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Human Nature

HUMANS and their environment influence and marks on each other. Under the guidance of American professor Janeil Engelstad, students from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design (VŠVU) in Bratislava have been examining the relationship between people and their environment and researching what it means to be a physical and spiritual being.

Pieces of willow and photos of urban Slovakia in a Gothic church.
photo: Jana Liptáková

HUMANS and their environment influence and marks on each other. Under the guidance of American professor Janeil Engelstad, students from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design (VŠVU) in Bratislava have been examining the relationship between people and their environment and researching what it means to be a physical and spiritual being.

The Human Nature exhibition in the Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary at Františkánske námestie in Bratislava displayed their findings between January 25 and 28. The exhibition consisted of installations, projections, and photos by young artists from eight European countries. The fact the exhibition was located in a

Where do our souls go?
photo: Jana Liptáková

sacred space gave the displayed works additional meaning and interpretation.

Slovak Magda Stanová in her video Holiday contemplated the way people behave while spending time in nature. Czech Pavla Tobková questioned people's pursuit of physical perfection in an interactive textile installation entitled More human than human.

Slovak Lenka Sršňová explored subconscious desires in Peepshow, which appealed to people's curiosity and turned the visitor into a voyeur. This installation was an example of the influence of one's environment, and was carefully edited so the collages did not offend the sacred space. People's private parts were covered up with yellow triangles and other shapes. At the request of Church representatives, the short animation Neuro transmitters, a satiric view of love by Slovak Juraj Chalány, was not screened at all.

The sacred space gave the display additional meaning and interpretation.
photo: Jana Liptáková

Swiss artist Viera Kucera in her Worldly Altar examined the need to put spiritual experiences into physical form by inviting people to put presents of any kind on the altar. This resulted in a peculiar collection, which included a used bulb and a piece of candy. Portuguese artist Mariana Ribeiro's exhibit, Willow, was three pieces of willow with sound waves carved into them. This referred to the ancient Slovak tradition of telling one's secret to a willow. Dutch photographer Illah van Oijen focused her camera on urban Slovakia. Slovak Oto Hudec explored how people's memories are connected to landscapes.

Three projects were also housed underneath the church. In the light installation Where do our souls go?, Slovak Juraj Straka imagined souls as seeds waiting to grow from the ground and be reincarnated. Slovak Matej Vakula transformed the sound of human voices to create the reverberation of church bells, which were used in the past to inform communities about major events. The interactive slide show by French Julie Arrive referred to the destructive process that takes place on Earth every time we step into nature.


By Jana Liptáková

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