I would like to present the Lithuanian artist Republic of Užupis as one possible example of how to approach societal change – in the past and today.
Užupis was once established as a counterculture to challenge and support the authorities’ promises of freedom and democracy after the breakdown of Soviet Union. At the same time it was a desperate attempt to create a sense of unity within a neighbourhood formerly dominated by poverty and violence. With the help of arts, humour and paradoxy, Užupis managed to survive and unintentionally became a role model for friendly and tolerant community life. Užupis e.g. created a code of arms, a currency and even had a 13-men-army - which was later abandoned, because it was against the constitution. This constitution best reflects the unique world view of the citizens, which is the first one to ever mention artificial intelligence.
Since 1997 more than 500 ambassadors and honorary citizens worldwide were appointed like Jonas Mekas and his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The ambassadors have the task to build bridges between people and to explore the power of paradoxy to solve problems.
Today Užupis faces new challenges. It turned from the most rundown area to the most expensive area of the baltics. It seems the threat of Socialism was substituted by the pervasive power of techno-capitalism. Therefore, I would like to show how the republic and its embassies currently approache a productive conversation with the “outside” world, while at the same time caring less and less about the rest of the world and creating their Užupis ways of doing things.