Freedom and Lenin up close: highlights of Kaunas Biennial (Video)

Freedom and Lenin up close: highlights of Kaunas Biennial (Video)

Kauno Bianalė (Kaunas Biennial) is a very interesting event that takes places in Kaunas, Lithuania, every two years. It is very interesting in a way that you don’t have to notice it, even if you live in Kaunas, but the entire city centre becomes an art gallery of sorts. All the pieces were very interesting this year, but two of them were met with so many surprised faces we had to write about them.

Kaunas has its own Statue of Liberty – it is our “Laisvė” (“Freedom”), standing proudly on a tall pedestal in the very heart of Kaunas. It was created by a famous artist Juozas Zikaras back in 1921, but was demolished in 1950 by soviets, who did not want any symbols of freedom in Lithuanian eyes.

This is quite important piece of the story, because for 39 years Kaunas’ “Laisvė” was gone from the square, but not from the memory. In 1989 it was rebuilt as Lithuanian hopes for independence were growing stronger. Now it is one of the most important symbols of Kaunas, which is here to stay forever.

Juozas Zikaras “Laisvė”. (Algirdas, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

However, being 12 meters from the ground “Laisvė” doesn’t have a chance to meet people of Kaunas. And that is where Kaunas Biennial comes along. Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi created and installation, which basically puts “Laisvė” in a soviet-design kitchen. A mock-up of a room was built on some construction-grade scaffolding and it was decorated with furniture, wallpaper and utilities from the period, when “Laisvė” was taken away from Kaunas and Lithuania.

Tatzu Nishi managed to put “Laisvė” on the kitchen table without even moving the statue.

This very special art piece represents the time shockingly well and the symbolism is both deep and understandable. During that period when the subject of freedom was taken away from the public, people could only speak about it in their own privacy in their own kitchens. “Laisvė” lived on the tables of every Lithuanian house. Until it accumulated, grew stronger and emerged with such power no one could stop it. Not even Lenin’s in our squares and in our eyes. So they fell.

Huge part of the art piece is accurately recreated soviet style kitchen.

There is another piece of Tatzu Nishi in Kaunas. This one, called “Flat for rent”, is even more surprising. It is a small room for rent, typically used by tourists. But not for now. Now there is a Lenin sculpture, a copy of one that used to stand nearby “Laisvė’s” spot, lying on the floor.

Lenin occupied the room typically rented for tourists and other visitors of the city.

The appartment is completely contemporary, but the sculpture is not. The contrast is almost eye-openning. It was explained to us that it can be interpreted as remains of soviet mentality that are living within us despite our modernized exterior. Hopefully, they Lithuanian will get rid of those too.

Here is a little video we shot to remember these two impressive pieces of art

It is interesting that it took a Japanese artist to introduce us to our “Freedom” eye to eye. That’s the result of Lithuania breaking free and a good remainder of the times, when people were just dreaming of “Laisvės” return to the city of Kaunas. Seeing it up close was simply astonishing, but it is time to let it come out again and look upon us from up high – both installations will be removed this Thursday already.

A machine that does nothing really really well – just look at those gears spin (Video)

A machine that does nothing really really well – just look at those gears spin (Video)

Have you seen that little bizarre toy that looks like a little box with a switch? When you turn it on, a little hand or the paw of a toy cat comes out and turns it off. It is often regarded as the most useless machine in the world. However, it is just a lazy attempt at creating it. The real “Do Nothing” machine looks much more impressive and actually does even less.

Lawrence Wahlstrom was a retired clock maker and a landscape gardener when in 1948 he stumbled across a surplus WWII bombsight which had lots of different gears. Wahlstrom had a soft spot for gears and was fascinated with the mechanism. He started fixing and playing with it, adding more and more gears – this bizarre hobby resulted in a 15-year-long work, producing an impressive machine, which really does absolutely nothing.

Wahlstrom just kept adding gears to the thing. He used components from old clocks, a Packard car, an old Italian organ and other things. People are not even sure how many gears does this thing have – some say 744, while others count 764.When the machine was still relatively new it showed a weird yet fluid motion. People could not believe that a thing that does nothing was built with such precision. Meanwhile, Wahlstrom knew that people are more keen in getting entertained than in getting educated, so he was not surprised about the attention his creation was receiving.

The “Do Nothing” machine got also a fair share of media attention. Articles about it were published in Life (1953), Popular Mechanics (1954), Mechanix Illustrated (1955) and other popular magazines. Wahlstrom was happy to showcase his creation in various fairs and exhibitions. After his death, the work was carried on by another enthusiast, Earl Wolf. Nowadays, the “Do Nothing” machine is a popular attraction in the Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum in Carlsbad, California. Some of the parts stopped spinning – 60 years of service did take a toll on the machine that does nothing really really well.

So what is it? It has so many moving parts and it looks so busy, yet accomplishes nothing, except attracting attention. Maybe it is a piece of art? Or maybe it is a symbol of the business we sometimes pride ourselves with? We can only hope that the “Do Nothing” machine continues to entertain people despite the fact that its gears are slowly wearing away.

Homemade Secret Wood ring – not as easy as it looks, but you should definately try it (Video)

Homemade Secret Wood ring – not as easy as it looks, but you should definately try it (Video)

There is an interesting style of jewellery, combining wood and resin. So called “secret wood” rings and necklaces are quite expensive, but people are still drawn to them, because of how interesting they look. Broken food fibres encased in a colourful resin look like there is an entire mysterious world, hidden inside of a small accessory. It really is beautiful. And, if you’re somewhat handy, you can make one at home.

Now, making it at home will not really save you money. Secret wood style requires a lot of resin and a tremendous amount of labour. So if you value your time, you should not consider making it in the first place. Peter Brown, creator of a popular YouTube channel, experimented with making secret wood rings and it is very interesting to see how he made them.

There really is no secret about technology of secret wood rings and other kinds of accessories. It is just broken piece of wood, encased in epoxy or polyester resin, mixed with some dye. Sometimes glitter is added or several colours are used, in order to make the ring look even more interesting. But this simplicity doesn’t really tell how much work goes into making one of these art pieces.

Peter Brown showed several of different methods of breaking a piece of wood. It is actually quite an important part of the project, because broken fibres cannot look too tidy, yet have to stop splitting at a certain point to make the ring strong. He tried breaking it by hand, he dried cutting a kerf with a bandsaw to make a sharp line, but eventually find the best results by using a simple vice. It allowed him to break a plank in a controlled manner, which produced the desired effect.

Then Brown did what he does quite often in his YouTube channel – pulled out his resin. He mixed up a match of epoxy resin, poured a couple of drops of blue dye into it and poured it into a mould with the broken plank. This was actually the easiest part. Usually when pouring epoxy you have to be very careful to avoid bubbles, but in this case tiny bubbles and “imperfections” actually just add to the illusion.

Afterwards the story was the usual wooden ring making – drilling a hole of appropriate diameter and a lot of shaping and sanding. That required huge amounts of efforts and time. Bringing epoxy to a clear finish it not easy, but in this case it was even more difficult and wet sanding was not an option. Brown finished the job with some plastic polish.

It is not the only “secret wood” project that Brown completed. He also made a woodturned bowl with polyester resin. It featured different shades of blue, making the illusion of the night sky. Looks quite cool, but that required a painful amount of expensive resin and a lot of time.

Original Secret Wood rings cost way over a 100 USD. According to Peter Brown, the price is justified just because of the labour it requires to produce such a piece of art. Furthermore, company sells some pretty cool effects, which would be difficult to replicate at home. On the other hand, it is very tempting to try – it would make a pretty cool present.

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