Galicia. Topographies of myth
The Project Contemporary Art of the Nations of the Former Austrian-Hungarian Empire is an undertaking of utmost importance to BWA SOKÓŁ Gallery of Contemporary Art. It marks the beginning of its activity. Therefore, it was vital that during the first two years of the Gallery’s existence, there appeared artistic events of the highest quality which would somehow determine the perspectives of its future work and development. The project is devoted to the presentation of contemporary art in Nowy Sacz in its most current and international dimension and its theme refers to the context of the place, as well as the identity of the town and the region.
The project’s concept draws on the tradition and history of the region, as well as the whole of the 19th century Małopolska, in
which Nowy Sącz was an example of a typical, multinational and multicultural town in the Austrian–Hungarian Empire. This context has had a significant influence on the town’s identity, shape and development, which is still visible nowadays despite the passage of nearly 100 years. At present, following the trauma of the Second World War, there are no Jews, Austrians, Germans, Hungarians, Czechs or Ruthenians living in Nowy Sącz and neither are there any other nations of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, which used to reside here in very small numbers. However, the historical context and some of the problems still affect the descendants of those nations. Furthermore, a new perspective has emerged recently, namely, the majority of those countries are associated again but this time in the European Union. The project is thus based on the two, interpenetrating traditions. The first one is the perspective of Nowy Sącz – a sub-region of Małopolska, the other, a long-range one, refers to a bigger number of nations which used to be co-citizens of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.
The venture is planned as a series of five international artistic presentations, prepared each time based on the artistic vision of different curators representing nations of the former Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The curators who were invited to participate in the project include Adam Budak, Michal Koleček, Barnabàs Bencsik, Danna Heller and Anda Rottenberg. The formula suggested by the organisers provides for cooperation among the curators so that they, together with the artists they have invited to the exhibition, can have an opportunity to co-create the final shape of the project. All the curators use the means of contemporary art to refer to the tradition, myths as well as stereotypes of the region but remain open to contemporary contexts that accompany all of us. Such artistic and ideological confrontation, drawing from the history as well as from current artistic movements, allows for re-interpretation of the imperial and royal tradition and also sheds light on problems experienced by particular nations.
This approach to the project naturally assumes some kind of process-oriented and organic character of the whole venture whose subject matter is still alive. But it also means that each of the presentations will constitute a chapter of a story. The project consist of the series of exhibitions on show from May 2011through September 2012 both on the premises of the BWA SOKÓŁ Gallery as well as within public sphere.
BWA SOKÓŁ Gallery of Contemporary Art would like to express their gratitude for assistance in preparation and implementation of the project Contemporary Art of the Nations of the Former Austrian-Hungarian Empire to: Anda Rottenberg – for her inspiration in the choice of the project theme, Adam Budak – for his assistance in inviting the team of exceptional curators to cooperate on the project and to Krzysztof Markiel – for his advices, goodwill and support. Our thanks also go to the Board of Małopolska Province, which offered an opportunity to use European funds to institutions implementing projects devoted to culture and art. The Board also made the decision to cover more than half of the project’s total costs from the Provincial budget. We would also like to thank the project partners and all employees of Malopolska Culture Center SOKÓŁ who have been working on the project implementation.
Karolina Klimek - project coordinator in the years 2010-2011