Solo Show by Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas: The Award Winning Villa Lituania at MO, The Museum of Modern Art in Vilnius

Villa Lituania is an insightful and subtly humorous investigation into the notion of the pavilion and the meaning of national identity, engaging the spectator within a compelling narrative.”

Invited to represent Lithuania in the 2007 Venice Biennale, Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas conceived of a work that engaged the politics of architecture and the politics of representation – both investigated within an an-architectural project that is reclaiming the public discursive space associated with the occupied territory. The project borrows its title from Villa Lituania – former Embassy in Rome, annexed by Mussolini’s government and thereafter occupied by the Soviets – and generates new discussions about its traumatic history and the implications they continuously produce for Lithuania’s socio-political situation.

MO, the Museum of Modern Art in Vilnus, was designed by Libeskind as the home for Lithuania’s modern and contemporary art collection. Ten years after the Villa Lituania installation at the 52nd international art exhibition La Biennale di Venezia in 2007, MO acquired the Urbonas’ work stating its “continuous cumulative and cross-referential character, that has prompted important discussion beyond the field of art an further triggers collective intelligence of the whole generation …” As critic Angela Vettese observed discussing “rebel pavilions” and the new turn of the pavilions in Venice Biennale “such a forms of “critical pavilion” … aim to represent areas of a Nation and not of the entire State.”

The project connects architects, municipal bureaucrats, diplomats, fashion designers, and pigeon fanciers to render public discursiveness that is currently divorced from contemporary politics and a sense of commons in general. In this project artists examine the strategies of negotiations between spaces, private and public, and methodologies of reversing already existing perspectives, and tactics of invading the spatial arrangements of the occupied territory.

Villa Lituania explores narratives that work with expropriation and seeking to re-appropriate the lost territories. The research charts the claims not only about the lost space, but rather studies premises that refer to the absence of a civil society. The project functions as an interpellation creating new collective subjectivities and in this respect attempts to stage a performative practice.

“…As the name of the property suggests the building is associated with the Lithuanian nation: it was the Embassy of the first independent Republic of Lithuania (1918-1940) to Italy. The Embassy operated from 1933-1940, but became a possession of the USSR after the Soviet occupation of Lithuania. The keys to the property, which had been in safe keeping, were handed by Italian government representatives to Soviet officials in step with the alliance of powers signaled by the MolotovRibbentrop Pact (1939).

Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1990-91 and the formation of the Republic of Lithuania the Villa has remained the property of Russia; operating as the Consulate in Rome. It is considered the last occupied territory of Lithuania.

Working with pigeon breeders in Italy and Lithuania, Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas are staging a pigeon race from Venice to Rome. A pigeon-loft is being constructed in the Eternal City and the birds specially bred and trained for several months under the auspices of an Italian professional (the fledglings will come from Italy, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia).
Pigeons matriculate the loft they make their first flight from as home and always return to that location when released, hence the nomenclature ‘homing pigeon’.

The project’s symbolism is clear – sending a sign of peace from Lithuania to Villa Lituania, Russia, and Italy…” (S.Rees)

Villa Lituania represented Lithuania at the 52nd international art exhibition La Biennale di Venezia in 2007, and was awarded by the International Jury. The jury proposed by Robert Storr, the curator of 52nd International Art Exhibition, and formed by Manuel J. Borja-Villel (president), Iwona Blazwick, Ilaria Bonacossa, Abdellah Karroum, and José Roca has assigned Honourable Mention to the Lithuanian Pavilion featuring the artists Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas.

It was commissioned by the Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) and presented by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.

MO exhibition architects: Jurga Daubaraitė, Jonas Žukauskas

Coordinators: Ugnė Paberžytė, Deima Žuklytė-Gasperaitienė

Graphic design: Gailė Pranckūnaitė, Domantė Čyžaitė

Exhibition installation by: Antanas Gerlikas, Rokas Valiauga, Aistis Kavaliauskas, Justinas Dūdėnas

Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas, Villa Lituania, 2019.