Photography by Lina Daugirdaite Lapinskiene for ZEFYR LIFE - Copyrights 2020
Lina Lapelytė is an artist living and working in London and Vilnius. She holds BA in classical violin, BA in Sound Arts and MA in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art, London. Her performance-based practice is rooted in music and flirts with pop culture, gender stereotypes, aging and nostalgia.Throughout her artistic career, Lapelytė has explored various forms of performativity, crossing genre boundaries while entwining folk rituals with popular music and opera formats, frequently using stylized expression, grotesque and conceptual musicality.
Her works Ladies (2015), Hunky Bluff ( 2014) and Candy Shop (2013/2015) were shown in different contexts and locations including the Serpentine Pavilion in London, the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the Venice Architecture Bienniale and MACBA (Barcelona)
Her collaborative work with Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė and Vaiva Grainytė, opera Have a Good Day! garnered several awards, its libretto has been translated into 9 languages and it has been touring extensively. Their newest durational performance work Sun and Sea (Marina) represented Lithuania at the Venice Biennale of Art in 2019 and received the Golden Lion Award for the best national participation www.sunandsea.lt
Lina Lapelyte’s works were shown at the Cartier Foundation gallery, Paris (2019); Tel-Aviv museum of art (2019), Kunsthalle Praha (2019); Waiting for another coming - CCA Ujazdowski, Warsaw (2018); Give up the ghost ! - Baltic Triennial, Tallinn (2018); Undersong - KIM?, Riga (2018); Pirouette - Rupert (solo show, 2017); Magma , National Gallery of Art, Vilnius (2017); Moderna Museet, Malmo (2017); FIAC, Paris (2017), Baltic Pavilion, Venice Bienniale, Venice (2016); Peculiar People , Focal Point Gallery, Southend-on-Sea/Great Britain (2016); Double Bind, NILO, Reykjavik (2016) and Rupert, Vilnius (2015); Listening, Hayward touring show, Great Britain (2015); Block Universe, London (2015); Park Nights, Serpentine, London (2014); Baltic CCA, Newcastle (2014); Eye and Lense, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2014); DRAF, London (2014); BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall (2012), London.
Florian DAVID (ZEFYR LIFE): Dear Lina we would first like to thank you for making space for this time with us, and for welcoming us inside your beautiful loft here in Vilnius [Smile]. Let’s start with something quite huge that just happened in your life. This 58th Venice Biennale you and your crew have just won the Gold Lion for your Opera work that was untitled ‘May You Live In Interesting Times’. Congratulations [Smile]
Lina LAPELYTE: Thank you [Smile]
DAVID: We asked acclaimed Lithuanian Photographer Antanas SUTKUS how he found the world, he answered us: " I Find The World Ugly". The way he said it also struck us so much, that moment stayed with us and now we are asking everyone we meet how they find the world [Laughs]. What would you say?
' I WOULD SAY THAT IN ITS ESSENCE THE WORLD IS BEAUTIFUL'
Lina LAPELYTE: If I find the world ugly? Hmm… [Smile]. Well I think I find the world beautiful in its essence but then I also do and live a lot of things in quite a naive way. If you start to really analyse things you may see a lot of awful things that we are surrounded by. But again, I would say that in its essence the world is beautiful.
DAVID: There might also be two aspects to consider, depending on what we mean when we say ‘the world’, no? There is life itself, as in the movie titled ‘Life is beautiful’, the universe, the life Principle, and there is the man-made world that we live in, society, no? The way we humans interact with each other and with our world and so on.
LAPELYTE: Well in fact I do not think that you can separate these things, the world is who you are and I believe that a lot of people are beautiful and they make this place beautiful. So one cannot say this is an ugly place surrounded by beautiful people. This world is all one and the same thing, it is a unity, and the way we do everything does affect the whole [world].
