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Ephemeral Art in Visegrad Countries - Practice and Theoretical Reflection

£ukasz Guzek
The art gallery movement in Poland. A historical outline. From the sixties, through the conceptual galleries of the seventies, until their consequences in the eighties and the nineties.

The gallery movement was in fact an art institution in Poland. The movement created its own art world based on the principles of self-organisation and self-study. People who participated in it were artists, art professionals and art lovers, altogether so called "conducive people". Around each of such institutions its circles emerged - communities that co-operated with each other within the town, the country or internationally. This is how the network of personal ties as well as artistic influences appeared. A formal-artistic feature of the movement was the great number of various action art forms or, more broadly - art based on the present-ness. The history of the movement embraces half a century of contemporary Polish art. It starts just after Stalinist times. In 1956 in Krakow there emerged the Krzysztofory Gallery founded by the Grupa Krakowska [Krakow Group] Association, that directly continued the tradition of the pre-war avant-garde. The development of the movement in the seventies was especially dynamic, forming a conceptual art decade during when the conceptual galleries movement emerged. The expansion of the definition of art by the conceptual art movement allowedfor the making of a gallery to be as significant as making art. That period was ended by the imposition of martial law on December 13th, 1981. In those extremely unfavourable conditions the gallery movement and art communities showed their strength. After the total elimination of art in the public sphere, the world of art revived quickly and relocated into the private sphere - private studios and apartments. The art community in £ód¼, where the tradition of self-organisation was especially strong, was able to organise the movement throughout the whole country. It was later called the "Pitch-in Culture". After 1989 and the fall of communism, first in Poland and then in the whole of Eastern Europe, the new social and political conditions caused changes in the way the art world began to be organised.

Katalin Balįzs
Ephemeral art and Counterculture. An Example of Selected Cases from the History of Art Institutions in Hungary

Through a number of case studies, this paper attempts to provide an overview of the conditions imposed by the cultural policy plus highlight the actual state and operation of the society with regard to Artist Run Initatives which were engaged with an ephemeral "approach" during the previous four decades of Hungarian culture. While trying to include some sociological facts, the text, mainly based on the responses of interviewed artists and some fundamental publications, attempts to shed light on the problem of connections between the concept of underground, avantgarde, progressive, official, mainstream and popular culture.

The paper delineates the conditions in which the initiatives were formed, their history, pre-history and afterlife of some, subjectively chosen initiatives and groups. It attempts to provide an overview of the Artist Run Initiatives with mind to other fields of Arts.

Tomįs Pospiszyl
Artist Run Initiatives (ARI) - the General Features and the Analysis of Selected Historical Examples in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic

The essay questions the position of artist run initiatives in the countries of the former Soviet Bloc, particularly in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic, during the communist regime and compares them to similar institutions working today. The general thesis is that the self-organised activities of artists under a totalitarian state or in the times of economical crisis lead to similar strategies. Therefore the history of unofficial art in the former Soviet Bloc cannot be understood as shaped exclusively by the conditions of the communist state. In general terms it is similar to the artist run initiatives or theoretical models elsewhere, for example the Temporary Autonomous Zones by Hakim Bey or different independent art institutions in Western Europe or USA.

Artist run initiatives are often physically attached to certain places which influences their mission and their activities. The alternative to the official institutional system creates parallel community, formed by different art groups, galleries or by a whole community that shares similar interests, vocabulary and values. Sometimes - and especially in Eastern Europe - creating a social network is more important that art production or the establishment of theoretical framework. Art is often a mere pretext for a desired social activity that cannot be fulfilled in another way. The traditional values of art criticism are not sufficient here. The works clearly have not only an aesthetic value, but also an ethical one.

Jozef Cseres
The Attraction of Hesitating Between the Virtual and the Possible

In his paper "The Attraction of Hesitating Between the Virtual and the Possible" Jozef Cseres reflects upon four different ephemeral art strategies in Slovak intermedia art - the social happening of Stano Filko (b. 1934), the visual and action music of Milan Adamčiak (b. 1946), the simulated art museum of Michal Murin (b. 1963), and the extreme performances of József R. Juhįsz (b. 1963). Dealing with these fragile manifestations of conceptual and performance art, he finds interesting affinities between the extreme social positions of the actual art and the poststructuralist discourse of humanities, mainly reflected by a process of interpretations of the world coined by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. This kind of art is ephemeral and fragile not only in terms of its forms but also in terms of communication and presentation. That's why it often requires and uses specific institutional frameworks, ways and means. Often it is difficult or even impossible to integrate this kind of art into the conventional cultural running of establishments. Moreover, the ephemeral art forms played and still play an important role in political life due to their ability to reflect actual social issues in an unbiased way, using inventive persuasive means that attract people frustrated by corrupted politics and sordid mass media games. Ephemeral art is open-minded and resists the current art world consolidated and corrupted by technocratic and trendy curators and their commissioned "art" commodities. Whether this resistance will survive a global crisis of representation is of course questionable, but hope in the ability of art to transform itself to new kind of sensibility, corresponding with our postmodern condition, still lives.


Adam Sobota
The Pitch-In Spectrum

An artistic phenomenon called the "Pitch-In Culture" distinguished the £ód¼ artistic scene, although it actually reflected the situation in the whole country during the eighties and that is the reason why it attracted artists from different towns and various generations. The most radical arts programme emerged across the entire spectrum of independent artistic activities in Poland after martial law and it was different from art directly connected with political opposition or religious motives. I observed some "Pitch-In culture" actions in £ód¼, however I prefer to talk about the way the phenomenon was situated in the broader context of the situation for the arts communities in Poland. Since the mid fifties the art circuit had become stronger and stronger, becoming an alternative to official culture. The totalitarian system was conducive to bureaucratic stagnation, so young artists, who were interested in new media and a non-conventional means of expression, created their own network of artistic groups, galleries and events, most often associated with so called "student culture". In the seventies these artistic communities was numerous and multi-generational. Their basic need was self-education and generating a network of private contacts in the country and abroad as well as mutual support within art groups and collective shows. The situation after martial law strongly underlined the need to continue to communicate, deepen the knowledge and keep contact with the essence of modern art. The fight for an artistic awareness ran parallel to the fight for political freedom and historical truth. It was not about randomly adding whatever, but moreover about adding something that was considered valuable to the culture that was practiced at the time. For me, as an art historian it was important to broaden the knowledge and preserve the facts about modern art history. Independently of my work in the museum, I participated in a team directed by Professor Aleksander Wojciechowski, who worked on the history of the neo-avant-garde in Lower Silesia. Jerzy Busza also appointed me a member of the editorial board of the Obscura bulletin (1982-1990), in which we published important texts that had not been published before in Poland and which explained the sense of modernist and post-modernist ideas. The monthly edition was published as the Federation of Amateur Photography Associations allowed us to publish it as their bulletin. This may all be described as progressive activities in the face of the lack of institutional support at the time for various forms of culture.

Grzegorz Dziamski
The Pitch-In Culture thirty years later

The "Pitch-In Culture" began functioning at the end of 1981 within a circle of people connected with the £ód¼ Kaliska group, but very soon its strongest presence was reflected by the Artist pilgrimage, Long live art! (£ód¼ 2-4.09.1983). This was when two meanings of the term "Pitch-In Culture" emerged: a narrow one, meaning people connected with the £ód¼ Kaliska group and those whose concept of art was closely associated with the group and broader intrepretation – meaning the way the artists acted who wanted to keep their independence during the martial law. Józef Robakowski on the occasion of an exhibition organised in Belgium entitled The Polish avant-garde wrote that the Pitch-In Culture was "independent of politicians, police, church, administration and artists themselves", it expresses in gestures and slogans, "that is why it may be everywhere, in our homes, streets, forest, bar, park, tram, queue at the butchers shop and even on the train from £ód¼ to Koszalin and back". Martial law forced artists to search for new forms for their activities, but this did not blur the previous personal and artistic differences. For Józef Robakowski the Pitch-In Culture was a new form for the activities of independent artists; for £ód¼ Kaliska it was a new artistic form. In the first case the "Pitch-In Culture" was only a means; in the second - it was an aim. Of course, the second is more interesting but it requires us to answer a question: what was the art form about? Some critics thought of Jacek Kryszkowski as one of the Pitch-In Culture leaders, although he considered that the Pitch-In Culture was supposed to break with the production model of art. Kryszkowski never explained how this post-production art shall look. Today, even though Kryszkowski would not have been happy about this, since many times he attacked the dependence of Polish criticism upon art terminology and theories worked out in the West, we could say that post-production art actually resembles the relational aesthetics of Nicolas Bourriaud.

