Intermedia art and new media art after 1989


A substantial part of the realizations that are close to D. Higgins’s fluxus definition of intermedia was carried out from the second half of the 1980s. The Company for Unconventional Music – CUNM (Spoločnosť pre nekonvenčnú hudbu – SNEH) (1989 – 2003) was a unique organization supporting, documenting and holding events of an intermedia character. The activities of this organization were a markedly broad spectrum, but mostly regarded as an important counterpart towards the then intermedia art presentations in state and public galleries. CUNM was a platform for “the support and presentation of unconventional approaches, creative and activities for realizations in the acoustic music and audio-visual sphere” (Cseres, 1995, p. 12) Milan Adamčiak – musicologist and artist, initiated the company’s establishment. Peter Machajdík, Jozef Cseres, Michal Murin, Oľga Smetanová, Peter Martinček and Zbyněk Prokop participated in its establishment.
The Festival of Intermedia Creation (FIC) (Festival intermediálnej tvorby (FIT)) was held for two years, with international participation under the CUNM organization in Bratislava in 1991– 1992, organized by Milan Adamčiak, presenting fine art creation, music production, theater performances, projects established on linking music and theater, performance art and experimental poetry. CUNM also covered expositions of alternative music, often overlapping into fine art, for example, in such events like Convergences (Konvergencie) (1990), Swimming Pool (Bazén) (1992), the Musicsolarium experimental music cycle (1993-1994) and the independent concerts of Slovak and foreign experimental musicians (H. Davies, P. Niblock, J. Rose and others).
CUNM initiated the establishment of unconventional musical body Transmusic Comp (1989 – 1996) as the open association of professional and non-professional musicians, painters, creators of musical and audiovisual projects. Its activities are based on the realization of musical concerts – performances in connection with the presentations of fine art creation. The distinctive part of Transmusic Comp was the “armamentarium” – a collection of about two hundred kinds of Milan Adamčiak’s homemade musical instruments. These readymades arose from the objects for daily use and need, and in addition to use for unconventional playing, also sporadic contributions to the category of audio objects. During the existence of Transmusic Comp, there were several dozen performances in the Slovak Republic and abroad, and it was also presented at several intermedia art exhibitions (Gerulata – 1989, Art Against Totalitarianism (Umenie proti totalite), Bratislava – 1990, The Dream about a Museum (Sen o múzeu), Žilina – 1991) with its actions on the border between musical production and performance art.
The SOUND OFF (1995 – 2002) international festival of current progressive music in intermedia overlaps was established under the CUNM platform. Michal Murin and Jozef Cseres were the main figures of the festival’s establishment and its organization over the years. Constituent cycles were differentially targeted, the first two (1995 – 1996) dedicated to the confrontations of innovative approaches in music creation and fine art, the other two (1997 – 1998) dealing with recontextualisation, the application and creative “updating” of musical instruments, piano – Piano Hotel, violin – Violin. Another cycle in 1999 was devoted to beams and waves – Beams and Waves; a festival in 2000 based on puppets and puppetry acting – Pupanimart; the last year of the festival in 2002 was devoted to the topic of the artistic (action, musical, theatrical) usage of a typing machine and its postmodern interpretations – Typewriter. One of the members of the Fluxus movement, Ben Patterson, also performed by means of the musical production in the performances at the festival. The seven years of the festival has offered sporadic performances in various forms of artistic presentations and creative approaches, but also the linking and targeted fusion of musical, audiovisual and action art.
In 1997, cooperation between the performer and publicist Michal Murin along with the aesthetician and philosopher Jozef Cseres started at the Kép-Ze-Let intermediary symposium in Hungary and they produced the LENGOW & HEyeRMEarS authorial duo. Their works are based on the linking of various forms of artistic production – a play, an action, performance art, installation, collage, using intertextuality, appropriation art, reinterpretation: with the aim of blurring boundaries between the styles, reporting post-modern pluralism and the inability of the existence of pure media.
