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Indepth Arts News:

"In the Gorges of the Balkans: Europe's Art and Cultural Scene"
2003-08-30 until 2003-11-23
Kunsthalle Fridericianum
Kassel, , DE Germany

Presented by the Kunsthalle Fridericianum, the exhibition entitled "In the Gorges of the Balkans" is showcasing one of Europe's rapidly burgeoning art and culture scenes: Featured are 88 artists from 12 different countries and regions (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey), which together define the term "The Balkans". A comprehensive programme of events reflecting the current situation in the countries of south-eastern Europe also accompanies the exhibition.

Residing at the interface between the Orient and Occident, Christianity and Islam, the Balkans have remained an uncharted territory, a blank space on the map, throughout their centuries-old, turbulent history, which has witnessed the rise and fall of monarchies, dictatorships, Communist social systems and democracies. As such, they have become the ideal canvas on which to project western European preconceived notions of the region - notions, which can even be found in Karl May's Balkans novel of the same name.

The definition of the term "The Balkans" is still rather diffuse. Geographically the Balkan Peninsula extends from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and refers in name to the range of mountains in Bulgaria. However, topographical boundaries do not convey the significance of the Balkans that is encumbered by assumptions, prejudices and fears, which have remained etched upon our cultural memories. And these fears are of a highly topical nature: As multi-ethnic societies, the countries of south-eastern Europe have in recent years served as the paradigm for prognoses on the processes of globalisation and in this way fuelled the notion of the "Clash of the Civilizations". The "Balkans" has long since become a metaphor. The Balkans, in the words of the Slovenian philosopher Slavojn?ek, are always the others.

In contrast to the novelist Karl May, the exhibition's curator Rene Block has actually embarked on a journey through the Balkans where he studied the situation on the ground within the individual countries in close cooperation with indigenous artists and curators. Consequently, the exhibition IN THE GORGES OF THE BALKANS perceives itself as a documentary, as an eyewitness account, which invites the visitor himself to set out on a journey of discovery through south-eastern Europe. A journey leading from the origins of Concept Art in Yugoslavia in the 60ies, from works created under the most difficult conditions during the era of the Communist regimes (Romania, Albania), to the contemporary art scene. On our travels we also encounter artists who are operating within the Western (art) context, whilst retaining a strong affinity to their native countries. The individual works of art always provide a running commentary on the current socio-political situation. Whereas earlier generations of artists used their medium, among other things, to expose the political systems or social evils, contemporary art focuses more intensely on cultural traditions and on the events of recent history. The application of new technologies and the emerging issues relating to the status and relevance of art and of artists demonstrates that the artists of south-eastern Europe have long since been integrated into the global discourse on art.


Whereas the Museum Fridericianum itself is devoted to the presentation of objects, paintings, installations, photography and video art, the exterior space is playing host to actions and performances, together with exhibition bound / less borders, which has been realized on the initiative of the Goethe Institute in Belgrade and which, in the form of large-format posters, introduces further artists from the region. Each week, the exhibition's comprehensive accompanying programme focuses on a different South-eastern European country and highlights its cultural features by means of lectures, film screenings and theme-based guided tours. Many of these individual strands are bundled together in the form of a symposium entitled THE REINVENTION OF THE BALKANS. GEOPOLITICS, ART AND CULTURE IN SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE, October 24 - 26. (An updated schedule for the accompanying programme of events can be obtained from: www.fridericianum-kassel.de).

It is no accident that in recent times various institutions and exhibition projects have focused their attention on southeastern Europe. Of these, "In Search of Balkania" (Graz, 2002) and "Blood and Honey. The Future is in the Balkans" (Klosterneuburg, Vienna, running until September 2003) provided some initial interpretations of the Balkans. Yet the Kunsthalle Fridericianum goes a decisive step further. Following the launch in Kassel, subsequent projects including exhibitions, publications, congresses and discussion forums will be staged by the cooperation partners IN THE CITIES OF THE BALKANS (Belgrade, Bucharest, Cetinje, Istanbul, Ljubljana, Prishtina, Sarajevo, Skopje, Sofia, Tirana and Zagreb) before reaching its conclusion BEYOND THE BALKANS. This will take place in 2004 in the form of the Kassel Project by the Slovene Marjetica Potrc and a retrospective dedicated to the Croatian art poet Mangelos (1921 - 1987), whose work has enriched the canon of European art history with the inclusion of a further chapter. Consequently, for the period of one year, the Kunsthalle Fridericianum will become a forum for discussions - internal and external - dedicated to exploring the term "The Balkans".

Staged for the first time on this scale, this dialogue between just one town in Germany and the entire region of south-eastern Europe was facilitated by the generous financial support from the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal Government.

To coincide with the exhibition a richly illustrated large-format Travel Guide has been produced (136 pages, 5 / 10 incl. postage). The book on the exhibition will be published in June 2004 and will contain extensive documentation on all the associated projects.

Halil Altindere
Hard and Light,1999

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