Workshop in Budapest, Ludwig Museum–Museum of Contemporary Art
April 18-19, 2013
The Feminine Mystique in the East
My presentation will be devoted to works of women artists created before 1968 that deal with the female body, sexuality and desire. The title of my presentation comes from the very influential book by Betty Friedan (“The Feminine Mystique”) that was published in the U.S. in 1963. I will treat its reception in the Eastern and Central Europe as a starting point for elaboration of what can be seen as proto-feminist manifestations. One of the early Maria Pinińska-Bereś (1931-1999) sculptures will be my emblematic work.
Her View on Him and Her. Work of Jana Želibská in the Context of the Slovak Art Scene of the 1960s
Jana Želibská (1941 Olomouc) belongs to the progressive generation of action and conceptual artists who appeared on the Czechoslovak scene in the 1960s (together with Alex Mlynárčik, Stano Filko, Rudolf Sikora, Michal Kern, later Dezider Tóth, Ľubomír Ďurček and others). In her early work she re-evaluated inspirations from international tendencies, pop-art and French New Realism in particular. Her art attitude soon deviated from academic training. She was present at the birth of environment and object in the 1960s, event and concept in the 1970s, post-modern object and installation at the end of the 1980s and video-art in the 1990s in Slovakia.
Jana Želibská was the only one in her generation to openly thematize intimacy and the relations of men and women; she also “celebrated” the female body from a (proto)feminist point of view. In her works she also expressed her opinion towards the military intervention to Czechoslovakia in 1968 and after 1972 she became a member of the so called unofficial scene during the period of normalization in the state culture and politics.
The lecture given will be a presentation of the oeuvre and personality of Jana Želibská by one of the curators (together with Vladimíra Büngerová) of her retrospective exhibition and monographic publication No Touching in the Slovak National Gallery (Nov. 2012 – March 2013).
Key words: body, vanity, intimacy, labyrinth of femininity, temple, kitsch, high and low, object, environment, expanded field of painting, hippies, Hinduism, gender, politics
From the First Sputnik to Apollo 11. Science, Technology, and the Cold War in the Hungarian Art of the Long Sixties
When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite in history, in 1958 a new phase of the Cold War began, the Age of Aeronautics. In 1961, another glorious event followed when the first man who stepped out into outerspace was a Communist. In this regard, the nuclear arms race of the Sixties was matched by a scientific and technological competition as well. Then came Apollo 11, the spaceship and the lunar module, and it proved unquestionably that the West won this war.
In my lecture, I will discuss the Hungarian artistic reception of this scientific and technological war. Some artists served the aims of the Eastern Block well; others have their own political and aesthetic motivation. Some relied on the official visual culture; others tried to transform it. Describing the scientifically and technologically oriented visual arts (mainly painting) of the long sixties (1957-1973), I will focus mainly on one topic: aviation and military technology. In addition, I intend to deconstruct the apparently plausible narrative that claims that early heroism of the soviet technological and military supremacy in the late fifties turned into a resigned acceptance of defeat in the early seventies.
Institutional collecting versus „live art“. Acquisition policy of the Moravian Gallery in Brno on the background of the contemporaneous arts of the Sixties
The contribution will focus on the relation between acquisition activity of the Moravian Gallery in Brno (officially founded in 1961) and the then current artistic production in the region (especially the program of the Brno House of Arts). While the collection of modern art – that originated before the official foundation of the gallery – was built in correlation with the current interwar exhibition activities of various art associations, in the 1960s the Gallery’s acquisition policy becomes selective. The reason may be diversified modernity – personal preferences – political pressures – censorship – or/and the inability of the institution to deal with the dematerialized art and newly emerging art forms. The lecture will examine the position of the progressive trends of neo-avant garde and conceptual art within the professional (institucionalized) art scene on a specific examples of work, from the perspective of a significant Czech institution.
Petr Ingerle (1968) graduated in art history and history from the Faculty of Arts of Masaryk University and continued with a one-year art history course at the Central European University in Prague. From 1999 working for the Moravian Gallery in Brno, currently as the curator of the 20th century and contemporary art.
Dr. László Végh (born in 1931), composer and radiologist played a decisive influential role in the forming underground art scene of the sixties. He presented his first concrete and electronic music compositions (from 1958) for the living representatives of Hungarian modernism under repression and for the young generation of neo-avantgarde in quasi-democratic communities of private spaces. Due to this mediating cultural activity, his non-conformist personality and apparence, his impressive network of the subculture across the generations, dr. Végh formed the first circles of counter-culture after 1945 around himself. The first – I would call them – ’intuitive actions’ of László Végh (from 1963 to 1970) performed with young artist of the subculture, opened the way for the Happening and Fluxus and guaranteed the perspective of the deconstruction of the traditional art forms through the experimental music.