DAVID: It is clear from your works that you and your two artists partners in crime [Smile] are very interested by what is happening in the world. Don’t you think that there are also different realities or dimensions to that concept? The actual world as it may stand. Then our own perception of it, and the world that we decide to create around ourselves? Don’t you get to choose to be surrounded by beautiful [meaning soulful] people, in your own life? A lot of people are passive and just let the world happen to them no? So the question could be rephrased: How much deliberate intent do you put in building your life?
' (...) WELL I THINK THAT YOU ARE MAKING
DELIBERATE CHOICES IN YOUR LIFE CONSTANTLY.'
LAPELYTE: Well I think that you are making deliberate choices in your life constantly, but we are not all born in the position to be able to make choices, sometimes things are really unfair and it is hard to do. I cannot really be talking on behalf of everyone as if all of us were able to make their own choices. I think I was lucky to make certain choices in my life but I was not rewarded from the very beginnings [Smile]. I was not born with a crown [Laughs], and I still do not have one now and I do not need one, but I think with your energy that you somehow may be able to direct some good things towards you. So this is how things happen to me, and I wish the best for everyone but I am aware that things are complicated.
DAVID: Well you are touching upon some very interesting points. Looking around us there are countless examples of people who were not handed a good set of cards at birth, and managed to turn their lives around. You also have people who are constantly unsatisfied and unhappy no matter what cards they have been dealt with at birth isn’t that fair to say? It seems to me that ‘the happy people’ tend to make the best of things ‘no mater what’. Don’t you think? Wouldn’t you say that you were born a happy person? How were you as a child? I tend to think that people are a bit like the climate, aren’t there differences in nature? It is much hotter in the South of France than here in Vilnius… [Smile]
'YES I THINK THAT I WAS BORN A HAPPY CHILD (...)
MY CHILDHOOD WAS NOT VERY HAPPY AND I HAD TO TAKE CARE OF MANY THINGS'
LAPELYTE: Yes I think that I was born as a happy child, but not in happy circumstances. My Father was an alcoholic, so we had to deal a lot with reality. My childhood was not very happy and I really had to take care of many things. I really knew how things could be [better] and how they were not. Happiness, I don’t know where it comes from [laughs]. Maybe it comes from enjoying the moment: This is the moment that I have to enjoy because very soon it can change and I know that this sounds like these obvious truths from these lectures on the art of living [laughs] but I think I really do apply these things in my own life. And maybe that’s where the happiness is coming from. When you know how to enjoy the moment and appreciate it.
DAVID: Right. I think our brains also work through contrasts: If you have not really known the darkness you cannot really enjoy the light. It is about going through life moment by moment, and appreciating all the subtle positive nuances.
LAPELYTE: Yes I think so even though I would not say that darkness is needed for everyone to enjoy the light. I wish that there would be other ways to achieve this contrast.
DAVID: That is a very interesting point. Maybe we ought to try and emit our own light all the time? [Smile]
DAVID: Very interesting. Were you an only child Lina?
LAPELYTE: Yes. I grew up on my own and then when I was 18 my half-brother was born. So I feel that I grew up on my own. Even though I have a brother who is much younger than me.
DAVID: What is his name?
DAVID: Are you still close?
LAPELYTE: It was never really a close relationship because he was born when I left the home. So it was more like a mother and son relationship rather than a brother and a sister. Now I feel as he is growing up that we are becoming closer.
DAVID: Are you saying that as an older sister you felt a responsibility towards him?
LAPELYTE: Yes, yes.
DAVID (ZEFYR LIFE): 'TEEN SUICIDES RATES (...) ARE NOW THE SECOND
LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN AMERICA AMONGST 13 to 34 YEARS OLD'
DAVID: You mentioned earlier, alcoholism. Addictions are a big thing nowadays, including alcoholism. I saw that Russell Brand in the UK now has a show discussing these subject matters in much depth. He developed something called ‘Commune’, an online digital space where people come together to follow his program and get rid of their addictions. Let’s expand, further away from your own personal experience with this. There is obviously a need for escapism in our modern societies. A huge need for escapism it seems. But instead of turning into a giant Woodstock things seem to be turning gloomy: teens’ suicide rates for instance are going through the roof. This is now the second leading cause of death in America amongst 13 to 34 years old. What do you attribute this to?
