The group exhibition CONTEXTS’90 presents the Slovak and Polish examples of conceptual object, photos and videos created in the period between 1990s and the beginning of 2000s. The participants are: Mirosław Bałka (Pl), Marcin Berdyszak (Pl), Rafał Jakubowicz (Pl), Leszek Knaflewski (Pl), Julius Koller (Sk), Patrik Kovacovsky (Sk), Roman Ondak (Sk), Jana Zelibska (Sk). This project represents the transformation in the artistic output of the 1990s, using as an example the works of Polish and Slovak artists. The long 1990s, which lasted even after 2001, are gone forever. The echo of the 1990s can be found, among others, in the works by Rafał Jakubowicz. The exhibition also demonstrates another — completely different from the one we know now — approach to photography, video and documentation.
Boris Kršňák, independent publicist
1990S – YEARS OF REWRITING THE ART HISTORY?
The fall of the „Iron Curtain” brought not only freedom to the states in Central and Eastern Europe, but to many people also expectances about what is allowed in the open world. Artist also had these feelings. Especially those, who in a totalitarian regime had to; in order to keep their own inner freedom, give up the benefits and especially that what every artist needs: the possibility for his/her work to exhibit and to confront. In Slovakia it was notably the generation of artists, which graduated from Academy of Fine Arts and Design in 1960s and at the beginning of 1970s. In this school they experienced a sufficiently free and creative atmosphere created by skilled Czech and Slovak professors. They had actual sources of information and step by step they created a strong generation of neo-avantgarde, action and concept art. After occupation of Czechoslovakia and beginning of normalization, they all were banned from the association of visual artists and from exhibiting. After 1989 they were hoping for recognition. Not for their fight with regime, their art was not anticommunist, it was simply free, but recognition particularly for their liberal artworks even in an illiberal world. The world indeed became open for these artists. Exhibitions were organized that focused on the former „eastern block” in the 1990s, but only a few artists were included in the important ones which travelled the world. Here are some Der Riss im Raum in 1994 in Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin and in Zachęta in Warszaw and in years 1999 – 2000 Aspects – Positions in Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna and Budapest and in Fundació Miró in Barcelona. And in the one, probably the most important exhibition „Europa, Europa” in Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle in Bonn, which had the ambition to create a compendium of central European art, only Rudolf Sikora from Slovaks was included. The experience from smaller exhibitions, which mapped the art of former Central and Eastern Europe, was such that the projects were perceived more politically then as the honest efforts to process in historical-artistic way and fill in the empty spaces in European history of art.
Young artists adapted much more easily to new conditions. They started to communicate with the world, took part in residencies, travellled and the best ones even exhibited. They had help from the same generation curators and theorists, also from new forming galleries. And the older generation of artists? They did not speak foreign languages, and in their age they were not able to adapt to the new conditions. The same could be applied for the generation of art historians, which had done an eminent job in their country. The already mentioned generation of 1960s and 1970s has its own essential place in national art history, but the artists had not left any major trace in the world. And so the euphoria from open borders after the year 1989 and from the new horizons evaporated easily and the iron curtain was replaced by a different curtain, which is not hard to overcome but it stays as a symbol of two still existing Europes in one unified Europe. And paradoxically today, after more than twenty years, the young art historians „rediscover” the generation of Slovak neo-avantgarde, action and concept art. They present the artists individually or in confrontation with young artists, not only at home but abroad as well (Stano Filko, Fondazione Mora Creco, Neapol, Italy, 2014, Stano Filko and Július Koller in exhibition Report on the Construction of a Spaceship Module, New Museum, New York, USA, Peter Bartoš, Situations, Secession, Vienna, Austria 2014 – 2015…)