Inke Arns on Sun, 02 Aug 1998 14:10:42 +0200

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Syndicate: Nina Czegledy: Eyewitness

Dear Syndicate,

this is a text by Nina Czegledy which was written for the special issue of
the British journal Convergence (Vol. 4, No. 2, Summer 1998, "New Media
Cultures in Eastern, Central and South-Eastern Europe") which I
guest-edited, but which unfortunately could not be included in the issue. I
met Nina just yesterday; she was spending some days in Berlin on her way
back from Finland to Canada. I am posting the final version of the text
(while Nina is sitting in the plane).

We are also greedily expecting some reports about the recent CO+++ workshop.

As soon as I have finished my report on my recent experiences in Ljubljana
(look out for "Ljubljana '98: Cosmonauts, Fire Works and Hand-made
Sausages" on this list), I will start working on the second
V2_East/Syndicate reader, which will be published in Skopje in October
1998. It is a follow-up publication of the first "Deep_Europe" Syndicate
reader, which covered the activities of the network from January 1996 -
October 1997, and was published for the ostranenie 97 festival in November

The second V2_East/Syndicate reader will document Syndicate related
activities from October 1997 - September 1998. A short annoucement about
the second V2_East/Syndicate reader will soon be posted on this list. For
those who already contacted me: please be patient, things will get going
very soon.

Best wishes,

Inke Arns

----------------beginning of Nina Czegledy's text--------------------------

Eyewitness: The Art of Different Media (Lodz/Poland, 1989); Ex Oriente Lux
(Bucharest/Romania, 1993); Crossing Over CO+ (Sofia/Bulgaria, 1996)

Nina Czegledy

The eclectic character and uneven development of East European media-art
presents a dilemma for comprehensive analysis. While subjective reports
might not provide a critical overview - they offer a bird's eye view of
history-in-the-making. In the last decade numerous festivals, forums and
workshops were part of this process. Of these, I have selected personal
impressions from three remarable events in three separate countries. It is
my hope to captivate the reader with the excitement I felt as an eyewitness.

1989 - Polish Diary

May 9. Arrival to dimly lit Warsaw airport. The streets are dark. Finding
Alina's house has not been easy, but people are very friendly and somebody
points out her door.=20

May 10. Long, long queues everywhere, in front of bakeries, ice-cream
shops, newsvendors ... The food shops are empty -- skillfully arranged
towers of tin cans are displayed in the shop-windows. Yet, remarkably, one
always finds chic young women dressed in the latest fashions. In front of
the university big crowds, a Solidarity candidate is speaking.=20

May 11. Lunch with Anda Rottenberg, independent curator and art critic. She
has been successfully promoting the work of young unknowns. We discuss
feminism in Poland, video art and the famous Robakowski.

May 12. Noon-time screening of my video program at a military
establishment: a real major resplendent in uniform greets me with a bouquet
of flowers. Behind him a reception line of ladies of undetermined age. We
all go to the canteen and are served canned tomato soup with noodles and
tonic water. To Lodz by train, where at 8 pm my program is shown in the
Cultural Center.=20

May 13. After breakfast I try to find Robakowski - officially I am told at
the Center that he is unavailable today, so I phone him directly and
arrange an appointment for the evening. I visit Wojciech Bruszewski. An
early explorer of video, lately he has worked with computer generated
sound. Recently he owned a year long license on a private radio station in
Berlin, broadcasting a synthetic conversation by computer generated voices
(The Infinite Talk, 1988 - 1993). His latest pieces are =91chance=92 music
arrangements. In the mid seventies a handful of artists, among them
Wojciech Bruszewski and J=F3zef Robakowski produced the first conceptual
video works in Poland.

Meeting with J=F3zef Robakowski of Personal Cinema fame -- among other=
("Personal Cinema' gets made when everything goes wrong... Lets film
EVERYTHING, and it will turn out that we are forever filming ourselves.",
J=F3zef Robakowski 1981, from: PST!, Academia Ruchu 1989)

Robakowski lives in a large block of ancient looking flats. Barely ten
years old, the buildings are nicknamed: Manhattan. For security reasons,
Robakowski has massive steel doors. From inside there is an excellent view
(11th floor) of the entire grey block. Presently he is preparing a
multimedia event in the underground garage. A large, heavy set man, he
shows me some of his own (brilliant) tapes and a compilation of the Polish
Free Camera. According to him, video art was driven underground in the
1980s, and now is practically non-existent. He has chosen to live for many
years in industrial Lodz, - a certain symbolism is involved in living and
working here.=20

May 14. In the morning I contact Ryszard Kluszczynski, film/video art
historian. At our meeting he displays a comprehensive knowledge of the
film/video culture in Poland (and beyond.) He confirms Robakowski's view of
paucity concerning video production.

