Saturday, September 18, 2010

Greetings from the contemporary No-Man's-Land

*Note: This post is terribly late, but lack of a keyboard and "quiet time" have led to a travel backlog.  I'll do my best to play catch up in the next few days.... but right now I've got to hop the night train to Budapest. 

I'm in Krakow on week three of my Eastern European art quest and, a Polish beer and a keyboard (finally) later I'm sitting down to give you an out-of-date-update.  Surprised?  In New York it's so easy to be surrounded by contemporary art, collectives, galleries, and, as an arts consumer, it's easy to get caught up in the idea that New York really is the center of the art universe--and that there's nothing happening between Berlin and Istanbul.  But there's a whole 'nother world out there (who must be making art, right?) so several un-answered emails, unsatisfactory responses, and a cheap flight later I had decided to try and find (at least some) of it.  Armed with artist contacts and a backpack, I set off.

The dilemma: Why don't we hear much about Eastern-European Art in the international press?  Ah-hem. Communism. "Contemporary art" has been put on hold for a dew decades. You'll most likely see exhibitions of work from the 60's, 70's, 80's, and even 90's in major museums/art centers- if only because the huge backlog of art censored by the state is just being made available.  This explains in part why the art press has been so slow to feature new work from these areas; the insitutional vetting process just isn't there.  That being said, there are artists living and producing now in Eastern Europe, and if you look a little deeper, you'll find a host of independent galleries and artists engaging in really facinating work.

Prague: Contemporary art in a historic Disney World?  Yes!  Like most places, you have to head slightly outsided the city to see where artists are working; the city center does play host to several contemporary venues, but they're intermingled with schmotzy traps.  Prague has several cutting-edge collectives and contemporary art centers providing much-needed venues for art now, though they're unfortunately not on the interntational radar.  I started with Futura, a center that hosts international exchanges, local work, performance and video screenings in its space west of the city center and downriver from the tourist-ridden New Town.  Their gallery space, located inside a rennovated factory masquerading as a townhouse, was hosting the work of... *first snag* artists from New York, but their gallery sitter assured me this wasn't the norm.

Really....?  Will Prague prove to be disasterous?  Will Irene survive another night train?  Should Irene go and have another beer before continuing this retrospective?  More to come.

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