The Transart Communication international festival, initiated by Erté Studio (Štúdio erté (“RT”)) in Nové Zámky was devoted in the field of intermedia and multimedia art presentation and research from 1987. The Erté Studio existed in 1987 – 2007 and was founded by József R. Juhász, Ilona Németh, Otto Meszáros and Attila Simon. Although its activities were directed mainly in the field of action art and performances, in addition to the Transart Communication festival the studio also held other intermedia and multimedia art festivals, and in the 1990s was the organizer of prestigious and prominent events in the field of alternative art, not only in the Slovak Republic but also in the rest of Central Europe.
In 2000 the independent Kassák’s Center of Intermedia Creativity (K2IC) civic association was established again on the Erté Studio’s initiative in Nové Zámky. Within Slovakia, it has become the only considerable platform for the research and support in the field of intermedia and multimedia arts as well as of new media art (video art, internet art). Slovak artists, the performer József R. Juhász and LENGOW & HEyeRMEarS authorial duo are those who participated in formation of the association and actively participated in its activities. The association, as a sole entity in the Slovak Republic, intensively cooperated with major global artists operating in a given area, particularly with Ben Patterson (one of the founders of the Fluxus movement), with video creator Don Ritter and experimental musician Jono Rose along with others.


Art features in the 1990s were affected by the social climate change, by opening borders and undisturbed contact with foreign art trends of that time (particularly the then naturally preferred Euro-American). The expansion of spatial media, particularly installation, and site-specific art, was important in terms of intermedia and new media art manifestations. Installation as a medium that syncretizes multiple media – classical (paintings, objects, sculptures), but also new media (video media, electronic, later digital media) – became a dominating form, especially in the first half of the 1990s. A significant individual category of installation art was site-specific art, usually implemented in a selected space whose character features or unrepeatable genius loci form the work of art element. These types of exhibitions were key for the period of the 1990s. The most outstanding include: Genius Loci (PGU Žilina, 1991), Barbakan (Banská Bystrica, 1992), Tajomstvo (The Secret) (PGU Žilina, 1994), Elektráreň T (T Powerstation) (Poprad, 1993), Interiér versus Exteriér (The Interior vs. Exterior) (Bratislava, 1996), cycles in the Synagogue – Contemporary Art Center in Trnava: Umenie aury (The Art of Aura) (1995 – 1996), Pamäť miesta (The Location Memory) (1997 – 1998), Vymedzenie priestoru (The Space Demarcation) (1999 – 2000) and several other projects conducted in Šamorín’s synagogue during the 1990s.
Video media were characterized by forms into which were integrated action manifestations at the beginning of the decade. Peter Rónai (1953) and Miro Nicz (1963) were the creators of several video performances dealing with rupture as a theme during the reforming process of societal and political policies as well as during cultural transformation. Video performances of the creative duo Ľubo Stach (1953) and Dušan Štraus (1959) came forth with a similar foundation with the theme of purification in relation to the past. Several of Michal Murin’s (1963) performances, recorded through video, had mystifying and ironic features (in response to the then societal situation). An example of a project with syncretic features, which integrated elements of action art, land art, art in public space, was the videosampler ON/OFF (1993) created by the Čenkovej deti (Čenková’s Children) association of fine art artists. Jana Želibská’s record of the project (1941) Krajina v krajine (The Landscape within the Landscape) (1993) with significantly ecologically oriented content is the best known. This prevailing video art typology in the early 1990s (integrating and interconnecting action art with video) can be considered as a delayed response to the distinct line of video performances in the world’s art of the 1970s and 1980s in comparision to Slovakia. Vladimír Kordoš presented one of the first realizations of this type in this country within the framework of his authorial program dedicated to the interpretations of world art works at the end of the 1980s. (Important representatives from the world scene are particularly: Rebecca Horn, Marina Abramovic & Ulay, Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, Chris Burden and others).
