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Home and Away

‘Is art dangerous?’ was a question put to Katalin Timar during a presentation she gave about politically engaged art practices in Hungary, to which she answered, ‘I hope so’. Questions of danger and the political in art inform our six month residency, B+B at Home, at the Austrian Cultural Forum (ACF) in London from March to September 2003. Katalin Timar, curator at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art in Budapest, was one of the first guests to contribute to our enquiry into modes of translating political art practices across cultural and political borders. As hosts at the ACF we are pursuing this enquiry by continuing to invite artists and curators from Central Europe to take part in an informal programme of residencies, exhibitions, presentations, public interventions and discussions

At B+B at Home, we try to bring the complex political and social contexts of projects into their presentation. For instance, in August we will be working with György Galántai and Julia Klaniczay from Artpool, Budapest, to recreate parts of a banned exhibition, ‘Hungary can be yours / International Hungary’, that Galálantai organised in 1984. The display of ‘dangerous’ artworks will be accompanied by a series of discussions and presentations about artists’ survival tactics in communist Hungary. Describing a work by Miklós Erdély, one of the artists’ in this banned exhibition, the secret agent reporting on the exhibition talks about the ‘gravely problematic and politically offensive and destructive “works of art” in the exhibition’.

Eighteen years later, in 2002, the artists’ collective Hints Institute for Public Art, carried out a project entitled ‘Don’t Panic’ in which, dressed in bus conductor outfits they gave out survival packages to people on a bus journey from Budapest to Dunajvaros, a town south of the capital built by Stalin in 1950. The town was built as the first, socialist new town in Hungary and supplied the new steel factory with workers. Presently, as the economy shifts, the steel factory is suffering financially and workers are being made redundant. MoniKa Balint, a sociologist and member of the Hints collective, joined B+B at Home in March to present a selection of projects. Her presentation revealed the various strategies that the group adopt to work in social spaces and the legacy of public art in Hungary in relation to the activist and community art histories in the USA and UK.

In recent years, there has been a wealth of international exhibitions and symposia exploring the connection between artists and their place and politics in Central Europe. These include the exhibitions After the Wall: Art and Culture in Post Communist Europe (1999, Moderna Museet, Stockholm) and Aspects and Positions: Central European Art 1949-1999 (2000-2001, toured to the John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, UK) and the symposium East of Art: Transformations in Eastern Europe symposium (2003 at MOMA New York) which was based on the publication, Primary Documents: A Sourcebook for Eastern and Central European Art Since the 1950s. Perhaps by contrast B+B at Home tries to present the micro and site-specific development of approaches and projects from Central Europe. Through discussion and exchange larger questions of cultural translation and imperialism emerge.

In May, for example, we are joined by Slovenian artist, Tadej Pogacar of the P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. Museum of Contemporary Art, whose ongoing project CODE:RED involves research on and discussion with the parallel economies of sex workers around the globe. He has tapped into networks in Venice, New York, Graz and Linz to develop an open dialogue between artists, sex workers and the public. His anthropological approach will be tested out in London, acting as a parasite to B+B at Home in Knightsbridge, using it as a base from which to start roaming, researching, and intervening.

As an offshoot to B+B at Home, we are involved in the Prague Biennale (June 26 – August 31 2003). Taking the notion of the Art of Survival as a starting point, we will transport the methods and tactics employed by artists Ella Gibbs, Alasdair Hopwood, Sean Parfitt, Barry Sykes and Paula Roush. We are collectively setting out to present and display our ways of working to an audience in Prague. Testing metaphorical or physical limits, creating alternative economies for artists’ working lives, outsourcing and spare time management are just a few of the responses taken by the invited artists to question their positions and responsibilities for survival.

B+B at Home will also host Halt + Boring, Siggi Hofer and Helmut and Johanna Kandl at the ACF. The public programme of discussions, more information on the artists in residence and details of the Art of Survival at the Prague Biennial can be found on our website.

© Sophie Hope and Sarah Carringotn 2003. This article was published in [a-n] THE ARTSTS INFORMATION COMPANY in June 2003.


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