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Exhibitions in the apartment of Judita and Vytautas Šerys

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Date: 1967–75

Participants: Valentinas Antanavičius (1936), Linas Katinas (1941), Vincas Kisarauskas (1934-1988), Vytautas Šerys (1931-2006), Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė (1933-1999), Vladislovas Žilius (1939), and others

Organizers: Judita and Vytautas Šerys

Location: The apartment of Judita and Vytautas Šerys, Vilnius

Exhibitions were held at the home of the museum worker Judita Šerienė and the artist Vytautas Šerys between 1967 and 1975. This was the first private, unofficial, and unsanctioned exhibition space in Soviet Lithuania. Šerienė worked in the exhibition department of the Art Exhibition Hall[1] at the time, and had access to avant-garde works that were inconsistent with the dominant communist ideology and consequently were not included in official exhibitions. These works were exhibited in solo and group exhibitions organized at the home of Šerys, which were open to a circle of like-minded visitors who exchanged information about unofficial cultural phenomena by word of mouth. The exhibitions at the Šerys home featured works by Valentinas Antanavičius, Linas Katinas, Vincas Kisarauskas, Vytautas Šerys, Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė, Vladislovas Žilius, and others, which were stylistically close to the language of Abstract, Op, and Pop art, or explored other modern ideas and forms of expression. In addition to the exhibitions, the Šerys home hosted improvised poetry readings. It attracted students and intellectuals of the time—artists, writers, and theater people.


[1] The Art Exhibition Hall, opened in 1967, was the most modern and important space for rotating exhibitions in Lithuania. In 1992 it was renamed the Contemporary Art Centre.


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Iparterv actions and exhibitions

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Dates: 29 November 1968 (Do You See What I See) , 22 December 1968 (Iparterv I), 24  October 1969 (Iparterv II)

Participants: Imre Bak, András Baranyay, Miklós Erdély, Krisztián Frey, Tamás Hencze, György Jovánovics, Ilona Keserü, Gyula Konkoly, László Lakner, János Major, László Méhes, Sándor Molnár, István Nádler, Ludmil Siskov, Tamás Szentjóby, Endre Tót

Organizer: Péter Sinkovits (1943)

Opening by: János Tölgyesi (Iparterv I)

Location: Iparterv State Architectural Office, meeting hall, Budapest

Tamás Szentjóby planned an exhibition entitled “Donor” in July 1968, in the Iparterv State Architectural Office, but it was cancelled after the invitation leaflet was printed and distributed. Three months later and three weeks before the famous first Iparterv exhibition he organized actions entitled  “Do You See What I See”  in the same location with Miklós Erdély and László Méhes. In the “Iparterv 68-80″ catalog issued in 1980 Erdély described these actions as his connection to the Iparterv group.

The hall of the Iparterv Office was not used regularly for exhibitions and the shows were open only for a few days. The first famous group show presenting the “first generation of the neo-avantgarde” in 1968  was accompanied by a small catalog containing a short introduction by the curator, Péter Sinkovits and the reproduction of the works and the CVs of the participants.

In 1969 four more artists, András Baranyay, László Méhes, János Major, and Tamás Szentjóby accepted Sinkovits’ invitation.  A year later a catalog was printed illegally in the printing house of the Iparterv Office with a slightly different list of artists (Tamás Szentjóby and Sándor Molnár was left out, Miklós Erdély and Attila Pálfalusi included).

In 1980 a commemorating exhibition was initiated by art historian László Beke (1944) and Lóránd Hegyi (1954). On this occasion a comprehensive English-Hungarian publication was issued containing several studies and also documents of the previous exhibitions in addition to the works of the participants.  Finally, shortly before the Regime Change, in December 1988 a three-part “Hommage à Iparterv” series was organized in the Fészek Gallery by Lóránd Hegyi.

Documents:

Péter Sinkovits: Introduction of the publication Document 69–70 (1970)

Miklós Erdély describing the actions performed by him (1980)


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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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The Old House – happening by Andris Grīnbergs

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Date: 1977

Participants: Irakly Avaliani, Džonītis (Jānis Silenieks), Laima Eglīte, Mudīte Gaiševska with son Dāvids, Andris Grīnbergs, Inta Grīnberga, Anita Kreituse, Māra Ķimele, Leonards Laganovskis, Ingvars Leitis, Po (Juris Brīniņš), Eižens Valpēters, and Māra Zirnīte

Organizer: Andris Grīnbergs

Photographers: Māra Brašmane and Jānis Kreicbergs

Location: House at 21 Elizabetes (formerly Kirova) Street, Riga

The actions organized by Andris Grīnbergs mainly took place in private locations and had no connection to the institutional art scene or Soviet reality. They were almost always collective, involving Grīnbergs’s friends, associates, and occasionally strangers, who turned the initial idea or impulse into situational spontaneity and made the narrative (characters, atmosphere) into a living fact. The actions were both provocative and romantic, with frequent displays of nudity as a manifestation of personal freedom.

The happening “The Old House” was held in a once-grand but now-abandoned house and served as both a farewell to the place and as a celebration of changing times. The participants, either naked or in clothes, visualizing the emotional narrative, enlivened the abandoned interiors with improvisations, music and poetry. These activities seemingly merged bygone times and existence outside of time through interpretations of various emotional stages and ambiguous identities.


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