Through the multiform project, Voices From the Center, Janeil Engelstad interviewed Central Europeans about life during and after communism. The participants included writers, former dissidents, teachers, artists, politicians and villagers from rural areas. Interviews with artists include reflections about how their creative process changed and how their work has been influenced by different political systems. Concurrent with these interviews were conversations with young adults, who had been children when the wall came down, about their views of life in the post-communist era. While some young people relegated communism to the history books, others saw parallels between their own lives and the older generations. People from both groups talked about what freedom meant to them and had the opportunity to express their dreams, fears and hopes for themselves, their country and the world. Together these conversations begin to create a portrait of a people emerging from one political and cultural era into another. Unique versions of the project have been presented throughout Slovakia and the United States and on www.voicesfromthecenter.net. Voices From the Center contributes to the shaping of our collective, global experience. Sharing these stories through the lens of social documentary and art creates an opportunity for the audience to learn and understand in ways that otherwise might not be possible.
For the threewalls production of Voices From the Center, Engelstad is presenting her interviews and photographs in a site-specific installation. The piece will also include images and texts from interviews with people of Central European descent living in Chicago about their pursuit and perception of the American Dream. Documentation of artwork that was created in protest against the socialist regimes by artists such as Rudolf Sikora and Michel Murin will be presented with excerpts from their interviews. Photographs, by Miklós Surányi, that examine Hungarian society since the fall of the Berlin Wall will be shown alongside Ms Engelstad’s interview with him about this work. The exhibition will also feature work curated by Engelstad and produced specifically for threewalls, by emerging Central European artists and designers that address the project themes. Artists include Grafixpol, Oto Hudec, Magda Stanová, Miklós Surányi, Matej Vakula, and Tehnica Schweiz.
Janeil Engelstad is a San Francisco and Dallas based artist, curator and educator. Independently and collaboratively, she has produced exhibitions and multiform projects throughout the world. Her creative practice and community advocacy work have often dovetailed into projects that address concerns such as youth and gang violence, homelessness, peace, and ecology. Her process for this work involves embedding herself in communities, extensive research, and building coalitions between universities, government agencies, NGOs, and others. These projects often create a place for individuals and groups who do not have access to art making opportunities or a voice in the media to express their identity, experiences and points of view.
Engelstad’s work has been exhibited internationally and featured on television, radio and in publications, such as Art News, Metropolis and The New York Times. Guns + Violence, a national billboard project that she co-produced with World Studio was selected for the prestigious “ID Forty” award, an annual listing of leading innovators in design by ID: The Magazine of International Design.
In 2010 she founded Make Art With Purpose (MAP) an organization that partners with people and organizations to produce creative projects that lead to positive social and environmental change. The MAP website is an open-source, interactive virtual resource center that includes how-to plans for people around the world to replicate similar projects in their own communities.
Engelstad has taught and lectured at universities throughout North America and Europe and in 2006 she was a Fulbright Scholar at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovak Republic. She has a MFA in photography from a joint program between New York University and the International Center of Photography and BAs in English and Political Science from the University of Washington, Seattle.
Grafixpol is a graphic design studio based in Lódz, Poland. Principles Kasia Worpus-Wronska and Jan Worpus-Budziejewski begin the process of design from the place of exploring the different forms of a visual message, considering both content and structure. For Grafixpol, graphic design conveys the emotions, ideas and essence of society and culture.
Kasia has an MFA in publishing design from the Academy of Fine Arts in Lódz in 2006. She also has a degree in computer animation from the Computer Science College in Lódz. She has worked in graphic design studios in Paris and in interactive agencies in Poland. An individual approach to the design process is essential to her, which is why, rather than continuing to work for large agencies, she set up a small graphic studio in cooperation with Jan.
Jan graduated from the University of Lódz with an MA in Art History in 2005. He also studied commercial photography at the Academy of Photography in Warsaw. For Jan the most interesting part of design is the process itself. The final form, which is only one of many possible outcomes, stems from critical analysis and a careful choice of elements that convey the desired message.
Multi-media artist Oto Hudec was born in Kosice, Slovakia and presently lives and works in Porto, Portugal. His paintings, drawings and prints explore personal and social themes. Hudec also creates video and work for public spaces about immigration, refugees and the impact of globalization on the environment.
Hudec has created interventions in public space, which combine painting and performance in Portugal and Spain. He has also created public art, installations and wall pieces, in London, San Francisco, and throughout Slovakia. His piece “Drawing for Filó” was included in the Bienal Mercosul in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2009. Also in 2009, Hudec and Mariana Ribeiro, working under the name of Van Driver, produced “Home” a public intervention about sustainable living in Porto, Portugal. His public sculpture “Mississippi” is part of the outdoor sculpture collection of Nimnica Spa, in Slovakia.
Parallel to his work as an artist, Hudec has co-produced art events and exhibitions as curator, project manager and graphic designer. As a member of Yellow Road Cultural Association, he co-directed the 2008 festival AdA art in action, which featured international artists performing in public spaces in Porto, Portugal and Valencia, Spain. Oto received his MFA degree at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Bratislava, Slovakia, where he studied Painting, Sculpture and Printmaking techniques. He is represented by the KubikGallery, in Porto, Portugal.