LAPELYTE: Hmmm. [Pause]. I don’t know. I think about this quite often because I have children and I really dread the worse things and think how can I really help them to avoid all this, addiction, or depression. And I really don’t know have the answers.
DAVID: Is there sadness in our world? We will come back to this when discussing your actual works. Is it just me, or is there a terrible sense of hopelessness?
'(...) ONE THING THAT IS AT PLAY IS
THAT LACK OF CARE TOWARDS EACH OTHER'
LAPELYTE: I don’t know if there is hopelessness. It’s hard to make a generic picture of how the world feels today. But one of the things at play is this lack of care towards each other. If you lose this, you lose relationships. You lose many things. So this could be one of the things. And this starts in childhood, you know?
DAVID: You mean ‘care’ as in solidarity, the compassion towards another being, towards a ‘stranger’?
LAPELYTE: Not necessarily just towards a person, towards everything including the environment we live in. For instance we spoke with a friend recently who did a month of fasting over Christmas because he felt that he was already getting everything that he wanted all of the time. His life is full of anything he wants and now he is not enjoying anything anymore, you know?
DAVID: Could it be that the world suffers from some having too much, and some others having not enough? Which generates frustrations on both sides? And maybe even more so paradoxically the unhappiness of those who have too much seems to be the worse? Because you go to some poor villages in Africa and see some people who have absolutely nothing when it comes to material possessions and who nonetheless manifest a form of joy.
LAPELYTE: It could be a problem with values you see. What is the thing that you aim for? [In your life]. What is the essence of what you do? And if you do not find it, things can become really shallow and sad.
DAVID: Yes, you need to have a purpose in life, and most people may not have yet found a North Star. Have they only taken the time to pause and look for it?
LAPELYTE: I don’t know if most people don’t have it, I hope that most people have it! [Laughs]
DAVID: What is true too is I might tend to make such generic statements at times, but every single one of us has got their own perceptions, we can only see the world through our own narrow windows [Smile]. We do all create our own worlds and reality too that I am sure. At the moment it is my perception that most people are without a North Star but that might not be true, I hope too for all that they have one or find one [smile].
Coming back to values Lina, what values were conveyed to you by your parents? Do you remember what was most important to them and what you captured?
'I THINK THAT CARING AND SOME SORT OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
WAS ALWAYS EMBEDDED [IN US] WHEN I GREW UP.
LAPELYTE: I think caring, and some sort of social responsibility was always embedded [in us] when I grew up. My mother would always tell us not to harm things. For instance she would tell me to think twice before I pick up a flower, because that is a growing thing and you don’t want to waste it just for your own unnecessary happiness. As well as sharing, and kindness, you know? I hope everyone grows with that.
DAVID: I think that you are a very optimistic, bright person. I like that [smile]. I tend these days to see more darkness in the world but we need more optimistic people like you who have a more optimistic view of things. Let’s talk about your academic formative years: you have an impressive academic musical background, as you started with studying the violin which is one of the most difficult instruments. I find it to be a bit melancholic. What is your relationship with time? Would you say that you live a lot in the past?
LAPELYTE: No I don’t think so, I try to live in the present and the past I think works for me as a reminder of where not to go, as a teacher, but not something to live with constantly.
DAVID: Do you have an example of something happening in the past that you have learned from and that has changed the way you live your life now?
LAPELYTE: I wouldn’t say that there has been a particular event that has changed my life, but I had that realization that I had to be doing things in such a way that I would later have no regrets.
DAVID: Yes it also looks like you are a doer, and you focus on the process. It does not matter the outcome you always make something from it, right?
(...) I HEARD MURRAY SCHAFER SAYING THAT WE WERE NOT 'HUMAN BEINGS'
ANY MORE, BUT 'HUMAN DOINGS'.
HE SUGGESTED WE GO BACK TO BECOMING 'HUMAN BEINGS'.
