STILL HERE opened at Old Town Gallery Zichy in Bratislava

by Maya Hristova





This group exhibition opened last year in September at the Old Town Gallery Zichy in Bratislava. It featured work by Ksenia Bilyk (UA), Peter Brandt (DK), Amir Chasson (GB/IL), Artistka Chuprynenko (UA), Maika Dieterich (DE), Petra Garajová (SK), Charmaine de Heij (NL), Jena Jang (KR), Marc Lee (CH), Agata Milizia (IT), Petra Nela Pučeková (SK), Ojo Taiye (NG), will take place until 2nd October, 2022. The exhibition is curated by the civic association päť & pól (Oleksandra Bakushina, Lucia Gamanová, Kvet Nguyen, Eva Takácsová) and Denisa Tomková.


Does it even make sense to keep counting the catastrophes that we are facing today? Is the current emergency rather one big crisis of our collective inability to imagine the future? Franco “Bifo” Berardi argues that: ‘The future becomes a threat when the collective imagination becomes incapable of seeing alternatives to trends leading to devastation, increased poverty, and violence.’1 The initial open call for the exhibition Still Here acknowledged the moment of crisis but understood it, more or less, as the Covid-19 pandemic, the environmental crisis and economic instability.  However, during the duration of the open call another crisis emerged, which escalated to the war in Ukraine. Eula Biss writes in her book On Immunity that ‘our bodies may belong to us, but we ourselves belong to a larger body composed of many bodies.’2 Our bodies are interdependent through blood donation, vaccination or childbirth, but we are not only connected biologically, we are also connected socially, through networks. What we learned during the global pandemic was that we are all interconnected and depend on each other for our collective immunity, and this has become even more pertinent  in the times of the war, which also highlighted our dependency on non-renewable resources. Asia Bazdyrieva writes that ‘Europe’s increased dependency on Russian oil and gas is driven by economic advantages and is folded into the mix of the continent’s generally advanced yet uncritical environmental concerns. Despite Europe’s rhetorical orientation towards resolving the environmental crisis, the material benefits of mining in countries with corrupt or authoritarian governments prevail, while the silence around these processes makes it impossible to address the climate issue at the level of real politics.’3 That is precisely how - in our current situation - one crisis not only overcomes the other, but even enhances it. As when blowing into the fire, each crisis adds more air over the coals and speeds up combustion into even bigger flames. Here we are, facing the spread of wildfires resulting from heat waves reminding us both of the climate emergency, and the above mentioned uncritical environmental political actions.

Exhibition views. Interviews with the artists here

Still Here believes that contemporary art offers a useful tool to stimulate public dialogue in a performative and temporary way and that art has the potential to influence anti-authoritarian struggles, within which many art critics see the progressive and emancipatory legacy of the avant-garde.4 The exhibition acknowledges the importance of contemporary art production in imagining a new positive future, in empowering communities, in stimulating public dialogue and in healing our collective body. The artists in the exhibition - from their very varied positions, perspectives and different geographical locations - remind us that even though we all deal with different aspects of the current crises, we are all in it together. With their art, they are all trying to offer visions and proposals for a more positive future beyond the reality of our current global experience. The works in the exhibition Still Here offer proposals for repair, providing  healing  and imagining a more positive future outside of the reality of our current global experience. They understand that the only way to reverse Berardi’s argument and to imagine the future again is to work on the repair collectively. As Ojo Taiye’s poem proposes: ‘if we choose— any tree can become a ladder.’

Text: Denisa Tomkova

1 Franco “Bifo” Berardi. 2012. The Uprising: On Poetry and Finance. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 59. 

2 Biss, Eula. 2015. On Immunity. London: Fitzcarraldo Editions, 132.

3 Asia Bazdyrieva. 2022. 'No Milk No Love', e-flux journal, May.

4 Majweska, Ewa and Szreder, Kuba. 2016.‘So Far, So Good: Contemporary Fascism, Weak Resistance, and Postartistic Practices in Today’s Poland’, e-flux journal, October; Cichocki, Sebastian. 2016. Making Use: Life in Post-artistic Times, the exhibition catalog, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw; Léger, Marc James. 2012. Brave New Avant Garde: Essays on Contemporary Art and Politics. Winchester and Washington: Zero Books; Roberts, John. 2015. Revolutionary Time and the Avant-Garde. London and New York: Verso.

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