for its independence. Therefore the artists call on NATO to support Ukraine.

The performance title, PAN/DEMOS, refers to a turning point in a political process toward democracy. It also recalls the pandemic, which, like war, affects every member of society regardless of the national borders.

“At this time, during global turbulence, the performance hits very sensitive themes such as isolation, segregation, and virtual reality. The performance PAN/DEMOS, which was first realized during the COVID-19 pandemic, is now once again made relevant and representative of current global affairs. A glass maze encapsulating a person who is fighting for his existence represents a global arena of the present in which the nation of Ukraine, alongside all civilized countries, is resisting the brutality-fueled aggressor that’s seeking to diminish and exterminate the notion of humanness.

In the case of Russia’s war against Ukraine, PAN/DEMOS becomes a mirror for the world’s elite—the NATO summit guests in Vilnius. In the pursuit of attracting the public’s attention to socially important themes, art becomes a powerful weapon. Especially performance art which stabs right to the core. In this case, Vilnius becomes a heavily pulsating heart, and we are here, the ones speaking the language of humans. Speaking about the safety of humankind, the nation, as well as the whole of Europe. Slava Ukraini!,” says the artist Monika Dirsytė.

As she crawls through the transparent maze, the performer Dirsytė experiences stifling confinement. She is seen, yet her sensations are encased in glass. In the same way, the war is mediatized yet cannot be experienced even from a short distance away—another performer, Grigaliūnienė, is continuously looking at the monitor. The public is invited to watch two events unfold simultaneously behind glass—the live performance and the recorded footage. The performance presents existential suffering along the labyrinthine path toward liberation.

According to Grigaliūnienė, the performance serves as a communication device during the major shift in the political field.

“As artists, we are talking about the world’s wounds in the language of art. While broadening the bounds of the performance PAN/DEMOS, through the last few months we’ve experienced an interesting process. For me, as a person working in the field of creativity and communication, it is important to find the most convincing and modern outlets for communication about the brutality of the war in Ukraine. In this performance, I become yet another person in the world perceiving the tragedy through a display. I am trailed by a strong sense whilst thinking about the significance of the place where the performance is carried out. The location’s importance is prevalent to all of us; here, three decades ago, our parents and grandparents guarded the freedom of Lithuania. I was there, and I vividly remember all of it,” comments Agnė Grigaliūnienė.

Partnered with Ukrainian producers

The Organisation of Ukrainian Producers (OUP) partnered with the authors of the performance. In March 2022, seven well-known Ukrainian television producers created the OUP to make documentaries about Russian military aggression and show them to the world.

Footage from the first OUP documentaries made in 2022 is broadcast on a monitor in a glass maze. Among these films are stories of survivors of the occupation in Mariupol and the Kiev region: Mariupol. Unlost Hope (directed by Max Lytvynov, Yuri Smetanin), Mariupol. Fury Makes Me Breathe (directed by Max Lytvynov, Yuri Smetanin), and How to Survive When You Are Being Killed (directed by Anton Shcherbakov, Kateryna Lysenko, Dmytro Plyuta).

The stories of the volunteers who saved animals from shelling at the cost of their own lives are told in the documentary 9 Lives (directed by Igor Homa). There are also images from Art of War UA (directed by Philipp Kohlhoefer), a film about musicians and artists who took up arms and went to the front to defend their country. Unique footage from the film Against All Odds (directed by Artem Litvinenko), which explores why the Russian blitzkrieg failed, completes the overall picture and helps the viewers of the performance to experience all that the Ukrainians experienced in the first year of the full-scale invasion and what they continue to experience every day until now. A Home Lost (directed by Pavlo Mashchenko, Yulia Mishchenko, Olexander Detynenko), and Absolute Evil (directed by Andriy Tsapliyenko) are also displayed on the screen.

“For more than 500 days Ukraine has been fighting against the Russian armed invasion. We have endured so much during this time, and despair often overwhelms us. But there are moments when it becomes clear that everything we do is not in vain. When our colleagues from Vilnius asked for materials from films produced by the Organization of Ukrainian Producers to be shown during the NATO Summit, it was one of those moments. Each of us contributes seemingly a tiny bit, but we are confident that our collective efforts will soon break the neck of Goliath. Slava Ukraini!,” adds Igor Storchak, co-founder of the Organization of Ukrainian Producers (OUP).

Alongside the creative team comprised of Lukas Pačkauskas, Dominykas Liekis, Vytenis Tarvydas, Dominykas Kubilius, and Valentinas Lileiki, numerous partners also contributed to the performance: law firm Triniti Jurex, event and communication agency Olive. Living communication, the national broadcaster TV3 and general director Laura Blaževičiūtė. The link to the OUP showreel is available here: