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Kaunas

Here it is. Our first book together; all images of Margaret Lansink and all poems by Rene van Hulst. Printed in two blacks and silver in a design by Akikio Wakabayashi. A book on an inspiring story which still has so much relevance today. A book in which we do not want to lecture but give every individual a small nudge to help build a society where empathy for the other is omnipresent.

As Katharine Oktober Matthews wrote in the preface of the book: “Every moment contains multiple possibilities, though sometimes we cannot feel it. Small decisions, small gestures, and small actions ripple outwards from our bodies into the lives of others, collapsing the many possibilities into the determination of reality. With a casual and careless stroke, we can crush the spirit of another in passing without any awareness of having done so. Equally, we can unknowingly radiate to others the inspiration and joy to live another day. Our deepest acts of both cruelty and kindness may in fact be invisible to us.”.

Being aware of this notion makes the start of a different interaction between humans. Even if we didn’t know each other beforehand. Just like the Dutch counsel Jan Zwartendijk and the Japanese counsel Chiune Sugihara who issued the visa that saved the lives of thousands of Jews. People both consuls didn’t know beforehand.

Or as Oktober Matthews says it so beautifully:
In her black and white images, Lansink traces the feeling of everyday saviours like Zwartendijk through an intuitive view of Kaunas and Japan. She mixes scenes from ordinary daily life with shots of blurred confusion, and layered scenes with reflections that hold us apart from what we see. In his series of short poems, van Hulst muses on the potential of our human existence: we are all afraid and alone, together. In combination, the photographs and words dwell in the possibility of any given moment for a person to choose fear, apathy, and anger, or to choose compassion and kindness. Gently, they urge for kindness.

Want to have your own copy? Please order here
Or via Kaunas Photogallery in this link.
More on our journey can be found here.

 

 

 

 

Back in Kaunas. After a journey of three years we are again back in this beautiful city and ready for the launch of our book ‘The Kindness of One’ tomorrow evening in the Kaunas Photogallery. And it is with considerable pride that we are part of the program of the ‘Citytelling Festival’ of the Kaunas 2022 Cultural Capital, being invited by its curator, Daiva Citvariene, to present the story of our inspiration.

Especially for this event on the 21st of October, we prepared a screening of our book with the help of Robi Reisinger of the Gallery Club. With his expertise, we developed a special soundtrack to guide viewers along the journey of our book through the images selected. An eclectic 8 min deep dive into the emotional journey of (fortunately) so many Jews who where given the opportunity to escape the horror of Nazi Germany.

And as we write this, humanity is still struggling with millions of refugees due to wars and sometimes it seems that we simply fail to learn the important lessons of our history. Or in positive words, as written in the preface of our book by Katherine Oktober Matthews; every day and every moment, we can choose for angry or for kindness…

So a big thank you to all who travelled with us on this remarkable journey:
design: akiko wakabayashi
lithography: marc gijzen
production: drukkerij tielen, boxtel
publisher: kaunas photography gallery in cooperation with wewest

Margaret and Rene would like to thank the team of the Kaunas Photography Gallery for their energy and perseverance in making this book happen, especially Gintaras Cesonis for his belief in  the importance of our story. Furthermore the people of Shiro Oni Studio in Onishi Japan for our wonderful residence, especially Yoji Matsumura for his teaching  of the Japanese language and  the principles of Wabi Sabi.

A little light in dark times

The lucky ones who were handed a visa for Curacao went on a major trip through the width of Russia, to end up on a ship in Vladivostok. After a few days of sailing, they entered the small Japanese port of Tsuruga. There they were welcomed by representatives of the Jewish community of Kobe, which escorted them to Kobe to give them a new home away from home. Thanks to the little lights of two men, they escaped the dark times of WW-II to enter in the light of the Japanese culture. This poem tries to put into words what these people must have felt upon arrival. It is one of the texts used in our exhibition in the Kanna Art Festival.

BOW
fleeing from terrorlight
fear in their veins
travelling into the unknown
escaping the horrors
by some simple empathy
insecure future
anxiety upon arrival
to find respect
in a simple bow
acknowledging them
as individuals
who’s lives do matter

Yesterday we said ‘till soon!‘ to our dear friends of the Kaunas Photogallery, to all other people we got to know during our stay and to those we just recently met during our Artist Talk in the Gallery. Till soon! because we know that we will come back, that our work is not finished yet. And that together we can form one mighty team!

So till soon! and until that moment; we will cherish our beautiful memories together!

NB.
For those interested;  our presentation can be viewed here. And if you want to know more, get involved or just be kept up-to-date, just drop us an e-mail at hello@wewest.eu!

soon

 

Our last day in Kaunas. As we are preparing our presentation and film for our Artist Talk later today, we contemplate our stay as the Artists in Residence. It is with mixed feelings that we will go home again. It is certainly not a goodbye but more a seen you again, soon! Not only because we will finish our project here in Kaunas but also because the people we met have a place in our hearts and minds. The incredible friendliness in an often dark and gloomy place, the willingness to go along on our route of rekindling empathy and the experiences we shared, have made our visit something that will be in our minds and works for a long, long time.

Now it is time to go back home. To find the funds to travel to Kobe, Jerusalem, Eindhoven and Shanghai. To work with students in these places on their Art of Empathy and to bring all that material back to Kaunas to work with the great people of the Kaunas Photogallery on publishing this volume of work and thereby fuelling society’s debat on empathy. Only together we can define a better world for all of us.

just like snow
dancing
in the rays of the sun
a little ballet of nature
used as inspiration
in our relations
to find a future
with light for all

 

Our inspiration today, we found it on the 4th floor of a small apartment building, just around the corner.  We had the incredible privilege to visit the studio of Romualdas Požerskis, one of Luthania’s most outstanding photographers of the past 40 years. Together with his three friends (Antanas Sutkus, Aleksandras Macijauskas and Romualdas Rakauskas) they were a band of four that (against the state), worked extremely hard to put their country on the map by means of their photography.

Going through his images one couldn’t be more impressed by the crafts of the man who all his life had done his own developing and printing. So incredibly beautiful and technically perfect, it reminded us that we (and digital) still have a long way to go.

Especially true when you realise that all four of them more or less used the same approach, yet with completely different outcome. Sometimes for 20 years, they simple went with their subjects and photographed them. Day in, day out. Until they had a body of work that was immens and could only be shown when the time was right. Romualdus showed us his work for the ‘Catholic holidays’, which he started to shoot in 1974 and could only publish it in 1988. We seriously doubt whether there is one contemporary photographer able and willing to put so much time in their projects.

We are only one month on our way in this project…. pfff by his measures still an immense long way to go 🙂

inspiration

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