Lithuania’s award-winning Venice Biennale pavilion has struggled with its success.
Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte, and Lina Lapelyte, Sun & Sea (Marina), 2019, opera-performance, Biennale Arte 2019, Venice. Photo © Andrej Vasilenko.
The Lithuanian Pavilion won the 2019 Venice Biennale’s top prize, but has had to scale back its performance schedule due to the enormous costs of putting on an indoor opera. The piece, a looping opera titled Sun & Sea (Marina) (2019) by artists Lina Lapelyte, Vaiva Grainytė, and Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, is staged on a vast beach inside a warehouse owned by the Italian navy. It features a rotating cast of paid singers and volunteer extras who lounge on beach towels and sing about the deteriorating environment. The pavilion hosted daily performances during the Biennale’s preview and opening vernissage, but programming was subsequently scaled back to just one day of performances per week (Saturdays).
“Going into the vernissage week, we didn’t have enough money to guarantee us until the end of the Biennale, even performing once a week,” Lucia Pietroiusti, who curated the pavilion, told the New York Times. Now, with the help of a crowdfunding campaign that picked up momentum after the pavilion won the Golden Lion (as of this writing it has raised over $41,000), she said the project is “on a more professional footing,” adding: “A Wednesday performance is our maximum ambition.”
While performances of Sun & Sea (Marina) are currently only taking place on Saturdays, the rest of the week visitors to the pavilion will only see a sound installation on an uninhabited beach. For Pietroiusti, the emptiness is a powerful reminder “That performance art needs care and support that it doesn’t always get.”