LAPELYTE: Yes, I do, or ‘I ‘be’, I ‘am’ [Laughs]. Just yesterday I heard Murray Schafer [Canadian composer, writer, music educator and environmentalist perhaps best known for his World Soundscape Project, concern for acoustic ecology, and his book The Tuning of the World (1977)] criticizing our current society. Saying that we were not ‘human beings’ any more but ‘human doings’, and so he suggested we go back to being ‘human beings’. [Smile]
DAVID: I would quite agree with Murray, yes. Do you remember your first emotional creative encounter? Was that a symphony or a book or something else?
LAPELYTE: I was more or less always surrounded by choir music and also traditional music in my family, but I think that the first conscious creative encounter was with something I could not really understand, and I was really curious about. When I was a teenager, I don’t know, twelve or fourteen years old, I got to read the translation of a John Cage text in Lithuanian and I could not understand anything [laughs] but I really felt that it was something really important. I think that was my first encounter with art.
DAVID: Do you remember what it was?
LAPELYTE: I think it was some translations from the book ‘Silence’ [A collection of essays and lectures Cage wrote during the period from 1939 to 1961]
DAVID: Yes, is silence something important in your life?
'I(...) I FEEL THAT SILENCE IS ABOUT LISTENING,
YOU CANNOT HEAR IT WITHOUT BEING ABLE TO LISTEN.'
LAPELYTE: It is a very important thing to me. Silence and noise, both! [Laughs]. But I feel that silence is about listening, you cannot hear it without being able to listen. And I think that listening is a quite an important thing in general. That relates to our relationships, to the world, to each other. So for me this is very important.
DAVID: You said earlier that you grew up in a family listening to choir music and traditional music. Was your family very Christian? I know that you are also versed into electronic music, but was your first emotional encounter with music classical music?
LAPELYTE: No, choir music had nothing to do with Christianity, my mother used to sing in a choir, but it was not a choir in a church, it was an amateur choir and they would perform all kinds of repertoires including some very contemporary music and I don’t think that, even though I was studying classical violin, I ever understood this as music. It was more some kind of professional routine that I had to follow but I don’t think I ever had the love for classical music. It was something I had to do, as opposed to the music that I would love to listen to. You know what I mean?
DAVID: And so what brought you to the violin? Your parents?
LAPELYTE: My mother was very keen on me trying the violin and I was quite successful and so I just followed through and I did not need to put to much effort to make it happen. So I just carried on.
DAVID: Do you remember a specific piece of music that shook your soul? You mentioned John Cage. A piece opening up a whole new world?
LAPELYTE: I probably could say it was Laurie Anderson with ‘O Superman’ [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vkfpi2H8tOE] and I knew that she was also a violin player so I could really associate myself with her. I cannot say that it ‘shook my soul’, it was more a conscious understanding of the relationship between her piece of music and me.
DAVID: Do you remember your very first music composition?
LAPELYTE: It was something in school for a string quartet. But I don’t look into my practice as a ‘composer’s practice. I am not interested in music as a thing in itself. For me music is part of something else usually, a part of a bigger idea that I think about.
DAVID: Do you consider yourself an artist?
LAPELYTE: I have thought about that one question a few times. From a communication point of view you have to name yourself something right? But for me I would rather… [Pause] I really don’t like these words. [Laughs]
DAVID: You like being undefined?
LAPELYTE: Yeah. I mean I do make my practice a creative practice, but there was never a switch where I thought now I am an artist, as if there was a before and an after, it’s a life you know?
DAVID: It is a life yes [smile]. Do you remember your first love?
LAPELYTE: Well going through the various loves of my life I do not remember which one was the first, because once you go to the next one you realize that the previous one was not that [Laughs]
DAVID: So again, love is a constantly evolving thing. Undefined? Or do you have a definition for what love is?
LAPELYTE: Well it’s a complex thing, I would say. Yeah. [Smiles]
DAVID: Is it about caring? You mentioned your parents, kindness, caring?
LAPELYTE: Yes it’s a lot about caring of course. If you want the love to grow you also have to take care of it.
