Miglė Survilaitė: It’s true that when we look back at the past, especially at a part of it that’s so recent and easy to visualise in our mind’s eye, it’s easy to be swept away by nostalgia and sentiment. The main bulk of sentimentality permeates the exhibition in one of two ways. Firstly, through the various loaned or gifted everyday objects. Secondly, through the shared cultural references that many visitors will easily recognize – snippets of the once-popular TV shows, bits of the biggest Baltic outdoor market, Gariūnai (which didn’t just set the fashion trends of the era but actually changed many people’s lives) and much more. Nostalgia is a sort of gateway drug for our visitor.
Upon recognizing certain objects or phenomena, we tend to associate them with our own personal experiences and relive old memories, but the traditional artwork element of the exhibition helps to expand the conversation beyond personal histories and reveal the darker elements of the decade as well. The ‘risks’ that come with confronting nostalgic topics were also minimized by the meticulous work of the exhibition architects and scenographer Renata Valčik’s installations. This way, the nostalgic tokens of yesteryear become a legitimate extension of thematic artworks, not just a pile of nostalgia-inducing, mismatched souvenirs.
Vaidas Jauniškis: Besides, memory doesn’t always equal nostalgia. Only those who feel it use it. Meanwhile, the offending object just lies there. That’s it. We didn’t go out of our way to package it into a fancy cake box and tie a ribbon around the thing. Alas, that’s just how we, our brains, are wired. Just as war veterans who keep coming back to graveyards to remind themselves of bloody massacres. For them – the survivors –, that experience conjures up the most vivid memories of their youth. Such was life at its most vibrant, at its most extreme.
Tomas Vaisėta: I’d like to also point out that it’s a bit odd to think of nostalgia itself as something purely negative. It’s pretty common in Lithuania because for a long while, nostalgia was first and foremost associated with the Soviet occupation. Yet nostalgia is also one of the ways in which we add coherence, sense, and value to our lives. You could even say that by way of nostalgia, we legitimize our lives, especially the periods that may fill us with a great political or cultural doubt, the ones we strive to forget. For some, the 90s were this exact sort of uncomfortable period, one that was difficult to come to terms with politically or culturally. Thus, the exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to realize that this part of history is also legitimate. It was worthy of putting in a museum, after all.