How dolls and tanks help tell a story of freedom against the odds

“Puppets instead of tanks”, one of the pictures from the exhibition Daily Rituals of Work and Play

Today’s Object of the Week is a moving series of images documenting the collapse of centuries-old traditions.

Decades ahead of its time, his work is an extraordinary act of bravery in the face of powerful authorities, revealing artistic experimentation and freedom against all odds.

And now, a new exhibition at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art (NGCA) documents an artist-photographer’s significant work on the decline of traditional village life in Lithuania before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Daily Rituals of Work and Play is the first major exhibition by Lithuanian artist Rimaldas Vikšraitis in the UK.

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The exhibition spans nearly 40 years of Viksraitis’ artistic practice – from early archive footage and 8mm film to 70 photographic works, many of which are being shown for the first time.

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The photographs explore creativity and disability, challenge gender roles and explore Europe from its eastern edge in Lithuania.

Many tell of the collapse and loss of centuries-old traditions when the Soviet Union disintegrated between 1988 and 1991.

This image is titled Farmstead Dreams.

Vikšraitis’ work focuses on the daily rituals that structure rural life and the traditional rural customs that mark key communal events such as weddings, funerals, and courtship rituals.

Vikšraitis won the 2009 Discovery Award at the Rencontres d’Arles for the photo series Grimaces of the Weary Village.

Since the mid-1970s he has created a series of self-portraits that explore and challenge gender roleplay in a way almost unprecedented in Eastern Europe.

The exhibition was curated by Lithuanian-born, Newcastle-based artist, photographer, researcher and independent curator Janina Sabaliauskaite.

She said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with Rimaldas, to have researched his archive on such a personal level and to bring to the UK a collection of his mostly previously unpublished work – which features both documentary and constructed imagery. and portrays his curious view of everyday life, play and communities.”

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This picture is titled “Everyday”

Rebecca Ball, Managing Director of Sunderland Culture said: “We are delighted to be able to work with Janina on this project to bring this important collection to the UK. The photographs are both bold and intriguing and I hope visitors to the NGCA will truly enjoy the exhibit.”

Janina’s own exhibition, Sending Love, has already opened at NGCA’s Collection Space. Her first UK solo exhibition, Sending Love, pays a sincere tribute to the transnational LGBTQ+ community and features images from her personal archive.

Jonathan Weston, curator at NGCA added: “Sending Love features portraits of close friends and seeks to mobilize and visualize queer feminist lives to achieve solidarity, emancipation and positive social change.

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“The exhibition celebrates the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community and encourages dialogue about the fight for human rights in both Eastern Europe and the UK.”

Janina has a degree in Photography from the University of Sunderland.

* Please note that Sending Love and Daily Rituals contain images of nudity and of a sexual nature and the exhibitions are not suitable for young audiences.

Daily Rituals of Work and Play – The Collective Life of a Village 1975-2012 is on view at NGCA from October 1st to January 15th next year. Sending Love also runs until January 15th. Both projects are supported with public funds from the National Lottery through the Arts Council England.

NGCA is based at the National Glass Center — access to both is free and no reservations are required.

For more information visit or follow NGCA on social media @NGCAsunderland

Previous objects:

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