Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte

25th Oct 2018

1. Hi Kotryna, thanks so much for participating - we hope you’re enjoying the coffee! Can you give us an introduction to your practice, interests and experiences?

Hello CONCH! My big apologies for this unacceptable delay on my part. Due to various circumstances I had a break from my practice and today is the first day I have time to reflect, plan and catch up.

My practice deals with themes of migration, identity, histories and utopias. I originally studied photography and mainly worked with lens based media until a few years ago when I started incorporating sculptural and sound elements to my work. My practice is often in a state of transition and with each new work I need to feel like I’m doing something new in terms of approach, media or interpretation. At this stage I am not rushing things: I have learned that a slow movement is better than an anxious zig zag similar to a trajectory of a fly. What struck me recently as well, was the practical side of being an artist: it made me realise that for the sake of my own sanity and wellbeing I need to take time off sometimes. I have juggled two jobs for past few months and having time to eat and sleep was a challenge at times, let alone make work. This experience brought me to a realistic realisation, that one needs to take breaks: to earn money, to rest, to spend time with family and pals. Highly recommended to avoid burnout!

2. Talk us through your working processes, can you tell us more about your current project The Cradle?

The Cradle – my ongoing work in progress, was started earlier this year on a residency in Marseille, France. I had initial ideas to work on plant migrations and botanical histories when this opportunity with Street Level Photoworks and Centre Photographique de Marseille arose. I went knowing I didn’t have much time and knowing I wanted to make video work. Gathered material – from French countryside, parks, botanical gardens, natural history museum, bird shop and documentation of cyanotype making process formed the skeleton of the work. Combined with robotic text to speech sound pronouncing Latin names of invasive European plant species, it makes a 8min video that I still see as a work in progress. As part of my research I interviewed Dr. Katherine Kidner at the Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh where she talked me through main concepts in plant science and evolution of plants.

I have other ideas for The Cradle: I see it as an exhibition with a few different components from video to collage, sculpture and photography. I am jumping into research of further stages as we speak.

3. With regards to the different mediums that you occupy in your practice, Is there a particular conversation that you wish to have in the context of your work?

I have recently been really interested in archives and museums. I am interested in power structures, hierarchies and history writing and rewriting that results in certain artefacts and narratives to dominate and others to be forgotten. It was this interest that lead me to explore working with sculpture, printmaking, found objects. The meaning we assign to objects, in the context of history, politics, consumerism, and conflict – I guess this would be the main line of thought in my current and recent works.

4. Can you tell us about your recent work Impossible Colonies as part of Platform 2017?

Impossible Colonies is my most important work to date. I carried the idea in my head for a few years, and without much pressure, it organically developed into an exhibition at Edinburgh Art Festival last year. The work is based on the writings of geographer and diplomat Kazys Palištas, whose utopian proposal, written in between the two world wars, suggested to move the whole nation of Lithuania to a colony – a safeplace far away from geopolitical tensions. K.Palištas travelled to places he suggested as possible locations and had meetings with local authorities about leasing or buying some land for the new Lithuania. He considered Quebec, Belize, Madagascar, Brazil and other locations. Impossible Colonies imagines these migrations and looks back on them through a fictional archive of these events. Separate elements: two videos, museum case with beeswax artefacts, three photo etchings, photograph on silk and magic lantern slides create a constellation that can be read quite loosely yet points the viewer at a direction I intended.

The next chapter of Impossible Colonies is planned to happen next year when I finally will visit first one of the suggested locations – Quebec in Canada. Depending on some funding I should do a residency there in May next year.

6. What role does place play within your practice, how does making work in Lithuania compare to Scotland?

I often wonder if the experience of moving from Lithuania to Scotland has completely shaped my practice. Even the works I made during my BA at the Glasgow School of Art over a decade ago were often focussing on Lithuania. These days it interests me as more abstract concepts: home, distance, nostalgia, identity and, inevitably, politics. I was born in USSR, my birth certificate is written in Russian – the alphabet I never learned to read. Growing up, I spoke Lithuanian and Polish – my grandma was Polish. At some point, affected by the economical crash of 2008, my whole family – 4 different people – lived in 4 different countries. I was not an economic migrant originally, but it was these reasons that prevented me from moving back when I really wanted to.

These experiences no doubt shaped my practice. I have finally, after more than a decade, and perhaps with the help of making my Amber Room work, have lost the rose-tinted glasses I had for Lithuania. Nostalgia, and the general direction of looking at the past were dominant elements, and through looking at them closely for a couple of years during my masters studies and often, I have managed to move on. It is a stimulating place, artistically and politically.

8a. Who, where or what has you feeling excited at the moment?

As mentioned in my first paragraph, past 6 months or so saw me working for money very hard (P.S. loved both jobs) leaving only snippets of time for reflection. Self care has been on my mind a lot, especially in the context of art world. After some years of anxiety about the future, career, ideas and feeling of worthlessness, I arrived to a place of reviewed priorities: I dropped most of my social media, reduced my expectations, made sure I saw family and friends, and clarified to myself why I made stuff in the first place. And when you make because it feels good and you care, then everything else: opportunities, recognition, etc comes as a bonus.

Two best exhibitions I saw in the last twelve months was Shilpa Gupta at Edinburgh Art Festival 2018, and Slavs and Tatars at Contemporary Centre for Arts in Vilnius, Lithuania. They both got me excited, inspired, one made me laugh, another made me cry.

I’m also very excited about my new ideas for work, continuing The Cradle and Impossible Colonies, especially where it is going to involve sculpture, printmaking and collage.

8b. Who, where or what has you feeling concerned at the moment?

My current concerns are probably shared by the many: effects of Brexit to Scotland and to people like myself, rise of right way thinking in UK and Europe, people sleeping rough and starving. On a smaller but important scale: representation of POC and women in the arts. I keep making statistical tables in my head when following the work of art institutions, and once you start noticing the discrepancies, you feel despair. Scotland is not as bad as Lithuania in this, yet there is so much more to do. PS. Art world and art career is unique and different from many other ones, there is no prescribed path to follow, to “gain promotion” and it may be not possible to run as if it was an accounting business. However, more transparency and inclusivity, fair pay and clarity in processes of commissioning, awarding, curating and allocating funding is a much needed cure to a small community of artists who are insecure, poor, anxious and often lost.

10. If you had unlimited access to resources and funding, is there a piece or project that you would like to realise?

My favourite question! In fact I recently realised that I can not wait for the magic amount of funding to drop from the sky and decided to work on a scaled down version of my original ideas. I’d like to make a new chapter in each of the geographical locations in Impossible Colonies, which I am starting next year in Quebec. The whole process might take up years or decades and it is ok, because it will take me around the globe.

Aah, and one more - I need to get to Kazakhstan to see and film the wild apple forests - this is where all the apples of the world have originated from. I’ll make work on that one day.

Thank you for your questions and sorry it’s this kind of reflective text talking about self care and such. It is a crucial part of being an artist (as a woman, as a migrant) that I needed to put it in here.

My best wishes and massive thanks for your patience,



Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte is a Lithuanian artist based in Glasgow, Scotland. You can find them on twitter @Kotryna_Ula and at www.kotryaula.com.