The MAP6 photography collective was established in 2011 with the goal of supporting the making and dissemination of new bodies of work. Comprised of eight members based around the UK, our work is individually diverse, but unified in our deep curiosity for the complex relationship between people and place. MAP6 is committed to creating informative bodies of work around a central theme or geographical location. Each series eventually takes the form of a curated exhibition and group publication. We have currently worked on three group projects together, The Moscow Project, Home and most recently The Lithuanian Project. The Lithuanian Project is currently on show at the ONCA Gallery in Brighton. We have been exhibiting across the UK and Europe since 2011.
The Lithuanian Project
Europe – seems a simple term of phrase. Dig a bit deeper and you’re reminded it is at once, a geographical term, a political vision, a union of states, a cultural place and a single currency zone. With countless variations, this politically contested; shifting concept is one of the most rapidly changing territories on the planet.
It’s been 60 years since the publication of Cartier Bresson’s The Europeans, a seminal body of work that continues to shape the photographic world. Todays Europe however seems even more in flux – more mythical, more diverse and more complex. Since that work was made – a further 24 countries have joined the European Union family, and a single currency has been born.
With this in mind MAP6 journeyed to the country that currently holds the very centre of Europe, as defined by the French National Geographic Institute, to meet some of the newest Europeans. Once one of the satellites of the USSR, Lithuania is a young republic caught in the process of recovering from 50 years of soviet occupation. Over 6 days 6 photographers set out to explore its transformation from communism to capitalism, and how it copes with its newfound Eurozone identity.
Paul Walsh – Bokstas 25
As the tallest structure in Lithuania, the Televizijos Bokštas (Television Tower) can be seen from almost anywhere in the capital city of Vilnius. After the night of January 13th 1991, the tower has become revered as a symbol of Lithuania’s move towards independence. On that fateful night, Soviet tanks and army personal encircled the tower, in an attempt to silence the voices of dissent from within. Soviet forces opened fire into the crowd of over 1000 protesters, killing at least 13 people and injuring over 140. On the 25th anniversary year of the siege, Paul Walsh circumnavigated the tower 25 times on foot, each circuit heading further out into the city. Walking around an object can create a deeper understanding of it, express feelings of reverence towards a place, and pays homage to the events that have taken place there. Covering 170km (100 miles) in 6 days, Paul photographed the tower and those he came across during his walk. Shrugging off an association with fear and control, of being watched or monitored, the Bokstas has come to represent liberty for the newly independent nation.
Heather Shuker – Divided Lives
The region of Dievenišk and Šalčininkai is an enclave of Lithuania surrounded by the border of Belarus. When Lithuania and Belarus were both part of the Soviet Union the border between these countries was just a line on a map, and several villages in this region straddled this border. With Lithuania’s membership of the European Union in 2004, its borders became subject to the Schengen Agreement, and in 2007/8 a barbed-wire fence was erected along the border with Belarus that physically and permanently divided villages, families and friends. Heather Shuker travelled around the region to meet local people to explore how this division has affected the villages and their residents. Working with a translator she explored everyday life, memory, nostalgia and lost connections.
Jonty Tacon/Laurie Griffiths – Baboyka
The town of Visaginas in north eastern Lithuania was built by the Soviet Union to provide a home for workers at the Ignalina Nuclear Power Station. As a condition of entering the EU Lithuania were required to decommission the facility due to safety concerns. Jonty Tacon and Laurie Griffiths travelled to the town to explore how this loss of identifying purpose has affected the town and its residents.
Barry Falk – System of Absurdity
The Soviet Bunker is a staged environment, a fabricated space constructed from the leftover paraphernalia of the Soviet Occupation. It is set within a former Soviet telecommunications centre, one of many such back-up station designed to keep broadcasting in the eventuality of a nuclear war, part of the Cold War stand-off. It was built between 1983 to 1985 and abandoned in 1991. However, when the Russians left Lithuania they stripped the space clear, leaving the bare concrete cells of an extensive bunker.
Mitch Karunaratne – Middle Europe
It was in 1775, that the first ‘centre’ of Europe was marked. Since then, over a dozen different sites have been officially celebrated as the centre of this political concept and geographical entity. Currently Purnuškės – a small hamlet, 26km north of Vilnius marks a set of coordinates that, in 1989 – were declared to mark the current, exact geographical centre of Europe.
To view more of The MAP6 Collective’s work please visit their website.