DAVID: Like a plant.
LAPELYTE: Yes definitely.
DAVID: When did you travel abroad for the first time?
LAPELYTE: The first trip abroad was when I was sixteen, but it was nothing compared to when my mother travelled abroad in the nineties, bringing back things and stories from abroad. I think that people my age in Lithuania are still able to remember this feeling and the smells of the West. Three days ago we were discussing with friends the first time we tried bananas [smiles]. I tried bananas first when our friends from Germany sent us a Christmas package full of everything including lentils that my mother put into the soil in the Spring [laughs]. And one of the things that they sent were bananas and of course they were rotten when I received them and that was my first time trying bananas! I think that my first time abroad was really through that relationship with the people from the West and all these things that we received from them. Then when I was sixteen I went to Italy or Denmark. Actually when I was twelve, I went to Italy with my school when I was in this music gymnasium. We travelled by bus to the South of Italy and we hold some concerts there.
Lina LAPINSKIENE (ZEFYR LIFE): How old again were you when you tried bananas?
LAPELYTE: Seven or eight years old [smile]
DAVID: By now you have travelled quite a bit. Now that you have seen many other cultures, in what way would you say that you are typically Lithuanian?
'I THINK THAT BEING LITHUANIAN IS KNOWING WHAT THE FOREST IS
(...) BECAUSE IT IS EMBEDDED IN YOU.'
LAPELYTE: Where is my Lithuania in me? [Smile]. I think being Lithuanian is knowing what the forest is, not as a lifestyle - because it’s cool now to go and pick up some herbs - but because it is really embedded in you. At least my generation grew up with this. So I think that this is something we all have in common. And also belonging to this very small community, we know that there are not so many of us. I always felt [though] and always tried to behave as a person of the world not as a person of a nation. But of course I am from where I am and I bring these things with me and I grew up with things that other people did not.
DAVID: So a closeness to the forest, to nature, hmm.
LAPELYTE: Yes and closeness to the soil. Lithuanian are soil people. And I really appreciate this relationship more and more, and the fact that I grew up in a generation whose grandparents had their own gardens and were growing their own potatoes and stuff and I would help them to do all this work. I really appreciate that I have experienced this knowledge.
DAVID: That’s right and this is not given to everyone in the occidental world, I believe that is a huge privilege. There is still that relationship with nature in parts of Africa but in our Occidental world there is more and more of a disconnect with nature. Most of the global population nowadays lives in cities. Do you see people around you trying to preserve that relationship with nature?
LAPELYTE: Some of them. Some of them do. People who grew up with it can appreciate it probably more because it is a part of them.
DAVID: Yes everyone here has their sweet little countryside house. Is that your case? Is that the case of the new generations too or do they aspire more to other things, such as traveling?
LAPELYTE: I do have a countryside place where I spend three months during the summer.
DAVID: Do you feel at times a craving for this place, amidst your hectic urban lifestyle?
LAPELYTE: I really do feel that it is essential to be there. When we go there we really go there for a few months at least.
DAVID: A few months, so this is like a retreat. Part of the way you refresh, recharge yourself, and come back with some new thoughts and ideas? Does that spot play a role in your creative process?
LAPELYTE: Yes everything plays a role in that process. I feel it is really important to slow down and stop sometimes and that is the way I do it. The place is in the forest, we go mushrooms picking and wild swimming and I stay in the silence. That place came to us incidentally. We kind of inherited the place. I do not know if I would consciously seek a place or be able to own such a place but I appreciate this quality time.
DAVID: Let’s talk about art because whether you like it or not you are an artist! [Laughs]
DAVID: Do you have a definition of what art is? Or what that means for you at least?
LAPELYTE: I guess I can speak from my own experience growing-up as a musician and I never understood why music was never considered an art. When we say art we always think of the visual arts first, and then there is music. If I had to define what art is, it is probably something that is…[Pause]…Getting around all these definitions and making an impact in some kind of unexpected way. I guess art is something that’s out of the box. We say this is music, these are visual arts, this is theatre, this is film, or dance. But what interests me is this overall thing that does not belong to any of these categories or to all of them at the same time.
