“Without Borders”, Austrian Cultural Forum, Bratislava, Slovakia, March 5, 2009 – April 24, 2009.

Without Borders, Austrian Cultural Forum, Bratislava, Slovakia. March 5, 2009 – April 24, 2009

In 1989 the Iron Curtain fell. That same year, the organization “Kultur Kontakt Austria” was founded. In that period of drastic social and political changes when new democracies were formed in Europe, Kultur Kontakt Austria figured as a coordination hub that supported artists and cultural institutions from former Eastern and South-Eastern Europe (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Serbia, Romania, Poland, Croatia), creating a platform for cultural exchange. Even after twenty years, KKA is still true to its mission and systematically supports the arts in these countries.

The exhibition Without Borders at the Austrian Cultural Forum in Bratislava was one of seven exhibitions organized to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the foundation of KKA and its artist-in-residence program. Between 1993 and 2005, Vienna welcomed ten Slovak artists; six of them – Marko Blažo, Anna Daunlikova, Otis Laubert, Lucia Nimcová, Dorota Sadovská, Dušan Zahoranský – participated in the exhibition.

The only common link between these artists was their participation in the KKA-sponsored artist-in-residence program and the fact all of them already have an established presence on the international art scene. The artists who participated in the exhibition belong to different generations, work in different media, use a variety of different strategies and approaches, and address different issues. Taken together, these artists provided a vivid example of the current Slovak art scene.

The exhibition was divided into two rooms, the first one featuring works by Dorota Sadovská, Marko Blažo and Otis Laubert. Dorota Sadovská`s diverse work – video, installation, photography, and painting – deals with the body but not in a traditional sense. Sadovská is not interested in the traditional depiction of the nude but in the body as a spiritual image. In the works presented at the exhibition the artist presented paintings and a video depicting close-ups of bodily fragmets captured in unnatural perspectives that occasionally seemed to involve animals rather than humans.

Otis Laubert is among the founders of Conceptual Art in the former Czechoslovakia. The beginnings of his work stretch back to the period of “alternative art” that was exhibited only in unofficial spaces and outside of the official context of Social Realism. Laubert’s s work is characterized by the combination, manipulation and transformation of found objects. At this exhibition he presented “carpets” on whosepatterns he comments using a variety of different materials, from cookies to nails. Though still young, Marko Blažo is among the established Slovak artists, creating his own language of pictograms and signs that he combines into ironic and often absurd compositions.

The second room contained works by Dušan Záhoranský, Lucia Nimcová, and Anna Daunlikova. All three work predominantly in the medium of video. Dušan Záhoranský systematically blurs the borders between different media. His major preoccupation is the relationship between time and space. There were two of his works in the exhibition, an installation entitled Goool! and a two-channel video entitled Die Tasche (The Bag) that deals, often in a rather humorous way, with the issue of immigrants and their effort to learn a new language and to settle in their new country.

Dusan Záhoranský, 'Goool!', installation, 2008. Image courtesy of the author.Dusan Záhoranský, installation view from the exhibition 'Without Borders', 2008, Austrian Cultural Forum, Bratislava/Slovakia. Image courtesy of the author.

Multi-media artist Lucia Nimcová assembles complex documents about the inner lives of people in her native Slovakia and in neighbouring countries. Her complex body of work portrays people within a shifting cultural landscape, particularly women from Eastern and Central Europe. Anna Daunlikova`s work touches on sexuality, desire, and the problems of social minorities.

Without Borders was a brief excursion into contemporary Slovak art, a colorful cocktail of a variety of artistic approaches and strategies. Though hardly an exhausting presentation of contemporary art in Slovakia, the show did do a good job of presenting to the non-initiated some of its most relevant practitioners.