Experimental nodes of Slovakia

Besides Bratislava scene active local centres outside geographic scope of the capital did exist and exist which in a long-time way act as the focuses of experiment and fertile ground for multimedia projects of various types. Of course, they are tied and interconnected with local stone institutions, live happening around next educational institutions and local structures. The base of the contemporary similarly thinking centres of artistic and cultural production is associated in the network ANTENA. In 2009 an initiative arose, which began commonly to name and support these similar approaches to the life and creation. This initiative ties onto activity of the international network Trans Europe Halles where the majority of them is also its members.

Antena is a network of cultural centres and organizations which act in the sphere of independent contemporary art and culture in Slovakia. It develops activities directing towards improvement of position of in dependent culture in the society. Through Antena also cooperation, exchanges of experience, creation of common projects are initiated and the distribution of artistic production is supported. The Bratislava premises A4 – Priestor súčasnej kultúry (A4 – space for contemporary culture), KC Dunaj belong to Anténa. The West Slovakia is covered-up by TRIPTYCH – Hidepark, Kolomaž – Klub Lúč, Nástupište 1 – 12, Publikum.sk – Malý Berlín. The Central Slovakia is represented by Diera do sveta, Divadlo Pôtoň (Pôtoň Theatre), PERIFÉRNE CENTRÁ (Peripheral Centres), Štokovec – Banská St a nica, Záhrada – Centrum nezávislej kultúry (Garden – Centre of Independent Culture ), Divadlo z Pasáže (Theatre from Passage), Truc sphérique – Stanica Žilina-Záriečie and Nová Synagóga (New Synagogue). In the East of Slovakia we will find Bona fide – Tabačka Kulturfabrik, Different – BAŠTA (Bastion), Kino Úsmev (Smile Cinema), NA PERÓNE (At the PLATFORM). It concerns, in terms of genre also volume, heterogeneous operations they are often functioning complementarily like cafes or social spaces.

These functioning centres of art and culture come into existence by similar motives. Essentially the need of cultural life exists in community of any size. Although we move often on physical pastures and suburbias these initiatives do not arise decisively – as it is talked often – from scratch. Many leaders are successful graduates of established institutional artistic education they are mutually internetworked and oriented in context. The relations and certain contrasts of phenomena of centre – suburbia, centre – edge fascinate the artistic scene already for a very long time immemorial.

Have to be concentrated certain types of cultural centres in some type and size of urbanistic agglomerations unnecessarily? The Internet and immediate communication availability established the reality of cultural and artistic decentralization and changes of suburbia understanding. How far went and can go the experiments in this sphere? Liquid relation between suburbia and centre redefines incessantly the nature of these categories. The theme of (imaginary? mental?) artistic suburbia/periphery of Slovakia as such in context of world artistic production is for separate study, of course. Ján Bakoš art historian dealt with development of influences and coexistences of centres and peripheries in a historical way. The basic feature of the periphery, its marginal character, has been logically comprehended from view of exploration of cultural and artistic influences like a cause of retarded development which implicates negative qualities of backwardness even of inferiority of cultural production of peripheral areas. The notions of centre and periphery/suburbia are relative they are not possible to be perceived separately every of these forms has their characteristics and advantages which are varying also in time.

So in the last years the experimental cultural initiatives outside Bratislava began to be successful. While it will be succeeded in accumulating of sufficient quantity of energy the processes will be started-up.  Physically the Košice town is the second large centre of Slovakia. The cultural scene has other character here distending often and cheekily from the capital, and namely from times immemorial (see e.g. aims and description of Východné pobrežie (East Coast) association). The title of European Capital of Culture (ECOC) 2013 brought to Košice an important cultural injection to town in its new and latest history. The metropolis of our East lives from this project and by this project already for ten years. The project brought big investments into physical cultural infrastructure it made also a lot of new events and initiatives circulate. It came to the action clash of “grass root” processes with political injections from the highest heights. The Košice scene changed its character and we can try to search for the reasons and to track the development.

