Enter Vilnius

Lithuania may seem an unlikely hub of the avant-garde, but as the birthplace of Fluxus founder George Maciunas and avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas, the country has an undeniable place in art history. Its capital city of Vilnius is quickly becoming an emerging location for cultural activity. Set to be Europe's 'Culture Capital 2009,' rumors of a new Guggenheim/Hermitage outpost, and the recent opening of the Jonas Mekas Visual Art Center, Vilnius seems to have 'arrived' on the growing global culture circuit. The inaugural show, 'The Avant Garde from Futurism to Fluxus' (which runs through the beginning of February) highlights the place of Vilnius in the history of the avant-garde. Mekas' impressive collection of documentation Collection of 40 Films forms the backbone of the show, and works by other key artists including Maciunas, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik and Shigeko Kubota strengthen it. A Mekas-curated film series, which includes classics by Luis Bunuel, Marcel Duchamp, Hans Richter and Fernand Leger, is hopefully an indication of future programming. Of course, the degree of fanfare and attention this capital city is currently getting is not always a great thing, and a number of quotes from the press release (e.g. "Scott Weinkle designed the super white cube space of the Art Center-- a formidable transplant of a New York Chelsea gallery to Vilnius") hints at the more troubling trend of art world homogenization. But with the Center's mandate to promote film, video and computer based arts, let's hope that Vilnius will embody the nature and spirit of its Fluxus and avant-garde fathers. - Caitlin Jones

Jonas Mekas, Fluxus on the Hudson, 1971

Update: This post covers the opening of the Jonas Mekas Visual Art Center. It implies that Vilnius is not seen as a contemporary art hub when, in fact, the city is a thriving center of avant-garde practice, home not only to Mekas and Maciunas, but also to the eminent CAC and many other artists.- Ceci Moss