20 years of Kontakt

20 years of Kontakt

Kontakt Collection

June 6, 2024
20 years of Kontakt
January 1–December 31, 2024

In 2024, Kontakt is celebrating both 20 years of existence and the necessity of focusing on developments and tendencies in art from Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe from the 1960s onward. In this context, a number of events are set to take place across Europe that underline the importance of Kontakt and its attempt to do justice to the mission of representing modern and contemporary art in a particular region of Europe as well as in Europe at large.

Kontakt’s focus lies on art that is highly specific and unique. European culture at large, however, will remain deprived of these riches until it finds ways of broadening the scope of its perception and dialogue to integrate the inputs of these artists, who have been contributing significant works to the history of European art since the late 1950s. Several among these works address models of the future and the possibility of enriching present reality through imaginary modes of thought, thereby embodying a quest for alternative views of reality—or, in the words of Slovak artist Július Koller, for a new “cultural situation.” With its name, Kontakt pays tribute to the work of Július Koller—who created “KONTAKT (Anti-Happening)” (1969) as well as multiple similarly titled work series from the late 1960s onwards. Koller also, in one of his manifestos, called for a “cosmo-humanist” situation as a mode of existence that, viewed in light of our crisis-ridden contemporary world order, is indeed still quite relevant today.

Kontakt’s 20th anniversary serves to raise questions about possible future scenarios posed from artistic as well as institutional perspectives. The latter relate to climate justice tendencies and resource scarcity, whose effects also impact current practices in terms of conceiving and realizing exhibitions. Attention is hence being paid to dematerialized art, which makes up a large share of the Kontakt’s holdings and encompasses mail art, performances, happenings, visual and experimental poetry, and sound-based works from the 1960s and 1970s. These ephemeral manifestations in time were captured on paper, film, and photographs. Many of these artistic ideas were never realized, thus remaining mental experiments. With their dematerialized art, Július Koller and his fellow artists created a flexible and operative artistic tool for the initiation of critical discourse within the real socialist countries in Eastern Europe in order to establish contact (Kontakt) with other colleagues in and outside the region, suggesting an alternative future for a universal community.

For its 20th anniversary, Kontakt will attempt to focus on those utopian moments and ideas that are inscribed upon the dematerialized art projects of the 1960s and ’70s by way of exhibitions, films, workshops, and projects in specific media outlets. And referring back to Július Koller’s idea of a “new cultural situation,” there will be exhibition formats that involve neither art transportation and the associated CO2 emissions nor exhibition displays requiring a plethora of materials.

One such attempt at realizing a climate-neutral exhibition will be carried out in late October on the occasion of the inauguration of the new building for the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (MSN Warsaw) with an activation of performative works from the Kontakt Collection. In November, Pierre Bal-Blanc will stage a “suitcase exhibition” with a very special selection of works held by Kontakt that will enter into dialogue with the French federal collection CNAP at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. For this project, no materialized artworks will travel to Paris—only concepts, ideas, and performance instructions documented on paper as well as in filmic and photographic form to probe new ways of “exhibiting” Eastern European art.

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Kontakt Collection
June 6, 2024

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