Kastė Šeškevičiūtė: On Militarization And Mythologization

Advisor/tutor: Bassam El Baroni

August 2015


The purpose of this text is to unfold a problematic relation between an artist and the European nation-state and is an attempt to formulate a solution of how the former can position itself towards the latter. Is contemporary art responsible for advocating to the forces of a nation-state based on democracy, considering that its legitimizing elements have been compromised by the neo-liberal condition?

To substantiate this question, I would exemplify it in a specific chronological and geographical location - the post-February 2014 situation in the Baltic States. In April, 2015 a law was published legitimizing military conscription in Lithuania. Considering the anxiety that the Baltic States suffered due to the threat of Russia, my interest is focused on the variety of mind-frames, attitudes and ideologies this threat imposed upon the social fabric. Ambivalent responses have been formed between the pro-military patriotic right and its dubiously-perceived opposition of a few. In this context, I find it crucial to ask what sort of agency an artist has while addressing political activism without losing hers or his criticality. This challenge has to do with conformity: how to position oneself and address these issues while neither categorically choosing to non-conform to the authority by any means, nor to be absolutely conforming (and remaining without a resolution).

In this paper, I would attempt to advocate the opposition of militarization by reflecting not upon the information formed by the media, but upon the angular, imperative stakes of a nation-state and the drive of patriotism that I have been researching before the conscription was legitimized. Considering that the post-soviet condition shaped a specific socio-climate that made the majority of citizens vulnerable and dependant to manipulation by the local media, it specifically emerges through social networks, forums and comments of public shaming and discrimination, inflaming public quarrels over the Internet. This results as a division of irrational, aggressive fronts of political oppinionativeness that identify alternative, critical position towards the mainstream right as a contribution to the „enemy“.

I will begin with introducing the post-Maidan socio-political situation in Lithuania that caused the formations of various extreme, conservative political groups that based their ideas on patriotic values. In the first three chapters, I would reflect on the notion of patriotism in three quite broadly explored ideas in the post-Cold War Eastern-Europe: nostalgia as a driving force for national unity,mythology of national origins and the categorical imperative of collective ownership of territory. In theory, nostalgia is in a feedback loop with fascism. I would try to explain how, in a scale of a marginal European nation-state, a set of abstract pseudo-universal values is formed that implies an agency to intervene with force; in chapter IV I would think through of what happens to these values in the presence of internet. In the last chapter, I will make a brief overview on the notion of freedom.

As an addition to this paper, two documents are attached: the original petition statement of the disapproval of renewed military conscription in Lithuania, and an interview with its participant. The intention of these attachments is to give a short insight into the situation from the insider’s point of view, of both which I am attempting to merge.



- Contemporary status of the nation-state is being compromised by the market;

- Through media, conservative views are sharpened up by an amplified image of the threat, as if it had imperialistic ambitions;

- The interface of technology and media is able to revive almost medieval levels of thought in the society;

- Over the internet, populist ideas of neo-conservatism can spread faster than ever before;

- Non-critical and extreme political ideologies can be profitable for various profit-oriented parties;

- What sort of agency does then art have, and what would be a correct position towards the nation-state?

- If the nation-state does not care about the art, should then art care about the nation-state?