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Symposion 74

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Date: 28 February 1974

Participants and organizers: Peter Bartoš (b. 1938), Róbert Cyprich/Hervé Fischer, Stano Filko (b. 1937)/Miloš Laky (1948–1975)/Ján Zavarský (b. 1948), Vliam Jakubík (b. 1945), Juraj Meliš (b. 1942), Katarína Orlík, Rudolf Sikora (b. 1946), Dezider Tóth (b. 1947), Jana Želibská (b. 1941)

Location: Bratislava

“Symposion 74” was the outcome of meetings held between participants, and took the exhibition-as-poster format, juxtaposing both individual and collective works by “unofficial” Slovak artists. Contributing artists’ work appeared on a poster in a grid format. Often artists worked collaboratively. The contributing artists and the title of their artwork is as follows: Peter Bartoš: Zooparticipations (1974); Róbert Cyprich/Hervé Fischer: Ninnananna, Ružomberok-Paris (1973); Stano Filko/Miloš Laky/Ján Zavarský: A White Space in a White Space (1973–74); Viliam Jakubík, Many Greetings for Poster Collectors (1974); Juraj Meliš: We Think thus We Are (1974); Katarína Orlik: Love (1974); Rudolf Sikora:-5 000 000 000 ? +5 000 000 000 ?, (1974); Dezider Tóth: Realization of Reality (1974); Jana Želibská: The Taste of Paradise, Galerie Jean-Gilbert Jozon, Paris (December 1973).


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Procession – performance by Teresa Murak

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Date: 1974

Participant: Teresa Murak

Location: streets of Warsaw, Poland

In the very early spring of 1974, the artist put on herself a cress seeds coat grown earlier (the working method being a reference to the tradition of handiwork and “female labor”), and set out on a Procession through the streets of Warsaw, thus introducing the figure of Mother Nature into a realm of specifically belonging to culture. This gesture, primarily referring to the relationship between the feminine and the natural being—also a main focus essential to feminism, albeit differently—present in corporal feminism, was at the same time a political one, an intervention in urban space which manifested a sensitivity extremely different to that officially valid in the People’s Republic of Poland.

The cress seed, a small fast-growing plant with a distinctive smell, became Teresa Murak’s trademark. Co-existing with the artist, in most cases the plant becomes the subject of her examination and the object of care while her art practice connected with the seeds is based on the idea of co-existence.

The action was documented on photos as well as it exists as oral history. A young Polish artists, Anna Lesniak, made a project Fading Traces (2011), in which she asked the female artists who were active in the 1970’s in Poland to tell about their practices. While we hear from the off Murak’s story, we see the track of her walk filmed by the Lesniak contemporary.


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Natalia! – performance by Natalia LL

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Date: 1975

Participant: Natalia LL

Organizer: Fourth Meeting Festival Art in Belgrade

Location: Turkish Hall, Belgrade

Natalia LL emphasizes the conjunction and disjunction of the work of art’s experience by the viewer and the artist-as-producer. During the performance, an actress read out a text—a “libretto”[1]—which was then repeated by a chorus of university students. LL played the role of the conductor of a spectacle taking place in a room with excellent acoustics: “The impression was extraordinary, because the chanted words were for me a message of the forgotten language of some unknown civilization. The energy of the words blasted in the historic interior.”[2] The gesture was based on a purely intellectual procedure, focused on the analysis of a word—the artist’s name, one of the components of subjectivity: “Treating letters as individual elements, ‘bricks,’ which form words, and changing the order of letters, I used them for constructing new words. In this way the building NATALIA! originated as a result of the multiplication.”[3] What is also interesting here are the games played on the author’s figure in the text, where the subject manifests itself and deconstructs itself through the interventions on its name, and the subjective position taken by the artist on a variety of levels.


[1] Natalia LL, “PERMAFO — SUMA,” in Prace Natalii LL 1970–1973 (Galeria PERMAFO: Wrocław, 1973).

[2] Natalia LL, “Natalia! (1),” trans. K. Bartnik, in Natalia LL, Teksty (Bielska Gallery: Bielsko-Biała, 2004), 290.

[3] Ibid., 285.


