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Self-financed exhibition by György Jovánovics and István Nádler

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Date: 15 March 1970

Participants: György Jovánovics (1939),  István Nádler (1938)

Opening action with János Frank (1925 – 2004)

Location: Adolf Fényes Hall, Budapest

The Adolf Fényes Hall was a gallery offered for the presentation of tendencies that were not supported but tolerated by the official cultural politics. In addition to István Nádler’s geometric paintings György Jovánovics exhibited a huge plaster sculpture, whose shape was repeating to the ground plan of the gallery. The exhibition was opened by a fictive radio program that – after the most important international news of the day reported on the exhibition itself . After the exhibition, Jovánovics transported the work to Miklós Erdély’s garden, where the sculpture became the setting for a number of spontaneous events, some of which were documented in photographs. Later Jovánovics called this work, more precisely the opening “the best work of my life” in a lecture reconstructing the event held in Artpool Art Research Center. In the 1980s it also inspired János Sugár (1958) to make an exhibition and shoot a film in the same location.

Documents:

Tape script of the opening action (1970)

Invitation leaflet for György Jovánovics’s public lecture at Artpool P60, “The Best Work of My Life” (1999)

János Sugár on Adolf Fényes Hall, his film Persian Walk, and his exhibition “Exhibition Scenery” (1999)

Video of György Jovánovics’ lecture at Artpool (1999)


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Films by Artūras Barysas-Baras presented at Amateur film festivals

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Date: 1977, 1979

Location: 4th and 5th Republican (LSSR) Humorous-Satirical Film Festivals

Artūras Barysas-Baras (1954–2005) – filmmaker, actor, record collector, and bibliophile – was one of the most prominent personalities in Vilnius’ alternative culture of the second half of the 20th century. He had become a member of the LSSR Society of Amateur Filmmakers in his school years, and made more than 30 short films during his lifetime, most of them between 1970 and 1984 (11 of the films have been lost). Barysas’ films earned critical acclaim at republican and Union-wide amateur film festivals. The amateur film festivals, presenting films under various categories, were popular events in all Soviet Union, as well as in other socialistic countries. Though subsidized by the state, the amateur cinema (an unprofessional art form), was left almost entirely outside the interference and control of Soviet authorities and was a medium conducive for experimenting. Film festivals presented Artūras Barysas and his films to audiences in Moscow, Leningrad, Tula, Tallinn, Riga, Brest, and Bryansk.

Braysas’ films were prized for their metaphorical artistic language, which implicitly mocked the everyday reality of life in the Soviet Union, and peculiar close-up montages. Barysas played the lead role in almost all of his films, supported by non-professional actors, with the action often taking place simply “on the street” as an improvised situations or according to a conventional scenario. In Barysas’s films, the film critic Skirmantas Valiulis[1] traces echoes of American postwar avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren’s theoretical statements about filmmaking, the comic aesthetic of pre-1968 Czech cinema, and Felliniesque humor, yet acknowledges that the Lithuanian filmmaker retains a peculiar style of his own.

Today Barysas’ work is considered to be a part of the Lithuanian cinematic avant-garde and an eloquent reflection of the epoch. In the context of the visual arts, some of Barysas’ films invite a discussion impossible without the concepts of performance and happening, especially two of them: That Sweet Word… (1977) and For Those Who Do Not Know, Ask Those Who Do (1975). Both of them were presented at the Republican (LSSR) Humorous-Satirical Film Festival (respectively in 1977 and 1979) for the first time, and later on That Sweet Word…, awarded with the 3rd-degree “cheese-sack”, was screened in three film festivals under different film categories, such as 9th Film Festival of Baltic States and Leningrad City, Leningrad, 1977; 9th Short-Film Competition in Riga, 1977, and 19th B-16 Festival in Brno, Czechoslovakia, 1978.


