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The Lunch (in memoriam Batu Khan) – the first happening in Hungary

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Date: 25 June 1966

Participants and organizers: Gábor Altorjay, Tamás Szentjóby (with the cooperation of  Miklós Jankovics and István Varannai, with the help of Enikő Balla, Miklós Erdély, and Csaba Koncz)

Location: The cellar of István Szenes, Budapest

The happening was organized in the cellar of a private house by Gábor Altorjay and Tamás Szentjóby.
There were about sixty viewers. In addition to a short film and several photographs there are three detailed written descriptions of the happening: a review of the happening published by László Kamondy in the weekly magazine, Tükör; the recollections of Gábor Altorjay published two years later as an appendix to the article by Ottó Tolnai entitled “On the Newest Hungarian Poetry” in the Novi Sad Hungarian language magazine New Symposium; and a secret police report also written in 1968. All three texts differ at points regarding how and what happened, and what sense it made.

Documents:
Gábor Altorjay: The Lunch (in memoriam Batu Khan) (1968)
Anonym secret police officers: Summary report and action plan regarding happenings (1968)
The Lunch (in memoriam Batu Khan) – The first Hungarian Happening – n/8, b&w film, camera: László Gyémánt.


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Gatherings in Ilya Kabakov’s Studio

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Dates: 1967–1987

Organized by: Ilya Kabakov (b. 1933)

Location: Attic studio, 6/1 Sretensky Boulevard, Moscow

Soon after Ilya Kabakov built his sixth-floor attic studio on Sretensky Boulevard and until his emigration in 1987, the space became a meeting place for Moscow’s unofficial artists, particularly for those who would eventually be associated with Moscow Conceptualism. Artists, poets, philosophers, critics, gathered there to discuss new work or for festive occasions.[1] Starting in the mid-1970s, Kabakov began to “perform” a series of conceptual albums. He used his training as a book illustrator to create metaphysical or conceptual narratives on sheets of gray or white paper. The readings would consist of Kabakov slowly turning the pages and reading the texts of these albums before a seated audience for periods that could last hours. In a short text from the time, entitled “…the point is in the turning of the pages,” Kabakov attempts to describe the sense of pure time that occurs in these durational performances, a concern that is echoed in the work of other Moscow Conceptualists such as the poet Lev Rubinstein with his index card poems, or the Collective Actions group with their actions for Trips Out of the City.

See also Matthew Jesse Jackson, The Experimental Group: Ilya Kabakov, Moscow Conceptualism, Soviet Avant-Gardes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).

[1] Many members of Moscow’s artistic underground who gathered at the studio included: Yuri Kuper (b. 1940), Erik Bulatov (b. 1933), Eduard Steinberg (1937–2012), Vladimir Yankilevsky (b. 1938), Oleg Vasiliev (1931–2013), Viktor Pivovarov (b. 1937), Pavel Pepperstein (b. 1966), Andrei Monastyrski (b. 1949), Dmitri Prigov (1940–2007), Boris Groys (b. 1947), Joseph Backstein (b. 1945), Ivan Chuikov (b. 1935), Vladimir Sorokin (b. 1955), Lev Rubinstein (b. 1947), Vsevolod Nekrasov (1934-2009), Nikita Alekseev (b. 1953), Elena Elagina (b. 1949), George Kiesewalter (b. 1955), Igor Makarevich (b. 1943), Nikolai Panitkov (b. 1952), Sergei Romashko (b. 1952), Sabine Hänsgen (b. 1955), Viktoria Mochalova, Irina Nakhova (b. 1955), and others

 

Documents:

Ilya Kabakov – “…the point is in the turning of the pages” – artist’s text (1970s)

Ilya Kabakov – excerpt 60-e – 70-e… Zapiski o neofitsial’noi zhizni v Moskve [1960s-1970s… Notes on unofficial life in Moscow – memoirs (1982)


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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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The First Open Studio

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Otvorený ateliér / The First Open Studio, 16 mm film transferred onto DVD, 7:04 min. (courtesy Marian Mudroch, Bratislava)

