The exhibition archive is to give international visibility and accessibility to East European art events, and to enable cross-national research and comparisons. With the collaboration of international experts essential data of exhibitions and event series of key importance are collected and contextualized.
The aim of the online exhibition archive is to create a common knowledge and discourse around the history of various curatorial and artistic practices within the Eastern-European art scenes. Our goal is to present an international network of professional relationships, documents of exhibitions, events, and art spaces instead of merely displaying artworks. We also attempt to propose a methodology with which documents and factual informat ion, as well as legends and cults can be researched, processed, and shared. We are focusing on the period determined by different versions of state-socialisms and capitalisms, political control of official art events, and the development of a parallel culture that incorporated a network of very heterogeneous dissident positions defined on the level of ideologies, art movements, or life-styles. The time-frame of the archive is not set with exact dates as they are slightly different in every country. We wish to trace and introduce new methodologies that can incorporate the particularities of the art events realized in these specific circumstances into the international discourses around exhibition theories.
Exhibitions since the beginning of the 20th century are the primary sites of mobilizing attention and public discussion. Exhibitions and the history of exhibitions establish the public and political potential of art, in a different way than the history of art, enabling important insights into the transformations of the public sphere, the changing social role of art, and how regional cultural politics and its institutions interact with international trends and movements. Exhibition histories reveal multiple artistic and ideological positions homogenized usually by the “official” art history.
The narratives of exhibition history are not based on oeuvres and objects of art but particular events that potentially capture, concentrate, and conserve the complexities of their historical moment. It is a history of situations, if you will, rather than isolated objects or personalities. The mapping of this uncharted territory has a great potential in going beyond the already established histories that are written by powerful institutions and the big players on the art market. The history of exhibitions that we are working on is more sensitive to the interactions between artistic production (of art, subjectivities, situations) and its political context, where exhibitions as social events can serve as sites of critical reflection, intervention and the emergence of politics in general.
These issues have a special significance in within this historical and geographical context in focus. Thus we use “the East of Europe” not only as a geographical, but also as a historical denomination in itself, referring to the Cold War era. We were interested to find out what public roles and possibilities the era’s political and social climate provided for progressive art, as well as what connections these non-conformist practices had with official art and international trends.
Tranzit.hu‘s project Parallel Chronologies has started in 2009 in the form of a research exhibition and symposium in Budapest connected to the international collaboration “Art Always has its Consequences“. The research exhibition was presented again in the Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, in 2010. In 2011 we continued the project in the framework of a new collaboration, “Recuperating the Invisible Past” and realized a new exhibition in Riga Art Space completing our chronologies with those of our partners, LCCA, Riga, Art History Institute, Tallinn, and Vilnius National Art Gallery. The tranzit.hu part of the exhibition was realized in a newspaper format, and it also included Sándor Hornyik’s project “Other Revolutionary Traditions”.
Creating the present online archive, we have asked our partners – up to 2014 11 authors – to present a chronology based on their own professional interests and previous curatorial research projects, instead of aiming at a comprehensive historical survey. Each contributor has been invited to interpret our concept and use the established structure of the archive flexibly fitted to their own curatorial practices and attitudes. The archive is compiled by practicing curators as our object of investigation, the exhibition, is a presentation format hard to examine with the usual methodologies of academic research; still, we hope that it will be a valuable source of information for researchers of various backgrounds and interests. Parallel Chronologies as a research and exhibition project—and from 2012, as an online exhibition archive—is intended to remain open for reinterpretation, new partners and approaches.
Since the launch of the online archive, the project Parallel Chronologies was presented in the exhibition Report on the Construction of a Spaceship Module by tranzit.org in 2014 at the New Museum, New York as a video entitled Outside of Institutions – Occupying Spaces with the commentary of Reesa Greenberg. The archive was also the starting point of the exhibition Sitting Together presented in Bratislava at tranzit/sk in 2016, and it was included in the exhibition Imagining Conceptual Art too at tranzitdisplay, Prague.
How to use the archive?
The site is structured around art events that are presented through their basic data, description, and textual, visual documents. Photos of the events and scans of related publications can be viewed in the image galleries embedded in the event-entries, while reports, scripts, reviews, quotations from exhibition catalogs, and other written documents are linked to the end of the entries. These textual documents are also gathered to form a reader.
The selected events can be listed and ordered according various criteria: thematic keywords, dates, locations, and the names of their actors in order to enable various comparisons and readings. Thematic keywords connect events that happened in different locations and are parts of different narratives in order to see what exhibitions have in common within the realm of “East-Europe”. At Locations you can also find an always-changing map that shows what cities and geographical areas the archive currently covers. Each contributor has written a narrative, commentary text to their chronologies, which are good starting points for more in-depth research, and they may serve as guides in the archive as well.