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Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Ephemeral fixed. Ephemeral art in the Visegrad countries

Kata Balazs, 2011-05-27

It is difficult to find a balance between the accounts of history given by historians and those given by artists. This is one of the reasons I was very much looking forward to the Ephemeral fixed event that took place in Lodz in March. The programme promised a series of events, distinguishing these 'histories' from each other while also reinforcing them. It also showed a significant interest in a socio-cultural/sociological approach which gave the event added relevance. Thanks to the Visegrad Fund, artists and art historians / critics gathered from the four Visegrad countries to exchange their experiences, their histories and, most of all, their art.

Choosing Lodz as the location was the other reason that made me enthusiastic about the project. The legendary role in the international avantgarde played by Wladysław Strzeminski, Katarzyna Kobro and Henryk Stazewski and the stories I heard of the underground cultural life of this large industrial city during the dark times of martial law, like the activity of the Lodz Kaliska as well as the first edition and the renewal of the Construction in Process exhibitions all contributed to creating the image of Lodz as an extremely important centre in the last 70 years with a slight do-it-yourself character, as a result of which the splendid collection of the city's Art Museum has been founded and enriched.

The three day event, curated by Małgorzata Kazmierczak, took place at the Galeria Wschodnia, one of the most important artist-run-initiatives in the city. On the third day we were given an opportunity to hear about its history since itwas founded in 1984 by the owner, the artist Adam Klimczak. It seems that the Galeria Wshodnia is not only a very significant place for art and private living but has also created and continues to maintain a community as well, with a kitchen where the food is always being cooked and where art and life definitely unite.

That is the reason why I found the remark made by Tomas Pospiszyl on the day of the symposium by very important regarding the community and autonomy-building nature of the 'ephemeral', referring to Hakim Bay's Temporary Autonomous Zone. If we consider that the majority of the efforts made by 'progressive artists' from the end of the Second World War were intended to create a community in which experimentation could take place and which provided an appropriate audience, mostly of friends and sympathisers, the concept of the 'autonomous zone' becomes clearer. I am reminded of the 'head' of the Hungarian neo-avantgarde, Miklos Erdely, when he was asked about his artistic activity and declared that while creating pieces and solving problems that had been important for him, he had also created his (appreciative) audience. However, he have to consider the temporariness of such phenomena as well. It becomes even more significant if we examine the historical circumstances of the countries in question and the operation of their the totalitarian systems even though each one had its own separate features.

Adam Klimczak performed as well, on the first performance night with a piece that I found deeply moving. He built a monument of words and gestures for the Gallery, recalling dates and names related to the history of the space. It beautifully evoked the acts performed by pilgrims at holy places (crawling up the stairs on knees), adding elements of intimacy (touching the walls while listing the names) with a very personal history-telling and so it provided a worthy introduction to the three-days festival.

The two days of performances partly reflected the problems of the 'ephemeral nature' of the genre, thus they reflected on their own features. I found a great poetic effect in the piece of Linda Van Dalen which featured immediately disappearing words (I breathe, I feel, I came here to live) made of dog food (eaten by Emil, the dog of Jiri Suruvka, who is rather a performer himself) and by the same words painted on white walls in white paint. A play reminiscent of Manzoni was performed by Daniel Dida who blew up plastic bags with his own breath, creating a site specific, randomly formed installation by the end of the first night. The artist's breath could be taken away or left at the site, as an ironical game with the romantic image of the artist and the ephemeral nature of the genre and, in my opinion, of art itself.

Jiri Suruvka reflected on the same subject of the nature of art by creating a contemporary commedia dell'arte about the roles and duties of artists and the participants in the "art scene" by putting them all into the frames of a soap opera, in a form of a happening and giving it a tone of sarcasm. Marek Prazak's piece recalled many dadaist references and also drew attention to the national references of the four-nation gathering. Likewise, Peter Valyi conducted a performance given by members of each of the represented four nations, with them reading out their national anthems simultaneously. This bizarre and absurd chore was a homage to the 'four strong nations' and in the meantime it questioned the legitimacy of such a claim. He showed on his personal cell phone the leftovers of the dinner eaten by the participating members of the four nations from a video we had made in the restaurant before the evening started. The dinner was consumed by the members of the four nations, therefore the partecipants of the event. It reminded me of the above mentioned community-building nature, and made me think about the "zone" we created over the three days.

