By Arnisa Zeqo
I. It started with a night train ride. There were two beds in each tiny room. There was just one bottle of vodka and a school trip atmosphere. It was about to erupt in each’s veins. One glass drunk by everyone on the way from Cracow to Bratislava. A cheer together. The hallway filled with laughter and discussions. One or two people falling asleep or trying to. Then the trees outside got covered by thick thick fog. The moon round and yellow still on the top of the sky as if there had only and always been full moon light. But there had been silence there had been darkness. The image of black milk for a moment and no morning no night no daybreak. Black milk on our train rails. And where are you Margarete and where are you Shulamith? There was silence. Someone took a picture perhaps someone recalled a story or two. There was silence but it had been all around us for while. It had been around in most of our trip and it only took hold of the flesh now. Time passes the landscape changes. The vodka bottle was still not empty so inside a couchette it got consumed.
II. What follows is a series of chronological moments and reflections on artworks and other details we could see on a wall or in books and portfolios for two days in Bratislava. Most of the text was written in another train ride from Bratislava to Budapest based on notes I was taking.
Petra Feriancova and Julius Koller 1969 (title missing)
Wednesday 23 October around 12.15
AMT project gallery
First image of the day. Petra Feriancova and her partner and collaborator Julius Koller captured their shadows on the entrance of the building. They are in love love love. The year is 1969 and they have decided to be a bit silly in front of the conceptual mat and its word play on their names and the power of the world. This image is surrounded by more photos of Feriancova and Koller’s silly gestures and their studio archive. Now in the gallery space (which is in fact an apartment) the photographs are unframed and attached by needles on the wall.
Vladimir Havlik From the series Public Identity (1977-1988) as reproduced in the publication Vladimir Havlik: actions and intervention 1978 -1988 Sputnik Editions 2012
Wednesday 23 October around 12.45
AMT project (Y) gallery
There are more silly naïve gestures in the adjacent storage room of the gallery/apartment. And I like it. Opening up piled frames on the ground I see this framed dyptich. Matteo Torri (the gallerist) says it is from the Czecholovakian artist Vladimir Havlik who was performing the everyday between the late 70s and 80s. The artists is lying in the grass covered by the grass using the grass like a blanket folding the grass. In its absence the earth awaits for a while. Might he be sleeping like some kind of Holderlin character? I have to think of his lines: ‘But I must still go away and learn. I am an artist and I am unskilled. I fashion in thought but I do not yet know how to direct my hand.’
We sit in the basement a long table all for us. The Dutch Ambassador is sitting in the middle wearing a pink shirt and blue tie. He informs us about the `next co presidency of the European Union which will be held by both Slovakia and the Netherlands. An intense discussion about facebook and twitter follows. The photograph of Vladimir Havlik keeps coming back to my mind. I would have loved to take it with me but for sure I could not afford it now. Perhaps for an exhibition in the future.
Detail from the wall of the old building of the National Gallery Bratislava.
Wednesday 23 October around 16.30
Slovak National Gallery
This geometrical fragment delicate and concise is not often seen by many human eyes. It stands in the large part of the museum awaiting restauration. Empty hallways locked doors and high glass ceilings build in the 60s. Some water dropping. Lucia Gregorova the chief curator cannot find all the keys to open all the doors and the boys try their voices in the echo of the space. A meter away from this fragment stands a wall text from an old exhibition about Baroque Art in Slovakia. A precise tearing a piece missing from the square of the geometry acquires some kind of historical meaning.
Of course there is also a functioning part of the gallery. San Sebastian stands with his arrows on his left hand. The right hand touching his chest his heart. His eyes humbly accept his fate. There are no arrows piercing his armpits and the flesh is still desiring and enduring. There is talk about the museum history and the exhibition of another male conceptual artist Lubomir Durcek we just missed. It closed two weeks ago. I know its weird but I look at san Sebastian and I keep thinking of this strange line: Should I drink Coca Cola and make it? Should I drink Coca Cola and make it?
I got lost from the group after a meeting and presentations we had with curator Juraj Carny and his team in the space of the future Kunsthalle. In a large room with blue carpets dark brown tables and two flags (Slovakia and Europe) Juraj Carny passionately and quietly spoke about the future of the Slovak Kunsthalle and his dreams of possible exhibitions and public programs. Juraj is friendly and gave us a drink. I got lost afterwards. Everyone was walking to Open Gallery. I ended up on the second floor of the building where a Biennale of illustration was taking place. This particular one caught my attention. There were many visitors around it.
A man cleaning the mammoth naked surrounded by bones and vitrines his body looks small. How will he reach the top? What kind of nature is he looking for? What kind of nature is he touching? I was there only for a split second.
Day 2 in Bratislava
Lucia Nimcova 2013 from the current exhibition Blind Spots
Thursday 24 October around 9.45
The image of this boy with his tongue out is actually quite small. The art historian and gallery manager Gabriela Kisova says that most of the works shown here deal with the theme of animals and the human relationship to nature. Nimkova also made a beautiful conceptual book for children. I want to continue writing about it but the train to Budapest suddenly stopped and I want to look a bit around. Blue trains red stripes wooden houses and the voices of the Talking Heads singing This must be the place on my ear. I love this trip.
Lucia Nimcova 2013 from the current exhibition Blind Spots
Thursday 24 October around 10.00, Krokus Gallery
Clumsiness is not only human but it can be applied to objects. Clumsiness is a relation. One cannot be clumsy with oneself. Geometrical Clumsiness is in a dialectical relationship with political transformations. Clumsiness makes geometry worth studying. I would like to meet Lucia Nimkova again.
Svatoplukk Mikyita collects old books. He lives in Banska Stanica. Together with his partner Zuzana Bodnarova they run a residency in an old train station. They also sell train tickets at the counter although there are not many travelers Zuzana says. In the winter they mainly concentrate on their work. So it is perhaps surrounded by snow that Svatopluk drew over the images of these young man in white wife beaters. The pencil work is pointy and done with extreme precision just enough to make 21st gangers of the boys from before the War.
Peter Puklus from the publication Handbook to the Stars Stokovec 2012
In the basement of Krokus Gallery as Zusana Bodnarova was talking about the artist residency at Banska Stanica.
Thursday 24 October around 11.30
(a short story by Joseph Roth)
Detail of the Portfolio cover of Jan Lipdiz (?)
Photoport Gallery and specifically the second room on the left where there is a table with portfolios of local artists.
Thursday 24 October around 18:00
The evening descends into a spacious garden adjacent to an apartment block. Next to it the gallery space and the bar. Tonight Alexandra is the bar tender. She has a Pulp Fiction air around her. Filip who initiated the space is making goulash for us. He reminded many of us of Gabriel Lester. More than a gallery Photoport functions like a parallel academy where artists meet discuss their work with Fillip and make zines. A beer andsome talk on the meaning of art or the courage of being an artist fill the garden and the bar. In less than 10 hours we will be in the train again. So why not stay a bit longer? So some of us have another drink and question the night again.