DAVID: I think you are defining creativity, which lives beyond boundaries. I can see that all about you is about breaking boundaries. You do not like silos. Some people very much like to classify everything. Some people do this for a living [laughs]. You do not like silos.
LAPELYTE: I think that classification can be very comfortable, but quite limiting. If a person or an artist is able to [stick to one box] I think it is amazing, it is really inspiring. Of course we all act in certain ways and at times we have to belong to one or another box. But I think it is important to try transcend these.
DAVID: To ‘try’. Do you feel that you are failing at times? In your creative process: it must start with a vision, followed by an implementation process followed by an outcome. Has the concept of failing ever occurred to you?
' I THINK THAT FAILURE IS RELATIVE YOU KNOW?
IN THE BIGGER PICTURE IT DOES NOT MEAN ANYTHING.'
LAPELYTE: Yes I think that the failure is always with me. I fail all the times and a lot of times I cannot even look at my works, I am not happy, or I always feel that the work needs some more things to be done on it. This is why I work with live art, because there is never an end to it. But at the same time I also feel that failure is not…[Pause] …Is a relative thing you know? In the bigger picture, it does not mean anything.
DAVID: That is right. Maybe we can even recalibrate the word and speak more of dissatisfaction, which would not qualify as failure?
LAPELYTE: It is a process and it is ever changing. So it does not stop on ‘this is a failure’ or ‘this is a success’. It is one after another, all the time. It is ever moving.
DAVID: I feel I am starting to know you a bit better [Smile]. You come across to me as a very tolerant person. Non-judgmental. Would you agree?
LAPELYTE: Hmm [Laughs]. I think I really try to be a tolerant person, except that I have a terrible thing when people get into the train and stay by the door and do not move, preventing a whole other bunch of other people from getting in. This is something I cannot stand and in big cities like London I become really intolerant [Laughs].
LAPINSKIENNE: Well you have no tolerance towards those ones who are not being conscious, or respectful of others. It is like not tolerating evil deeds, is that a good thing, I think it is [smile].
LAPELYTE: Yes but I guess that’s a problem [laughs]. I also get very intolerant when the trees are getting cut around us in the city, I don’t think it is necessary to do that but I speak up, so I don’t suffer from my intolerance.
DAVID: To come back to this idea of working across disciplines which is dear to you. Let’s talk about your two artists partner friends. You have been working closely on these latest major opera works of yours with writer, playwright, poet Vaiva Grainytė and Scenographer Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė: How long have you known each other, and what human qualities do you value most in each other?
LAPELYTE: We did two works together. An opera untitled ‘Have a Good Day’ which premiered in 2013.
DAVID: Which received an Award.
LAPELYTE: Yes, I was back in London from Lithuania at that time, and I had known Vaiva for a long time before. I had always loved her writings, and we thought that opera was a place where our expertise and vision could meet. And Rugilė joined us. When I actually think of the three of us I remember that very first meeting we had. We were not working together yet, we were students, and met to have tea together, and it was the quietest encounter I ever had. We probably exchanged like two sentences. Almost uncomfortable, but with some people you are ok to sit in silence [laughs], and this was ok with them. And later we started working together on ‘Have a Good Day’. Regarding our relationship, I actually think that three is the best combination because you never get yes or no. There is always one yes that is stronger or one no that is stronger, so there is never an endless argument. I really feel that three is a good partnership. We are really all very different.
DAVID: In what ways?
LAPELYTE: We are very different characters one would say [smiles] but I think we appreciate the same values. So a lot of things we don’t need to discuss. When we do the work or when we meet people we often end up sharing the same opinion.
DAVID: I see, when you say the same values, can you tell us what they are?
LAPELYTE: I think it is a complex thing [laughs]. I could not name this, this and that. But the way we live, the way we speak, the people we appreciate, the lifestyle we appreciate, match.
DAVID: Would you say that you are all quite introspective?