Date: 19 November 1970

Participants and organizers: Milan Adamčiak (b. 1946), Peter Bartoš (b. 1938), Václav Cigler (b. 1929), Róbert Cyprich (b. 1951-1996)), Milan Dobeš (b. 1929), Igor Gazdík (b. 1943), Viliam Jakubík (b. 1945), Július Koller (b. 1939-2007), Vladimír Kordoš (b. 1945), Ivan Kříž-Vyrubiš (b. 1941), Otis Laubert (b. 1946), Juraj Meliš (b. 1942), Alex Mlynárčik (b. 1934), Marián Mudroch (b. 1945), Jana Shejbalová-Želibská (b. 1941), Rudolf Sikora (b. 1946), Ivan Štěpán (b. 1937), Dezider Tóth (b. 1947), Miloš Urbásek (b. 1932)

Location: Private house of Rudolf Sikora, Tehelná 32, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia

The collective exhibition ”1st Open Studio,” opened on 19 November, 1970, in Rudolf Sikora’s house—with an adjoining courtyard and garden—on Tehelná Street 32 in Bratislava. It was the first organized protest (in the form of an exhibiton) against the intervention of power over the visual arts, following the events of 1968. The nineteen participants, who gathered there at the invitation Rudolf Sikora, one of the young, emerging artists, shaped the unofficial art scene in the following years. Through the ”1st Open Studio” the artists declared their adherence to the progressive, Slovak art scene in the 1960s. In their work they developed experimental creativity, playfulness, a sensitivity to civilistic poetics of the painting, the art of object and the environment. On the threshold of the period of normalization, in the stifling atmosphere of a closed society and ongoing political purges, the artists’ studios became, not only a place to confront individual artistic practices, but also a space for participation in creative, collective experiences.

(Eugénia Sikorová, ”The Coming of a Generation,” in 1. Otvorený ateliér. Sorosovo centrum súčasného umenia (Bratislava, 2000), 31.


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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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Conceptual Games

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Date: Autumn 1978

Participants: Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė (1933 – 1999), Gediminas Karalius (1942), Petras Mazūras (1949), and Vladas Vildžiūnas (1932)

Organizers: Vladas Vildžiūnas and Marija Ladigaitė (1931)

Location: Vladas Vildžiūnas and Marija Ladigaitė’s studio and the Jeruzalė sculpture garden, Vilnius

In the late 1970s, the house and the studio of the graphic artist Marija Ladigaitė and the sculptor Vladas Vildžiūnas, as well as the adjacent sculpture garden they had founded in the Vilnius suburb of Jeruzalė (Lithuanian for “Jerusalem”), were popular meeting spots for art and culture personalities, who enjoyed the experimental atmosphere of the place. Ladigaitė and Vildžiūnas hosted informal get-togethers and discussions, during which the guests shared the latest news about the trends in Western modern art and new sculpture-casting technologies, exchanged books, and discussed the exhibitions on display in the studio. The core of the Jeruzalė garden consisted of young sculptors who were interested in avant-garde art trends and flocked around the Vildžiūnas couple; on various occasions, representatives of other spheres of culture visited as well. Several actions, known to their participants and viewers as “Conceptual Games,” were organized in the Jeruzalė garden in 1978. During one event, the textile artist Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė and the sculptors Gediminas Karalius, Petras Mazūras, and Vildžiūnas created site-specific installations and presented them to their friends. “Kazė wrapped the old garden in strips of rice paper, Mazūras inflated a giant intestine, Karalius welded an impromptu constructivist figure, while Vladas weaved rope webs in the crotches of the trees,” recalls Ladigaitė.[1] The processes that took place in the Jeruzalė sculpture garden provided an impetus for the emergence of new artistic forms and ideas—primarily in sculpture—but also in other art fields.


[1] “Marija Ladigaitė, grafikė, Vladas Vildžiūnas, skulptorius. Pokalbis” [Conversation with Marija Ladigaitė, the graphic artist, and Vladas Vildžiūnas, the sculptor], in Quiet Modernism in Lithuania, 1962–1982, ed. Elona Lubytė (Vilnius: Lithuanian Art Museum, Contemporary Art Centre), 201-209.