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Street – exhibition by Erzsébet Schaár

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Date: 23 June 1974

Participant: Erzsébet Schaár (1908-1975)

Opening by: János Pilinszky (1921-1981)

Location: Csók István Gallery, Székesfehérvár

The last exhibition of Erzsébet Schaár was accompanied by a catalog containing the poems of János Pilinszky coupled with the art pieces, next to which they were read out at the opening. The process of building the exhibition and the opening was filmed by János Gulyás (1946). The installation was later displayed in Lucerne and then, finally, in Pécs, where the temporal styrofoam components of the sculptures were replaced with pieces made of concrete. Géza Perneczky writes about Schaár in his comprehensive essay about the Iparterv group and the Neo-Avant-Garde in Hungary.

Document: Géza Perneczky on Erzsébet Schaár (1996)


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Exhibition by painters Līga Purmale and Miervaldis Polis

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Date: August 1974

Participants: Līga Purmale and Miervaldis Polis

Location: Riga Photo Club in the Central Printing Workers’ Club

This exhibition of photorealist works by fourth year Art Academy students Miervaldis Polis and Līga Purmale was the first serious manifestation of its kind not just in Soviet Latvia, but also in the wider region. It was unprecedented for students to organize an exhibition on their own initiative open to all outside the academy. To make it happen, the artists had to collect recommendations and permits from almost ten different institutions. The artists vividly recall[1] an episode in which members of the Central Committee suddenly turned up at the exhibition, apparently on the basis of an anonymous report that one of the paintings made a mockery of Lenin. But while the painting Brass Band (1974) did have a figure of a little trumpet player in a peaked cap in the foreground, it bore no resemblance to the proletariat leader.

At one of the exhibition’s public discussions, the artists were approached by Estonian art enthusiast Matti Miliuss, who subsequently arranged for the exhibition to be presented at the Deaf Persons’ Society in Tartu and the Tallinn Art Institute in Estonia.

The exhibition gained a lot of public attention despite receiving no press coverage. This resonance was connected with the unabashedly photorealist and hyperrealist manner of painting. The exhibited works formally complied with the official line of Soviet art—realism—but in reality they were much closer to contemporary trends in Western art. The professional art scene greeted the young artists with a mixture of genuine admiration and resigned or harsh criticism, but in time Purmale and Polis would come to be regarded as masters of the genre.


[1] An interview with M. Polis in May, 2011.



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Bulldozer and Izmailovsky Park – outdoor exhibitions

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Date: Bulldozer Show – 15 September 1974; Izmailovsky Park – 29 September 1974

Participants: Oskar Rabin, Evgeny Rukhin, Vladimir Nemukhin, Lydia Masterkova, Nadezhda Elskaya, Yuri Zharkikh, Aleksandr Rabin, Alexander Melamid, Vitaly Komar, Viktor Tupitsyn, and others

Organized by: Oskar Rabin and Aleksandr Glezer

Location: Bulldozer Exhibition – Profsoyuznaya Street and Ostrovityanova Street, Beliaevo, Moscow; Izmailovsky Park Exihibition – Izmailovsky Park, Moscow

The Bulldozer and Izmailovsky Park exhibitions were pivotal episodes in the history of unofficial Soviet art. A small group of artists, led by painter Oskar Rabin and poet and collector of underground art, Aleksandr Glezer, attempted to stage the First Fall Outdoor Exhibition of Paintings on an empty site on the outskirts of Moscow. Several participants were detained on the way to the show, and the rest were met by militia with dump trucks, bulldozers, and “volunteer workers” who announced that they were building a park on the site. The spectators–around 400 artists, local residents, as well as Western journalists and diplomats–were asked to leave, and the scene turned violent when the “workers” charged at the artists, knocking their works to the ground to be destroyed. Several foreign journalists were beaten; police arrested Oskar and Aleksandr Rabin, Rukhin, Elskaia, and Tupitsyn; and twelve spectators were taken for interrogations. While the Soviet press called the show a “provocation” intended to harbor anti-Soviet sentiment, front-page coverage in the foreign press highlighting the violence and objections from the US embassy in Moscow put pressure on the Moscow authorities to ease their stance. As a result, the Second Fall Outdoor Exhibition of Paintings was allowed to take place two weeks later on 29 September 1974 in Izmailovsky Park, for which the show takes its more common name. It lasted for four hours, was seen by hundreds of spectators, and was the first uninterrupted public display of unofficial art in the Soviet Union, albeit not without repercussions. Many of the original participants of the Bulldozer show were persecuted or exiled, and several died under mysterious circumstances. Exhibitions of unofficial art began to be mounted through the new Painting Section of the Graphic Arts Union, which was soon established as a means to bring nonconformist art under the management of the official art bureaucracy.

Document: Invitation to the Bulldozer Exhibition (1974)

 


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