[1] Skirmantas Valiulis, “Baras kino baruose” [Baras in the Domains of Cinema], in Pasaulis pagal Barą [The World According to Baras), ed. Gediminas Kajėnas (to be published in 2012). The book  is focused on Artūras Barysas-Baras’ personality and creative work.

(courtesy of Artūras Barysas-Baras’ family).


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“I do not wish to show…” (1971); “The fact that someone was given an opportunity…” (1973); “Retrospective” (1981) exhibitions by Goran Trbuljak

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Dates: 1971/1973/1981

Participant: Goran Trbuljak (1948)

Location: Galerija SC (Student Center Gallery), Zagreb / Galerija suvremene umjetnosti (Gallery of Contemporary Art), Zagreb / Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade

In the early 1970s, Goran Trbuljak made the first in a series of exhibitions in gallery spaces showing nothing but the poster that advertised the exhibition. The poster typically included a photograph, the place and date of exhibition, and the title written in the form of an artistic statement. The first exhibition shown in 1971 at the Student Center Gallery presented a poster with Trbuljak’s photographic self-portrait and the statement: “I do not wish to show anything new or original.” In this first major public presentation of his work, Trbuljak articulated his position as that of an artist refusing to be an artist in the conventional sense and rejecting participation in the tried-out formulas of novelty and originality that condition success in the art world. At the same time, he showed how difficult it was to extricate oneself from the existing system: precisely by declaring not to wish to show anything new or original, he managed to introduce something that was both new and original. The novel and original form of a poster-exhibition functioned by way of appropriating the tools by which art events get promoted and incorporating them into the artwork. The poster and the exhibition thus became conflated and reduced to the same PR function: that of communicating the condensed statement of the artist’s project.

This process of deconstructing the logic of authorship, promotion, and success governing the art world, was continued in his second solo presentation in Zagreb in 1973, this time at the Gallery of Contemporary Art (today the Museum of Contemporary Art), the most prominent contemporary art venue in the city. Here, the exhibition consisted of a poster with the photographic image of the gallery’s building and the statement: “The fact that someone was given an opportunity to make an exhibition is more important that what will actually be shown there.” What was implicit in his previous work (i.e., the fact that the announcement was equal or even more important than the exhibition), is here made explicit by a statement that foregrounds institutional granting of “opportunities” as the primary condition of art production. In 1981, at the Belgrade Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Trbuljak presented his “Retrospective”—a poster merging two previous statements with a new one: “With this exhibition I maintain continuity in my work.” Again Trbuljak at the same time deconstructed and perpetuated one of the postulates of achieving success: continuity, i.e. the creating and maintaining of an idiosyncratic artistic style.

What makes these works by Trbuljak so relevant for the history of exhibitions is precisely that they were not conceived as individual works to be presented at exhibitions, they were conceived precisely as exhibitions, or as he himself described them in 1981 as “works-exhibitions.”[1] Thus, his artistic practice was based on the appropriation, translation and deconstruction of the institutional and curatorial discourses and methods, but without eliding the issue of his own position and complicity as an artist in the existing art world.

Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


[1] Goran Petercol, “Interview with Goran Trbuljak,” Studentski list, January 23, 1981, 15.


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Postal Packages by Želimir Koščević

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Date: 1972

Place: Student Center Gallery, Zagreb

Curator: Želimir Koščević

Participants: undisclosed mail art works by international artists

The exhibition “Postal Packages” (1972) was a culmination of curatorial experiments that Želimir Koščević, the director of the Student Center Gallery in Zagreb, realized in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 1 In collaboration with the 1971 Paris Biennial, which was dedicated for the first time to Conceptual art, the exhibition presented the biennial’s “mail art” section to Yugoslav audiences in Belgrade and Zagreb.2 However, after taking the exhibition from Belgrade, where it was held in January 1972, to Zagreb, Koščević decided to exhibit nothing but the unopened package in which the works arrived. This disobedient gesture indicated that the role and responsibility of the curator was not merely to choose and exhibit, but also to choose to refuse to exhibit. The exhibition was accompanied with a statement in which Koščević rejected the commodification and institutionalization of Conceptual art. The fact that Conceptual art had become so innocuous to be included in a biennial, as the most conventional exhibition form, meant for Koščević the beginning of its demise:

“Unconventional, brave and provocative, conceptual art has witnessed its own history by the establishment of a special section at the Paris Biennial. There were also earlier attempts, as some museums and corporations have tried to systematize artistic concepts and reduce them to the level of catalogued data. Many artists accepted this game. The positive valorization of the Paris Biennial officially marked the end of the life of this idea which, at its core, is not foreign or unacceptable to us.”3

Instead of offering the (local, peripheral) audience insight into the latest international trends, Koščević intervened with a sharp critique of the ways in which the radical ideas of Conceptual art have been undermined by their conforming to the conventional rules of art’s institutionalization:

“Instead of participating in the further deterioration of conceptual art, instead of supporting its demise under the gallery and museum lights, we have exhibited the content of this exhibition in its genuine state. We have exhibited—we believe —the sublimate of conceptual art—the postal package as postal package. […] Art is not to be found under a glass, under a glass bell, art is facing us.”4

In the Student Center Gallery’s newspaper, documenting the exhibition, this text by Koščević was juxtaposed to an excerpt from the original statement by one of the curators of the Paris Biennial. Stressing the primacy of the idea over matter in Conceptual art, the curatorial statement presented the Envoi (“postal packages”) section of the Biennial as a prime example of the radically new, dematerialized understanding of the art object, in which the “transmitting of information has become more important than transporting goods.”.5 Koščević’s intervention—the exhibiting of “the postal package as postal package”—appropriates the original title of the biennial section and puts into question the validity of the claims made by the biennial organizers, of the primacy of information (idea) over matter. The cumbersome, unopened package placed in the center of the gallery space epitomized the true state of affairs behind the claims of the art’s dematerialization, revealing that the “transport of goods” was still the undisturbed kernel of the art system.

Document: Exhibition-statement by Želimir Koščević

Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


 1 See Ivana Bago, “Dematerialization and Politicization of the Exhibition: Curation As Institutional Critique in Yugoslavia during the 1960s and 1970s,” in Museum and Curatorial Studies Review, vol. 2, no. 1: 7—37; [link].

2 The biennial consisted of several thematic sections, tracing the variety and novelty of artistic approaches and media, emerging with conceptual art. The section Envoi (Postal Packages), focused on postal communication as a new artistic medium, as well as a way of creating social and aesthetic networks, traversing the borders. See Jean-Marc Poinsot’s “La communication à distance et l’objet esthétique,” accessible on: http://www.archives.biennaledeparis.org/fr/1971/tex/poinsot.htm. The exhibition “Postal Packages” was first presented at the Belgrade Student Cultural Center in January 1972, after which it was supposed to open in Zagreb. See Ješa Denegri, “Sekcija «poštanskih pošiljki» sa VII Bijenala mladih u Parizu,” [The “postal packages” section from the 7th Youth Biennial in Paris], in Studentski kulturni centar kao umjetnička scena (Belgrade: Studentski kulturni centar, 2003), 2729.

3 The statement was published in the gallery’s newspaper Novine Galerije SC (Student Center gallery newspaper), (March 1972): 135. Translated from the Croatian by the author.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid. The text is in an excerpt from Jean-Marc Poinsot’s “La communication à distance et l’objet esthétique,” (See note 2).


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Direct Week

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Date: 6-9 July 1972

Organisers: Gyula Pauer (1941), Tamás Szentjóby (1944)

Participants: László Beke, Miklós Erdély, Gyula Gulyás, Miklós Haraszti, László Haris, Ágnes Háy, Tamás Hencze, Péter Lajtai, Péter Legéndy, József Molnár V., Gyula Pauer, Margit Rajczi, Tamás Szentjóby, Endre Tót

Location: Chapel Studio of György Galántai, Balatonboglár

Direct Week was an exhibition and event series that incorporated works and actions replying to Pauer’s and Szentjóby’s call, as well as lectures and screenings that were originally in the program of the “Avantgarde Festival” planned in April in a Budapest Club, but banned shortly before its scheduled date.

