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Meeting of Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian artists – exhibition, actions

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Date: 26 August 1972

Participants: Imre Bak, Peter Bartoš, László Beke, Miklós Erdély, Stano Filko, György Galántai, Péter Halász, Béla Hap, Ágnes Háy, Tamás Hencze, György Jovánovics, J. H. Kocman, Péter Legéndy, János Major, László Méhes, Gyula Pauer, Vladjimir Popović, Petr Štembera, Rudolf Sikora, Tamás Szentjóby, Anna Szeredi, Endre Tót, Péter Türk, Jiři Valoch

Organized by: László Beke (1944)

Location: Chapel Studio of György Galántai, Balatonboglár

During the two-day meeting an exhibition and various actions were organized by László Beke, who invited artists from Czechoslovakia and Hungary to create contacts with each other.

Documents:

Interview with László Beke (1998)

Interview with Gyula Pauer (1998)

György Galántai’s diary (1972)

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):  141-3.


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Exhibitions-Actions by the Group of Six Artists

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Date: 1975-1979

Place: City of Zagreb (various outdoor and indoor locations); Mošćenička Draga beach; City of Belgrade, SKC Gallery, Belgrade

Concept by: Group of Six Artists

Participants: Boris Demur, Željko Jerman, Vlado Martek, Mladen Stilinović, Sven Stilinović, Fedor Vučemilović

In the period of 1975-1979 a group of artists and friends (later dubbed “Group of Six Artists”) — Boris Demur, Željko Jerman, Vlado Martek, Mladen Stilinović, Sven Stilinović, Fedor Vučemilović  — organized a series of twenty-one “exhibition-actions.” With the exception of Demur, who graduated painting at the Zagreb Academy of Arts, the group members were not trained as visual artists, but rather approached the “new art practice” from other fields, such as poetry (Martek), photography (Sven Stilinović, Vučemilović), amateur photography (Jerman), amateur film (Mladen Stilinović). This determined their shared anti-aesthetic, anti-programmatic and anti-professional stance to art production, resulting in experiments with photography, poetry, text, concepts, ephemeral interventions and actions, as well as exhibition experiments. The initial distance from academic and art institutions led them to the concept of “exhibition-actions,” a series of self-organized public presentations of their work, initially taking place in the open, public spaces of the city and its surroundings: the streets and squares of the Zagreb city center, residential neighborhoods, the river banks, beaches, university hallways.

In his chronology of the group’s activities, Darko Šimičić traces the group’s self-organized presentations to the action performed on the night of the 9th of October 1974, when three group members (Demur, Jerman, Martek) intervened on the advertising board under the railway bridge of Savska Street in Zagreb. In this action, Jerman presented his famous slogan “This Is Not My World,” written in hypo on photographic paper. According to Šimičić, “[t]his illegal exhibition in a public site was to become in somewhat modified form the prototype [of] the later group appearances.” 1 The first exhibition of the whole group took place on the 11th of May at the Sava River public bathing site: works were installed along the embankment, on sunbathing boards, and the grass. The term “exhibition-action” was first used to describe their second collaborative exhibition, which took place on the 29th of May, at the Zagreb neighborhood Sopot, part of the newly-urbanized zones of the “New Zagreb” built during the 1950s and 1960s. In their exhibition-actions, the artists exhibited paintings, photographs, installations, objects, as well as performed actions. For example, in the Sopot exhibition-action, Jerman showed two childhood photographs pasted on styrofoam boards: one in which he became member of the pioneer organization, and the other where he received his first Holy Communion. Mladen Stilinović showed paintings from the cycle Me, You, Mine, Yours, and performed an action of jumping up in order to appear higher than the skyscrapers in the background.

The group’s public presentations gained more visibility and attention with their October 1975 exhibition at the Republic Square, the central square in Zagreb. Jerman exhibited his “elementary photographs,” along with the slogan “Life, and not slogans”; Sven Stilinović showed a series of photos of a dead dog juxtaposed with photographs deemed to possess artistic beauty; Mladen Stilinović handed out photos of smiles to passers-by; Demur pasted the advertisement board with the poster on which only the word “Eto” [There you go] was written; Vučemilović asked the passer-by to take a photo of him. Judging from the reactions that the artists recorded and later published in one of the issues of their Maj 75 magazine, Zagreb citizens were not impressed, dubbing the exhibition “international idiocy” and seeing it as a symptom of disease, or simply students’ immaturity and idleness. Polemics in the newspapers ensued when a local art critic dismissed the artistic validity of the action. 2

