Symphony of destruction: Art installation plays on sounds of demolished PKO site

Abandoned harpsichord inspires project about fate of historical cultural complex.

The sound installation POSTThe sound installation POST (Source: Courtesy of Šimon Lupták/ooo)
Lost in Bratislava? Impossible with this City Guide!Lost in Bratislava? Impossible with this City Guide! (Source: Spectacular Slovakia)

Walking into Nová Cvernovka – the former chemical industry school complex turned Bratislava’s new creative and culture hub – today, one of the first things visitors come across is the seemingly bizarre sight of an old armchair in front of a huge harpsichord hanging from a wall.

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The lighting in the corner of the entry hall which is home to the instrument, creates the sense of being in a theatre, or of looking at an exhibit – which is exactly what the harpsichord actually is.

But not only is it a visual exhibit, once an hour it also plays sounds, not the Baroque music many people would associate with such an instrument, but instead sounds from where its former home, and the capital’s historically more important cultural landmarks, once stood.

How it started

The harpsichord, part of an art project by local musician František Király, used to be housed at PKO, Park Kultúry a Oddychu (Park of Culture and Relaxation), a site on the Danube embankment for cultural events which was demolished six years ago.

The sale and demolition of PKO was, and continues to be, controversial for many Bratislavans who saw it as an example of cronyism and abuse of power by the then-mayor of the capital.

The wrecking balls first swung into its walls in April 2009. But following protests from locals, demolition work was halted, at least temporarily.

In November 2011, the Sme daily published a photo report entitled “What the inside of PKO looks like today”, which featured a photo of a large double-manual harpsichord next to a pile of rubbish on the stage in the complex’s main hall.

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Király saw the photo and was enraged. He could not believe that such an incredible instrument was being thrown away.

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