Breakthrough what?
There is a certain conviction that in the post socialist condition of Eastern Europe artists were more inclined toward the globalized cultural artefacts than to the politically critical and engaged art. But the fact is that this inclination and adaptation is more complex. The new situation demanded deep rethinking of artistic strategies and positions within the newly raised geopolitical situation. Contemporary art of Eastern Europe has been perceived as the “contemporary art for parents”, if we paraphrase the title of Vesna Bukovec project presented at this exhibition. There was always an unbridgeable time and institutional gap at work and it was never admitted that there could be parallels existing outside the known organization of the present. The most important outcome is the acknowledgment that the art production is firmly connected to the institutionalisation and commercialisation, and has succumbed to the similar bureaucratic laws and participatory problems that exist everywhere. The experimental and resistance strategies are becoming part of the institutionalisation and it seems there even is a narrower territory for artists as an alternative knowledge producer and for art as a radical agency.

The ambivalent position of the art field today could shortly be described as how to act and at the same time not to become a part of the contemporary elite which lives perfectly in the connected world but does not become a flow itself. These issues were at stake when Slovenia gained its independence (1991) and began the process of accession to the European Union. At around the same time (1993), the collective Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK), which existed from the early eighties and influenced the transitional cultural climate enormously, transformed itself into the NSK State-in-Time. This transformation reveals how the process of loosening up the conventional notions of borders (being geopolitical, economical, cultural or symbolic), which seems to be advocated in the inclusion and exclusion discourse of the European Union as well, exists only on the surface. The wish of transcending the borders and nationalities therefore still is an utopia of activists and artists. The NSK State-In-Time embodies a new geopolitical condition where borders are understood as permeable, history as fiction, location as intermediary, and citizenship as one of a permanent migration.

The younger generation of Slovenian artists takes into consideration the problem of mobility and connections acting on the surface, which goes hand in hand with the mechanisms of institutionalisations and exclusion, of emotional interventions in the other, who is always as the most desired one pushed even more into the outside. In the nineties many artists reflected critically on the socio-technological practises (Marko Peljhan, Igor Štromajer, Vuk Ćosić), on the paradoxes of the art system and its politics (Žiga Kariž, Davide Grassi, Tobias Putrih, son:DA), and on the construction and fictionalisation of the Eastern European art history (Irwin). The youngest artists continue exploring the transgressions of the borders, be it between artistic practices and other disciplines (science, new technologies, social work – Polona Tratnik, Sašo Sedlaček, Uršula Berlot, Polonca Lovšin), or between new media and merging of private and public spheres (Grega T. V. Sambolec, Vesna Bukovec, Luka Prinčič). However, the awareness about how the visibility and invisibility of certain artistic practices is produced and how the “breakthrough” is economically and politically defined and linked to the centres of power, is also very important, but still lacks reflection.

What do we breakthrough? To the centre? Into the visibility? And what is even more important: where do we break through from? And if we are breaking through, how to deal with that what we are leaving behind?

Bojana Kunst, Nataša Petrešin