We saw the elaborate piece of Anka Lesniak and the PUL-Group, who employed methods and means of performances for specific use by women artists. In this case the female body was not only shown in its pure nakedness but it highlated the duality of body and soul or rather, spirit since it underlined the connection between writing as a sign of knowledge and as the ability of self-expression as well as emphasising the lack of the same opportunities for self-expression for those (women, from all over the world) who can not use this tool due to illiteracy.

Jana Zimickova's serious play with a pair of tights treated the same theme: a lady's equipment turned to be a tool of torture, nearly suffocating the artist. Surprisingly, the second evening of performances were based on strong gestuses and strong ritual references.

Balint Szombathy's (Sombati's) recurring motif, the blood which happens to be the artist's own, appeared in a very rhythmical, slow piece, performed with a small mirror placed in the centre of a gingerbread heart (which is common in Hungary), the banal symbol of love. He cut his fingers with the mirror and painted his face with his blood to the dark melody of a melancholy love song. The purity, simplicity and strong ritual allusions became however united in a very poetic approach.

We were also treated to a strict ritual-based and extended piece by Imre Denes who used not only strong and symbolic gestures, with both Christian and Far-Eastern culturally determined references, but special symbolic materials as well. Jozsef R. Juhasz performed a more political piece referring to the nature of power and public involvement by recalling the famous 'If you see something say something' sentence. It can naturally be extended towards current issues such as terrorism and free speech as well as the basic freedom to express an opinion in the shadow of generalised anxiety and fear. I was particularly impressed by the tools he used in the beginning while walking around among the audience. He used extra long nails and put them close to the head of the selected member of the audience, recalling a Hungarian saying according to which 'something bangs a nail into one's head' meaning 'someone is having an idea'. His gestures though positioned the nails as tools to heal with as well.

By mentioning the video performance by Jozef Robakowski I have to turn back to the beginning of this subjective report. Robakowski's pioneering role in experimental artistic approaches was dramatically demonstrated in this piece in which the artist calls on the audience to raise the current of electricity passing through his body. It recalls the language of the radical and risky body art pieces from the early days of performance art while it is also reminiscent of the uncanny socialpsychology tests in which empathy towards each other was examined. Robakowski's role in the artistic life of the city and whole country can be seen in his presentation on his initiative, the Exchange Gallery which epitomises par excellence the bottom-up endeavours initiated by artists.

The third day, when the artists' presentations took place after the symposium of the day before, the picture of the city's artistic life and even its sociocultural status seemed to be clarified. Within the frames of the symposium Lukasz Guzek told us about the history of nonconventinal galleries in Poland and Tomas Pospiszyl gave a thoughtful presentation about the problems facing such initiatives. However, we still have not reached any conclusion as to the definition of 'ephemeral', whether it is truly live art or an umbrella term of conceptual approaches. Should we consider all these phenomena genuinely artistic or do they belong to social and informal activity in times of institutional crisis (which gives a very relevant dimension to the subject matter)?

The artists' presentations told an alternative history, the history of the 'makers' of the communities. We were given an opportunity to hear about the Exchange Gallery (and, in Lukasz Guzek's presentation the day before, parallel initiatives from all over Poland), the Performance Festivals in Ostrava, the Art & Documentation Festival and Interakcje and two artist run initiatives in Hungary and one in Slovakia.

Altogether, the different points of view provided an extended picture of the opportunities of writing such a history from a wide range of perspectives, be they sociological, artistic, historical or even purely aesthetic. In Hungary we still have to write the history of the Szentendre Performance Festival, as well as of other festivals and events.

Yet it occurs to me that while thinking over the problems related to the informal communities and their autonomy, we should question what exactly needs to be addressed within the history of the ARI besides the documentation and reconstruction of events. There is justification for examining bottom-up initiatives and their social role within the history of institutionalisation. Is there a justification, however, for research into the 'differences' looking from the perspective of non-artist run initiatives? Is there any justification for looking at all of this from the perspective of an entire culture? Is there any reason for carrying out research on these phenomena within the frame of a whole Central-Eastern-European study? If we found more similarities or more differences, would we find details that would make it easier to understand the data behind the cultural phenomena? What does independence mean in a historical context – financial independence perhaps, or spiritual independence? What do financial and spiritual independence mean in a wholly politicised system of cultural institutions and what did they mean forty years ago? Is it in the interest of the 'official' system of institutions to examine any bodies that stand beyond itself and what is its connection to the artistic canon? And last but not least, is it right to raise the issue of the 'genius loci' in connection with our subject matter in this short report?

Photos: Norbert Trzeciak, Adam Klimczak, Anka Lesniak


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