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Interview

Keeping art on the move

Dora Hegyi and Judit Angel on 15 years of tranzit residencies, the echoes of empire and networks against nationalism.

20. September 2017
Magazine > Interview > Keeping art on the move

Since its inception in 2002, the transnational regional network tranzit has supported contemporary art and established branches in Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania. For the 15-year-anniversary of the Vienna residency programme, a curatorial collective of tranzit and ERSTE Foundation presents the exhibition Stopover – Ways of Contemporary Exchange at the MQ in Vienna.

Daniela Fasching talks with two curators of the exhibition, Dora Hegyi (tranzit.hu) and Judit Angel (tranzit.sk).

What was your approach to curating the show in Vienna?

Dora Hegyi: It’s important for us to discuss what the residency means for artistic production nowadays, and also what Vienna means for this region. Because somehow it’s still a cultural centre for this region in many respects, and this story didn’t start today but four centuries ago – so it’s kind of a long story, but one that we and the artists want to reflect on.

Judit Angel: The theme of Vienna as the capital of the former empire and cultural melting pot also allows us to address different kinds of imperialism during history. We have some works which embrace the period before ’89 and after, the Cold War and post-imperial times.

Curators of Stopover: Christiane Erharter, Dora Hegyí, Judit Angel, Heide Wihrheim, Michaela Geboltsberger photo: VIENNA ART WEEK 2017 / Christian Wind

The exhibition celebrates 15 years of tranzit residencies. Is it a retrospective?

Dora Hegyi: No, I wouldn’t call it that at all. Some of the exhibited artists are former residents, some aren’t, but have certain connections to Vienna and to our curatorial work.

Judit Angel: It’s more a statement in favour of the practice of residency, and the idea of inevitable cultural exchange and movement, especially in today’s times when new borders are being raised and freedom of movement is again in danger. I think it’s very important to make a statement in favour of the mobility of cultural producers, intellectuals, artists and so on.

In the exhibition, we reflect on that idea of the inevitable cultural exchange that happens when artists in residence come to a place, encountering both hospitality and specific local values and problems. So the artists bring issues from their own context but are receptive and open to what happens where the residency takes place. It’s always a kind of movement between these contexts. And of course there are general issues which matter to all of us as residents on planet Earth. We cannot overlook problems like climate change, ecology, migration, and economic political crisis. The exhibition presents a spectrum of different localities – some of which belong to the context of the residency, some to the context the artists come from and all merge in these general issues that affect humanity today.

Hannes Zebedin & Erich Robatsch: When Freedom Exists, There Will Be No State, 2017, Photo: Marlene Hausegger

What is the significance of a regional network like tranzit in light of the many possibilities for global connection and cultural exchange created by digital technologies?

Dora Hegyi: Well, the world isn’t as globalised as we tend to think, just like Eastern Europe is not as homogeneous as we tend to think. Up close, all contexts have different backgrounds, which are difficult to follow from afar.

Judit Angel: You have the feeling that global connectivity is very universal, but on the other hand, if you look closer, this is not so everywhere and in every case. In fact, many are excluded from these networks, and even if information is more or less globally available, what you can do with it in a given context actually differs very much.

Dora Hegyi: The thing with tranzit is that all branches work autonomously, so it can react to issues relevant to the respective local scenes. The biggest value of the network is that it can produce knowledge, discussion and discourse in local contexts but also retain independence from local art scenes.

Gruppo Tökmag, Sárkány Lee, Performance and Shadow theatre, Courtesy of the artist

Why is this independence from the local art scene important?

Dora Hegyi: Well, in Hungary, there is the difficulty that the local art scene cannot always connect to international proposals. We are mainly into curatorial proposals, so we do research exhibitions and discuss, let’s say, the political cultural developments from the 60s until today. If we invite international players, it’s not always clear that the local cultural scene can connect to that. The reason for this is that the art institutions are not so strong, and are always changing with politics, every five to ten years. There’s no constant discourse that a newer generation can follow. Since 2010, we have had to reflect more and more a political situation where all progressive cultural institutions are restricted or do not get supported, and publicly funded art institutions represent a very different understanding of contemporary art – one that is very nationalistic and does not follow the international discourse.

“If we invite international players, it’s not always clear that the local cultural scene can connect to that. The reason for this is that the art institutions are not so strong, and are always changing with politics, every five to ten years. There’s no constant discourse that a newer generation can follow.”

Just as an example, in parenthesis: I often listen to Austrian cultural radio on Ö1 , which really discusses very contemporary topics which you would never hear about on Hungarian national radio. There is an off radio, a community radio called TILOS, and they discuss all the critical contemporary political issues – but national television and radio do not cover these topics. I think it is a problem when there are gaps in information and communication. For the past five or ten years, the biggest public media have not been transmitting the real world.

Can a project like tranzit do something to counteract these tendencies?