Suterén (The Basement) exhibition in Bratislava, carried out in a basement non-gallery space, pointed to the definite establishment of installation media shortly before November 1989. Several of the participating creators – Milan Adamčiak, Július Koller, Matej Krén, Peter Meluzin, Viktor Oravec, Milan Pagáč, Peter Rónai and Jana Želibská, conform to this medium in their creation at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s. By participating in the exhibition, they declared efforts to articulate their project through the “cool” articulation of new media in connection with spatial characteristics.
Neo-conceptual art as a postmodern strategy, based on a simulation and appropriate processes with the syncretic linking of pop-art, minimalist and conceptual art elements, became the covering tendency for installation media in the 1990s. The expansion of new technologies and their increasingly better availability was reflected in entering video media into the installations and reflected under the video installations establishment around the mid-90s. The pioneers of installations in the 1990s (in the case of the following three creators we also include video installations) include Peter Rónai (1953), a multimedia creator working through the system of deconstruction, permanent revisions of the History of Art and the creation of semantic tautologies, Peter Meluzin (1947), who analyzes the consumer way of life caused by “TV-culture” and Jana Želibská (1941), who dealt with issues of gender. Installations as spatial allusions were typical for Matej Krén (1958) at that time. The realizations of the duo of Milan Pagáč (1960) and Viktor Oravec (1960) were created through appropriating process/the appropriating of industrial production objects and their subsequent manipulation with the use of artificial light. Karol Pichler’s installations (1957) were established on the sophisticated sign of systems borrowed from philosophy and religious doctrines. Otis Laubert’s realizations (1947) are the accumulations of various collections that took a long time and archives of the small realities of everyday life.
Older artists implementing an artistic project in installation media in the 1990s were Július Koller (1939 – 2007), especially during his tenure in the Nová Vážnosť association (The New Sincerity) (along with Peter Rónai) and Juraj Bartusz, creator of generous installations with environmental subtext. Light, as a forming installation agent, was typical for the works of Ladislav Čarný (1949) at that time.
The neo-conceptual language of art was a means to approach the “international canon” of art for the younger generation of creators who joined the scene in this decade. Their typical medium was installation based on appropriated objects (readymades) from casual reality, composed without the significant handmade mark of the creator in a manner that, due to its syncretic form, would communicate its content intertextually: across multiple levels. Anarchist gestures, text and iconographic systems, “found” realties with eased significance composed into hybrid wholes are typical for Boris Ondreička (1969). Conversely, Roman Ondák (1966) examines the relationship between aspiration for cognition and knowledge of ordinary human needs in his indifferent designing perfect realizations. Strong affiliations in arte povera, then readable gender subtext, processual elements and interactivity factor highlighting at the end of the decade were present in Ilona Németh’s work (1963) at the time. The language apparatus of arte povera and processuality were also present in Dušan Zahoranský’s work (1972), and especially in Anton Čierny’s objects and installations (1963): he started to form them through appropriated or modified readymades approximately in the second half of the decade.
An important line in installation art was also the reassessing of feminist art associated with introspective submersions into the psychological structures of woman and the subsequent application of appropriate morphology and iconography. In addition to Ilona Németh’s works, reassessing was also present in the realizations of Petra Nováková-Ondreičková (1968), Denisa Lehocká (1969), Emöke Vargová (1965) and Anabela Žigová (1974).
The better availability of technology and its subsequent artists’ implementation were expressed in realized installations supplemented by flowing image approximately from the mid-90s. These installations, initially based on one or more televisions, or monitors, were later modified into video installations with large-screen image – a projection. Miro Nicz (1963) and Roman Galovský (1962) in particular belonged to the younger generation at that time working in the video installation sphere. Miro Nicz’s interactive video installations composed of cameras, but particularly his cycle of (video) performances using large screen projections, which he started to create from the beginning of new millennium, were extraordinary. A distinctive contribution is the visualizations in Roman Galovský’s video installations created through the use of 3D modeling programs.