Visegrad Fund
Non-conformist art under socialism in Central Eastern Europe and its transnational network: parallel structures, communicating channels and nodes

The Slovak artist Ľubomír Ďurček invented the concept of "Resonances" (Rezonancie) in 1979. He developed it further during the alternative festival "The Week of Street Theater" in Bratislava, which was one of the non-conformist projects that took place—paradoxically—directly in the central public space of the city. Ďurček's initial conception of "Resonances" includes a draft of fifteen models showing different geometrical figures: spatial arrangements of people and constellations, which the artist divided into static and dynamic ones. These constellations created psychological and social situations that framed how the participants intervened in their surroundings and interacted with passers-by while going about their everyday business. The participants were supposed to separate themselves from the crowd and identify themselves with it. The direct social interaction of the participants, their communication and their contesting of their immediate environment were indicative of the generative power of acting.


The traveling conference series Resonances I–IV aims to address and involve academic communities on the local, regional, and international level in our project "Resonances: Regional and Transregional Cultural Transfer in the Art of the 1970s." Each conference in the series will approach cultural transfer from a different angle, activating, complementing, and stitching together knowledge that has until now only been available locally. Based on the concepts of "parallel polis" by Václav Benda and "parallel structures" by Václav Havel, the first conference "Resonances I. Non-conformist Art under Socialism in Central Eastern Europe and its Transnational Network: Parallel Structures, Communicating Channels and Nodes" in Bratislava will begin with the critical evaluation of currently predominant approaches, such as one-way western influence and terminology. 


The conference Resonances I will investigate the communication channels of the art scenes of the countries of the so-called "Eastern bloc" in the 1970s. In particular, papers will explore different vehicles of cooperation and the transfer of information, knowledge and ideas, including remote means and worldwide networks such as mail art. The speakers will provide examples of different types of network, of what or who represented nodes in these networks, and through what communication circuits they functioned. Case studies will also shed light on how these constituents related to official culture, external factors, and, last but not least, to each other. We will also attempt to closely explore how the mentioned non-conformist artistic activities were reflected, and how they were documented in the clandestine historiography of the time and also in later reconstructions. Our focus lies on interrogating what and who were the agents that generated, inspired, and made possible this vehicle of "parallel culture". 


The aim of the symposium in Bratislava is to assemble a pool of possible case studies from the CEE art of the 1970s through which we can explore the characteristics and mechanisms of cultural transfers. The principal aim of this event is to analyze the following questions: Are there any specificities of the clandestine and public communication channels and networks of non-conformist art in the former Eastern bloc? What characteristics can we trace and define by investigating archival materials? To what extent can we talk about systematic transnational community/communities and networks of transfer beyond national boundaries? What were the possible paths, hubs, nodes, crossroads and channels for and of cultural transfer? 


Image: The week of street theater, Carnival 1, Bratislava, 1979, digitalized slide, photo: Ľubomír Ďurček, Courtesy of Ľubomír Ďurček.

Program and videos
Title: Abstract/Video
Welcome and introduction
Artistic Networking in the Mainstream and on the Margins
Klaus Groh's "Aktuelle Kunst in Osteuropa" as a Catalyst: From Concept-Compulsion to Exercises in Cultural Translation
Petr Rezek's Samizdat Edition
Argíllia – regnum ex alio loco: Mapping the Different Dimensions of a Transnational Platform without Borders
Language Paths. Methods for a New Cultural Geography of (East-Central) Europe
Photography: The Lingua Franca of Performance Art
We Are the World: Jiří Valoch's Cultural Network
Revisiting the Shifting Roles of International Associations During the 1970s: The Case of Czechoslovak Section of AICA
Lunch Break
Para-institutional Channels of Artistic Communication in the 1970s Czechoslovakia
Infrastructure-in-the-Making: Ewa Partum’s Galeria Adres as a Tool of Transnational Reconnection (1972-1977)
"Album 76": An Alternative Art Platform of the 1970s
Documentation to Be Performed