Category

Kaunas

 

Just imagine that each and every one of us sees the world just like an element of a lens. All elements together deliver the image we see in the viewfinder. Nowadays, we all look through our own element and define that as the image. Forgetting that only different points of view create an image. Only if we bring our element together with those of others, we can look through the viewfinder at the final picture. From that we together can define the final composition of the image we want to produce.

We have lost the technique of bringing different views together to create the most brilliant, detailed image. We now stand opposite of each other and trying to convince that our view is the only right view. As such we have lost our common viewfinder and that is such a pity!

The viewfinder analogy is based on one overriding human principle; empathy.
The human power to see with the eyes of another, listen with the ears of another and feel with the heart of another. It is therefore more than sympathy and compassion, it is you in the shoes of another. That, we can all agree, is lacking throughout all discussions in today’s society. Quite similar to the days of Jan Zwartendijk and Chiune Siguhara, who both felt writing visa for the Jews refugees was the right thing to do. Or as Ghandi said: my actions may be unlawful but not unjust.

viewfinder

Two in itself unimpressive marble stones mark the corners of the area. Hardly noticed when you don’t know where to look. Two in memoriam’s for what was in world war II the Jewish getto of Kaunas. Now it is an ordinary neighbourhood of Kaunas where rich and poor live side by side. Buildings in decay next to freshly build little castles indicating the wealth of its inhabitants. It symbolises what makes us humans unique, in all of its darkness and all of its brightness.

It is also a stark reminder that really bad things can happen if words are framed ‘against’ other humans. The same words that should be part of  ‘togetherness’; to seek to understand our differences. Words when spoken with empathy, simply bring back a smile as first step in crossing the divide. Even today, to all those hurried people, minding their own business and seeking a less cold (in all aspects) place to live, it simply works.

words

Undefined is what we feel after our first week of our Artist in Residence in Kaunas. What we learned?! Once again, nothing is what it appears to be. In Kaunas are we part of the East? Of the West? Undefined!

Only some 25 years ago, Lithuania once again declared its independency from Russia. Now the people who grew up in the Russian times, the older generations, desperately want to be part of the West. The younger generation, with a distinct progressieve outlook, say that they live in the East and use it only to define the coordinates on the map.

Kaunas as a city is also undefined.
Hipster coffee bars with the old babushka’s drinking their latte’s. But also poor old ladies selling their own produce in the streets, alongside smoking girls with high heels in high fashion. Kaunas is a student city with a lot of diversity and its people live in almost parallel worlds. Yet you feel their drive to become something special in the world at large.

Yesterday, we suddenly were spectators in something special!
Something that brought all people from Kaunas together. Literary! In the town’s market square was the unveiling of their Christmas tree. A big spectacle and performance with crowds and crowds of people; families, hipsters, friends and all watching the moment supreme. Apparently a big tradition in Kaunas.

It made us wonder!
A Christmas tree as the symbol for connecting parallel worlds. Can we humans still connect to each other via these ancient symbols?! Or should we try to find new symbols?! Perhaps that is what our Mr. Philips Radio project should strive to become; the art of empathy as a symbol to connect human beings from different backgrounds. Pretty steep assignment 🙂

undefined

An unused swing. In a small park, right up the steep hill overlooking the city centre of Kaunas. It felt this morning a silent witness for the men and women who 76 years ago desperately tried to find a way out. Imagine that just a stamp and a signature is the only thing that separates you from life or death….

Such was the situation in early summer 1940. Barely a 2 minute walk away from this park, is the house (currently museum) where Chiune Sugihara issued 2.345 visa for the Jews of Kaunas. Working in tandem with Jan Zwartendijk, and often urging him to slow down, he wrote for hours upon hours the visa that would grant the Jews a transit to Curacao; de facto a change to live.

silent swing

It all starts with perception. How to look beyond the first impressions, dictated by our own perceptions. Can we go past them to connect to the other. That’s what why tried to convey in our first session with the youth of Kaunas Gymnasium. Perception as the first hurdle towards empathy.
It’s nice to see that certain things are truly universal, despite our different cultural backgrounds.

perception

With this little film by Alex and President Obama we concluded our first session and we are looking very much forward to the images they are going to shoot in the next days dealing with their own perceptions!

 

Today we met our art teacher to go through our programme with his pupils. Great to see the enthusiasm of somebody already working for 30 years in this building and still maintains the energy and spirit of starting yesterday. It inspired us to add a new chapter to our presentation; images of Margaret to illustrate what we would like to achieve with this project; the art of empathy by Kanuas youth. Going beyond the first impressions which are based on our perceptions, right to the deeper meaning one might see if you just dare to.

art of empathy

X