On East European Art: Positions We Can Stand Behind and Speak From

Interview with Maja and Reuben Fowkes from Translocal Institute

Maja and Reuben Fowkes are art historians and curators, the founders of Translocal Institute for Contemporary Art, a center for transnational research into East European art and ecology that operates across the disciplinary boundaries of art history, contemporary art, and ecological thought. Their work focuses […]

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How You Do What You Do Is Sometimes the Most Important

Interview with Kadiatou Diallo and Dominique Malaquais from SPARCK

SPARCK (Space for Pan-African Research, Creation, and Knowledge), founded in 2008, is a program of experimental multi-disciplinary arts residencies, workshops, symposia, exhibitions, publications, and performances centered on innovative, ethically driven approaches to urban space. SPARCK is run by a two-woman, activist-artist-writer-scholar team: Kadiatou Diallo, a Cape […]

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Asia? Art? Archive?

Dóra Hegyi in Conversation with Michelle Wong

Asia Art Archive is an international archive and research center based in Hong Kong. Asia Art Archive also produces exhibitions and publications in collaboration. By making unknown art historical materials—connected to artists works and activities, as well as sources about art events—accessible online,  Asia Art […]

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The Unvaried Repertoire

Artwork in Focus – OFF-Biennale Budapest special edition

A tree philodendron and other exotic plants, an Alaskan Malamute relaxing on the garden table, the sound of a synthesizer, a flute and an airplane, a swimming pool, a kitchen, a living room, a bookshelf in the background, South-American fabrics and an embroidered Hungarian pillow […]

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Back to Basics. Responses to the Issue Inside the Mezosfera

An Introduction to Issue #3

Taking the thematic issue Inside the Mezosfera (published in September 2016) as a point of departure, we have invited contributors to reflect on the themes that the preceding issue’s essays bring forward—including unlearning, independence, “unacademia, resistance, or walking theory”—as well as a concept of the mezosfera we have proposed. An overarching theme that has emerged in the texts are the contradictions and complexities of the state of independence, underlining the near omnipresence of the fragile, conflictual, and in-flux positions art and cultural workers assume.

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Against State Phobia, For Dis/Engagement

Reading the inspiring essays of issue #2 made me further reflect on what has been a longstanding preoccupation of mine, namely, the relationship between the arts/cultural production and the state, or, more specifically, between the mezosfera and the state. It seems to me that the question of how to dis/engage the state (and how to theorize this dis/engagement) is a crucial one for the cultural producers inhabiting the mesosphere. I will immediately lay bare my own stand: disengagement can only be a tactical one, a move within a complex war of position, and no long-term option.

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Internal Contradictions of Contemporary Independence and the Cultural Logic of the Latest Capitalism

The Mezosfera journal in its second issue invited us to think the “future scenarios now.” At first glance such an invitation may resemble the contemporary dictum future is now that forefronts the brutal forces of speculative capitalism, the financial-info economy and social consumption in the latest capitalism. However, the urgent mobilization of future scenarios here obviously means something else. It means to think the future beyond the notions of projection and postponing typical of the modernist-utopianist teleology of history and time, but it also means escaping the vicious circle of self-sufficient present-ism and now-ism of the contemporary experience regime, obsessed with the consumption of the present moment, with a momentariness of now. Mezosfera dares to claim that such “double escape” is possible.

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Mixologists* of the Cultural Field

The second issue of Mezosfera takes as a starting point a poetically written introduction. The editors Nikolett Erőss and Eszter Szakács write with spatial awareness incorporated in their metaphors, helping the reader “see” the “space” they want us to read from—or in. The spaces that are generated in our mind's eye are defined by conditions that seem to apply to much of Europe today—an increasingly regulated context. They point out that “it is a lot harder to develop a truly radical form in practice than to be radical in writing about it.” The editors thus also highlight the conflict expressed between practice and theory (which came into full force in the context of art with the advent of Postmodernism in the 1970s and thereafter), and the authors of the issue respond with texts that discuss what I would like to call professional social practices.

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Prophesying about Hope in Times of Atmospheric Uncertainties

Actually it is in the stratosphere where we are mostly working. We are privileged enough to get a bird’s-eye view, one which most people don’t have access to, burdened as they are with watching their steps, but we are constantly threatened to either be hit by a plane or to fall down with a speed that leaves us hallucinating, in both cases losing our stability and composure. Sometimes we get close to the chilling mesosphere. We get a glimpse of blue lightning and become fascinated by the solitude of these upper realms. We wonder what it would be like to explore this stratum more, which seems to consist of beginnings and ends, where meteors burn and auroras emerge. It is a brief glimpse though, as scientific research has had its funding cut in our post-socialist countries after its token role in the Cold War was over; therefore, no one knows how to build the special costumes for this kind of exploration.

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Between Hope and Trap

On the State of Social Transition in Ukraine

The Greek prefix mesos, meaning intermediate or position in the middle, is representative of Ukraine today—a situation in flux—and also in line with other post-Soviet or post-socialist countries. It is worthwhile thinking about and responding to the repurposed notion of mesosphere put forward by the editors of the issue. Mesosphere, in a way, likewise articulates the socio-political, economic, and cultural conditions of these countries in transition that, since 1989–1991, have started to re-establish their identity.

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Without Index by Ferenc Gróf

Artwork in focus

At first sight the idea of placing a painting that has been gathering dust in museum storage for more than fifty years and a novel that barely anyone has read for decades together in a contemporary art context seems bizarre. Such a project is strange in the current museological context of Hungary, even though the end of the 1950s, the period in which the works were created, may become topical once again because of similarities in the institutional limitation of intellectual freedom through political interference in power structures and in the reactions of intellectuals. The laying out of such parallels presents today’s audiences with a difficult task, even though appropriation, or the concept of détournement and variations on it, already have a history going back decades and are built into the toolkit of contemporary art. Ferenc Gróf, a Hungarian artist based in Paris, sought to take on this task in the Kiscell Museum of Budapest with the collaboration of the author of this text as a curator.

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Flags by Bálint Szombathy

Artwork in focus

In 1972 the artist Bálint Szombathy carried out a series of works under the title Flags – photographic documentations of performances that deconstructed the Yugoslav flag. The Yugoslav flag consisted of the French Tricolour, rotated by 90° and with a red star outlined in gold added in the centre. The colours of the Tricolour symbolized liberty, equality and fraternity, while the red star stood for the victorious revolution. The context for Bálint Szombathy’s Flags (1972) was the onset of stagnation within the alternative utopia of self-managed socialism.

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