Vilnius Poker at the MO Museum

“Everything is possible in Vilnius,” wrote Ričardas Gavelis in his renowned novel Vilnius Poker. To celebrate the 700th anniversary of Vilnius, the MO Museum is undertaking the impressive mission of portraying the novel, which is one of the most important works in the history of Lithuanian literature.

The novel takes place in Vilnius, but the city itself is the protagonist. That’s why the exhibition – an immersive Vilnius Poker installation at the MO Museum – will both celebrate the history of Vilnius and take a critical look at the experience and future of the modern city.

In 2023, Oskaras Koršunovas, the artistic director of the OKT Theatre, and Gintaras Makarevičius, the architect/set designer of the exhibition, will interpret the character of Vilnius presented in the novel while looking for a unique harmony in a combination of the artworks from the MO Museum collection, as well as artworks created and borrowed especially for this occasion. Discover Vilnius as the capital of creative rebellion at the MO Museum!

The importance of Vilnius Poker for Vilnius

In 1989, Ričardas Gavelis published the cult novel Vilnius Poker, which became the world’s most famous Lithuanian novel about Vilnius and the most translated Lithuanian book. This novel is a complete deconstruction of the collapsing Soviet system as well as one of the first Lithuanian books examining the city and its citizens. Vilnius is one of the most important characters here, as the search for national and cultural identity is revealed through the point of view of the city. You will not find one truth, one storyline or one answer here. Thus, Vilnius Poker can be considered one of the first works of postmodern Lithuanian literature.

The novel remains relevant even today – for the Western world it is a great opportunity to look behind the Iron Curtain, and for residents of Vilnius it’s a chance to see how the city has changed.

Literature moves to the exhibition hall

Ričardas Gavelis’ novel is the starting point deliberately chosen for the MO Museum’s Vilnius Poker exhibition. The era depicted in the novel and its year of publication are two important factors in shaping the exhibition.

The novel’s main timeline – the late Soviet era – is when the authors who make up the largest part of the MO Museum’s collection created their most vibrant works. The social, political and cultural issues of that time, and the life of the city and citizens of Vilnius, are also reflected in the works of artists. Director Oskaras Koršunovas and artist Gintaras Makarevičius ask the viewer, “What kind of character is Vilnius today and what kind of image do we envision in the future?” Just like in Vilnius Poker, there is no right answer. Exhibition visitors will experience one of the brightest periods in the history of Vilnius, which has strongly contributed to Vilnius as we see it today.

Exclusive creators for an exclusive exhibition

The exhibition was deliberately entrusted to director Oskaras Koršunovas and artist Gintaras Makarevičius. Oskaras Koršunovas, a famous Lithuanian theatre director known in the world for his critical, sharp and topical works since 1990, staged his first performance of “There to be Here” in Vilnius and started a new chapter in the history of Lithuanian theatre. He reflected the reality of the time depicted in Ričardas Gavelis’ Vilnius Poker through the absurd.

Gintaras Makarevičius often remains a person behind the scenes, watching real or imaginary groups of society on camera. However, the veil of reality is also lifted in the theatre where he creates scenographies for performances. The artistic duo will look for non-traditional, inclusive solutions for the Vilnius Poker exhibition, allowing visitors to become spectators as well as participants. The immersive installation will show residents of Vilnius a city from the recent past and will reveal the unprecedented face of the city to visitors from abroad.

Exhibition: today, tomorrow, and always

Although the immersive installation will take place in April-September 2023, preparations are already underway. The MO Museum presents the theme of Vilnius and reveals the various faces of the city in other exhibitions. The BAXT exhibition, which will open at the MO Museum in February 2022, presents the latest works by photographer Andrew Miksys from a project that has been documenting the lives of Romani people in Lithuania for the past 20 years. An installation about the dismantling of the former Roma settlement in Kirtimai is being created especially for this exhibition.

In April 2022, the MO Museum and the Kaunas City Museum will illustrate the fundamental interdependence of Vilnius and Kaunas in the exhibition Kaunas–Vilnius: Moving Mountains. It will look at the culture and social life of these two cities, their similarities and differences from various perspectives.

The opening of the Vilnius Poker exhibition at the MO Museum will be accompanied by the opening MOraton Festival, bringing an additional layer to the exhibition theme. The festival will be full of educational activities, talks and events. It will also be possible to visit the exhibition even if you cannot come to Vilnius – a virtual exhibition tour will make it accessible from anywhere.

Find out more about the exhibition and upcoming events at www.mo.lt.

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