an exhibition marking 70th anniversary of the foundation of Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava
(curated in cooperation with Barbora Komárová and Miroslava Urbanová)

8 June – 23 June 2019
Galéria UMELKA
Bratislava, Slovakia

artists: T. Abaffy, O. Bakushina, N. Balberčáková, M. Dutková, J. Frajová (in cooperation with Alena Šišková, SAV), S. Gottierová, Š. Chovan, L. Kálazi, D. Koronczi, M. A. Krupková, D. Kurinec, J. Kviatkovská, D. Kyselová, J. Mydla, R. Pintérová, S. Papšová, D. Pišteková, M. Rumanová, Z. Svatík, D. Tomečková
exhibition architecture: Jakub Kopec

The exhibition on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of founding Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava presents the works of its students and graduates created in the past three to four years. We find it necessary to perceive and use this structured presentation as an opportunity to attempt some kind of a generational legacy, inextractable from the social, economic, political and other realities of the so‑called generation Y — the millennials.

There is probably not a single young/new generation that hasn’t found their era problematic. The present is almost always unconditionally being associated with changes, disappearance of past orders, visions for a better future, nostalgia, the “spoiled” youth, (dis)obedience, discontent and uneasiness, and calling for change. The paradoxical fact that stays is that we can always evaluate the results of these transformational demands and processes only later in retrospect. This paradox is what is directly encoded in the concept of the present.

Generation Y is loosely limited by birth years between the 80s and the beginning of the 00s. Their productivity peak tends to be around or until their 35th year, until which time these people have mostly tried various jobs. It is a generation (presumably) characteristic with their indecisiveness, instability, laziness, or even disability to conquer basic skills and obey deadlines, simply a generation unfit for practical life.

However, we might just be the first adult children of the so‑called burnout society (described by Byung‑Chul Han, a South‑Korean philosopher living in Germany), obsessed with the cult of activity, whose typical symptoms include depressions and neuroses linked to the internalization of self-supervision and the surveillance of one’s productivity. Being busy has become a new expression of social status — the more swamped and exhausted from work one is, the more they feel needed and important. On the other hand, millennials, as opposed to the generation before them, are the ones who through constant betterment (of themselves) have internalised forms of supervision with the assistance of technology probably the most thoroughly. This happened peculiarly in a time when work relationships are not bound to last long, but rather to focus on short‑term projects, in a time where precariat — a new social class described by the British sociologist Guy Standing, emerged. For this generation, expressions like “social stability” and “welfare” are but a nostalgic echo of populist politicians. Millennials are also labelled as “ikea generation,” for which it makes no sense to own a mahogany furniture and hoard the family silver, since they are always on the move to pursue new job opportunities. Lost and forgotten pairs of shoes started to appear on many European cities’ squares, as a temporary memorial for the young who have left the country for a better life.

In the age of late capitalism, individualism has come to a point where it has nowhere else to grow. People today are being lead to constant productivity, checking endless to‑do lists, working on their career (working on working), financial stability, finding the ideal partner, building one’s self‑image. Even activities that used to be known as hobbies should now comply with certain higher goals in our professional or personal lives. Any deviation from one’s thoroughly planned life journey is therefore perceived as failure. The market has widened far beyond city, state, product and service borders long ago. We all have our skin in the game constantly — every line of unpaid internship in our CVs is worth a million, every swipe — left or right, is instantly evaluating us (and we love to swipe as well). Smartphones have given us pseudo‑freedom which on one hand allows us to share every (un)important moment, but on the other made us infinitely available and constantly connected to work and the lives of others. Chinese authorities are already observing, evaluating, rewarding and punishing the lifestyles, virtues and vices of their citizens, which is a scenario absurdly similar to today’s popular science‑fiction narratives.

We do not focus on a balanced overview of our departments’ student works in our conception, the same way as we do not fixate on projects which would each individually address the complexity of today’s phenomena and problems of society. Nevertheless, the above‑mentioned socio‑political context keeps reappearing in the works’ details or directly determines their origin. We knowingly work with the presumption that the eclectically intertwined fragments of these works in their broad variety of media and thematic directions can provide the viewer with a more comprehensive overlook on the current state of affairs at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, as well as outside of its specific context.

Through the absence of captions or specifically set borders for each work and through their interconnection the whole installation becomes an environment — an open, equal platform, similar to what an arts academy should be. A platform open to communication and collaboration. A platform built on mutual respect and on the need for individualistic creation of a common higher ideal free from egoistic motivation. At the end of the 80s, French philosopher Jacques Rancière wrote about the need for an emancipated viewer and an emancipating teacher, with the intellectual exchange of those two not being based on the student inheriting opinions of the teacher, but rather on them being equal conversational partners. The will to cooperate and the dissolution of rivalry between students is directly mirrored in the birth of new artist collectives and cooperative projects without the need to declare individual authors’ rights directly at school grounds. We should expect relationships based on the same principle not only in art schools, but in gallery institutions presenting contemporary art as well.

We consider the chosen projects to be tilted towards proposing questions about seemingly unchanging constants within the Slovak post‑communist version of capitalism, which is a fusion of domestic (Christian) traditionalism and traumas of the socialist past confronted with economic and cultural globalization. In this exhibition we deal specifically with the works which in our opinion on one hand materialize and bring the current Zeitgeist to light, and on the other hand works that through their imagination come back from the virtual to the physical and incarnate the possible scenarios of the Earth’s future. The aim of this dichotomy is to indirectly mediate the feeling of a never‑ending search for balance between the material and the contemplative experience and to return to the spiritual. These processes are going on in the background of the secularization of European societies, where Christian religion fulfils a symbolic role of a depository of traditional values, used in the fight against diversity, rather than being used in everyday practise.

This exhibition does not evaluate, doesn’t offer straightforward judgement or simple solutions. The complexity of the situation that we are in forbids us to do so. Within the plurality of crises with which we are confronted every day we consider it almost impossible to address all of today’s resonating topics evenly and thematically. In the name of a wider viewpoint we have dug into several topics, which, in their mutual interaction, we believe, have the potential to offer a new, greater context for the viewer. The collection’s contributors engage in various important topics, but are directed towards very similar conclusions. Primarily the conclusions are calls for structural changes, equality and care, and awareness of our vulnerability, even at the level of us as a species on Earth. Our and their collective thoughts are aimed towards the near future, which is happening right now. We are knowingly fluctuating in the realm of prognosis, assumption, vision and illusion. Whether our actions were utopian or dystopian is probably for the generations after us to evaluate.

Barbora Komárová, Ľuboš Kotlár, Miroslava Urbanová