XLVI. AICA International Congress Košice / Bratislava 2013

24-27 September 2013



Organising the 46thInternational Congress of AICA may be regarded as the culmination of roughly sixty years of effort by a young discipline, Slovak art criticism, to communicate fine art to our own society, as well as to the international community, and thereby raise its artistic and intellectual level.

That can never be done easily. Every good art historian and critic in Slovakia is permanently in the position of a rebel, who daily must defend his/her freedom and unyielding independence – at one time, under the totalitarian regime, against the ambitions of less talented colleagues; later on against a nationalist oligarchy committed to genre descriptiveness; and today against the abuse of some features of the market and all kinds of fashionable superficiality. Strong characters as a rule are able to bear such pressures, but paradoxically, and with iron regularity, all the most distinctive critics have had to pay the price of a certain social marginalisation. They have suffered the unwarranted loss of important employment positions, thereby impeding not only their personal growth but also the development of the many institutions where they worked. We dedicate this congress to them above all: Alžbeta Güntherová-Mayerová, Karol Vaculík, Marián Váross, Ľubor Kára, Radislav Matuštík, Eva Šefčáková, Tomáš Štrauss, Igor Gazdík, Zuzana Bartošová, Katarína Rusnáková, Alena Vrbanová, Vladimír Beskid, Ľudmila Kasaj-Poláčková, and others, including those future critics whom the same fate still awaits. Historians of art and critics (simply by virtue of their profession, which demands expansive knowledge and vision) always have before them an idea of a situation towards which the art scene is still only tending. And that ensures that none of them will be “prophets in their own country”. Particularly in the post-totalitarian countries, this is something that must be regarded as inevitable.

The AICA Congress was last held in our region in 1966 in Prague, the capital city of Czechoslovakia. Only its secondary offshoot took place in Bratislava, but that part has become legendary. Many world-ranking critics, headed by Pierre Restany, instead of attending an event presenting the official notion of contemporary art as found in the halls of hidebound institutions, took part instead in Alex Mlynárčik’s “counter-event”, which was held in public toilets. This event underlined the duality of the contemporary cultural situation, – official and alternative – a model which survived through subsequent decades in various modifications. Today we have a new situation before our eyes: we are witnessing real international successes by Slovak artists on the international scene. This fact in itself poses a duty to contribute our own opinions and stances towards the naming of the wider-than-local context of visual art, at the very least for the purposes of Central Europe and Europe as a whole. 

With that in mind we have formulated the theme of our congress, taking into account the potentially wider significance of any local scenes whatever, which represent “White Places and Black Holes”not only outwardly but sometimes and in some degree even for themselves. Central Europe is preeminently a place where many different cultures meet, a place of fragments, concurrences or counter-impulses, and in this regard it may be perceived also as a model for other countries in  similar situations. Many of these themes were identified and opened up during last year’s congress in Zurich; they present a huge challenge, and our ambition is to extend them, continue with their analysis, and hopefully, within the limits of possibility, to attempt answers to some of the questions at least.


Congress Location:

XLVI. AICA International Congress 2013 organised by the Slovak section of AICA, will be held on 24-27 September 2013 in Košice, the metropolis of eastern Slovakia, and Bratislava, the capital city of the Slovak Republic.


Congress Title:  White Places – Black Holes


Brief Description of the Congress Theme:

White place is a term used in cartography describing unnamed places on the map. Black hole is a term from cosmology  defined as a region of spacetime from which gravity prevents anything, including light, from escaping.

White Places – Black Holes sets out to analyse the strategies by which lesser-known regions have been and are reflected in the global history of art. How is the local history of art perceived from the centres, and how is the global history of art perceived on the periphery? White Places – Black Holesis a problem permanently present in art history, and features in its own way in every attempt at critical reflection on visual art. During the last congress held in Czechoslovakia in 1966, the isolated artistic scene that was hidden behind the Iron Curtain introduced itself to the most prominent world critics in the AICA. Thereby, for a brief while, it made contact with the world and acquired space in which to advocate its international positions. However, even today we meet with similar problems not only in every country of central and eastern Europe but anywhere at all where the art scene has developed in relative isolation and without the opportunity to communicate directly with the artistic centres. Our aim, therefore, is to organise a central European congress which will reflect the wider associations of how local art scenes are perceived by “official”art history. This problem, in the broad sense of the word, affects all artists and artworks that have striven to impress themselves upon the scene and catch the eye of history. Is it really criticism which decides what is accepted and rejected, and what methods does it employ in its research procedures? To what extent is the image it creates genuine, to what extent is it schematic? What is the role of critics in the lesser known regions, and how do they reflect development beyond “their territory”? Where has criticism got to in the year 2013, and how does it reflect the changes in thinking brought about by the new communication schemas?