Vilija Vitkutė and Adam Johansson: What do you run for?

Posted: Augustė Gumbytė Date: 2017-08-16 10:51

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Photo: Adam Alexander Johansson / Model/ Bodypainting: Vilija Vitkutė

Photographer Adam Alexander Johansson (Sweden) and artist Vilija Vitkutė (Lithuania) came up with the idea to do an art project ”what do you run for” about environment by using body painting and photography. They took a road trip to Arizona and California for ten days where they discovered, showed and photographed both nature and urban places from different perspectives.

“We took ourselves to emotional landscapes where the feeling of being there heals you, makes you feel at home. You get to see the Earth in the perfect balance and urban environments where you get to experience human action like, for example, Los Angeles river which is drying so fast at the moment that every drop of it is counted”, says Vilija.

How did you come up with the idea for this project? How did you meet with photographer Adam Alexander Johansson? 

Vilija: I and Adam met during an art installation I was working on during the world Skiing championship where I was doing body painting and Adam was making a film for some organization. Later on I moved to the US (Los Angeles) and then both of us decided to meet in Las Vegas. We met there and started talking about the environment, and the situation in the world among other things. We took a ride back to Los Angeles, and during the travel we realized how passionate  and caring about nature we are and that we have to do something about it while we both are in the US , so we decided to do  an art project called ”what do you run for ”.

Do you agree that people at least in Western cultures are increasingly moving away from the nature?

Adam: At least in Sweden it is a norm that a successful life means leaving your small hometown for a bigger city. Maybe you can come back when you get kids. But sometimes I get the feeling that a lot of people from bigger cities criticize young people who choose to live closer to the nature. But I hope that will change in the future. That the nature and small towns will strike back against the city life. But that is a big challenge.

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Photo: Adam Alexander Johansson /Model/ Bodypainting: Vilija Vitkutė
Location: Sequoia National Park

Vilija: Yes, I agree that Western cultures are increasingly moving away from its essence, roots, and nature. We forget that we are children of the nature.  All those wars and conflicts, capitalism, spiritual values burned down. Capitalism tolerates deforestation – another low of human morality. However, I think our hearts still spark for nature, like a magnet that draws us closer to nature. Eventually we will have to go back to it. Our story continues. The man seems to be moving away from nature, but also the forest becomes a daily concern.

What do you think poses the biggest danger to the environment and wildlife?

Adam: One big danger and risk is that you can earn so much money by destroying the environment. You can earn money by cutting down rainforest; you can earn money by digging for oil in the arctic. It should be the opposite. Saving nature should be the best way to go, even in the economic way. As long as money rules the world, changes are going to be small. We also have to think further than next day, next week and next year. What we do now matters for the future generations!

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Photography / bodypainting – Vilija Vitkutė / Model – Adam Alexander Johansson
Location: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.

How art can encourage people to take interest in the environment and to take care of their environment, to rediscover the connection with nature?

Adam: I think art can be a way to spread a message and feeling of what is happening with the nature. Art is important when it comes to making change.

Vilija:  People need to understand what an important role nature plays in human life and how incredible nature is. Human needs to fall in love with it again, to get to know it better, to go back to the roots, to care and to live along with it. I believe that people need to jump out of  ”gold fish aquarium” that we have been swimming for so long and see it from a different perspective that will open peoples’ minds and hearts for change. Education plays a big role about it, things that our parents teach us, media, peoples’ values need to change. Humans should learn from the history and learn how to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

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Photo: Adam Alexander Johansson /Model/ Bodypainting: Vilija Vitkutė
Location: Sequoia National Park

Do you think that a human who found /discovered and re-connect with nature is starting to feel reel person? Discovering the meaning of life? 

Adam: I have friends who work close to the nature and those who work as farmers. All of them say that they feel harmony working close to the nature. I think the modern human in general has lost an important relationship with the nature.

Vilija: I think that nature gives people happiness, freedom and authenticity. Nature makes person to be what he really is.

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Photo: Adam Alexander Johansson/ Model/ Bodypainting: Vilija Vitkutė 
Location: Kings Canyon National Park.

Tell us about process, behind scenes, travel during your project.

Adam: We were working on a tiny budget, no fancy Hollywood life. Some nights we were sleeping in the car, other nights on a rock in the desert and some other nights in a sketchy motel in a suburban to a bigger city. But I think that was good for the process. I got the feeling that we were really doing this together as a team. One hard thing was the mix of having so many roles. I found switching from being photographer and model confusing.

Vilija: I had an amazing experience, a time of my life during this creative journey. To discover and to create at the places like California and Arizona is big dream come true and mind blowing experience. It has been challenging, exciting all the time, so much new experiences, unforgettable moments and it all came up to great, strong result that I´m so happy about! It has been challenging to body paint myself and to pose,  look good in artistic way in photos, (posing naked) at national parks during cold, rainy, sunny weather , surrounded by tourists, wild animals. I´m happy that even though we were just two people working with this project, we did a great job working, photographing, modeling, driving, hiking, running a lot and exploring new places.

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Photo: Adam Alexander Johansson / Bodypainting: Vilija Vitkutė

Model: Eugene Oh. / Location: Los Angeles River.

Why Los Angeles River is important for this project?

Vilija and Adam: We wanted to show contrast between urban environment and Los Angeles river which is dying so fast at the moment and every drop of it is counted.

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Photo: Adam Alexander Johansson / Bodypainting: Vilija Vitkutė

Models: Vilija Vitkute and Eugene Oh. / Location: Los Angeles River.

What is the relation between art and sports?

Vilija and Adam: Human body is a canvas that moves, talks, runs, hears and changes. We were interested in using feeling of action, power, beauty of human body and mind and adding sport´s and artistic look to this art project.  Adam is a former cross country skier. As a junior Adam was on the national Swedish team and had a gold medal from the junior world championship. Eugene was for a pro in the Korean league and for several years he was playing college basketball. When I and Adam met, we were also talking about how we can connect sports with art. We want to bring together two worlds that can be so similar and distant at the same time.

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Photography / bodypainting – Vilija Vitkutė
Model – Adam Alexander Johansson/ Location: Wupatki, Arizona

What are your future plans? What is next for you?

Adam: I hope that this project will turn out well and we can make a change and keep on working, that people one by one can do something and also go together and take action against things that are destroying our planet.

Vilija: Yes, we hope for changes. We will keep on a good work and inspiring people. We will try getting people interested in nature and art. I believe we are a great team that so far works together really great and I don´t want to lose that, so we will keep working on our dreams. 

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Photography / bodypainting – Vilija Vitkutė
Model – Adam Alexander Johansson / Location: Wupatki, Arizona

What is the message about of this project?

Adam: Stop for a minute and ask yourself – what do you run for? What do we run for?  The time on this planet is running up. What will happen with this planet if we keep living our lives day by day without thinking about the consequences for the next generations? What do we wish for?

Vilija:  We want to bring you to the beginning of human story where it all started and help realize important things about relationship with nature and our action about it. It seems that we are running out of resources and there is less and less time to think about it. So we hope that you can stop for a moment and try to think about what you run for in your life. After all, we hope that you can get away from your busy life and get some time to stop and think about what do you run for? What is your goal during your time on the planet Earth? Can you try and do your best for your home – Earth?