Lithuania’s Award-Winning Venice Biennale Pavilion Is Coming to an Abandoned Swimming Pool Just Outside Berlin

The climate change-themed production will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.
Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.

Lithuania’s Golden Lion-winning pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale, Sun & Sea (Marina), is heading to Germany, where it will be staged in out-of-service 1928 Bauhaus swimming pool. A melancholy opera set on a sandy beach, the performance presents a future where the effects of climate change have reached catastrophic levels, but still do little to disturb carefree sunbathers.

Theater director Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, playwright Vaiva Grainytė, and composer Lina Lapelytė debuted the piece at Vilnius’s National Gallery of Art in 2017. In Venice, the production, translated into English, attracted long lines and immediate critical buzz for its pressing ecological themes and unique staging. Audiences watched from a balcony up above as singers in bathing suits lay on their beach towels, paging through magazines and snacking on strawberries, singing mournfully about the end of the world.

In Germany, Sun and Sea will go on view May 1, 2021, at E-Werk Luckenwalde, a former East German coal plant less than hour outside of Berlin that was reborn last year as an art center. The swimming pool next door, E-WERK artistic director Helen Turner told Artnet News in an email, was “first built to make use of the power station’s excess heat energy and as a leisure activity for the station’s workers.”

In keeping with the venue’s efforts to remain carbon neutral, the production will be powered entirely by Kunststrom—which translates to “art current,” or “art stream”—a type of 100 percent renewable electricity produced by German artist Pablo Wendel’s nonprofit art project and energy provider, Performance Electrics gGmbH.

Co-artistic directors, Helen Turner and Pablo Wendel with their dog Coal in the Bauhaus Stadtbad, 2019. Photo by Lukas Korschan for the FACE.

Co-artistic directors, Helen Turner and Pablo Wendel with their dog Coal in the Bauhaus Stadtbad, 2019. Photo by Lukas Korschan for the FACE.

“After a challenging year, in which we have been intensely confronted with our own mortality, it is important to continue championing change and remember that our greatest long-term threat to humanity still remains climate change,” Turner said. “Sun & Sea exists as a stark reminder why we must continue to fight for change, to our industry and society as a whole.”

As in Venice, the project will be crowdfunded, with a campaign due to launch in January to raise the €40,000 to pay for sand, beach chairs, and salaries for 28 performers. (In the meantime, E-Werk is inviting potential donors to reach out via email.)

Lucia Pietroiusti. Photo ©Jogintė Bučinskaitė.

Lucia Pietroiusti. Photo ©Jogintė Bučinskaitė.

To ensure the safety of both performers and viewers, tickets, which will be free, are limited. Audiences will watch from the pool’s upper balconies.

Returning as curator for the German presentation is Lucia Pietroiusti, curator of general ecology at London’s Serpentine Galleries. She’s the guest curator for E-Werk’s annual Power Night program, which will also include new commissions from artists Isabel Lewis, Himali Singh Soin, and Tabita Rezaire.

“[Sun and Sea] will be essentially the same work as Venice, except for the qualities that the venue brings to the piece when experiencing it,” Pietroiusti told the Art Newspaper. “An empty swimming pool comes with a whole different kind of underlying catastrophe, at least for me.”

See more photos from the Venice pavilion below.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, <em>Sun & Sea (Marina)</em> at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.

Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina) at Lithuania Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo ©Andrej Vasilenko.


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