This process isn’t easy because recognition for our work is like a lightbulb casting shadows on further work and obligations.Svajonė and Paulius Stanikas
THERE, TO BE HERE
Would I be mistaken in saying your home is partly in Vilnius, partly in Paris?
That’s correct. But we don’t feel foreign in Lithuania. Your home is where your family is. We travel a lot and return to Lithuania quite often. Of course, if we enclosed ourselves within four walls, then that feeling would probably be a bit different. I don’t think that Lithuania is far away for today’s emigrants. And our profession is unique, one where work and inspiration don’t depend on geographical areas. We don’t even think about that. We can create art anywhere. It’s the same with identity – when you change your place of residence, it doesn’t just disappear but lives on inside you.
It seems as if the theme of the brain drain is inexhaustible. What’s your opinion on the matter?
It would be wonderful if Lithuania became that small country that no one wanted to leave. Although the reality is a little different, we don’t need to be pessimistic about it. I don’t think it’s necessary for those who no longer live in Lithuania to return, but I don’t feel as if I’ve left my country. There should be more of an effort to create the conditions for people to return who want to but who have chosen another path for economic reasons.
Although we always wanted to live in Paris, we ended up there by chance. Unlike London, this city’s beauty, colour and the lightness of its air allow us to relax and make us feel optimistic. Everyone has to find his or her own place under the sun. Some might feel good in the silence of Labanoras Forest, but we find this silence in the concrete jungle, surrounded by people. Maybe that’s because we aren’t searching for serenity yet. Teeming people and an all-encompassing noise are like a cultural sea allowing us to feel the pulse of our surroundings and even a certain cosiness.
Even though you’ve spent a long time in France, you intimately experienced life in Lithuania up until the time of independence and beyond. How did that influence your work?
An artist is like a sponge, drinking in the surrounding events and is influenced by them. This was an inescapable part of our lives, which without doubt influences our creative work. Various trials and experiences always stay with you and, if needed, remind you of their existence. We don’t think this needs to be overly loaded with meaning.
What is your daily life like as artists?
It’s practically impossible to answer this question in one sentence. We are open to the world but see ourselves at the same time as lonely and introverted artists, living in a peculiar capsule of creativity. This process isn’t easy because any recognition for our work is like a lightbulb casting shadows on further work and obligations. Yes, we make art together and we see this as an advantage, as it gives us the impression we are working as a small collective, giving each other support. Maybe it sounds a bit pessimistic but the artist is usually lonely.
You’ve said that nothing gnaws away at an artist like the thought of his own limits. Why is that?
It’s because you want to do the job as well as possible. Likewise, you know there are probably things you haven’t done. We can compare it to the limit an athlete is always trying to go beyond, and when this limit is passed, there is always another, higher one. This understanding accompanies you every day.
When you interact with artists from other countries, do you encounter their presuppositions about your place of origin?
Actually we don’t need to explain to people anymore about what Lithuania is and where it’s located. That may be because, over time, our country has become a fully-fledged member of the European Union, and it has achieved results in the fields of technology and elsewhere. It’s quite heartening that the name of Lithuania has become known to more than just its neighbours in the east.