Early Czech Happenings before Fluxfestival in Prague 1966
“Not to discover new artistic forms, but to change directly the everyday life of the individual.”
It is not possible to seek the genesis of Czech action art (the term to be explained) in the consequences of the information coming into Czechoslovakia from abroad. Information regarding the progressive trends of neo-avant garde and conceptual art was paradoxically preceded by practice. The best happenings by Milan Knížák and Aktual group took place in 1964 before Fluxfestival in Prague in 1966. It should be emphasized that there existed practically no public information in the Czech context regarding Fluxus movement before that. Such information only began to appear in specialist magazines around 1965 and played an important role in the action art development. Personal contacts, however, played an important role. I would like to follow these streams of information and show how they changed work of Milan Knížák and group Aktual in the second half of 1960s.
For the majority of Czech artists, action art essentially constituted a hobby. Most of them created in their spare time, outside of art institutions and at the cost of their own earnings from other employment. This, however, does not detract from their artistic value. On the contrary, it underscores their uncustomary authenticity and integrity. The fundamental point of departure for the majority of Czech artists was an internal compulsion to pursue this activity – almost without claim to public recognition and in some cases even despite the risk of persecution by the Communist regime. In 1965 Knížák launched the programme Aktual – Live Differently! and proclaimed that his actions are more than art, they are necessary activity.
Ideological discourse and Polish art of 60s
The presentation will focus on two cases of the discursive knot between art and politics in polish art of the 60s – Galeria Krzywe Koło (with Klub Krzywego Koła) and Grupa Wprost. The gist of the earlier phenomenon was the coinage between art and intellectual background of Klub Krzywego Koła, where intellectuals like Leszek Kołakowski, Antoni Słonimski or Jacek Kuroń – were active. The latter – is known as a particular interpretation of art of Andrzej Wróblewski – creator of Grupa Samokształceniowa – engaged in Socialist art and socialist realist language.
Between Science and Fiction. The Subject of Space in the Slovak Art of the Sixties
One of the features of the Sixties was the effort to conquere the space and, in association to this, the international space race. The excitement and high expectations connected with the space program found its expression also in visual art of the era. The artists in Slovakia, such as Július Koller, Rudolf Sikora, Juraj Bartusz and Stano Filko were, everybody in his own way, relating to the subject of cosmos in their work. There are two opposite poles that can be described – one of them represents Sikora, with his strongly scientific approach towards the subject; the other is typical for Július Koller, who worked with the concept of the U.F.O. Koller created an alter ego called „Ufonaut J.K.“, and, hidden behind this fake identity, ironically reflected the social reality of the time. Rudolf Sikora, on the other hand, expresses his fascination by the harmonious principles of the universe and, at least in his earlier works, reveals an optimistic expectation of future inhabitation of distant spaces. Similar to this point of view, is also the work of a sculptor Juraj Bartusz, with his space gates, astronauts and utopistic plans for building new continents for happier mankind. Both artists explore the relations between human beings and the universe and see them, at least during the joyous era of the sixties, in a mutual harmony. Stano Filko has focused on a less material, and more spiritual aspect of the subject. He created a whole doctrine, combinig various principles taken from Western science, as well as Eastern philosophy. My presentation will be focused on description and analysis of the main tendencies, personalities and artworks connected to the subject of space in Slovak art of the „long“ sixties. The topic found its manifestation particularly within the context of conceptual and project art.
Landscapes of modernity
STANISLAW WELBEL and JOANNA KORDJAK
From the design of packaging, record covers, magazines and posters, through calculators and cars, to projects for shop display areas, stations, concert halls or shopping pavilions, the exhibition will show a more holistic image of the 1960s in the People’s Republic of Poland than that known hitherto. It will enable an investigation of how in communist Poland in the times of the global politics of the Cold War was formed the idea of modernism, and modernity in art, architecture and pop culture. A background demonstrating the emergence of the aforementioned phenomenon in the context of the countries to the eastern side of the iron curtain will also be sketched.
The modern, consumption-oriented model of life in the People’s Republic of Poland created for the requirements of western viewers on the covers of the monthlies “Poland” or “The World” will be portrayed as one of the elements of communist propaganda. Good examples of this are the innovative architectural and exhibition solutions realized at international fairs starting in 1958 that presented technological progress or the urban projects realized by Polish architects in the Near East. These types of realization created in this time an attractive image of modern socialism that constituted an important element in cold war games.
