2017 / CEE

viennacontemporary 2017 | CEE Highlights by Walter Seidl

Curator and artist Walter Seidl writes about CEE highlights at viennacontemporary 2017.

After more than ten years, Vienna’s focus on contemporary art from Central-, Eastern and Southeastern Europe culminated in the 2017 edition of viennacontemporary, where one third of the 110 represented galleries came from CEE countries and focused on a well-balanced program that combined a focus on the neo-avant- garde practices of the 1970s with the most recent outputs in current artistic practices. The Hungarian focus on the country’s conceptual, performative and (post-) modernist inclined tendencies had to be seen as a museum-like presentation which paid tribute to a long-awaited appraisal of the country’s artistic feats. The relevance of the work of the most important female artists Dóra Maurer and Katalin Ladik has been internationally visible in recent years, for instance when Maurer`s work “Seven Rotations” from 1979 was featured as the announcement for Jens Hoffmann’s and Adriano Pedrosa’s Istanbul Biennial in 2011. Katalin Ladik’s highly acclaimed work, on the other hand, was presented at this year’s documenta in Athens and Kassel and introduced at viennacontemporary with works and a brand-new monographic publication by scholar Emese Kürti, entitled “Screaming Hole: Poetry, Sound and Action as Intermedia Practice in the Work of Katalin Ladik.” The effort taken for the focus on Hungary by curator József Mélyi with the involvement of
acb, Kisterem and Vintage galleries from Budapest was one that will hardly be topped in the years to come.

Concerning the other CEE galleries’ program, the level reached a high that has seldom been seen before. Among the many documenta artists, the Bucharest-based gallery Eastwards Prospectus managed to show the work which Moldavian artist Pavel Brăila presented at this year’s Athens edition of documenta. “The Golden Snow of the Sochi Olympics” from 2014 consisted of several jars with snow which the artist collected in Sochi in 2014 om the occasion of the Olympic Winter Games. Since the territory usually has a mild climate, the city had collected snow three years prior to the Olympic Games in order not to have a shortage during the actual event. Brăila elaborated on this practice with his artistic concept to not only keep the snow up to three years, but forever. Hence, he collected the snow and in accordance with strict conservatory regulations, brought it to Athens, not only the cradle of democracy but also of the Olympic Games. Given the fact that the art market in CEE countries has not yet been clearly regulated in terms of prices, the artist decided to sell the respective jars of snow according to the daily value of gold. Hence, he plays with money speculations and recent crisis models that make many people question the lasting value of their property.

While Rosemarie Schwarzwälder presented works by documenta star Daniel Knorr, Gandy Gallery offered works by lesser known Anna Daučíková, one of Slovakia’s foremost feminist artists since the 1980s. Her photographic work “Family Album” was shot in Moscow in 1988 and stuck out as a witty take on Russian drinking habits. Daučíková depicted glasses of different shapes and sizes to relate to
different genders and their amount of vodka consumption.

With the representation of artists of different generations from CEE countries who have participated in several biennials, documentas and the like, viennacontemporary 2017 not only proved to have a high profile in terms of works from this particular region, but also that the integration of many artists and their works into an international canon of art history has been an important process taking
place over more than ten years.

Photo: Jane Štravs

Walter Seidl, lives in Vienna. Studied cultural studies (MA) and contemporary history (PhD) at universities in Graz, Seattle (photography), Paris and New York. Seidl works as artist curator and artist. His photographic and video-based work deals with the transformation of image politics and the identity constellations inherent therein.
Seidl curated numerous exhibitions throughout Europe, North America, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Africa. His writings include various catalog essays for artist monographs, exhibition reviews, and criticism. Seidl contributes to several international art magazines, most frequently to Camera Austria, springerin and Život umjetnosti.

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