An interesting twist to the form of exhibition-action was added with the May 1976 action City Walk, in which the artists walked through the streets of Zagreb, carrying their paintings, photographs and art objects. Demur carried a black painting with the text “I’m not crazy to paint bourgeois paintings” written in red. In June of the same year, they staged an exhibition-action on the beach of Moščenićka Draga. Jerman laid on photo-paper, leaving behind the imprint of his body; Martek performed an action of tearing banknotes: “In my opinion there is no greater contradiction than the contradiction between the sea as a reality and a the money as an abstraction.” 3 Sven Stilinović painted beach stones, while Vučemilović, who was not present, declared the movements of Jerman to be his own art (live sculptures). Several works testify to the centrality of the dematerialized idea of art for the group’s work: art — as well as collective and collaborative work — was conceived as a process, and a form of immediate sharing that cannot be reproduced or materialized. For example, Demur made a series of “mental works,” works that were not realized and that were forgotten: “I left my mental process of action in its original form without translating it into communication of any kind whatsoever.” 4 Similarly, Mladen Stilinović stated that part of the works conceived for the exhibition-action “was neither produced, noted down, now memorized. It was lived with friends.” 5

Starting from 1977, several exhibition-actions took place in gallery spaces. For the January 1978 exhibition at the Nova Gallery in Zagreb, the artists played with the idea of “oral tradition.” Keeping the tradition of their street presentations, the concept required a mandatory presence of the artists next to their work exhibited in the gallery, so that they could engage in conversations with the visitors and communicate their ideas about each particular work, as well as more general ideas on art. In June 1968, in the framework of the April Encounters festival in Belgrade, the group decided to organize a public working meeting at the SKC Gallery, making the very workings of the group and the plotting of their contributions to the festival transparent to the audience. This idea of openness, communication, and sharing was central to the group, and resonated with other artistic and curatorial practices that engaged in the conversations around the “democratization of the arts” that characterized the 1960s and 1970s. However, also crucial was the idea of self-organization and autonomy, and the freedom from institutional and ideological conditioning and censorship. Alongside the unique concept of “exhibitions-actions,” the group’s samizdat “catalogue-magazine” Maj 75, initiated in 1978, as well as their engagement in Podroom — the Working Community of Artists from 1978-1980, became additional platforms through which the group strove to achieve these aims.

DocumentComments of passers-by recorded during exhibition-actions at the Zagreb Republic Square (1975 and 1978)

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


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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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Women’s Art 1978 – exhibition

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Date: April 1978

Participants: Suzy Lake (Canada), Noemi Maidan (Switzerland), Natalia LL (Poland), and Carolee Schneemann (USA)

Organizer: Natalia LL

Location: PSP Jatki Gallery, Wrocław

This was the second exhibition of what’s referred to as women’s art in Poland and the first international one where the practices of foreign participants were represented by mail-art pieces.[1] Natalia LL was the first Polish artist who contributed to international feminist-art exhibitions and publications since 1975, and her art was published among others’ work on the cover of the monographic feminist issue of Heute Kunst (issue 9, 1975) edited by Gislind Nabakovsky. LL also had the opportunity of a half-year stay in the United States, mostly in New York City, in 1977 (through a Kościuszko Foundation grant), and afterwards she gave a series of lectures on feminist art in Polish art galleries.[2] In the Wrocław show, LL exhibited her Categorical Statements from the Sphere of Post-Consumer Art (1975), Schneemann’s artist’s publication Cezanne, She was a Great Painter (1975), a photo by Suzy Lake showing a woman with her body bound by a rope—shown as an installation, with the rope in space separating the art from the audience—and Maidan’s collages on maternity covered by traditional nappies hanging on the walls.


[1] Review of the exhibition, B. Baworowska, “Sztuka kobiet,” Sztuka 4/5 (1978): 69–70.

[2] Natalia LL, “Feminist tendency,” in Natalia LL. Texts (Bielska BWA Gallery: Bielsko-Biała, 2004).


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Rusovce – cross generation friendly meeting by lake (another of the many attempts to be invisible)

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Date: 4-7 August 1978

Participants and organizers: Peter Bartoš (b. 1938), Ľubomír Ďurček (b. 1948), Stano Filko (b. 1937), Vladimír Havrilla (b. 1943), Juraj Mihálik (b. ), Ladislav Snopko (b. 1949)

Location: Rusovce, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia

By a lake in Bratislava, participants created mini events and ephemeral artworks out of materials found at the location, including pebbles, stones, plastic, etc. The event was initiated by Ľubomír Ďurček, a conceptual artist, performer, filmmaker, and author of experimental texts and books. The entire event was documented in a series of black-and-white photographs taken by participants.

In comments made Ďurček about the event, he points said that situations created did not necessarily correspond to reality.

