Made in local

Time flies sometimes fading, sometimes developing memories.

Time flies sometimes fading, sometimes developing memories.

Carte blanche to Neringa Bumblienė, ACROSS #34 resident.

MADE IN LOCAL is a text commissioning programme initiated in 2020 with art critics and curators who participated in the ACROSS residency on the French Riviera.

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The author
Biography of Neringa Bumblienė

The residence

More than a month passed since for two weeks I stayed in Nice as part of the Across Residency - the only operating residency dedicated specifically to curators and critics of contemporary art in the South of France.
I arrived there, as a fatigue and excitement after the opening of the Lithuanian Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale, of which I am the curator, have not yet subsided. And the Russian invasion and war in Ukraine kept destroying the latter country and lives of its citizens. For Lithuanians it felt and still does particularly devastating. Kyiv is only 700 km away from Vilnius and not only due to the geographical proximity it feels so relevant to us, but also to our centuries long fight with the same brutal powers of imperialist Russia.

As I was landing to what seemed as if directly on the sea, I understood that this part of France, Côte d'Azur, was a somehow unconscious reverie that was sleeping in me since I left France after my studies at the École du Magasin in 2014. I haven’t found a proper occasion to come, until now.

Nice welcomed with rain and a sweet dizzy fragrance of citrus trees in bloom. The residency, run by curator Claire Migraine, accommodated me in a beautiful house on a quiet hill with polyphonic tunes of birds singing by days, and frogs – by nights. I could see the famous Bay of Angels and observe a mesmerising surface of the Mediterranean Sea through all of my windows. It felt like a dream, like inhabiting François Ozon’s 'Swimming Pool'.

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Though there wasn’t much time left for dreaming. The schedule was rather intense and covered not only the artistic scene of Nice, but also of nearby places: Monaco, Antibes, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Mouans-Sartoux, and others. The region is exceptionally beautiful for its vivid light, sceneries of green hills, lush exotic gardens, the azure sea and the clear blue sky. Historically many important artists, art collectors and dealers found it inspiring and moved to work and live here: Anna-Eva Bergman, Marc Chagall, Hans Hartung, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, just to name a few.

At the moment of my stay newly opened the Foundation Hartung Bergman established in the lot which the couple acquired in the 1950s - a two and a half hectares of olive grove on the hills of Antibes. Inspired by the region, Norwegian artist Anna-Eva Bergman and German Hans Hartung designed and built a villa and two studios for each of them to work. The team of the Foundation managed to preserve the site in its original design and sensitively curated exhibitions, which present not only the spectacular oeuvre of each of the artists, but also their way of work and life.

Not that far away is located the France’s first independent art foundation – or at least this is what it claims – la Fondation Marguerite and Aimé Maeght with sculptural interventions by such prominent artists of the 20th century as Georges Braque, Joan Miró and Alberto Giacometti who were directly involved in shaping the site with their work.
In addition to the previously mentioned foundations there are museums dedicated to oeuvre of Picasso, Matisse and Chagall – I was touched to see Portraits of Ukrainian Refugees by Olivier Roller screened instead of a film on life of Chagall at the latter.

Despite of the considerable attention and dedication to the glorious past, the same regard felt somehow missing for the culture of today. There are a few ambitious, big institutions dedicated to contemporary and modern art like the New National Museum of Monaco and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice, but there was a sense of lacking a more constituent structure that would support more dynamic processes of art being created today. The legendary art school Villa Arson located in an astonishing modernist complex designed by French architect Michel Marot is still operating in Nice and there is a smaller equivalent in Monaco – Pavilion Bosio. But I was told that most of the young talents are leaving for two major art centres of the country: Paris and Marseille. However, I met some inspiring and internationally recognized names, such as Italian Salvatore Arancio, working with video and ceramics, and legendary Nice painter and land artist Noël Dolla. I can still envision him drawing the sea, a bird, a star, a woman, love and falling bombs below his autograph dedicated to me.

While preparing for my lecture on “Curating in the time of crisis” at le Narcissio (10 May 2022), I was wondering how the local public will take it. There I spoke of my recent curatorial projects and particularly – the Lithuanian Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. The Pavilion was conceived just after the first wave of coronavirus subsided and opened facing the war in Ukraine. And people were curious.

In the audience I was happy to see some exciting faces that I have met during my stay: artist Vuth Lyno from Cambodia, curator Alexandra Khalepa from Ukraine, French artist of Polish origins Anna Tomaszewski, writer Mathilde Roman operating between Nice and Monaco, and Nice-based Lithuanian artist Eglė Vismantaitė with her compatriot friends, among others.

Meetings, exhibitions openings and site visits; these were very intensive two weeks. Waking up in mornings it sometimes took me a few moments to realise where and when I am. The centre here felt scattered on the map and through windows of every train I could see the sea and the mountains. Focus on the past and the dreaminess of splendid southern lands was floating in the air. Spring was just gaining momentum. It felt so special to be here, to have a chance to see, perceive and encounter it all. It would have otherwise been rather complex to accomplish. Especially having in mind all the art contacts that the residency put me in a direct touch with.

Now as Lithuania prepares for its year of culture in France in 2024, I keep wondering about different ways to use the knowledge, acquaintances and the experience that the residency so generously granted me with. Thanks to opportunities like this we keep learning about the world, becoming its citizens, improving and continuing doing the work we do, at our best.

Neringa Bumblienė
28 June 2022 – Vilnius, Lituanie