The Bona fide association shifted itself from spaces of former cultural house in Vyšné Opátske where they operated the space with name of IC Culture Train since 2005 through the project ECOC into the centre of Košice. Tabačka Kulturfabrik is functioning in premises of former factory already since 2012. After a comprehensive reconstruction in partnership with Košice self-governing region the Tabačka Kulturfabrik is unique cultural centre and open zone for the art, creativity and cooperation in Košice. The precinct of former tobacco factory on Gorkého street offers 2,500 m2 today which belong to the contemporary art, concerts, theatre, club films, education, cooperation and also to day bistro and other services.    

Košice became like the first Slovak town the member of prestigious club – of UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Since 2018 the Košice town is one of 64 cities in 44 countries of the whole world with a new status of creative town and Košice is the only town of East Europe with focusing on media art in this year. Non-profit organization Creative Industry Košice (CIKE) prepared an application for participation in UNESCO Creative Cities Network and it engaged into candidature further subjects in Košice and this region successfully. CIKE Košice is also a heritage of ECOC. It is an organization which moves in the field of policies and creation of environment and occasions also for contemporary, experimental and media arts and culture. They organize educational programmes and by this they help to the people of cultural and creative environment to become professionals in a local also international way. The CIKE takes actively part in creation of strategic cultural documents at the state and international level, for creation of better conditions for growth and development of culture and creative branch in Slovakia.

DIG Gallery is the first new media gallery in Košice founded by non-profit organization DIG as a specific model of open-source gallery in 2012. The DIG Gallery is alternative presentation platform for contemporaneous forms of digital and media art. Activities of the DIG Gallery are focused on mapping and popularization of this sphere, on development of local and international connectivity, support of artistic practice and general creativity. The DIG Gallery cooperates with more institutions and independent initiatives within interdisciplinary research, alternative education and partner networks. The DIG Gallery is part of European Digital Art & Science Network which collaborates with top scientific institutions like CERN and ESO with interdisciplinary Ars Electronica Futurelab. 

In 2015 a space with name Club arose in house on Štúrova street in Košice. On contrary its founders delimited themselves openly against the ECOC. They assert that “the one of main ideas of whole project is that we do not need all the institutions and grants and all the things which are connected with Košice after 2013 thus there is not possible to make the culture without grants. We want to show that it is possible. We are fans of Tabačka also Barracks (Kasárne) but we guess that there is a large hole in creative branch in Košice. We want to provide a new approach to the same things which are done also by other institutions. The more heterogeneous this town will be the better for artists, also for the town itself“. The club is shaped onto graphic workshops, photochamber, cafe based on voluntary contributions and onto a programme of informal education mainly as far as art is concerned.

The Košice infrastructure has decisively more means and possibilities for attracting of viable projects and interest maintaining. Košice gained the ECOC title also thanks strong regional programme.

You will find the nearby Prešov experimental scene topically and predominantly in spaces of club Wave ~ centre of independent culture. The Wave could be characterized mainly like a musical club; however, it offers regularly its gates also to other genres and events. Also the project Kino Pocity (Feelings Cinema) settled here down, a film club which follows in heritage of cinema ”Club” (Civic Centre of ROH (Revolutionary Trade-Union Movement)). In the nineties this cinema represented an oasis of artistic production which has been an alternative to television and video rental shops. In 2011 the cinema Pocity started its activity and unwillingly it became a touring cinema changing its place of activity. It began to project in underground of cinema Scala, in Pumpa (Pump) pub from where it shifted onto small scene of Theatre of Alexander Duchnovič for a couple of years. The cinema´s property has been modest but sufficient: projector, loudspeakers and plumb rod on stands on which a not just ironed-out projection screen stitched-together from bed linen was put on. Despite punk conditions and beginnings the Feelings cinema has a strong membership in the present day.

The Feelings cinema arose by transformation of previous initiative by an initiative with more experimental overlaps with the name Circus 49. “Because we are inhabitants of Prešov and just through Prešov passes the 49th parallel of latitude, that imaginary line which connects us with Paris.  It ceased to enjoy us only to sit so inactively and to grumble at insufficiency of interesting actions in our town. At the very beginning we organized several vernissages of young Prešov artistic which brought us along to the idea of founding the citizen/civic association. We are functioning since 2004. The [t]urbanfest – (a street festival of art) became our first main action of which the first there years we organized in precinct of Hotel Academy in years 2005-2007; the last year took place on the natural lido Delňa. We are publishing also the journal “Egoistova Pazucha o kultúre (Egoist´s Armpit)” about culture, society and art. In cooperation with Circus 49 the festival Siete (Networks) arose in Bratislava. Today already the cult journal also the initiative ceased to exist their members directed their energy elsewhere that´s the way things are in this type of projects.

