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Video-pool: Diana Baldon

Moving images from Central Europe
After decades of political systems in crises, south central Europe is on its way to stable democracy. On 1st May 2004, the European Union incorporated ten nations from the former Eastern Bloc, an accession that constitutes perhaps more of a ‘trans-national ceremony’ than an instant opening onto the region. In one of Iain Sinclair’s novels I recall the story of a cripped man superimposing the x ray of his brain tumour over a map of London to heal himself by walking out its routes. Like this man, so the artists from this geopolitical area seem to use video: a device to heal social prejudices and the traumas of war, and explore, by means of the ‘mental maps’ they carry inside, the urban and cultural landscape.

Just like the idea of Eastern Europe onto which Western Europe has been projecting its fantasies, video is an imaginary territory where moving sequences occupy and reflect the friction between the immediate environment and ‘fantasmatic’ situation, using a term coined by the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek. How can video technology mediate the patterns buried within and breaking into the experience of urbanity and normality of central European cities? How does video scan (and control) their rootlessness to any definite form or place? Whether in the form of recorded documentaries or live interventions spreading across communication channels, video is like a montage machine that compiles cut-outs of (sub-)urban reality and distributes them across constantly-changing settings. Much of the process is a sort of socio-psychological editing: the screen frames actions, rhythms, fragments of life that redefine the sphere of inhabitation. By restoring personal and collective memory, video comments on the economic landscape and social implications of the Balkans’ turbulent history.

The notion of the ‘Balkans’ has being understood as collage per se: a federation of socialist republics established in 1948 with conflicting political goals and, more importantly, different ethnic and religious identities. Whereas artists in the past have used video to expose the demagogies of the failing Socialist system, the contemporary generation of artists is guided by concerns with sense of place, strong traditions and the contradictions emerging from a state of transition. Thinking of this region as a ‘framing grid’ and of the camera as an ideological tool cutting through reality, video as urban condition is, on the one hand, the subjective account of individual agents displaced in separate but contingent frameworks and, on the other, a blend of performative digital practices disseminated across organisations deserving more visibility in the global debate of art and media culture.

In consideration of the autonomous ways split cultural centres engage with extremely different urban scenarios, I have invited artists and organisations from Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia to contribute with an insight on how video, according to them, finds its holes in space, and devours and sets the pace of events. Zagreb, for instance, that during the Socialist era was the centre for conceptual and progressive art, has a legacy of process-oriented video aimed at integrating art into daily life. Here, the urban environment has been captured by the seminal works of Tomislav Gotovac in abstract structural shots unveiling the State-supported idea of modern ‘positivism’ in art, a model challenged by the younger Croatian artists through the deployment of technologically-charged images that make people’s lives even more abstract. Though still acknowledging the conflicting presence of architectural and psychological signage in the public sphere, video is the productive paradigm apt to access the multi-layered urban codes that characterise the present-in-progress of south central Europe.

Diana Baldon (May 2004)

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Tomislav Gotovac
Glenn Miller, 26:00, 2000, Croatia
The film was shot with a camera attached to a car, moving continously in a circle. Since the early 60s, Gotovac's structuralist procedures of directing pay homage to other artists and appropriate public spaces to uncover the politics of everyday and reinterpret historical political facts.

Calin Dan
Sample City, 11:45, 2003, Romania/Netherlands
The video is simultaneously a multi-layered narrative and an attempt to contemplate architecture in a fresh, uninhibited manner. It explores the complex strata of the Bucharest cityscape, using as a guiding agent the impersonation of a character from an old Romanian folk tale that carries a door on his back, transforming his body into migrant architecture.

Azra Aksamija
Arizona Road, 7:45, 2002, Bosnia Herzegovina/Austria
The video examines the creation and development of a self-regulating urban phenomenon and the political, social, economic and urban conditions that have surfaced after the war in Bosnia. Ethnically mixed, the 'Arizona Market' is the largest black market in Bosnia, established in 1997 by American SFOR troops and carried out by the residents that offer all kinds of merchandise. Arizona Road was the name given to the North-South highway in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The market provides a unique opportunity to observe the birth of a city and actively shape it from an urbanistic and architectural standpoint.

Borghesia/Neven Korda/Zemira Alajbegovic
Toxido, 3:23, 1989, Slovenia
The video is part of a tryptic originally made for 'The Futurists', a multi-media performance by Borghesia, the Slovenian influencial progressive punk band (1982–89) that, involved with the independent theatre group FV 112/15, founded in the mid-80s it own independent video production, FV Video. Interweaving with multimedia projects on TV and public appearances, their live performances used and consolidated video as a form of social commentary critical of the political rituals and predominating culture established by socialist Yugoslavia and fostering the increasing resistance by an alternative sub-culture at the centre of which activities there was Borghesia.

Big Hope/Miklos Erhardt/Dominic Hislop
Protest Songbook, 35:00, 2003, Hungary/Germany
Resulting out of an archive of public contributions assembled from an open email call, the video documents a street performance where the artists played protest songs adapted to acoustic guitars in the city of Graz, thus discussing strategies of engaging with social issues and communication.

Andreas Fogarasi
Váci utca - continued, 3:10, 2002, Austria/Hungary
A main shopping street in the city centre of Budapest, since the early 90s the prices of rents and properties in 'Váci Street' have inflated its southern end, which is a mainly residential and proletarian neighbourhood. The video follows the street, progressively showing the significant changes of architecture and the social division built around the concentric structure of the city.

Bob Milosevic
SOC.COM, 8:46, 1999, Serbia Montenegro

Zoran Todorovic
Noise, 1:23, 1999, Serbia Montenegro

Dejan Grba
All my people right here right now, 7:42, 2003, Serbia Montenegro

Tomislav Gotovac
Straight Line (Stevens-Duke), 8:00, 1964, Croatia
This early film of Gotovac’s has many of the qualities which would later come to define video work, espcially as an urban condition. Here the structure of the city, in this case a straight tram-line, takes the place of narrative. We see the view from the front of tram as it follows the converging lines it must follow. (AA)

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