Interview with Gabrielė Vetkinaitė

Viktorija Damerell interview with artist, “Lavkė. Slow and sandy expedition” participant, Gabrielė Vetkinaitė

At the beginning of autumn, you took part in the Lavkė project. Had you visited Dzukija prior to that?

I have visited several times the larger cities, but I definitely hadn’t seen the ethnographic villages of Dzūkija, such as Musteika. 

You have lived in a monastery. Your final Master’s work in sculpture was about living a year without the Internet. Were you looking for a sort of escape in this residency as well?

I came to this residency directly from a forest cabin, so the village of Kabeliai was really a big contrast for me. Apparently, I had also somehow missed the fact about living in the school. Empty, abandoned spaces, less-than-tasteful music outside, the police and border guard cars buzzing all around were things that I didn’t like at all. I was already considering leaving when I unexpectedly received a proposal to move to the nearby village of Margionys. I felt instantly better upon entering a hundred-year-old cabin full of books and musical instruments. It was also important for me to be completely self-sufficient and separate from the other residents. 

This year, you graduated from the Vilnius Academy of Arts. How do you feel now ‒ have there been challenges in creating on your own, without discussions with teachers and the company of other students?

At the end of my studies, I felt that interviews with teachers and, especially, their advice, were no longer necessary. After listening to other people’s reactions, I still have to devote time and energy to reflect on everything, re-identify my true intentions, and only then act. Creating on my own is a much smoother process. 

Have you had a chance to meet the locals?

Oh, yes! Before I even entered the house in Margionys, I was already invited into the home of the neighbour, Danutė. I drank countless teas with her, I almost started thinking in the Dzūkija dialect, and I learned a lot about the village during these conversations. I really enjoyed meeting the local people: cheesemakers, craftsmen, naturalists, museum workers, but my deepest friendship was with the priest Juozapas, living nearby. I was very surprised to hear about a German in Dzūkija. A carpentry workshop, each corner of the house crafted by hand, the flower beds, gardens ‒ I was so impressed by this person’s meticulousness. 

What is most memorable from that month?

Well, it was really a challenging period for me. For the first time, I drove across nearly all of Lithuania in a car I wasn’t entirely sure how to control. Burning firewood for heat was a first for me too. Well water, morning shivers are also really memorable. But, you can get used to practically anything, you can learn how to do everything, and then the beauty of nature, the kindness of people outweighs everything. The sense of community in the countryside left a deep impression. Just a month later, I felt as if I knew everyone and everyone knew me. 

How did the work you created in Margionys come to life?

Before I came here, I knew I would create a handmade book of songs and I had actually written the first part over the summer. When I settled in Margionys, the texts themselves began to flow, and they reached me through the stories around me, through borrowed books, my own reflections. Putting these sources together like a sort of collage, I created the second part of the book “Liūdnos dainos” [Sad Songs], which I will perform live during my residency presentation at the SODAS 2123 space (planned for possibly 25 November). I’m now finishing a 30-copies edition of the song-book. 

Do you feel the impulse for further creation? 

When creating a book, there are always texts that just don’t find their right place. “Liūdnos dainos” took in the crumbs of the previous project, so this period also needs its own place. I don’t forget my texts, they sometime sound in my head, and I’m already intuitively looking for additions to them.  

Are you thinking about further art residences?

I would be more than happy to participate in other art residences, and I really liked the format of this creative process: settle somewhere, get to know the environment, people. Maybe just the farewell part isn’t as fun. Currently, I’m setting up in the village of Bagdonys and look forward to moving there with similar intent ‒ to create and explore. This will be my next residency with no deadline.