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Ideas pop at unique arts centre

PUSHING past a line for the bathroom you enter a studio room. People are hanging out on couches, drinking beer, and chatting. Popcorn is popping on the stove and people keep getting up to grab a handful. This is not a Friday night in someone's loft apartment, it is Wednesday at Buryzone, a Bratislava gallery, and a performance is in progress - the popcorn is connected to a microphone and local electronic musicians Urbsoundz are tweaking, filtering, and transforming the sound of popping into music.
Situated at number 11 Čajakova, a quiet street just a few tram stops from the capital's centre, this English-friendly space focusing on new-media art trends is more an art centre than a gallery. The atmosphere is friendly and intimate; which is a surprise and a relief, since Buryzone is one of Bratislava's few centres for young cosmopolitan culture. The staff here looks forward to meeting their visitors, whether they consider themselves artists or not, and does what it can to help them make their artistic ideas happen.


THE URBSOUNDZ electronic duo performs.
photo: Courtesy of Buryzone

PUSHING past a line for the bathroom you enter a studio room. People are hanging out on couches, drinking beer, and chatting. Popcorn is popping on the stove and people keep getting up to grab a handful. This is not a Friday night in someone's loft apartment, it is Wednesday at Buryzone, a Bratislava gallery, and a performance is in progress - the popcorn is connected to a microphone and local electronic musicians Urbsoundz are tweaking, filtering, and transforming the sound of popping into music.

Situated at number 11 Čajakova, a quiet street just a few tram stops from the capital's centre, this English-friendly space focusing on new-media art trends is more an art centre than a gallery. The atmosphere is friendly and intimate; which is a surprise and a relief, since Buryzone is one of Bratislava's few centres for young cosmopolitan culture. The staff here looks forward to meeting their visitors, whether they consider themselves artists or not, and does what it can to help them make their artistic ideas happen.

This week, the gallery starts a large festival called Multiplace 2, a series of events that will run in Bratislava and nearby towns from May 27 to 31. However, its managers plan to reduce the frequency of such exhibition activities in the future and start focusing on effectively providing resources to visitors and the artistic community in the country.

"We want to be a workplace, not just a showplace, where people can use the connections we have made over the last years to collaborate on [their] new projects," says Mária Rišková, Buryzone's programme coordinator and manager.

The programme of the Multiplace festival will include live DJ and VJ (video jockey) performances by artists from the US and Slovakia, screenings of digital films from around the world, and parties at several nightclubs, including Roboexotica, a cocktail robot party.

This will be the second Multiplace event organised by the gallery: The first took place in April 2002, as part of New Media Nation, a long-term Buryzone project that presented new-media art and culture in Slovakia and built international contacts in this field. As is the case with most of the gallery's programming, the presentations will be in English, the language most commonly shared by the audience and guest artists.


WATCHING a presentation.
photo: Courtesy of Buryzone

Founded two and a half years ago as a Galeriaklub and Idea-rental (Ideopožičovňa), punning on the Slovak word for a video-rental shop, the Buryzone's goal of empowering its audience to become art producers reveals a commitment to building a community of young artists in Bratislava.

"Sometimes people come here looking for videos," laughs Rišková, "but we chose this name because we want people to come here to exchange ideas."

The intent is that two people with different skills and interests, like a computer programmer and a painter, could meet, trade their old ideas, and pick up some new ones. Buryzone keeps its 'stock' up to date by maintaining contact with the international art community and hosting weekly events with local and foreign artists - musical performances, performance art, exhibitions, and discussions.

One such idea-trading event was the Buryzone's Festival of Festivals, which took place in February last year as the finale of the New Media Nation project. For four days, festival organisers from Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech and Slovak Republics, as well as the US, Germany, Finland, and Austria shared their organisational knowledge and experience with each other and with the audience.

"For this reason," Rišková explains, "the Multiplace festival and other events we have been organising don't follow the traditional exhibition format, where art hangs and visitors gape. Instead, we are trying to teach our audience ways of being more than visitors - to be participants and organisers."

Buryzone's plan to cut down the number of its exhibiting activities is designed to increase their size and their educational focus.

Rišková also hopes to encourage artists and visitors to react critically to art by stimulating discussion and authorship of critical theory. Such a theoretical conversation could further connect the community and add another layer to its cultural production.

When the organisation was founded, many young people were leaving Slovakia for the wider range of cultural options in the West, and they still are. What is more, the gallery opened during Vladimír Mečiar's time as prime minister, when government support for the arts was minimal. There was a history of non-profit groups and galleries like Buryzone bursting onto the Bratislava scene only to fade away.

"We thought maybe we would last a month or two," says Robert Paršo, one of the gallery's founders and a professor at the Bratislava Academy of Arts.

"After the fall of communism many contacts between central Europeans were broken, as everyone's attention turned to the West. Now we want to make new connections, to be a meeting point for central European countries."

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