May 16. Back to Warsaw. Afternoon screening of my Canadian program. A
smaller room is the venue than originally scheduled on account of a
Solidarity meeting. Hundreds of people, real tumult on the staircase. There
is some magic in the air in the midst of this election fever.=20

May 18. Afternoon screening of my videos at the Contemporary Art Center,
Ujazdowski Castle complete with reception courtesy of the Canadian
Ambassador. Few people in the audience - everybody is off to Lodz. The
three of us, Marek the journalist, Ryszard Kluszczynski and I, decide to
travel to Lodz in Marek's car right after the screening. Arrival in the
middle of the night. We can't find accommodations. Ryszard takes me to his
family home.

May 19. Together with Ryszard, we go to The Art Of Different Media at Lochu
Manhattan (Caves of Manhattan), the first major international event
Robakowski has organized since the beginning of the 1980s. Everybody even
remotely connected to contemporary art in Poland has been talking about
this event for some time, and now they are all here to participate in the
month long multi-media activities. The goal is to present new tendencies in
alternative art by different generations.=20

In the underground asphalt jungle, posters cover the grey cement walls.
Inside the dimly lit enormous garage, huge sculptures, large canvases,
complicated installations, videos and photographs are displayed. Children
are playing hide and seek and ride their bicycles ferociously. By the
entrance a vendor=92s ancient iron-contraption spews-up hot sausages.=20

One of the most evocative exhibits is a meandering long line of black and
white photographs by Anna Bohdziewicz, depicting daily life in the 1980s.
In contrast to some quieter spots in the world, daily life in Poland
included people passing soldiers and tanks, street kids and queues, police
and barriers, as well as intimate birthday-gatherings.
In the late afternoon Izabella Gustowska presents her video installation,
which conveys a meaningful message with amazing makeshift technology.
Gustowska talks about women's preoccupation with the passing of time,
passing of youth and impending death. The installation includes colored
photographs of female figures mounted on glass. Through the use of mirrors
and TV monitors Gustowska mixes live images with pre-recorded tapes. She
uses stunning images of red sand and flowing water.

Earlier in the day I went in search of the famed Kaliska performance group.
I found them in the attic (no elevator) of an old apartment building. Their
exhibit consisted of feminist and political multimedia works. Female
underwear was drying on a clothesline as part of the show. US posters,
fragments of flags and other items were displayed amidst genuine rubbish.
Kaliska mixes elements of the Dadaist theater in their performances. Due to
their policy of direct intervention and glorification of anarchist
activities they have caused widespread controversy.

Later that day, I observe Kaliska in action. The evening performance at
Lochu Manhattan is disrupted by a Kaliska member who enlisted the aid of
local children by shrewdly distributing balloons among them. "Anarchy can
and should be applied without discrimination" is a Kaliska slogan. Needless
to say not all the performers shared Kaliska's opinion.

At the Caves of Manhattan the various events are punctuated with long
intermissions. Outside the gaping garage doors, the artists engage in
intense discussions. I talk at length to Wojciech Krukowski, the leader of
Academia Ruchu, an experimental theater company. He tells me in detail of
the Caravan project - a working theater journey from Moscow to Paris. I am
told, that Academia Ruchu performances dissect the relationship between
individuals, groups and society particularly highlighting moments of crisis
or conflict.=20

Dorota Podlaska is an active member of the unique Yach video/performance
collective. "We own collectively a super 8 film camera and for the last
five years have been using my house for our performances. Our films are
like sci-fi films. As we can't afford high technology, we use in-camera
editing. Our music is modulated pop, adapted to the atmosphere."=20

In addition to individual video installations, an international edition of
Video Art Clip is shown during the Manhattan month. The first and second
editions of Video Art Clip appeared back in martial law days. Since then,
with the co-operation of independent artists and international
organizations such as Infermental, Video Art Clip has become an actual
review of all art that can be recorded on video.

May 21. Departure for Hamburg. A long, long check-in queue. Aboard the
Lufthansa plane an orderly world. It will take me days to get used to it.

