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Exhibition / installation

Trakai Voke manor homestead

When I was a kid, every summer my parents and I would go camping by the river. Not just for a few days, but for a month or even more. We didn’t have much money, so travelling somewhere far away seemed difficult, and we seemed to have a lot more time than we do now, so we used to hang out for days in the shade of a tree. My parents had made a large, cone-shaped, thick military canvas tent – a teepee. Inside, we would build a fire over which we would cook, and when night fell, we would curl up around it and fall asleep. By day, this tent became a spaceship or a train, and by night a fortress. I couldn’t imagine a cosier home. Only during a storm was it bad – the lightning was frightening, and the smoke from the bonfire, which could not escape due to the low pressure, irritated the eyes.

I would spend the whole day swimming in the river until I turned blue, or playing self-invented games. Most of the games were train-related. Perhaps it was the rumble of the train, which in the evenings, with the fog hanging over the river, would come from a few kilometres away. Or maybe it’s because we first came here by train, and it wasn’t until much later that my parents bought a grey and green Passat of 1986. Even after that, I still wanted to be a train driver. I used to burn empty cans of meat, canned fish or condensed milk in a bonfire until they turned black, then I would fold the lids so that I could connect one can to the next, and then I would link them together to form a chain of several cans. I would put smouldering bark in the first can, and fill the rest of the cans with sand. This is what a freight train used to look like. I also used to make small incense burners out of tin cans, which reminded me of steam locomotives or industrial blast furnaces. I would burn dried cow shit in them (sometimes a shepherd would pass through the meadow where we were camping with a herd of cows). Unforgettable smell, but a little bit of mosquito repellent. I also loved digging wolf pits, but after a couple of times when I almost twisted my legs myself, I had to give it up.

There was a damp and dark spruce forest near the camp where we had a latrine. But if I wanted to poop at sunset, I’d hold it until morning, until it was daylight again. Once you crossed the spruce forest and climbed the hill, you found yourself in a mature pine forest. It was full of blueberries, lingonberries and mushrooms. The pine forest was nice and cosy, but I didn’t like the spruce forest, it felt like someone was lurking there, watching and waiting. Several times I have dreamt of a plane or a helicopter crashing into that spruce grove – it’s not quite as clear as it usually is in dreams. It was both scary and curious – who was on that plane? Are there any survivors? Or maybe they had something valuable? But in reality, nothing has ever fallen. Once, while walking with my father, we found a hole in a spruce forest where the bones of a moose had been thrown by poachers. Even though the meat was almost cleanly rotted and the bones were beautifully whitened against the background of the pink sandy pit, we could still smell the sweet smell of the carrion. We decided that it was a good find, but a bit smelly, so we’ll come back to pick it up after a while. It seems we never came back. A forest path wound through a pine forest. Sometimes, when I was in the camp, I would hear cars driving along it. The buzzing would come closer, then recede and come back again. If we heard a car engine when we were walking in the woods, we would immediately hide – we didn't want to expose the fact that we were camping nearby. A good habit.

Sometimes we left the camp unattended. We would go berry picking, explore the area, or, when our food supplies ran out, take the train to a small town a few kilometres away to go shopping. We had a lot of stuff at the camp, so we couldn't take everything with us every time or hide it away. We would only take away what was most valuable and essential. All the rest was left over.

Photo: Rusnė Šimulynaitė

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