Magda Stanová is a visual artist born and raised in Slovakia. In her work, she expresses complex situations through simple drawings and diagrams. Her interest lays in urban development, cartography, analysis of creative processes, theory of photography, and history of ownership. The results of her investigations are often in the form of a visual essay, presented in exhibitions and books. She also uses other forms, such as performance and video.
In 2010, she received an MFA in new genres from San Francisco Art Institute, where she studied as a Fulbright scholar. She also holds an MFA in photography and new media from Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava (Slovakia), where she graduated in 2007. Additionally, she was pursuing her studies in fine arts at Universitá IUAV di Venezia (Italy) and Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst in Zürich (Switzerland).
Her work has been exhibited in Spain, Australia, France, Switzerland, Italy, U.S.A., Germany, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. In 2008, her book W cieniu fotografii was published by Foundation for Visual Arts in Krakow, Poland. In 2009, she was nominated for the Discovery Award in Rencontre d'Arles festival in France.
Miklós Surányi is a Hungarian photographer who lives and works in Budapest. His work often documents what people and society leave behind. Objects and details that might otherwise be looked over or go unnoticed come together in Surányi’s work to paint an intimate portrait of Hungarian society and culture.
Surányi has shown his work throughout Europe and Asia. Recent exhibitions include solo shows in Prague and Tallinn (Estonia) and group exhibitions in London and at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai. He has received several awards for his work and he is the recipient of the prestigious Pécsi József Photographic Scholarship. His work has been published in several Hungarian publications and in limited edition portfolios published by Budapest’s Lumen Gallery. He has an MA degree in new media arts from the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest and also studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts in Marseille, France.
Matej Vakula is a multi-media artist who often uses public space as a vehicle to explore how the political becomes personal and the personal becomes political. Through his work he seeks to question preconceived notions about the role of art in culture and its relationship to society. The politics of site and his connection to a particular place is an essential part of his methodology. His creative process includes researching history and sociology, examining how global issues are framed through local perspectives, and inventing new sites of cultural production and new methods of dissemination.
Recent public work includes a project produced in the Czech and Slovak Republics that examined the dichotomy between Slovaks and Czechs when they lived in socialist Czechoslovakia, and since their division into separate countries in 1993. Documentation from this project was exhibited at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in Boston.
Vakula has exhibited his work throughout Central Europe and in the United States. In 2008 – 2009 he was a curator at the Gallery Stanica in Žilina, Slovakia, a member of Trans Europe Halles one of the most active cultural networks in Europe. His work has been featured in Art Forum and in various Central European media, including newspapers, magazines and television. He has an MFA in Interrelated Media from the Massachusetts College of Art Design where he was a Fulbright fellow and an MFA in Multimedia from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia. He has also studied in the Department of Art, Culture and Technology at MIT.
In the project room: Tehnica Schweiz - Gergely LÁSZLÓ & Péter RÁKOSI
Gergely László (1979) and Péter Rákosi (1970) began collaborating in 2004 as Tehnica Schweiz. Since that time, the projects and artworks that they have created or been involved in, together and separately, have been produced as Technica Schweiz (TSCH). The majority of TSCH projects are process-based and work around the theme of community. Recent work, such as The Garage Project (2007-2009), The Collective Man (2008-2010) and The Heroes of the Shaft (2010), involve the participation of a large group of volunteers. All TSCH projects engage in extensive research and at times also archival work. Tehnica Schweiz has exhibited internationally, includeding: Secession Wien, Ernst Museum Budapest, ISCP NY, NBK Berlin, ZTK Karlsruhe. Tehnica Schweiz is a founding member and representative of Lumen Photography Foundation in Budapest and also member of POC - Piece of Cake, international network for contemporary images.
THE GARAGE PROJECT
Located throughout Central and Eastern are Socialist era “garage-streets” – streets with rows and rows of small garages (approximately 21’ x 21’ x 7’ high). In 2007, Tehnica Schweiz started working on of the largest garage-streets in Hungary . This particular garage settlement is a union of 1200 garages adjacent to the Duna Iron Works. The development and construction of the entire city of Dunaújváros was built in the early 1950s. The garages were communally built in the late 1960s – mid 1970s by workers from the factory. The garage street, in a perfect grid, resembles the structure and urban plan of the city of Dunaújváros, (which was named Stalin City until 1961).
Today, the garage city is mostly a meeting place for men, a location for escaping family life, and a scene of alternative youth culture. Large quantities of locked garage-doors hide secrets, private spaces, hobbies and workshops.
Technica Schweiz began the project by initially photographing as many garage interiors as possible so that they could see and understand the design of the spaces and the various ways that they were being used. In the second stage of the project, they rented one of the garages and began to install and stage ideas of what they and their friends imagined was behind the locked garage doors. They asked other artists to design garage interiors, which they then realized and photographed.
In 2008 and 2009 Technica Schweiz organized large Garage Festivals. Participants included local amateur bands who use the garages for rehearsal spaces, bikers, skaters, jugglers, and the local poetry club. The festivals were prepared and produced with the help of local youth and other community volunteers