Wojciech Ciesielski
Art on the Train from £ód¼ to Koszalin and Back

The term "Pitch-In Culture" first showed up in £ód¼, in the middle of 1984, during an artistic-social meeting. The text describes the problems and controversies associated with research on this phenomenon. Problematic issues refer to both the scope and the time frame within which it acted, and the list of the participants. The author states, that maybe with time it grew so much that it started to function independently of its primary source. He pays attention to achievements that apparently existed on the margin of Polish art, but when considered with regard to the perspective of the Pitch-In Culture, they can show the whole phenomenon in a new light. The text describes a few selected events, that took place in Koszalin or were undertaken as initiatives of artists from Koszalin in the eighties. The author points to a few important elements that in his opinion are characteristic of activities within the Pitch-In Culture. He points to the modernist intellectual heritage and the post-modern approach to problems within the art of that period. Following Janusz Zagrodzki, the author of the term "Private Art", the author focuses the functioning of the Pitch-In Culture within the private and unofficial sphere and following Józef Robakowski he focuses on keeping an individual and independent attitude as an element that is essential for making art.

The author further states, that in the way Pitch-In Culture or "Private Art" functioned, there are four important elements: the personal relationships and contacts of the participants, the spaces - enclaves that allowed for the organisation of events and confront attitudes, activating and annexing the activities of people from outside of so-called art community, as well as self-publishing.

According to the author, probably the greatest manifestation of the Pitch-In Culture and "Private Art" was the Artist Pilgrimage organised in September 1983 in £ód¼. As part of the Pilgrimage there were exhibitions, concerts, film screenings, actions, performances and theoretical appearances that were presented on an equal basis and always ended with long discussions.

The Christmas call event entitled NO SLOGAN [BEZ HAS£A] organised in Koszalin between the 10th and 12th of February 1984 was an event in return for inviting the artists from Koszalin to the Pilgrimage that happened a year earlier. The organisers were the people who participated in the event in £ód¼: Ewa Kowalska, Graæyna Bogusz Wolska, Andrzej Ciesielski and Stanis³aw Wolski. They invited 85 artists from the whole country, plus there also came many artists who were not formally invited but associated with the Pitch-In Culture movement.

The next initiative by artists from Koszalin was a cyclical event, organised between 1982 and 1988every year in mid-December, AFTER A YEAR organised by Andrzej Ciesielski and Andrzej S³owik. Artists from the whole of Poland presented their current art practice.

For the Koszalin community open-air workshops were an important activity, that were in fact connected with the tradition of the Osieki workshops organised since 1963 and ended after the imposition of martial law in 1981. The situation was changed by a series of workshops organised under a name "We invite you to work" between 1987-1989 in Karlino and in 1990 in Dar³owo. The initiators and first artistic curators were Andrzej S³owik and Maria Idziak who in 1989 entrusted the function to Wojciech Zamiara and in 1990 to Andrzej Ciesielski. Also important for the functioning of the Koszalin community within the Poland-wide circuit was the Presbitery (Na Plebanii) Gallery run by an artist Andrzej Ciesielski and between 1986 and 1990 there were 35 meetings organised in it.

As the author states, the Pitch-In Culture was born out of the need for a totally different way of presenting one's own artistic practice, the exchange of information and joint action. Without friendship, knowing one another, a willingness to work and even without some personal antagonisms, the whole movement would not have had a chance to spread so broadly around the country and accept so many versatile artists as for example as it happened in Koszalin.

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