Documents:

Gyula Pauer, Tamás Szentjóby: Call for “Direct Week” (1972)

Gyula Pauer: II. Pseudo Manifesto (Advertisement) (1972)

Tamás Szentjóby:  Exclusion exercise – Punishement-Preventive Autotheraphy (1969-72)

Source: Törvénytelen avantgárd. Galántai György balatonboglári kápolnaműterme 1970–1973 [Illegal Avant-garde, the Balatonboglár Chapel Studio of György Galántai 1970–1973], eds. Júlia Klaniczay and Edit Sasvári  (Artpool–Balassi, Budapest, 2003):  126-135.

On the website of Artpool Art Research Center


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Today You Open the Exhibition – responsibility-taking action

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Date: 28 July 1972

Participants: György Galántai (1941), István Haraszty (1934)

Location: Chapel Studio of György Galántai, Balatonboglár

The action took place during the exhibition of the Pécs Workshop (Ferenc Ficzek, Károly Halász, Károly Kismányoki, Ferenc Lantos, Sándor Pinczehelyi, Kálmán Szíjártó, Katalin Nádor) and István Haraszty’s kinetic sculptures.

Documents:

István Harasztÿ – interview (1998)

György Galántai – manuscript (1998)

Source: Törvénytelen avantgárd. Galántai György balatonboglári kápolnaműterme 1970–1973 [Illegal Avant-garde, the Balatonboglár Chapel Studio of György Galántai 1970–1973], eds. Júlia Klaniczay and Edit Sasvári  (Artpool–Balassi, Budapest, 2003): 138.


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László Beke, Miklós Erdély, György Jovánovics, Péter Legéndy, János Major, Gyula Pauer, and Tamás Szentjóby – exhibition and actions

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Date: 24 June 1973

Participants: László Beke (1944), Miklós Erdély (1928-1986), György Jovánovics(1939), Péter Legéndy (1948), János Major (1936-2008), Gyula Pauer (1941), Tamás Szentjóby (1944)

Location: Chapel Studio of György Galántai, Balatonboglár

This exhibition – presented two months before the Chapel Studio was occupied and closed by the police – did not have any title and was completed spontaneously with works and actions during two weeks. The works exhibited were used as props for theatrical performances in the next few weeks.

Documents:

Miklós Erdély: What is avantgardism? (1973)

Tamás St. Auby – interview (1998)

György Jovánovics – interview (1998)

Source: Törvénytelen avantgárd. Galántai György balatonboglári kápolnaműterme 1970–1973 [Illegal Avant-garde, the Balatonboglár Chapel Studio of György Galántai 1970–1973], eds. Júlia Klaniczay and Edit Sasvári  (Artpool–Balassi, Budapest, 2003): 150-5.


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Prayer for Rain – land-art performance by Maria Pinińska-Bereś

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Date: Summer 1977

Participant: Maria Pinińska-Bereś

Location: Field of Prądnik, Kraków

Since 1977 a couple of Polish artists made land-art performances that took place only in the presence of the camera or nearest friends invited especially. In all of them, Maria Pinińska-Bereś connected land-art and feminist strategies, which can be compared to the art of Ana Mendieta. This performance started when the artist, wearing a green-blue, ritual-like dress and sandals, kneeled down on her knees with hands and face near to the grass. Then she marked out a circle and scattered around the stones she found inside. Using a knife she cut the grass in the circle and marked the circumference with pink flags put in the places of the stones she removed before. When the installation was ready, she took off her sandals and trampled the ground with her bare feet, in kind of ritual dance. At the end she lay on her back in a goddess pose. The way the performance was carried out, her preparation, and the usage of the color pink, which was a kind of marker of her artistic practice, show how she connected the cultural and essential or natural influences on the female subject. In other land-art pieces she used similar means to reorder the place or build into the natural environment—one defined as the asylum for art and woman artists in totalitarian Poland, where the access to gallery space and art institutions was limited. Her art has a huge ironical potential, which was also visible in Prayer for Rain.