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We Buy and Sell Souls – art action by Komar & Melamid and the Nest Group

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Date: 19 May 1979

Participants: Vitaly Komar (b. 1943), Alexander Melamid (b. 1945) in New York; The Nest Group – Mikhail Roshal (1956-2007), Victor Skersis (b. 1956), and Gennady Donskoi (b. 1956)

Locations: The action took place simultaneously in the studio of Mikhail Odnoralov on Dmitrievskogo Street, Moscow and at the Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York.

The event was initiated by Komar and Melamid, the founders of Sots Art in the early 1970s and teachers of a number younger Moscow Conceptualists, including members of the Nest, who emigrated from the Soviet Union to New York in 1977. One of the newly emigrated artists’ first projects was to establish a company that would buy and sell human souls. They launched an advertising campaign which included posters and print ads. They also took out an advertisement on the Times Square video display, sponsored by the Public Art Fund of New York. Komar & Melamid, Inc. purchased several hundred American souls, including that of American Pop artist Andy Warhol (1928–1987), who donated his soul for free. An advertisement in the New York Times announced “the first auction of un-official American art in the Soviet Union simultaneously in New York and Moscow on Saturday, May 19, 1979, 12:00 p.m. New York Time.” A heated auction took place in Mikhail Odnoralov’s apartment, where the soul of American collector of nonconformist Soviet art Norton T. Dodge (1927–2011) drew particularly heated bids; Warhol’s soul sold for thirty rubles. The customers who attended included the poet Genrikh Sapgir (1928–1999), art historian and collector Tatiana Kolodzei (b. 1947), and Anatoly Lepin (b. 1944). Artists who attended included Alena Kirtsova (b. 1954), Vadim Zakharov (b. 1959), and Yuri Albert (b. 1959).


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First APTART Exhibition

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Dates: October – November 1982

Participants: Nikita Alekseev (b. 1953), TOTART – Natalia Abalakova (b. 1941) and Anatoly Zhigalov (b. 1941); SZ group – Vadim Zakharov (b. 1959) and Victor Skersis (b. 1956); Mukhomor group –  Sven Gundlakh (b. 1959), Konstantin Zvezdochetov (b. 1958), Aleksei Kamensky, Vladimir Mironenko (b. 1959), and Sergei Mironenko (b. 1959); Sergei Anufriev (b. 1964), Andrei Monastyrski (b. 1949), Nikolai Panitkov (b. 1952)

Organized by: Nikita Alekseev along with other unofficial Moscow artists

Location: Private apartment of Nikita Alekseev, Moscow

In the fall of 1982, the “APTART” exhibition was held in the apartment of artist and former member of Collective Actions Nikita Alekseev. The show included work by a younger generation of artist collectives who had recently appeared on the scene like the Mukhomor (Toadstool) group and SZ, as well as several established Moscow-based Conceptual artists such as husband-wife collaborators Natalia Abalakova and Anatoly Zhigalov (TOTART), Alekseev, and fellow Collective Actions members Andrei Monastyrski and Nikolai Panitkov. Visitors to the show were both friends and members of the public who had heard about the exhibition through word-of-mouth. Alekseev granted access to the apartment “gallery” anytime that he was home. For the two-week exhibition run, works were hung on every available space in the apartment, filling each room to create a cacophonous environment where viewers could interact with the artwork and each other. Both Zhigalov (in his artist’s statement) and Gundlakh (in his account of the event for A-Ya, the Paris-based journal on Russian contemporary art) described “APTART” as an attempt to break free from the habits and conventions that had set in among the artists of the Moscow Conceptualist circle during the 1970s, and gave the first indication of the colorful new art style that would come to be called the New-Wave in the 1980s.

Documents:

Sven Gundlakh, “APTART (Pictures from an Exhibition),” exhibition writeup (1982)

Anatoly Zhigalov, “Analysis – Action,” artist’s text (1982)


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