In Eastern Europe, there is a long tradition of sensitivity to the power, fragility and vulnerability of language. In the second half of the twentieth century, Eastern European poets and artists addressed the phenomenon of language being appropriated for purposes of mass communication, politics and ideology. Their interest was primarily directed at the artificiality, materiality and mediatization of language through performative art forms with the potential for examining possibilities of language and verbal expressions.
The international exhibition series Poetry and Performance – The Eastern European Perspective
started in 2017. It gives space to a distinctive range of artistic approaches that confront authoritarian systems, presenting art works from a historical perspective but also exploring how the potential inherent in the relationship of poetry and performance has repeatedly taken on significance in countries going through social and political crises, particularly, here, in the region. The exhibition presents photographs, text scores, interactive objects, audio and video recordings, films and performance documents of unique but interrelated works from countries of the region. It illuminates the context of work by artists from the subcultures of former socialist states and highlights some of the contemporary positions that seek ways of escaping from the vice of controlled language and normative communication patterns.
The exhibition material was gathered in the course of research in the University of Zurich between 2017 and 2020 on Eastern European performance art. In contrast with exhibitions held in other major European cities during the series, the Kassák Museum is presenting a concentrated, compact selection of the material. Particularly highlighted in the Budapest exhibition are works by Katalin Ladik and Tamás Szenytyóby. Katalin Ladik is an internationally-acclaimed exponent of sound poetry. She held her first performance in Budapest in 1970, evoking fierce reactions from both the cultural authorities and members of the underground. The event, represented in the exhibition by documentary photographs alongside other representative examples of Ladik’s body poetry and sound poetry, was a historic moment for another reason: it was the first female performance in Hungarian art history. Tamás Szenytyóby’s visual poems from the 1960s arose from a rejection of the linguistic and visual conventions of modernist poetry and art. Parallels to Szenytyóby’s programme may be found in the international cultural-political radicalism mentioned above--. His work Beautiful Darkness – Audio-Tactile Picture Poems for the Blind
(1970) will, fifty years on, be seen and heard in the exhibition. Ladik’s and Szenytyóby’s linguistic sensitivity and critique of traditional forms of linguistic expression came together in a joint happening at the end of the sixties. This is taken up by the exhibition as a poetic point of reference in the interrelationship of poetry and actionism.
Exhibiting artists: Gábor Altorjay (HU); Henri Chopin (F); Collective Actions Group (Kollektyivnije gyejsztvija) (RU); Attila Csernik (SRB); Tomislav Gotovac (HR); Bohumila Grögerová (CZ); Josef Hiršal (CZ); Katalin Ladik (SRB–HU); Vlado Martek (HR); Kirill Medvegyev (RU); Jan Měřička (CZ); Andrej Monasztirszkij (RU); Monogramista T.D Dezider Tóth (SK–CZ); Ladislav Novák (CZ); Pavel Novotný (CZ); Organge Alternative/Pomarańczowa Alternatywa (PL); Ewa Partum (PL); Imre Póth (SRB); Dmitrij Prigov (RU); Pussy Riot (RU); Lev Rubinstein (RU); Gerhard Rühm (A/D); Mladen Stilinović (HR); Gabriele Stötzer (D); Tamás Szenytyóby (HU); Bálint Szombathy (HU); Raša Todosijević (SRB); Jaromír Typlt (CZ); Jiří Valoch (CZ); Young Girl Reading Group (Dorota Gawęda, Eglė Kulbokaitė (PL–LV)
Exhibition curators: Tomáš Glanc, Sabine Hänsgen, Emese Kürti
Projektleader: Edit Sasvári
Projektassistant: Zsófia Márton
Installation: RCNKSK architekti: Filip Kosek, Jan Říčný, Petr Müller, Erika Trang Nguyen Thu
Graphic design: Endre Koronczi
Lending institutions and individuals: acb Gallery, Budapest; ex.oriente.lux Berlin; Forschungsstelle Osteuropa an der Universität Bremen; Irokéz Collection, Szombathely; Kontakt. The Art Collection of Erste Group and ERSTE Foundation, Vienna; Marinko Sudac Collection, Zagreb; Művészetek Háza Veszprém; Museum of Fine Arts – Artpool Art Research Center, Budapest; Szűcs Collection Budapest; Tomislav Gotovac Institute, Zagreb; Fiip Kosek, Pavel Novotný, Darko Šimičić, Branka Stipančić, Bálint Szombathy
Special thanks to Pavel Hlubuček, Markéta Kroupová, Regional Gallery, Liberec; Gábor Pados, Ferenc Szűcs
The exhibition is a collaborative project between the Slavic Department of the University of Zurich and the Liberec Regional Gallery, supported by the European Research Council.