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Three Women – exhibition

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Date: 6–23 February 1978

Participants: Anna Bednarczuk, Izabella Gustowska, and Krystyna Piotrowska

Location: BWA Poznań “Arsenał”[1]

The first articles exploring the phenomenon of feminist art in Western Europe and the United States were published in Polish art magazines around 1980.[2] In those times the first minor exhibitions of feminist art appeared—exhibitions of the type “women choose women,” curated by artists who also took part in them. The first genuine feminist exhibition was “Three Women” with the participation of Poznań-based artists, in the city gallery of art. The title of the show was probably inspired by the title of Robert Altman’s movie of the same name. A catalog was also published with the biographical notes of the participants, reproductions of their most significant self-portraits shown (among others) in the gallery, and with the collage of their artworks and inspirations. During the opening, hostesses dressed in Playboy-bunny costumes served a cake in the form of a female breast, which gives the ironical frame to the art pieces that were very conscious of the category of masquerade and the cultural impact on sexed subjects, made with the usage of embroidery, lingerie, and other so-called female attributes. Self-portraits by Anna Bednarczuk made as reduced fabrics, Krystyna Piotrowska’s Better Face in Your Mirror?—a kind of drawing and graphic catalog of faces and their parts—and Izabella Gustowska’s photos and photomontages of female bodies and flowers were on display, among others.

After the show only one review was published in the local press and the exhibition passed without a bigger impact on Polish art. It only appeared recently in the catalog text of the “Three Women” (conscious reference) exhibition of Ewa Partum, Natalia LL, and Maria Pinińska-Bereś, curated by Ewa Toniak, that opened in 2011 in the Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw.


[1] Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych [Office of Art Exhibitions] was the name of the city galleries in Poland in the ’80s.

[2] S. Morawski, “Neofeminizm w sztuce,” Sztuka 4 (1977): and B. Baworowska, “Wystawa sztuki feministycznej w Holandii,” Sztuka 3 (1980). After her residency in New York in 1977, Natalia LL appeared in 1978 with a cycle of gallery lectures on feminist-art phenomena.


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Architecture Exhibition `78

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Date: 22 May­–08 June 1978

Participants: Veljo Kaasik (1938), Tiit Kaljundi (1946-2008), Vilen Künnapu (1948), Leonhard Lapin (1947), Avo-Himm Looveer (1941-2002), Jüri Okas (1950), Jaan Ollik (1951), Matti Õunapuu (1945), Ain Padrik (1947), Toomas Rein (1940), Andres Ringo (1938), Harry Šein (1947), Tõnis Vint (1942)

Organizers: The Youth Section of the Union of Estonian Architects, initiated by Tiit Kaljundi and Leonhard Lapin

Location: Foyer of the Academy of Sciences Library in Tallinn

The foyer of the Academy of Sciences Library, situated in the center of Tallinn opposite the local Communist Party Central Committee building, was generally a site for exhibitions on the lives of important scientists. Many scientific institutions in the Soviet Union were already offering space for progressive art exhibitions, and the Academy of Sciences Library had also hosted shows in the past: for example, in 1966, an exhibition of art and photography.

The idea of the exhibition originated with the 1972 manifesto “Program for an Exhibition of New Architecture,” signed by Tiit Kaljundi, Leonhard Lapin, Vilen Künnapu, Avo-Himm Looveer, and Ülevi Eljand. The manifesto marked the beginning of a process of rethinking architectural practice in Estonia instigated by a group of friends and colleagues who later became known as the Tallinn School.