LAPELYTE: Well it is also a very special relationship when the three of us are at the same place we try to not overshadow each other, out of a sort of respect and to avoid hierarchies. None of us thinks that one is more important than the other [Smile.] This kind of measure in our relationship always makes things work.
DAVID: Akin to three streams of water coming together as a larger, unified stream of water. I think that this is one beautiful type of relationship. I would even say that there is something magical about it. I believe this is a great lesson, which is that when you can leave your ego at the door and work together as streams of water you can achieve miracles. I forgot if it is Ronald Reagan who had that quote on his desk: ‘There are no limits to what one can achieve if one does not care who gets the credit.’ You guys do not care who gets the credit.
LAPELYTE: I think it is the trust we have in each other, and this is why it works. The Venice Biennale was a big challenge for us to overcome, and the fact that we managed to keep the relationship and the same values throughout this experience is very important.
DAVID: In what way was it a challenge?
LAPELYTE: For a Venice Biennale you are faced with a lot of pressure because the project represents your Country and a lot of money is involved, a lot of energy, a lot of efforts. Lithuania being a small country the budget is still small, and yet from an artistic point of view the Biennale is probably one of the most important shows in your life. So that is the challenge, and it is all about how you overcome it. How you deal with others in this situation. So for me one of the biggest achievements was that we came out of this Biennale being the same human beings who love each other the same as before, with the same love and the same passion and the same care that we came into it.
DAVID: You gave me shivers. This just reminded me of Albert Camus who got the Nobel Prize of literature at forty-four, which was a very young age to get the Nobel. That meant instant global fame. Camus was devastated as a result. What else would be left now for him to accomplish? He also felt as if he did not deserve it. He thought that André Malraux should have been awarded the Prize, not him. The pressure was so extreme that Camus was tormented by suicidal thoughts. It is admirable how the three of you handled that pressure and remained true to yourselves throughout. How your relationships came out undamaged. You said that you liked Vaiva’s writings: Were you talking about the type of stories she writes, or about her literary style?
LAPELYTE: I have always been drawn to the surreal angle of her writings. I have known her since I was twelve playing together in ‘alternative youth’ activities and instrumental music groups. ‘Have a Good Day’ was the first serious thing that we did together and it had these qualities of surrealism and irony and poetry, as well as including the social aspects, the every day life things that come with her writings.
DAVID: ‘Have a Good Day’ was blessed with no less than six international Awards. So you were a bit prepared for the Biennale’s success weren’t you? [Wink]
LAPELYTE: ‘Have a Good Day’ was born in my living room, where we rehearsed in this very sort of DIY setting and it was really much about the idea. In 2011 we showed a sketch version of it and people really appreciated the work, and then we showed it at the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius. We all though that something should happen but nothing happened for two years even though we wanted to show it more. Nothing happened. And then out of the blue we won one Award. Suddenly it started to interest some festivals. Another festival in Lithuania and then we went on to show it in China, then New York and it started to tour. This Award really broke the ice and things started to roll.
DAVID: What struck me as a viewer, and maybe I am wrong, your Biennale Show is titled ‘Sea and Sun’: it seemed to me that the Sun is in fact the only absent character in this opera.
LAPELYTE: [Laughs] Well the sea is absent! The Sun is in the sand, the people in the sand absorb it, and the sun is coming from the lights above. The name is a playful title.
DAVID: What I find interesting is the contrast between what you told us earlier, how you see the world – always looking at the glass half full, a very optimistic and happy take on things - and the vision of apocalypse that we perceived in this work.
LAPELYTE: Yes but that’s what it is! [Laughs]
DAVID: But what it the intent?
