Lithuania's pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale took the main prize on Saturday, beating 89 other national entries. An opera performance about climate change won the the Golden Lion for Rugilė Barždžiukaitė, Lina Lapelytė and Vaiva Grainytė.
The piece, entitled “Sun & Sea (Marina)”, has performers in swimsuits sing warnings of ecological disaster while sunbathing in an artificial beach.
“It's a piece about love, about an impulse we send, an impulse we receive and which, we hope, the audience gets,” says Lapelytė who composed the music for the opera.
“We link the fragility of the human body to the fragility of the Earth's body. We are very happy that this fragile piece was noticed,” according to Barzdžiukaitė, the director.
“We are running out of the Earth's resources, corrals are disappearing. But we still have love and friendship,” says Grainytė, who wrote the libretto.
The awarding jury noted the performance's “experimental spirit… and unexpected treatment of national representation”.
Lithuania's pavilion, housed in a building on the outskirts of the Arsenale, features an artificial beach with tons of sand.
The one-hour-long opera is performed every Saturday for eight hours on a loop without interruption. The performances in Venice will continue until November. “Sun & Sea (Marina)” will have been performed 240 times.
Despite having been awarded the Biennale's main prize, the piece has yet to secure funding for its entire duration. Lithuania's pavilion is partly funded by the government, but its authors had to make up the shortfall – about €50,000 – through crowdfunding.
The authors say they saw an uptick in donations when the news about the award came.