The exhibition format was utilized as an effective medium for communicating ideas about architecture, and for engaging the wider public in a discussion about the practice and goals of architecture. The exhibition was critical of Soviet mass construction, standardization, and modernist urban planning. At the same time, it posed questions about the institution of architecture and about architectural representation.

The exhibition was divided into two parts: black-and-white photographs showing examples of built works and—the sensational part of the show—pieces drawn on cardboard panels, each one meter squared, which lined the large glazed wall of the foyer. These pieces presented critical and ironic commentary on architecture and the modern city, and they adopted the standard format used by the state architecture offices for exhibiting architectural designs. Their unusual execution and content were new and surprising.

One of the crucial works in the exhibition was Lapin’s The City of the Living—The City of the Dead. The design proposed the creation of cemeteries in the green public spaces between the panel houses of the new housing districts. The cemeteries would include garage-tombs, in which bodies could be buried inside cars. The gravestones would function simultaneously as a children’s playground. This ironic proposal was intended to “complete” the micro housing districts, so that “inhabitants could remain in their neighborhoods forever without ever having to traverse a single highway.” In addition, the design made direct reference to official architectural institutions: it included a communal grave for the Architects’ Union and a grave for the union head, Mart Port, with the epigraph, “M. Saddamm—the leader—1922–1979” (indicating that Port was expected to die the following year—in reality he was to resign as head of the Architects’ Union). The design also included graves for Lapin himself and his fellow architects. It can be understood as a political statement.

Many of the exhibited works used irony as a tool for criticizing and questioning the ways in which we think about architecture. The exhibition prompted many responses in the visitors’ book as well as in the media, where nonprofessionals commented on the exhibition. Reviews were also published in Finland and the GDR.

Document: Program for an Exhibition of New Architecture


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Only a Broom – performance by Maria Pinińska-Bereś

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Date: December 1984

Participant: Maria Pinińska-Bereś

Organizer: Labirynt Gallery

Location: Labirynt Gallery, Lublin

The performance took place during the exhibition “Intellectual Tendency in Polish Art after the Second World War” and it was one of Pinińska’s first gallery appearances after the martial law was lifted in Poland, during which she refused for political reasons to participate in any art shows organized by official institutions. The first time in her artistic career dressed only in black, without any of the pink attributes so characteristic of her art, she entered the gallery space and, in the midst of the crowd, started to sweep the floor with a broom with a long handle—that was also a flag mast with the little grey linen flag at its end. As the broom cleaned the space under the feet of the audience, the flag made the air above everyone’s heads vibrate. After a long while, when the action was over, the artist hung the broom on the wall, making the inscription on the flag fully visible (“Only a Broom”) and left the gallery. Using the popular feminist-art motif of bustling around, and the figure of a witch, in an ironic and characteristic way, Pinińska-Bereś made a comment on the political situation in the Polish art world of those times and in a symbolic way removed a spell that hung over art practice and the art space—she was a supporter of the thesis of the supremacy of the aesthetic over the political in art.


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On Kalektarnaya – exhibition

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Date: SeptemberNovember 1987

Participants: Aliaksej Zhdanau, Todar Kopsha, Artur Klinau, Andrej Pliasanau, Vital Razhkou

Organizer: Forma, the alternative artists collective

Location: Minskgramadzanproject Institute, Kalektarnaya street, Minsk

This exhibition introduced a non-conformist approach to space organization. It stirred up an official criticism resulted in several attempts to close down the show. A telegram asking for support was sent to Raisa Gorbacheva (the wife of the head of the USSR government). It read: “Dear Mrs. Raisa Gorbacheva! The first exhibition of young painters was opened in Minsk but the authorities are trying to shut it down. Please, protect our cultural endeavors!”

DocumentNataliya TATUR: Exhibition on Kalektarnaya, 4—Fragments From the Book of Remembrance (2004)

Source: Volha Archipava. Belarusian Avant-garde of the 1980s. ‘pARTisan’s Collection’ series. Minsk 2012. http://partisanmag.by/


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