2018-11-18 Back to list

Meet Dogu Bankov in Kaunas

The 37-picture exhibition in Henry Parland's former office was opened on Armistice Day.

Dogu Bankov is (was?) a mythical artist of Bulgarian origin whose biography is a piece of art itself. His pictures appear in exhibitions from time to time, they also become a source of inspiration for writers. A Lithuanian language novel by Tomas Kavaliauskas called “Originalas” features both Bankov and the kaunastic Devils’ Museum.

This is precisely the place we’d like to invite you today, as the building of the museum shares a wall with the memorial house of Antanas Žmuidzinavičius, a painter who started collecting the devils in the first place. Interestingly enough, this was also the location of the Swedish embassy before WW2; and even the place where the Finnish-Swedish author Henry Parland worked before his premature death. Parland hated coffee and roads in Lithuania. Oh, well!

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Yes, this is the place. Picture by the museum.

On Armistice Day, November 11, an exhibition of Dogu Bankov called “I am the enemy you killed, my friend” was opened in the Žmuidzinavičius house. This exhibition is based on the texts that British composer Benjamin Britten (1913–1976) (Baron Britten of Aldeburgh, OM CH) used for his War Requiem from 1962, written for the (re-)consecration of Coventry Cathedral.

The 37 pictures by Dogu Bankov follow the text without being direct illustrations. Even the Biblical references have been ‘taken out of time’ to indicate that the feelings of anger and hatred is not limited to the world wars alone but, unfortunately, to every day of our existence.
The texts from the Requiem are the Latin “Missa pro Defunctis” and some of Wilfred Owen’s war poems. These two texts stand in sharp contrast to each other. The Latin mass is the bearer of tradition and the unalterable belief in the unity in Heaven. Owen’s poems, written by a soldier aged 25 who were shot dead one week – almost to the hour – before the armistice on November 11, 1918.

Wilfred Owen’s mother received the news of his death and his awarded Military Cross just as the church bells were proclaiming the peace Owen’s poetry was not popular or well-known at the time. Only five of his poems were published in his lifetime. The major poet during WWI was Rupert Brooke who wrote about the radiant British youth who sacrificed themselves for the country.

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The legend says that the pieces of the collages were collected in Lisbon, Portugal. Portugal tried hard to remain neutral during both of the wars and was, of course, a melting pot of events for this very reason.

Owen’s war poems became much more known during and after WWII while many of his other works remained censored or refused printed even up to the mid-80s. The reason being that some of them hinted homosexual love and implied that the poet would be gay. Indeed, after Owen’s death, his brother and mother faked his diaries and letters so that any trace of his sexuality should remain a secret. If any rumour should leak out Wilfred Owen’s war record would be void and the order of the Military Cross withdrawn.

The Requiem calls for soprano, tenor, baritone, mixed choir, boys ‘choir and symphony orchestra. Britten‘s idea was that one of the three soloists should be Russian, one British and one German. The soprano Galina Vishnevskaya (Hon. Artist of the USSR), the tenor (and Britten’s life partner) Sir Peter Pears CBE and the baritone Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau were selected. However, Moscow refused Ä Soviet Artist could not be on the same stage as a German. But Britten did not give up, and in January 1963 he recorded his War Requiem in London with his selected artists.

The original text about the exhibition can be found here.
Visit the exhibition until January 27, 2019. 


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