Dora Hegyi: In this context, smaller places like the Off Biennale or tranzit have played an important role as spaces for critical reflection and connecting people who act outside supported circles. We also introduced something new and quite important, in terms of internationality, with our free educational format. When we started that, there was no such thing as Curatorial Studies at the Art Academy, that came later.

Judit Angel: And in Slovakia and in Romania, these curatorial studies still don’t officially exist, so that means that more or less everyone has to be self-taught. Of course you learn art history at university, but it’s not the same. We are trying to present experimental or interesting curatorial models in the form of lectures and workshops, to engage in a kind of dialogue with local producers – trying to cover their needs on the one hand, but also to make proposals and stimulate new responses.


A shorter version of this interview has been published in the journal of the VIENNA ART WEEK 2017. We thank Daniela Fasching and Barbara Wünsch (VIENNA ART WEEK) for their cooperation!

Titelbild: Oto Hudec, Long Long road, Detail, 2012, Courtesy the artist and Gandy gallery


Stopover – Ways of Temporary Exchange

Date: 22 September to 25 November 2017, Tue-Sun 1 pm – 8 pm
Venue: frei_raum Q21 exhibition space
Admission free

With Abandoned (re)creation, Zbyněk Baladrán, Igor and Ivan Buharov, Aleš Čermák, Anetta Mona Chişa & Lucia Tkáčová, Cristina David, Ricarda Denzer, Katalin Erdődi, ex-artists’ collective, Ferenc Gróf, Gruppo Tökmag, Márton Gulyás, Oto Hudec, Adela Jušić, Lenka Kukurová, Ioana Nemeş, Polygon Creative Empire, Isa Rosenberger, Alina Şerban, Tereza Stejskalová, Kamen Stoyanov, Johanna Tinzl & Stefan Flunger, Mona Vătămanu & Florin Tudor, Raluca Voinea, Hannes Zebedin.

Events as part of the exhibition

All events are free of charge

Exhibition Opening
Date: Thu, 21 Sep, 19:00
Venue: frei_raum Q21 exhibition space
Lecture Performance Ferenc Gróf: 20:00
Guided Tour of the Sissi Quartier by Polygon Creative Empire: 20:30

Mona Vătămanu & Florin Tudor
Date: Fri, 22 Sep, 17:00
Venue: frei_raum Q21 exhibition space
Film Screening, Talk

Polygon Creative Empire
Date: Fri, 22 Sep, 18:00
Venue: frei_raum Q21 exhibition space
Guided Tour of the Sissi Quartier

Isa Rosenberger: Nový most
Date: Fri, 6 Oct, 17:00
Venue: frei_raum Q21 exhibition space
Fim Screening, Talk

Abandoned (re)creation: Highlights from Slovak Functionalist and Modernist Architecture
Date: Sat, 7 Oct, 10:00-18:00
Meeting Point: Bellariastrasse/Museumsplatz
Registration and information: culture@erstestiftung.org
Excursion to Bratislava, Guided City Tour

Cristina David and Michael Ehn: Re-enactment of a Chess Game
Date: Sat, 7 Oct, 20:00
Venue: frei_raum Q21 exhibition space
Performance as part of the ORF Lange Nacht der Museen

Alina Şerban in conversation with Cristina David
Date: Tue, 17 Oct, 18:00
Venue: frei_raum Q21 exhibition space
Artist Talk

Art Aid: Social Movements and Activism
Date: Thu, 19 Oct, 16:30-19:00
Venue: frei_raum Q21 exhibition space
Projec Presentations, Discussion with Petja Dimitrova, Márton Gulyás, Oto Hudec, Lenka Kukurová, Kamen Stoyanov

Aleš Čermák: POLO SHIRT [DISCIPLINE]
Date: Thu, 19 Oct, 19:00
Venue: frei_raum Q21 exhibition space

Igor and Ivan Buharov: Most of the Souls That Live Here
Date: Fri, 20 Oct, 18:00
Venue: Blickle Kino im 21er Haus, Arsenalstrasse 1, 1030 Vienna
Film Screening, Talk, with an introduction by Katalin Erdődi

Cristina David hosts Frau Schach (Ms Chess)
Date: Sat, 7 Nov, 17:00-20:00
Venue: frei_raum Q21 exhibition space
Meeting of the Viennese women’s chess club

Gender Woodstock: Feminist Art Practices
Date: Fri, 17 Nov, 15:00-20:00
Venue: frei_raum Q21 exhibition space
Presentations, lectures, performance by Zbyněk Baladrán, Adela Jušić, Tereza Stejskalová, Johanna Tinzl, Lucia Tkáčová, Raluca Voinea et al. as part of the VIENNA ART WEEK

Gruppo Tökmag: Sárkány Lee (Dragon Lee)
Date: Sat, 18 Nov, 20:00
Venue: frei_raum Q21 exhibition space
Theater Performance, Talk

A co-operation between tranzit and ERSTE Foundation with frei_raum Q21.