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EXHIBITION OF CONTEMPORARY ART BY BRATISLAVA ARTISTS IN VIENNA ERASES THE BORDER BETWEEN THE CAPITALS

So close, yet so far away

GEOGRAPHICAL proximity is not a good enough reason for two European capitals to engage in cultural interaction. Bratislava and Vienna are only 60 kilometres apart, yet there is very little contact between local artists and curators.
The Künstlerhaus Gallery in the Austrian capital, which specialises in presenting local contemporary art and international art projects, decided to help the situation by loaning its large space to 20 Bratislava artists until the end of July. The exhibition, entitled Stadt in Sicht - Neue Kunst aus Bratislava (City in Sight - New Art from Bratislava), shows photographs, installations, and video art works; some created especially for this project.
The target group for the exhibition is not only the Austrian experimental and contemporary art audience in Vienna but also their counterparts from the other side of the border.


ONE out of four episodes from Lucia Nimcová's Women, created for the 2003 pictorial report on the state of Slovakia that appears in the City in Sight - New Art from Bratislava exhibition in Vienna.
photo:Andreas Buchberger

GEOGRAPHICAL proximity is not a good enough reason for two European capitals to engage in cultural interaction. Bratislava and Vienna are only 60 kilometres apart, yet there is very little contact between local artists and curators.

The Künstlerhaus Gallery in the Austrian capital, which specialises in presenting local contemporary art and international art projects, decided to help the situation by loaning its large space to 20 Bratislava artists until the end of July. The exhibition, entitled Stadt in Sicht - Neue Kunst aus Bratislava (City in Sight - New Art from Bratislava), shows photographs, installations, and video art works; some created especially for this project.

The target group for the exhibition is not only the Austrian experimental and contemporary art audience in Vienna but also their counterparts from the other side of the border.

"This is very much an exhibition for the Slovak audience as well, and we also advertise it in Slovakia; we really want [Slovaks] to come over," Anna Souček, one of the exhibition's curators, told The Slovak Spectator.

In addition to a desire to improve cultural interaction between the two capitals, a lack of funding and spaces in Slovakia motivated the curators to give their space to the young artists.

"The interesting thing is that a lot of people have told us that exhibitions like this one have never been put on in Bratislava because there are just not as many spaces for [contemporary] Slovak artists to exhibit," Souček said.


GABIKA Binderová's understanding of household work expressed through aprons.
photo:Andreas Buchberger

One of the artists, Dorota Sadovská, agrees that even the premises of Bratislava's City Gallery, the largest one in Bratislava offering space to contemporary art-works, are not ideal for the display of such art because they are housed in historical buildings with rather small rooms and low ceilings. She adds that very little is being done for the promotion of contemporary art in Slovakia, not only visual arts but also dance and music.

Sadovská is exhibiting her oil paintings of women from Bratislava, Brussels, San Francisco, and Vienna. The way she painted them, from below showing only a slight profile of their faces, making them resemble each other, gives the works an ironic take on female beauty.

"Many of the women, who I first shot in that position with a camera and then painted on canvas, put make-up on to highlight their beauty, but that beauty vanished as soon as they threw their heads back," said 30-year-old Sadovská.

At the same time, though, she felt the women's bare, smoothly stretched necks implied a certain sensuality and sexuality, bringing the word beauty back for discussion.

The understanding of sexuality is an issue in several of the other exhibited works. Lucia Nimcová photographed women in intimate everyday situations. Gabika Binderová displays aprons with colour prints of a man cooking. The video project by Aneta Mona Chisa shows a man walking around in the streets of Bratislava with a small paper box covering his genitals and stomach and encouraging people to reach into the box, leaving them rather embarrassed.

On the other hand, Martin Kollár's photographs show people in everyday situations, without posing, usually not even aware they are being photographed. His documentary photographs from the series Slovakia 2001: A Pictorial Report on the State of the Country, are often surprising and humorous in their simplicity.


A SPINNING video installation evokes a marry-go-round feeling.
photo:Andreas Buchberger

"I think this work is quite self-explanatory. You see those situations, mostly middle-class people who somehow kill time. It's those little, bizarre situations that Kollár documents," said Souček, adding that captions underneath the works state where the picture was shot but not what is depicted.

For the exhibition, the curator looked specifically for artists from Bratislava.

"The concept was to present Bratislava artists in the city of Vienna. But very few people are really from Bratislava. Most of them were born somewhere in Slovakia and came to Bratislava to study at the Academy [of Fine Arts]. And many of them stayed, because for a Slovak who has ambitions to achieve something in the art world, Bratislava is the place to pass through at some point," Souček said, explaining what the curators learned while preparing the exhibition.

With their choices, the curators of the exhibition did some pioneering work in the field of Slovak contemporary art, because few of the artists whose works are on display in Vienna have exhibited together previously.

"But it's not because of some internal conflicts," said Sadovská. "It's due to the fact that the curators are Austrian and their viewpoint [on choosing the works] was different."

This exhibition is taking place now because of Slovakia's expected entry into the EU in May 2004. Originally, the Art House - which has been an exhibition hall since 1868 - wanted to introduce art from all the future member states, but this was too demanding in both time and money.


SADOVSKÁ'S ironic portraits of women's beauty.
photo:Dorota Sadovská

To attract a diverse crowd, the exhibition has expanded beyond the Art House itself and is also present in the square outside the gallery. A platform entitled Café Bratislava will be open to other projects such as concerts, parties with resident Bratislava DJs, projection of live pictures from the streets of Bratislava on a large screen, and site-specific art works.

"We want to encourage or demonstrate that it really is so close. It takes less [time to travel to Bratislava] than to Graz. It's one hour and you hardly feel it when you travel. But because there is a border, you have in mind that it is a long journey, but it isn't. So we very much hope that people will come [for the exhibition] and for the festival [in Café Bratislava], to which we will invite artists, musicians, and other performers from Slovakia. We also hope that they will bring their own audience," Souček said.

What: Stadt in Sicht. New Art from Bratislava exhibition.
Where: Künstlerhaus, Upper Floor, Karlsplatz 5, Vienna, Austria.
When: Daily 10:00-18:00, Thursdays 10:00-21:00 until July 27.
Admission: €7, concessions €4.50.


EXHIBIT entrance designed by Milan Mikula.
photo:Andreas Buchberger

For more information visit www.k-haus.at.

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