Tauro Ragas <> KultFlux. Visualising Alternatives
The second year of JUST focused on the site of the former Tauro Ragas beer bar. Designed by architect A. Maciulis, the Tauro Ragas bar opened in 1974 and in communist times was a well-known point in the entertainment landscape of the city, with a direct connection to the Tauro brewery producing beer nearby. The fall of communism heralded the closure of the brewery and then also that of the bar, which, despite the growth of the entertainment sector in Vilnius, now lies abandoned, and in an ever-worsening state of degradation. The desolation and lack of use of the site in the present contrasts not just with the bar’s past, but also with its future, represented as a gleaming business centre on the webpage of its developers.
This case thus represents an exemplary model of the problems and conditions of possibility of the development of the socialist modernist heritage in Eastern Europe that we sought to challenge through a multi-dimensional exploration of the specificity of the Tauro Ragas site. Through 3 days of activities and discussions held from 16-18 May 2012, we investigated various aspects of the past, present and future of Tauro Ragas in order to ask what the academic and activist milieu can do to make visible alternative trajectories. Activities included: site-clearance, the screening of urban activist films, a concert and visual mapping of the site, the projecting and rebuilding of the Tauro sculpture that once stood on the site, the organizing of an on-site exhibition called “Return of the Ghost”, collective cooking and music-making on locally produced and gathered vegetables, and discussions of strategies for future activist mapping projects.
Workshops and other experiments were largely carried out on the site of another now disused cultural space: Kultflux. Kultflux was created as an experimental artistic platform on the River Neris in the centre of the city in the period leading up to Vilnius being European Capital of Culture in 2009. While initially the platform flourished, playing host to a number of arts, cinema, musical, and discussion events, and seemed to open up a new potential for dialogue between the art and activist milieu and the city authorities, it too in post-European Capital of Culture Vilnius now lies abandoned and under threat of destruction.
Working in and between Kultflux and Tauro Ragas thus threw up interesting connections: despite being very visible in locations close to the city centre, the two spaces have both fallen off the city’s map. From this perspective, surprisingly, the Vilnius of the cultural animation prior to Cultural Capital of Europe seems now as much consigned to the historical past as that of a Soviet era “Beer Bar.” The three days of events and work done in the two sites were an attempt to extend the contexts of both, to understand better why they are no longer used and to see what can be done to give them alternative life. The blog is both a record and a prolongation of these experiments.