The Nearest Point to the Free World, 1989 (2018, 32 min) is a visual essay by Swedish artist Ingela Johansson on the so-called Gotland Communiqué – a document, signed by Lithuanians from all over the world on Gotland, in August 1989. Ingela Johansson has revisited an almost forgotten historic event – the “Gotland study week”, which took place in Katthammarsvik, Gotland. It happened just ten days before “The Baltic Way”, a political demonstration in which a human chain was formed across the Baltic countries.
Before the end of the Iron Curtain, the island of Gotland was the closest Western territory to the occupied Baltic States. On the island’s east coast, on the Katthamra estate, a group of dissident representatives and exiled Lithuanians from all over the world met in secret over the course of a week to try to come to an agreement on the path towards independence. Johansson’s film essay, The Nearest Point to the Free World, 1989 reveals, in a non-linear way, what was at stake during that week. Material she has filmed is weaved together with original tapes from the meeting, forming a body in which old footage is juxtaposed with the new, and layers of time are overlapped.
Johansson’s particular interest during her research on the independence movement has been the contributions of cultural workers and intellectuals – and especially, of actors from the Youth Theatre in Vilnius – to the Gotland meeting. The exiled Lithuanian artist Eugenius Budrys was one of the organizers of the study week, together with his closest friend, the architect and freedom fighter Jonas Pajauijs.