Monthly Archive: July 2014

Special Issue: Art and the Environment in East-Central Europe Introduction

Art and the Environment in East-Central Europe is an editorial project born from interviews and other forms of interaction with artists and cultural producers concerned, in one way or another, with the idea and the material reality of what goes by the name of the “natural environment.” In the different pieces collected within this project, the term “environment” unfolds into a broad variety of concepts and artistic practices that do not, and should not, become homogenized. A survey rather than a deep investigation, Art and the Environment in East-Central Europe covers a wide range of art and ideas connected to … Read more

Silesian Beskids Landscape Park: A Photographic Essay by Kasia Worpus-Wrońska

The Silesian Beskids Landscape Park lies in the Beskids Mountains, a part of the Outer Western Carpathians in Southern Silesia. The park, together with adjoining lands, has been incorporated into the Eastern Carpathians International Biosphere Reserve, which overlaps the convergent borders of Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The area’s biodiversity includes meadows with a number of rare Eastern Carpathian plants, bear, wolf, red deer, lynx and over 150 species of birds. The native beech trees were logged in the nineteenth century, followed by the logging of spruce, which grew much faster and, thus, became preferred by the lumber industry. … Read more

Jana Želibská: Betrothal of Spring

An important figure in contemporary Czech and Slovak Art, Jana Želibská has been creating art since the mid-1960s. Working in printmaking, drawing, painting, assembelage, installation, video and performance, Želibská is a significant representative of action art in Central Europe. Her primary themes are the exploration of female identity, the connection of feminity to nature, and humanity’s relationship to earth, including references to ecology. In 2012, a major retrospective of Želibská’s work was held at the Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava.

While many female Central European artists working in the latter half of the twentieth century were creating self-reflective or autobiographical work, … Read more

Creating Art and Meaning through Collaboration: Interview with Nina Czegledy

In 1996, Nina Czegledy co-conceived the multiplatform Aurora Project, which has brought together a range of specialists working within the arts and sciences. Under the umbrella of the Aurora Project several exhibitions and programs have been produced, including the Aurora Feast Public Art Project and Aura/Aurora. The project partners and contributors include artists interested in addressing mythological, aesthetic and cosmological readings of the Aurora Borealis, scientific researchers measuring electromagnetic frequencies and the social and psychological effects of spectacle, and computer scientists exploring how amorphous information is represented.

Janeil Engelstad: Your collaborative project Aura/Aurora interprets and explores the natural phenomena … Read more

The Artist as Mediator: An Interview with Marjetica Potrč

Based in Ljubljana and Berlin, Marjetica Potr? deals with issues of social space and contemporary architectural practices, sustainability, and new solutions for communities. Her practice is strongly informed by her interdisciplinary collaborations in research-based, on-site projects, such as Théâtre Evolutif (Bordeaux, 2011), The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour (Stedelijk Goes West, Amsterdam, 2009), and Dry Toilet (Caracas, 2003). She translates these investigations into text-based drawings and large-scale architectural installations (“case studies”). Her work has been featured in exhibitions throughout Europe and the Americas, including the São Paulo (1996, 2006) and Venice biennials (1993, 2003, 2009). She has … Read more

ArtMill: Global Change Inspired from a Seed Planted in the Czech Countryside

In 2004, Barbara Benish founded the NGO Art Dialogue, which, among other things, supports programs and a farm at ArtMill, a renovated flourmill and granary from the 17th century located in the forested countryside bordering Šumava National Park (one of the largest remaining greenbelts in Europe). Positioned on a lake, ArtMill has become an international destination for artists, scientists, environmentalists, writers and students of all ages to study, collaborate and create. The rural property consists of living quarters, renovated studio structures, barns, outdoor workspaces and organic gardens. This text is adapted from conversations between Benish and Janeil Engelstad between 2012 … Read more

Budapest Farmer’s Hack: How to Integrate Digital Monitoring Systems in Community Gardens

Budapest Farmer’s Hack is a project developed in 2013 by Attila Nemes and Péter Eszes for OS Kantine, a media lab that focuses on open systems, open knowledge and the effort to build sustainable, community based models, while supporting other groups engaged in the same work. The trial project included the reclaiming of unused community gardens where plant needs, water, light, and nutrients were monitored by sensors that fed information into a digital network, which made the labor spent on taking care of the garden more productive. The text below is adapted from a conversation with Attila Nemes.

Through Budapest … Read more

Art as a Laboratory: Interview with Tamás Kaszás

Tamás Kaszás was born in 1976 in Dunaújváros, Hungary. He is a graduate of the Intermedia Department of the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest. Inspired by theoretical research, Kaszás’ projects are based on social questions and spiritual science. He mixes poetic images with practical “inventions,” creating large installations the artist calls “visual aid constructions.” Kaszás aspires to an economic and ecological art practice, designing easy-to-make structures from inexpensive and recycled materials using techniques readily available to anyone. The artist has exhibited his work at the 12th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul (2011); Open Space, Vienna; SMAK, Gent; Ludwig Museum, Budapest; Storm … Read more

If I Had a River: A Commentary

If I Had a River is an exploration of what it means to live a sustainable life; in this case, on a boat that Slovak artist Oto Hudec constructed with all of the necessary provisions and a functioning garden for living independently at sea.

My thinking about this project started roughly four years ago with a simple drawing of a boat hosting a garden of edible plants. The drawing felt like the best illustration of my dream of a utopian model for living. A boat is a closed space with very defined borders. As my idea was to make life … Read more

Manuals for Public Space: An Investigation and Intervention into Public Space

Since 2006, Matej Vakula has researched and documented the increased surveillance and politicization of public space throughout the globe, from Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic to Boston and New York City. Observing how public space serves the interests of the public less and less, and how spaces that were once public are now claimed and held by private and government factions, Vakula was inspired to create Manuals for Public Space (MfPS). Rooted in open-source philosophy, MfPS is a participatory multi-platform project (based in Brooklyn and Slovakia) that includes interventions, an interactive blog and website, and printed manuals that outline … Read more

Early Ecological Impulses: An Interview with Rudolf Sikora

In May 2013, I met with Rudolf Sikora in his studio and home in Bratislava, Slovakia.(Also taking part in the conversation was the Slovak artist Matej Vakula who translated and assisted with video documentation.) Our conversation, one of many we have had since we first worked together on my project “Voices From the Center” in 2009, centered on his work from the early 1970s that addressed ecological themes. Sikora was one of a handful of Czechsolovak artists who were, at this time, exploring the interconnectedness between art, ecology and inner consciousness.(Other Czechoslovak artists that were working on Read more

Politics, the Environment and Art Across a Changing Political Landscape: Interview with Maja and Reuben Fowkes

Maja and Reuben Fowkes’s essay, “Green Critique in a Red Environment: East European Art and Ecology under Socialism” can be found in ARTMargins print journal (#3.2. 2014) as part of this online/offline project. In the following interview, they reflect upon contemporary artists that are addressing environmental and sustainability concerns, as well as larger issues connected to these themes.

Janeil Engelstad: Taking a broad look at Central European artists working today in ecology and with sustainability, do you sense that there is a collective art/environmental scene? And if so, do you see this work as strengthening the larger Environmental Movement?

Maja Read more