in 2022, Lithuania's second largest city, Kaunas, will take over the title of European Capital of Culture. On that occasion, the years leading up to the great culmination of 2022 will offer a packed and inspiring program with various artistic and cultural initiatives and projects. Marit Benthe Norheim has been invited to contribute to the project with a number of artistic activities. The result has been an art project that, on the one hand, builds on the Kaunas region's distinctive history, identity and needs, and also on the other hand, will offer renewed reflection and dialogue and add artistic, Nordic input to the area.
The Rolling Angels will be in Linksmakalnis all year round 2021-2022, where they will travel around the area and visit and occupy squares and towns, where they will tell the locals and guests angel stories and help warm Linksmakalnis up to Kaunus 2022
Linksmakalnis started as a German-owned mansion that became a village, then transformed into a secret military town during the Soviet occupation and is now - after the Russian soldiers withdrew in 1993 - a small town without a fixed local identity and full of the shadows of the past.
"The project aims to create a unique art experience of high artistic quality such as;
Generates insight into and invites reflection on Linksmakalnis ’history, values and identity. Based on Linksmakalnis 'and Kaunas' need for new artistic input and renewal and invites dialogue and exchange beyond both the village and Lithuania's borders. Involves the residents of the Kaunas district directly in the art experience and creates unity and community across social boundaries. And constitutes a Danish / Nordic contribution to the program for Kaunas as European Capital of Culture in 2022. "
The Danish Cultural Institute in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
INAUGURATION OF THE MOBILE SCULPTURE “ANGEL OF SMILES” FOR THE EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE KAUNAS 2022, MADE FOR THE ANGEL MUSEUM OF LINKSMAKALNIS IN THE KAUNAS REGION.
BY SCULPTOR MARIT BENTHE NORHEIM WITH INLAID MUSIC BY COMPOSER TONJE T.S. NORHEIM
Since September 2021 my installation titled Rolling Angels, consisting of 15 sculptural mobile angels, (modelled in concrete over second-hand rubbish bins) have been residing in Linksmakalnis. They have been used by a contemporary circus group who have pushed and pulled them through Linksmakalnis and Kaunas City.
In addition to bringing this flock of Rolling Angels, I was asked to create an angel specifically for the small town Linksmakalnis, who would be staying there permanently.
The sculpture was handed over on the 1st of October in Linksmakalnis, with speeches by the Elder/Mayor of the town, three representatives from the European Capital of Culture Kaunas22, Representative from The Danish Cultural Institute and the artist. There was also a handover performance by Džiugas Kunsmanas and Sigrid N. Ørntoft, accompanied by the music for the Angel of Smiles and a concert by local musicians.
In 1995 I participated in an exhibition at Ciurlionis Museum in Kaunas, where I bought a brochure about the Lithuanian folk artist and children’s book author Stasė Samulevičienė. This woman received in 1977 the “Order of Smiles” which was given to people who had shown a great compassion towards children. I found the booklet about her, titled Smile – and decided that this little town needed the energy that I found in the story of Samulevičienė. The angel for Linksmakalnis is therefore a symbolic portrait of this woman, where I have tried to work out a smile without sentimental or scary connotations. Stasé Samulevičienė made small fluffy creatures which also illustrated her stories.
As an event for the opening ceremony, I had collected second-hand teddies from Denmark and fastened them to my costume with safety-
pins. In my speech I explained to the audience that these creatures had lost their beloved ones and invited them to pick one from my body, if they promised to give them renewed love – in the spirit of Stasé and the Angel of Smiles.
“The sculpture was made in Norheim’ s iconic gargoyle-like design and from sustainable materials. It combined inspiration from Lithuanian religious and folkloristic art traditions as well as from the minimalism and seriousness connected with Nordic design and art. Thus, it showcases Nordic art in a way that is meaningful to local Lithuanian traditions” *Quote from Amalie Sørensen, at The Danish Cultural Institute.
The music within the sculpture was made by the composer Tonje T.S. Norheim. Here is her description: “The composer for the 18 previous Rolling Angels; Geir Johnson tragically and unexpectedly passed away last year, and I was asked to take on the composition for the new addition to the 18 mobile sculptures (music installed inside the sculpture) Amongst trying to capture the beauty and melancholy of Linksmakalnis under this sculptures smile, I incorporated micro samples of Geir Johnson’s previous choir work (torn apart more and more, until less is recognized or even heard towards the end). I also took pleasure in mimicking his electronically produced Angel-scapes (previously mimicking insect sounds) using a classic 303, emphasizing the multitudes of the uses of a smile and sure curiosity in her expression. Angel Of Smiles will stay permanently in Linksmakalnis in Kaunas Region, where she will be moved to a new spot every month, to help her continue to spread her existential smile to the people there.”
Photo: S. Petkus
Photo: Benthe Norheim, Claus Ørntoft
"A few years ago, the choreographer Roberto Magro (Spain), together with the community, created the contemporary site-specific new circus project Radio Angels. In a town where darkness had long prevailed, the figure of an angel became a symbol of spiritual revival.
Local children were very actively involved in the project.
For many of them, their participation in the project became the most memorable life event. This collaboration continues and the topics of new circus, angels and community have been implemented in the final years of the European Capital of Culture. We think that artist Marit Benthe Norheim’s Rolling Angels project very meaningfully contributed to this project in Linksmakalnis. It touches on the same topics and the same values that are relevant to our project: - Community, peaceful coexistence, and the search for meaning in these difficult times. And, of course the symbol of angel."
Kaunas 2022 program “Memory Office” curator dr. Daiva Citvarienė
ANGELS OF SMILES
- A mobile sculpture as a symbolic portrait of Stasé Samuleviciené.
Made for the Angel Museum in Linksmakalnis, with inlaid music
by composer Tonje T.S. Norheim
Rolling Angels Kaunas storytelling festival Photos by Lukas Kazakevičius
Next week we are opening a CityTelling Festival, and angels will be part of two performances. One of them will be at the opening day of the festival (7th of October), they will form a procession on the main street in Kaunas Laisvės alvenue. On the 9th of October they will be part of the performance in Linksmakalnis: https://istorijufestivalis.eu/en/#programme
dr. Daiva Citvarienė, Curator, program “Memory Office“ I Kuratorė, programa „Atminties biuras“, Kaunas – European Capital of Culture 2022 I Kaunas – Europos kultūros sostinė 2022
7. OKTOBER 2021
Rolling Angels is rolled through the village of Linksmakalnis outside Kaunas, along with an international team of artists in a contemporary circus show "Radio Angels: Arrival".
Photo: Andrius Aleksandravičius
Photo: Benthe Norheim
5. september 2021
HUMAN-SIZED ANGELS SETTLED IN THE FORMER SECRET MILITARY TOWN
An interview of Marit Benthe Norheim by Lina Kukyté, from KAUNAS2022 team
How did Lithuania discover you and how did you discover Lithuania?
Dr. Daiva Citvarienė Curator, for the program “Memory Office“ was in Dresden in February
2020 to do a talk about Kaunas22 in a seminar related to the 75th commemoration of the bombing of Dresden. When she saw my Rolling Angels, she said that she suddenly understood the deeper reason for her to come to Dresden; to bring the Rolling Angels to Linksmakalnis!
"I hope that by making and doing art projects that are so unexpected, people will have to use their associations and share experiences in the public space that makes them have to relate to each other in different ways than they normally do."