A live experimental scene is functioning also in the Banská Bystrica town and environs. The conditions are good as for size of regional town. Also a broad background of cultural institutions is functioning here (as for regional rations) – e.g. Academy of Arts, Central Slovakian Gallery, theatres and further. In Banská Bystrica was opened the Garden, centre of independent culture in 2010. Like the cultural and community centre it offers all year-long programme for various target groups.  The main mission of the centre is presentation and support of creation of contemporary art, predominantly of performative genres (guesting and residential stays of artists), as well as organization of own events, educational and leisure activities for young people and the general public in the interiors and adjacent garden.

The neighbouring project Peripheral centres is wrestling with dichotomy and contrasts directly in its name. In Dúbravica, in the municipality with 380 inhabitants it is trying tirelessly to explore the frontiers of that what is it able to survive and to bring the contemporary art – site specific, land art, overlaps of design, architecture and various workshops. Like a cultural centre acting in the countryside of Northern Podpoľanie it brings a countryside air and timelessness into the contemporary Slovak art. The Dúbravica municipality comprehends Kunstdorf as an experimental space for creation and presentation of the contemporary art. Suburban centres organize workshops for architects and students of architecture already 6 years. Successively they focus on various partial situations or enhancing the quality  of municipality´s life – from equipment of public spaces (furniture, sales booths, public sauna, outlooks), land art and art in country through navigation up to building regulations of old kindergarten and  its precinct which they received into usage recently.

The Pôtoň Theatre is the second centre from the network Antena residing in the countryside. All year long it is functioning with focusing on broad spectrum of artistic art it provides space to varied artists and artistic groups from Slovakia but also from abroad. A large hall, studio, accommodation capacities for 10 people, kitchenette, common room are situated in this space. The building of Pôtoň Theatre is an old community centre from fifties of past century on the edge of village of which part is 30 are garden. This is old infrastructure with new continuity.

With a bit of exaggeration we could dedicate a separate chapter to experimental cultural spaces operating on the Slovak railway station. The ŽSR (Railways of the SR) provide sublease of the station´s building in Žilina – Záriečie, Banská Štiavnica also of spaces of Saloon in the Main Railway Station in Bratislava. In Topoľčany underpass the project Platform 1-12 is acting. The metaphors of stations are strong: “So like the platforms 1 to 12 of Topoľčany bus station connect the town with other regions of Slovakia and with the world, the Platform 1-12 in underpass of Topoľčany station is a place through which culture and art enter the town. Multimedia space for contemporary culture has the ambition to lift up the cultural awareness of inhabitants of the town and its environs by utilization of communication and societal potential of underpass under the station. The project of multimedia space has an effort to be a place at the same time where the inhabitants of town and its surroundings will make acquaintance with work of talented young people of region also from abroad.

The Žilina – Záriečie Station operates also with metaphoric themes of transport: “On unmarked map of the present day we are a cultural node in which new art is born, here it is critically considered and educated. The constantly functioning railway stop “Žilina – Záriečie” is the connection of cultural space, artistic laboratory and collective of professionals of various areas since 2003. In 2009 the second building S2 was added to the Station built-up from straw bales and plastic crates. We support creativity and contemporary art and we are evidently the largest cultural centre in Slovakia. The programme is a mosaic of topical art across the genres, residence for creation, educational also community actions and furthermore the train is here stopping from Žilina to Rajec.

Banská St a nica Contemporary in Banská Štiavnica is a cultural centre which is focused on organizing the residential stays of contemporary artists in the field of visual art, production and on the support of rise of new works of art and on book publishing. The centre resides on periphery of Banská Štiavnica in space of permanently functional train station. Just mixing-up of layman´s public/ of visitors, tourists and travellers with the artists creates a specific atmosphere of this place where number of activities does decide but their quality.

Imaginary travelling through spaces in this point of node we will terminate and we will follow in voyaging by presentation of Slovak experimental multimedia festivals and initiatives which are not (necessarily) bound to concrete places. However, the enumeration is not ultimate by a long shot.