I thoroughly enjoyed Doubled Youth and would definitely recommend seeing it; however, I do have some criticism. Personally, I felt that the exhibition itself didn’t succeed in contextualising the film enough for those not so familiar with Lithuanian history or culture to fully engage with the work. Moreover, the film itself wasn’t particularly self-explanatory, so it was challenging to grasp the political and ideological tensions portrayed in the piece.
Narkevičius’ videos usually unfold the multi-layered nature of objects and cultural phenomena, thus provoking discussions about various matters related to the recent past. This exhibition presents several projects by Narkevičius: the film Books on Shelves and Without Letters (2013), which documents a band playing at a gig in one of Vilnius’ bookstores, and the 3D film 20 July 2015, which in fact occupies most of the exhibition space. This immersive footage focuses on the removal of several socialist realist sculptures from the Green Bridge in central Vilnius. These eight statues were first built in 1952, commissioned by the Soviet government when Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union during the Second World War.
Since regaining independence in 1990, Lithuania has been able to assert its national identity, which was suppressed for decades, through the destruction and rebuilding of its heritage. Soviet monuments and statues were taken down and either destroyed or put into a museum in Grūtas Park, replaced with new monuments of Lithuanian national heroes. The practice of constructing the image of heritage through monuments and various landmarks is neither new or strange – it is a natural process of constructing one’s identity.
In the world of heritage practice, not everything that is old is considered heritage. Nevertheless, anything can become heritage if we define it so. Whether or not the Green Bridge sculptures should be regarded as heritage assets is a complicated question. In Lithuania, the Soviet buildings or architectural structures are not usually classed as heritage — they are neglected. There is no right or wrong answer to how we should treat the past and what we should value. In the case of this film, Narkevičius does not force a judgement about what should have been done to the statues, but rather opens up a discussion.
I believe it is fairly symbolic that the exhibition is titled Doubled Youth. It not only shows the socialist sculptures of the Green Bridge, reflecting on the time that has already passed, but also reminds us that a new generation is emerging with the film about young musicians. It is these dissimilar social and historical experiences of different generations that currently define Lithuania.