Few years ago, I took over the Guardian’s Cities Instagram for a week where I have presented Lithuanian capital city Vilnius. It caused an uproar in the local press, as residents were traumatised by the perspective of my photographs. While Lithuanians are usually proud to present their capital’s historic Old Town, I bypassed the tourist-facing facade and instead looked at the city honestly, without artificial glamour.
As a response to public criticism I decided to play with the perception of ugly & beautiful. So, I took the same subject – modern Soviet architecture of Vilnius with all its previous contradictions - and wrapped it in a colourful hues taken off the synthetic fibre towel that says “Hawaii”.
Hawaiian beach towel refers to the cultural shift in the early ‘90s Lithuania, after collapse of the Soviet Union, when consumer market was flooded with huge variety of imported goods from the West. Neon colours such as hot pink, orange or electric blue became particularly popular and therefore had considerable impact on the aesthetic taste in our post-soviet society.
This cultural reference is a key to unlock the symbolic language I use in my work. Combination of ugly modernist architecture from the Soviet era and vivid idealised hues of Hawaiian sunset creates iconic images of urban landscape that was previously considered as unfit to represent the city. However, the images bring the ambiguous experience to the viewer – when observed from the distance, visually appealing colours give perceptual sense of satisfaction, while rusty details of Soviet architectural monuments from our bitter past provoke the feeling of rejection.
By putting together "the ideal" and "the real" in one picture, I aim to provoke an internal conflict and disturb spectator's preconditioned views on the city.