Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Republic of Uzipis

It's like sliding down the rabbit hole into an Alice in Wonderland world when you cross the Vilnia River into The Republic of Uzipis (ooz-shi-pea), which means "across the river." If you don't much like your government, you could think about this ancient, bohemian neighborhood on the edge of the old city in Vilnius. You could be inspired by Frank Zappa, as were a few citizens of Uzipis in 1997.  Declare independence. Write your own constitution. Make your neighborhood a nation state with its own president & flag & guardian angel on a plinth.
Gabriel blows his horn, the angel of Uzipis, by Romas VilĨiauskas, in the style of Soviet realism, an ironic mix of content & form representing artistic freedom of independent Eastern Europe.
Rather than "We the people . . . ," the Constitution of Uzipis starts off by saying "Everyone has the right to live by the River Vilnia and the River Vilnia has the right to flow by everyone."  Mounted on mirrored plaques (in 15 languages) on a wall around the corner from the Uzupio Kavine, a coffehouse/bar/restaurant that's the center of government and social life, the 41 articles are, more or less, a statement that everyone would do well to let everyone else do or not do as they please. You got a problem with that? 

At least in part, the Republic of Uzipis is an artist response to shaking off Soviet rule. Lithuania was the first among former Soviet "republics" to do that, officially in 1990, with years of struggle to pull away & exist independently as an autonomous nation. Much of the resistance leadership was among the artist community, and the current mayor of Vilnius resides here. This struggle continues today, as Lithuanian electricity comes via Russian monopoly, at very high cost that holds back Lithuania's economy.

Courtyard entrance to a gallery in Uzipis.

The main bridge across Vilnia River into Uzipis. "Love locks" express bonds between couples.

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