The story of the Tranquility cooperative began in 1965, when the new Dainava area started to appear in Kaunas, and one of its streets was given the name Tranquility (in 1970, for ideological reasons, the street was renamed Twenty Five Years of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic Street; and after Lithuania restored its independence in 1990, it was renamed again, and became 11 March Street, in honour of the day independence was restored). The residents of a standard 60-apartment panel-block house have formed a society that is also called Tranquility. It is an example of the life of a small social group under the conditions of the authoritarian regime. The residents come from various different places in Lithuania, and have received compensation for their nationalised property; therefore, they all share the same fate.
Most people moved in with extended families, consisting of several generations: parents, children and grandchildren. This five-storey building, surrounded by what was at that time social housing and hostels, was distinguished by its flower beds, trees, neatly cut lawns and a playground for children. Eventually, the well-kept surroundings of the apartment building stood out clearly, with a well-defined area marked out by green hedges and paved pathways. Members of the cooperative continued to celebrate Christmas, Easter, All Saints’ Day and other feasts, despite the state’s anti-religious policies. They also started to celebrate their own holidays: the fifth, tenth and 15th anniversaries of the formation of the cooperative.
Members of the community also found ways to express their patriotic feelings secretly. The most popular colours for the surroundings of the building were yellow, green and red, the colours of the flag of independent Lithuania. These colours were used everywhere, on the exterior and the interior of the building, from the benches, fences and letter boxes, to the floors in the corridors. Several generations grew up in this environment.
After Lithuania restored its independence, the chairman of the cooperative and my godfather Albinas Staugaitis (b. 1922), who was deported to Siberia and returned to Lithuania during Soviet times, built a commemorative cross in his workshop in the basement of the building. This cross was placed by the playground. A little later, a pole for the Lithuanian state flag appeared beside the cross. It so happens that the structure and the design of the surroundings of the standard apartment building are similar to the image of a typical Lithuanian farm: house, fence, tree, flowers, wooden cross…
National Gallery of Art, Vilnius, 2014
KUMU Art Museum, Tallinn, 2015