ESR 1 Blog April 2021: Gabor Erlich

Last time I left you with some unfinished thoughts on class issues, to which, I promise, I will get back in the second half of this entry – with an exciting event promo (!); so bear with me.

First, I want to tell you about a realisation I made during a three-day workshop earlier this week on ethnographic research methods led by Prof. Ursula Offenberger from the University of Tubingen (part of the Feinart training programme). Since most of us will carry out research in the ‘field’ – very different fields – such a prep workshop has its obvious pros, though this is not the reason I am bringing this up. The reason is rather, that listening to my peers commenting on certain issues provides short seconds of insight through which one gets the chance to observe and learn the multitude of ways they reason. The richness of this cognitive load and the diversity of articulate, yet very distinct, attitudes blew my mind and made me feel privileged being a part of this group. Despite the fact that we all hover over the arena of socially engaged art, there is a plethora of positions interacting, collaborating and debating with one another. Again, the dynamics of this group are reduced to the online sphere for the time being, but the horizon is certainly bright; I expect that the outcome of the Feinart programme will contribute to the manifold debates in the field of socially engaged art in differently fascinating ways. But why am I saying what is already clear? – please, if you haven’t read ten entries before you started this one, I suggest you scroll this site and come back only if you still have some free disc space.
Speaking of ‘field works’ reminds me of the fact that I am actually supposed to be in Hungary these days (if it wasn’t for the pandemic) where the third edition of the OFFBiennale Budapest  has just opened. As an artist I participated in the first two editions (2014 &2017), this time I would like to be more on the observer’s side for the sake of my research in which I will be dedicating a chapter on the specific characteristics of the CEE region. Since my interest is the social identity of the artist and the economic role of art – more closely the ways in which these are changing through the emergence of socially engaged practices; the programme of Hungary’s biggest contemporary art event is of high significance. It is also vital to state that OFFBB is an independent institution, meaning that the curatorial group is not applying for state funding at all, which in itself is a strong statement given that in the CEE region culture has always been a field heavily subsidised by the state and constantly lacking non-state money. Obviously, the curatorial team made this decision as a stand against the ‘culture wars’ of the Orban regime. This is a very important issue for anyone trying to understand the field, and it is also one of my personal favourites given my interest in the economic role of art; but this is not the right format nor it is the right time to go on further. So, the biennial. Due to the pandemic there will be a bunch of online events as well as exhibits offering online viewings – so do check out its site.

Speaking of regional focus, one of my secondments will be at the Biennale Warszawa – I will spend three months in the capital city of Poland next year working with the curatorial team of the BW, which works on a different fiscal framework, for it is supported by the municipality council. Which, from the perspective of Hungary – a similarly conservative place on the scale of authoritarianism[1] –  is totally unimaginable. And once again, regional focus: I will be moderating a Feinart Public Lecture by the interdependent Polish curator Kuba Szreder on the 13th of May (18:30 CEST, please, keep an eye on the time zones, they are tricky online (check this link for up to date info). Kuba is a very fascinating actor on the scene, who is not only a curator but also an organiser and a theoretician. He will be speaking about, or certainly will touch, upon the class issues I have abandoned in this post in spite of my promise, for which I ask your forgiveness – I would be spoiling the questions I am planning to entertain Kuba with after his lecture, which is called “Towards Interdependent Curating: Below the Surface of the Artistic Iceberg”. You can read one of his most recent pieces here; and I hope to see you at the talk!

[1] Narcissistic Authoritarian Statism (NAS) is a term coined by Iliana Fokoiaki, who will be presenting the very next Feinart Public Lecture, see details here:

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