Moacir P. de Sá Pereira on December 17th, 2008
The sign is hung from the castle with care. lrytas.lt

The sign is hung from the castle with care. lrytas.lt

The Lithuanian economy is crumbling, and financial analysts are getting excited about GDP contraction that isn’t as bad as they imagined. There is even a webpage you can check to see if the crisis is still going on. And all of this is happening with a brand new government just sworn in, a government that earlier made some noise about potentially asking the IMF for a loan. The IMF said no loan is needed, but this economic crisis provides a good setting for what had the opportunity to be a brilliant political stunt but turns out to have been a sort of simple marketing campaign.

As we saw in Russia almost 20 years ago, the IMF tends to be a rather big supporter of selling off state-owned businesses, especially to foreign businesses or multinationals. So in this era of economic uncertainty, with three-letter words like “IMF” starting to fall from Kubiliaus lips, it’s not surprising that on lamp posts around Užupis signs began appearing, saying that Gedimino pilis is for sale. The little slips of paper with telephone numbers to call for more information, however, gave away a new url: vibe.lt

Vibe is a sort of sms-based version of Twitter limited to Lithuania. As of late November, it had only 167 users, and it seems like the level of interaction with it is limited to rating others’ vibe messages up or down. However, back on December 11, a user, WhoreViber, joined up and began posting cryptic messages about getting fabric, painting letters, and nearing some kind of goal up ahead. Yesterday, the Lithuanian news media was electric with the appearance of a giant sign on Gedimino pilis, announcing that it had been sold (“PARDUOTA”).

Alas, the sign that made the news is not a critcism of privatization of cultural patrimony. Although it could be also that. More likely it seems, based on the user’s name and the pimping of vibe.lt in the signs in Užupis, that the entire project was a stunt to draw attention to the fledgling micro-blogging site. It was a cynical reversal of culture-jamming, though I suspect that anyone who was near the tower yesterday and saw the sign probably logged into vibe to talk about how crazy a thing they had just seen.

In any case, Lietuvos rytas put together a video interview of the tower workers who took down the sign, and WhoreViber completed the publicity stunt loop by posting everything to YouTube:

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