1993. November, Bucharest, Romania.
Ex Oriente Lux Festival

I arrive to deep snow and ice covered streets in Bucharest. I came to
participate in the Ex Oriente Lux Festival. The suspicious looks by airport
officials are familiar, but the festival organizers and the participating
artists are all very friendly and hospitable. The unheated cavernous
interior of Dallas Hall, formerly a contemporary art center, damaged in the
1989 revolution, serves as exhibition space for ten complex video
sculptures, and the platform presentations of the Festival.

Video art is virtually non existent in Romania. Apart from television
studios the only production facilities are at the Academy of Fine Arts and
the recently established FAB studios. To augment video education, a series
of upcoming workshops, by international artists are scheduled for December.
Ex Oriente Lux is the first ever video event in Bucharest. The Festival was
initiated by the Bucharest Soros Center for Contemporary Arts which opened
at the beginning of April 1993.

"We contemplated this festival since spring and invited proposals for video
installations," says Corrine Fery-von Arx, festival co-director. "Despite
the dearth of experience, over thirty artists sent proposals to the
festival, and in July an international jury selected twelve projects. In
August we invited two special consultants: Keiko Sei (Prague-based Japanese
media writer) and Geert Lovink (media art wizard from Holland / The World).
They discussed in detail each project with the artists and offered
technical advice. The equipment was most difficult to obtain, as there
exists no industrial sponsorship for this type of exhibition in Romania."

"The gap between everyday life here and this exhibition is practically
unmeasurable," adds Calin Dan, writer, artist and festival co-director. "We
have been up against incredible difficulties, and without Soros, and our
international consultants, it couldn't have been done." Some of the
exhibitors used video previously to record performances, however none of
them have created an installation before.=20

Kathy Rae Huffman, Suzy Meszoly and I are staying with Corrine Fery-von
Arx. She lives in a pleasant, albeit unheated villa. Before retiring to bed
at night, we gather in the elegant living room. Clad in coats, boots and
gloves we munch on cheese and sip champagne.

On a Saturday afternoon together with Kathy, I meet some of the
participants in the bright and warm offices of the Soros Foundation.
Nibbling real cookies and sipping real coffee we discuss the individual
projects and the present situation of artists in Romania. "Before the
revolution everybody was forced underground, now unity is lost. The
avant-garde is theoretically more accepted, but in reality nobody has
interest in it," comments Alexandru Patatics who trained as a ceramist in
Timisoara and presently works with computer graphics. In his video
installation, he explores connections between sound (originating from a
stretched wire) and image. "Ours is a post-revolutionary Romanian political
art and Draculaland, our installation, is a reality park, where tourists
are exposed to a discomforting reality, unlike Disneyland where you go only
for pleasure," says Jozsef Kiraly, one of the founding members of the
subREAL multimedia group, describing their contribution, a dark, noisy and
elaborately furnished enclosure at Dallas Hall. At the entrance of
Draculaland, one is confronted with advertising icons full of sexual
allusions, and then ... one enters into a violent reality. Close-up images
of barking wild dogs surround the visitor producing an incessant howl. The
installation also contains historical images of bloodthirsty Erzsebet
Bathory, and Dracula, "the first examples of media manipulation, not
speaking of Tarzan/Johnny Weissmuller of Timisoara."=20

Judit Egyed states -"When I started to work on this project, I analyzed the
medium of video and how it reflects situations. I find it is like a kitten
seeing itself. It is not direct work, it is mediated through technology."
In Urban Medium, her very evocative installation, four monitors are
arranged in stepwise fashion, displaying the close-up shots of feet
traversing up and down on a the turn of century stair-case. Dan Perjovschi
says: "Today the transmitting of information becomes shorter and shorter,
such as news clips, encapsulated items - and in this process everything
becomes a mass of grey, only when you go very close are you able to observe
any detail." - he tells me. His installation covers an entire wall with
identical, miniscule drawings of human heads. A small projector attached to
a moving wire travels across the wall, thus scanning the drawing entirely.

Ex Oriente Lux proved to be an incredible success, - for four consecutive
days hundreds of artists and students filled the unheated building from
morning to night. They came to see the exhibitions and to hear the
international presentations: Woody Vasulka, Margaret Morse, Dieter Daniels,
Eddie Berg, Mirjam Coelho, Martine Bour, Kathy Huffman and myself.=20

At the end of the festival, exhausted, we gather for coffee in the old
world of the Cafe Ambassador, where the walls are covered with red
velveteen, the furniture is gilded and the capuccino "instant". All agree
that Ex Oriente Lux was well worth the experience.