An important context for showing experimental projects and realisations in such fields as architecture, city planning, design, art and music is the widespread fascination of those times with scientific discoveries, technical progress and the possibilities emerging from the use of new materials and new technologies. The exploration of space, or discoveries in the fields of chemistry, micro-biology and nuclear physics became integral elements in the “landscapes of modernity.” The social and political significance of science in this time was paramount – during the Cold War, science constituted a battle-field that did not cause casualties.
At the exhibition are presented examples of innovative approaches to design (from unusually interesting theoretical foundations to realizations, sometimes on an industrial scale), such as the activities of the Artistic-Research Teams at the Warsaw Academy of the Fine Arts and the department of the Design of Industrial Forms at the Cracow Academy of the Fine Arts called into being in 1958.
The rich review of projects realized in the orbits of architecture and applied arts is complimented by works of art inspired by advanced fields of science and technology, using electro-acoustic music, experiences from the field of the perception of movement (kinetic art) or making use of synthetic materials. We would like to look from a distance primarily at the general mechanisms and common themes, and at the sets of references in which art was created. At the changes of its sense and its connections with, and transformative mutual impact on, not just such disciplines as music, architecture and design, but also the pure sciences of chemistry, physics and mathematics.
A case study of a tomb motif by IlonaKeserü and its background
In 1971, in response to the call of László Beke for artists to respond with an artistic work for “Imagination/Idea” (Imagination/Idea– the work of art is a documentation of an idea), Ilona Keserü gave the following laconic answer, ”I am not conducting an activity that the call describes. For me, a work of art is one and the same thing with how it is realised.”
Keserü answered the question of an art historian who was fostering the local reception and articulation of Conceptual Art peculiar to Eastern European as someone who already owned a mature, well-earned painterly language. She was and still is devotedly interested in condensing emotional and sensual experiences into firm forms, signs or visual gestures. This exploration of the depth of human personality dominated her work in the Sixties, from 1958 when she dismissed figurativity until her first large-scale sculptural work in 1971.
The journey from the ingrained skills of representation through the very material of painting, attempting to express the inexpressible, to the elaboration of the abstract language of visual thinking is traceable through the images themselves.
Scratch and gesture drawings mediated a self-reflective search to the depths of personality, leading the artist in 1967 to the dominant tomb motive, which can be identified as the artist’s signature or even ”pure painting” itself.
The presentation undertakes to recover phases of this somehow frozen way of shaping forms, colours, motifs and surfaces as a peculiar phenomenon of the Sixties, long forgotten in contemporary visual thinking.
„National roots” in the art of the Sixties in Central-Eastern Europe
In the Sixties, accelerated social and technological modernization brought up questions of the relationship and possible points of connection between the avant-garde and the traditional, and between modern art and traditional folklore. This problem was typically important for intellectuals and artists coming from the countryside, as well as, in a broader sense, for a larger group of artists who were concerned with national traditions. Typical issues and artists who represent them in Hungary include: 1. merging folklore and avant-garde modernism (János Orosz, Mihály Schéner, István Ilyés, Juhász L. Nagy, Kósa); 2. transcendental-spiritualism (Halmy, Porkoláb), 3. „national/peasant realism” (Hódmezővásárhely). I would also like to express views on other countries, such as Slovakia (Galanda group, Laluha, Rudavsky, Mlynárčik, etc.), Poland (Hasior, artists in Zakopane), and Romania (Ţuculescu, Bernea, etc.).
Miklós Erdély: A Hunger for Montage /1966/
Miklós Erdély, one of the most important Hungarian artists after World War 2 did not only produced experimental film, but wrote an important essay about montage already in the mid 60s. With my presentation, I aim to discuss this essay’s ramifications to contemporary (Western) ideas on film and filmic language (a semiotics of film?) and also Erdély’s theoretical stance in the face of his later films.
Early approaches to media in the art of the 1960s in Hungary
Marshall McLuhan’s The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media were published in 1962 and 1964 respectively. However, new media were used by Hungarian avant-garde artists as a new art genre or technique only in the second half of the 1970s. McLuhan lists approximately thirty types of media (telegraph, telex, television, radio, spoken language, money, postcard, slide, playing cards and other games, typography, and visual or concrete poetry, comic strips, poster, sport, traffic vehicles, weapons, etc.). I present and compare avant la lettre, early media-works, spiritist sceances and happenings or „indigo (carbon paper) drawings” by Miklós Erdély, the animation film Pencil and Eraser (1961) by Gyula Macskássy, actions for telephone and radio by Gábor Altorjay, creative uses of the type-writer by Gyula Pauer, books assembled from magazine cut-outs by István Erdély, etc.