'(...) FOR US IT WAS ALSO ABOUT THAT CIRCULAR RELATIONSHIP:
HOW THE OVERWORKED HUMAN BEINGS OVERWORK THE [OVERWORKED EARTH]
LAPELYTE: We were very conscious that we really did not want to be didactic about the subject matter itself. It is framed in the context of the climate crisis but there are many other things in it. And for us it was also the parallel between the tired human beings and the tired planet earth and about that circular relationship: How the overworked human beings overwork the [overworked] earth. It was also like a second part to ‘Have a Good Day’ because ‘Have a Good day’ is an opera about ten cashiers in a supermarket but at the same time it is about the cycle of buying and selling – which we’re all a part of in our consumerist society. Sun and Sea kind of follows a similar line.
DAVID: But things seem to be getting worse. In the first piece one may disagree about the consumerist cycle of buying and selling, but at least we are doing something, humans are active. In Sun and Sea we were struck by the absolute apathy of everyone on that beach (and I would agree with this vision by the way). This is the strongest depiction of the end of the world that we had seen in a very long time. And that spoke to me at least because this is how I feel about our world. We have to awake from that deep sleep. As Hannah Arendt the philosopher admirably coined it ‘The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.’ Your beach with people reading and spending time on their iPhones is the most accurate and apocalyptic vision of the world I have seen in these past ten years. It was frightening to me.
LAPELYTE: So is every day life frightening. Putting us in that superior position. That society is us. All the ones there on that beach are us. It is a very complex situation we’re now in. I hope that we do understand that things do have to end somewhere and the lifestyle that we lead especially in our Western worlds. The pleasures, and the consumption, the ability to buy anything at any time have to have an end somewhere. It seems very bright now but it can end soon. We edited the opera a lot to ensure that the audience, the viewers, could decide for themselves what the piece was about. In 2017 we showed a Lithuanian version here at the National Gallery, the format was slightly different, and it did not come through as this critical message in such an obvious way. And of course the message is embedded in the piece, we do think about the climate crisis, but we do think of this from the point of view that we are all a part of it, you know? We don’t separate ourselves from it: To produce that opera we had to belong to that process of shipping things to Venice, and flying people around, you know.
DAVID: That point comes across clearly that you are not preaching to anyone. What is interesting too about what you just said especially regarding the arts is how the message coming out from an artwork is received very differently depending on the context in which it is being showcased. And your Opera would have been interpreted very differently ten years ago. Right now we are amidst a tornado of media chatter surrounding the climate crisis.
LAPELYTE: Yes especially in Venice it had this specific energy; we showed it in this military base. That military place had never been used before, the location itself looked a bit apocalyptic, and this abandoned warehouse became a part of the piece. Furthermore, being in Venice, a place at risk of going under water very soon, these tensions were also present.
DAVID: If you had to describe the world that you would like your kids to be experiencing in the years ahead, using three adjectives, what would they be?
LAPELYTE: I was actually thinking about this, and if I was to choose the world that I am in - and I appreciate the world as it is - as you said there are things that need to happen to be able to see other things. I think I would eliminate war, first of all, and when I say war I guess it is something more complex than two nations fighting. I think it starts from the competition that two human beings start; if this dynamic could be turned into collaboration and togetherness I think it would not grow into the disasters we know, and also into this humans versus nature situation we are into. It is all related.
DAVID: This leads me to one last question and obviously you do not have to have an answer. This is simply an obsession of mine right now. What do you think could prompt that radical change of mind-set and attitudes? We could wait another thousand years. Do you have any idea where we could start so that change comes about super fast?
'I DO NOT THINK THAT HERE IS ANY OTHER WAY THAN
STARTING FROM US, AND STARTING FROM THE VERY SMALL.'
LAPELYTE: I do not think that there is any other way than starting from us, and starting from the very small. So even though it may seem that the small or that you don’t matter, it actually makes an impact. I think doing things with a certain state of mind can really have a resonance.
DAVID: That little ‘Ripple of Hope’ as Robert Kennedy referred to [Smile].
LAPINSKIENE: I had one last question regarding the creator and the creation. Do you see your creations as a part of you, extensions of you, or are they separate from you?
LAPELYTE: The things that I create and the things that I live, I would say are one. It’s a unity. I think it is all really a part of me.
DAVID: Thank you very much Lina Lapelyte.
LAPELYTE: Than you both of you!