Opening Event of the 1st Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art

Biennial Director: Diana Stomienė
Artistic Director: Neringa Bumblienė

23 January 2023, 7 pm
Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre
Tickets are available on the LNOBT website.

Commemorating Vilnius’ 700th anniversary to the very day, the 1st Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art presents its opening event: Aphotia – a new work by artist Emilija Škarnulytė.

This site-specific, one-time-only performance will spread across the entire building of the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre (LNOBT) – designed by another female artist, Elena Nijolė Bučiūtė. Establishing an active relationship with the theatre premises, the work will immerse the audience in depths of distinctive ideas and sensations.

The performance consists of specially choreographed sound and lighting, large-format video projections and live performances. The music is written by Suzanne Kite, an award-winning Oglála Lakȟóta composer who was raised in Southern California, in collaboration with Emilija Škarnulytė.

The title of the work derives from the term ‘aphotic zone’, also known as the ‘dark ocean’ – the depths of the ocean that are inaccessible to sunlight. In the summer of 2022, Škarnulytė premiered a video work by the same title for an exhibition in Venice. The one-off performance Aphotia at LNOBT personifies the term, combining aspects of nature, deity, human and animal, and providing a metaphorical seedbed for promiscuous forms of being to flourish.

The theme at the heart of the performance – invisible worlds (depths of water and of (sub)consciousness) – continues the artist’s enduring field of interest while closely overlapping with the Biennial’s central topic of the city, seen from the perspective of a speculative future, in the face of climate change and rising water levels.

Emilija Škarnulytė (b. Vilnius, Lithuania 1987) is an artist and filmmaker. Working between documentary and the imaginary, Škarnulytė makes films, immersive installations and performances exploring invisible structures and deep time – from the cosmic and geologic to the ecological and political. Winner of the 2019 Future Generation Art Prize, Škarnulytė represented Lithuania at the 22nd Triennale di Milano. Recent solo exhibitions include Radvila Palace Museum of Art (2022), Tate Modern (2021), Kunsthaus Pasquart (2021), and the National Gallery in Vilnius (2021). Her films are in the IFA, Kadist Foundation and Centre Pompidou collections and have been screened at the Serpentine Galleries in London, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and numerous film festivals including Visions du Reel, HOT DOCS, Rotterdam, Busan and Oberhausen. Škarnulytė is the founder and co-director of Polar Film Lab and a member of the artist duo New Mineral Collective.

Vilnius Biennial of Performance Art is an ongoing event dedicated to contemporary performance art, organised by Gallery Meno Niša as an official part of Vilnius’s 700th anniversary programme. Its director is Diana Stomienė and its artistic director is Neringa Bumblienė. The festival will take place in the capital’s public and semi-public spaces in 2023.

The international festival consists of a programme of works by guest artists, curated by Neringa Bumblienė, and works by artists selected by an international jury through an open-call.

The main focus of this Biennial is the city of Vilnius, but also a city per se, as a human-made and human-dominated environment that we share with other life forms, where different histories, myths, activities, interests, desires and visions collide, coexist and overlap. The city as an organism that is born, thrives, but also dies or is killed. The city as an artificial but living structure with certain rules, certain trajectories of circulation that some life forms follow and others choose to disregard, creating new ones. The city as a dense network knitted with both visible and invisible threads and charged with various tensions. The city as a platform and a stage.

The Biennial’s main programme will run from 23 July to 6 August 2023.


Organiser: Vilnius city gallery Meno Niša

Biennial Director: Diana Stomienė
Artistic Director: Neringa Bumblienė
Head of communications: Rasa Barčaitė
Producer: Ieva Tarejeva
Graphic design: Nerijus Rimkus
Coordinator: Gabija Tarabilda
Texts: Neringa Bumblienė
Translation: Alexandra Bondarev
Text Editing: Alexandra Bondarev, Gemma Lloyd

Composers: Suzanne Kite, Emilija Škarnulytė
Sound Director: Vytis Puronas
Sound: Jokūbas Čižikas 
Video editor: Vytautas Tinteris
Lasers: Evaldas Lapėnas
Sound: Nepriklausomi Garso Režisieriai
Light artist: Augenijus Sabaliauskas
Harpists: Elsė Saldžiūnaitė ir Žiedė Bružaitė
Costume design: Deividas Katkus
Performers: Edvinas Grinkevičius/Querelle, Julius Jančauskas, M. Kartan/Umiko, King A, Miss Plastica

Special Thanks to Fondazione In Between Art Film, Erik Cordes and the Schmidt Ocean Institute 
Project participants are Vilnius University choirs “Virgo”, “Gaudeamus” and “Pro Musica” (artistic director Rasa Gelgotienė)

Partner Vilnius University Culture Centre

Biennial financed by: Vilnius City Municipality, the Government of the Republic of Lithuania and Lithuanian Council for Culture