 


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Women’s Art 1980 – exhibition

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Date: November 1980

Participants: Izabella Gustowska, Anna Kutera, Natalia LL, Ewa Partum, Krystyna Piotrowska, Maria Pinińska-Bereś, and Teresa Tyszkiewicz

Organizers: Izabella Gustowska and Krystyna Piotrowska

Location: ON Gallery, Poznań

The first national exhibition of the practices of Polish women artists interested in negotiations of feminine subjectivity was organized by two artists who run the gallery associated with the Fine Arts Academy. Izabella Gustowska, when asked about the concept of the show, said she had been familiar with most of the artists from previous exhibitions at ON except for Ewa Partum, whom they invited due to her clear-cut artistic position, and Maria Pinińska-Bereś, whom, in turn, they wanted to honor as a pioneer of a certain kind of sensitivity. This was why the “L”-shaped gallery’s smaller room was devoted entirely to Pinińska-Bereś. The pink-quilted fluid rug spilling out of her Well of Pink ran across the floor of the larger room above, where the works of the younger artists were on display together with photographic works, films, and works on paper. The invited artists presented performances or live lectures (except for Krystyna Piotrowska, Teresa Tysziewicz probably made a comment to her movies) during the two-day symposium opened by speeches of the theorists Alicja Kępińska and Jerzy Ludwiński. What the different realizations had in common was, in my view, their focus on the issue of space and the representations of the subjectively understood feminine body.

“Although the exhibition had not been thought as a feminist demonstration, the title provoked questions about distinguishing the characteristic of art created by women artists—their peculiar features and goals. The organizers wanted to provoke such a discussion and posed questions that had never been asked in Poland before. […] I do not say that nothing like women’s art does exist, because art has no sex (is sexless),” wrote Grzegorz Dziamski. “But look at what women artists do and wonder if in the pieces presented by them there is something you will not find anywhere else—another sensibility, other imaginations, a different approach to the world.”[1]

Beside the Polish Film Chronicle that reported on Partum’s performance, the exhibition was not reviewed in the media and stayed forgotten for a long time, mentioned only in Dziamski’s articles on women’s art and in the catalogs of Presence III and ON Gallery. The thematic was continued by Gustowska in the “Presence” exhibition cycle in the 1980s and 1990s.

Detailed description of the exhibition

Document: Izabella Gustowska: WHY? (1998)


[1] Grzegorz Dziamski, “Drobne narracje,” in Drobne narracje. XV lat galerii ON (Poznań, 1994), 6–7.


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Portraits of the actors, directors, composers, and set designers of the State Russian Drama Theater, Vilnius – exhibition of photographs

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Date: January 24–February 14, 1985

Participants: Algirdas Šeškus (1945) and Alfonsas Budvytis (1949)

Organizer: LSSR (Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic) Art Workers’ Palace, Vilnius

Location: LSSR Art Workers’ Palace, Vilnius

This series of photographs, created in 1984, was an interpretation of a state commission. Algirdas Šeškus and Alfonsas Budvytis, at the time outsiders of the official art-photography scene, authored the project. “Ignoring the standards of the portrayal of public figures and experimenting with the models’ characters and psychological types and the composition of the shots, these artists have expanded the space of the traditional aesthetics of Lithuanian photography,” noted art historian and curator Margarita Matulytė.[1] The collection of sixty works was first presented at the Yermolova Theater in Moscow in 1984, accompanying the State Russian Drama Theater’s official tour, and then traveled back to be exhibited in Vilnius: it was exhibited in the theater as well as presented at the LSSR Art Workers’ Palace in 1985. The press did not take notice the project at the time, and its innovative character and the artists’ avant-garde attitude have only recently been highlighted.


[1] Margarita Matulytė, Annotation for the exhibition “Portraits of the Actors, Directors, Composers, and Set Designers of the State Russian Drama Theater”, National Gallery of Art, Vilnius, 20 April – 27 June, 2010.


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Beginning – photography exhibition

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Date: 1989

Participants: Galina Moskaleva, Vladimir Shakhlevich, Uladzimir Parfianok, Sergey Kozhemyakin and others.

Location: House of Cinema (Dom Kino), Minsk

Their photographic works demonstrated an approach to photography as a form of contemporary visual art that inherited the experimental and innovative traditions of avant-garde art.

“Beginning” was one of the most significant Belarusian photography exhibitions in the ‘80s. The show presented work by Valery Lobko’s students. Lobko was a prominent teacher of experimental photography, and ran workshops on creative photography between 198186.

Concurrently, informal, creative associations of self-taught photographers such as Pravintsyia, Meta, Bielaruski Klimat, and Panorama started exhibiting between 198791.

 

 


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