November 1996, Sofia, Bulgaria.
Crossing Over (CO+) Workshop and Mini International Festival

Shortly after my arrival, we are discussing the details of CO+ events, over
coffee and pancake with Iliyana Nedkova. This is the culmination of two
months of intense work. Everything was organized by e-mail including the
long distance selection of participants and projects. Some of the workshop
participants already arrived and this evening we all meet in the Roderick
Bar. I am staying with a wonderful family on a hill in a formerly elegant,
now a bit decrepit, building.

Sunday I take a walk in this city of incredible contrasts. Orthodox
churches, flower markets, stray dogs, pizza parlors, lively youngsters,
bearded priests, monuments and fine examples of "socialist" architecture
are all merged in this remarkable mixture of shapes, sounds and smells.=20

Monday morning: slow start. The workshop is held at the National Academy of
Film and Theatre Arts. An iron grill protects the entrance of the video
studio on the third floor. Jelio, our technical conjurer / consultant, has
a cheerful disposition and is fluent in three languages including Russian.
This is a big plus, as Bakhytzhan from Kazakhstan speaks mostly Russian and
some of the locals speak only Bulgarian. The participants have wildly
varying experience. Some never handled a camera, others like Darij from
Ljubljana, are accomplished and experienced artists. Nevertheless, access
to technology remains a major problem for Bulgarian artists. Furthermore
there are only limited opportunities for exhibiting media art. The annual
Soros exhibitions provide exceptions.=20

The Mini Festival screenings are held at the American Center. The
auditorium is packed each night. This is especially important, because, as
Marina Grzinic puts it, "this is the first time that an extensive (video)
program is shown and discussed in Bulgaria within an international
context." Accordingly for two nights, Marina shows Slovenian videos,
followed by Finnish programs, presented by Tapio M=E4kel=E4. The frisky Finn
tapes are very popular and Susanna Paasonen's feminist presentation is well
received. I show Canadian videos and a selection from the East European In
Sight program.

For me this is an occasion to meet old friends like the media artist
Luchezar Boyadjiev and make new ones such as Yara Boubnova, an art
historian and curator. She just organized in Moscow, the Bulgarian Glimpse
Show. In the introductory notes she has aptly noted "the existence of this
(Bulgarian) scene is often a surprise even for the most dedicated
researcher .... Bulgaria is still associated with tomatoes, red wine and
golden sands."

At the workshop we have several visitors. One afternoon Rassim Kristev
brings his videos. His projects are allegedly simple such as the looped
Self-portrait with a cigarette (1995, 10:00 min; usually shown looped
3:00:00 hrs) or Drug (1995, 90:00 min.) about glue-sniffing. They are
strong and original in their simplicity. He is on a body building project
now and records his transformation into a real muscle man.

It is difficult to coordinate such a diverse group. While we carry on with
developing ideas for the =91body as a landscape=92 concept, it becomes evide=
that the more experienced participants wish for something more dynamic. One
day, in the heart of the city, we notice in a shop window live mannequins
modeling synthetic furs. The idea for a street performance is initiated by
some participants. This evolves into a series of collaborative performances
entitled Terra Nova. Chairs are carried from the Academy and placed on the
sidewalk in front of the shop window. Students, passers-by, and even the
police become involved in the performances. In the following days the
chairs are carried to various sites around the city. Everything is duly

>From the Manifesto of Terra Nova: =84With a few chairs, we the participants
in the international workshop Crossing Over mark an independent territory,
which for a moment might be ours as well as yours. Yet we do not conquer
it, - it is free, free of taxes, free of rent and free of landlords."

It was in this free spirit that we worked, surfed (connections permitting)
the Net, talked, ate and danced together and at the end of the two weeks
promised to meet again for a further workshop in a few months. And so we=


This travel-logue is but a reflection of the rapid change and the
constantly evolving media art scene in East Europe. The events I describe
here, already belong to a transcendent past. Fresh currents, clearly
evident at the recent ostranenie 97 electronic media forum in Dessau,
indicated the emergence of new paradigms, new beginnings.

-------------------------end of Nina Czegledy's text----------------------

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