Arts

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By Dita Asiedu

One such festival started off on Friday - the Eurotrialog in the beautiful Moravian town of Mikulov. Organised by Alternative Music Productions, it is enjoying its third consecutive year and being close to the Slovak, Austrian and Hungarian borders, attracts visitors from all over Central Europe. Alternative Music Productions' Blanka Strayblova and her colleague has spent the past nine months preparing for the festival and told Radio Prague what it's like to promote rock bands in the country:

"Well, AMP has eight bands to manage and because it is just rock music, it is a little difficult to let them be alive without another job because the rock scene is not that big here and if they want to play every week, they cannot get enough money. It's getting worse and that is why we are trying other activities such as the festival."

Tell me something about the bands that are going to be playing?

"From Slovakia, for example, there will be a band called 'Vitek' and the band was known here in the late 80's when the Czech and Slovak Republics were one country. Then, they disappeared from the scene here and they are back after some eight years. There is also a Polish band called 'Something about Elvis' and then there's another band called 'X-orchestra' with 20 members from Great Britain, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Italy and even Australia. There will be a band from Hungary which also performed at the first festival and was very successful."

Why did you choose to have bands from the Central European region?

"Because we wanted to connect the musicians and also the people who come to listen to the music because from the Czech scene, for example, it is very hard to get to the other scenes in Europe."

This year it is two days long. Why did you decide to make it longer than before?

"We have a specialty at this festival which is a band called 'Dunai'. The singer of the band died and the band decided to give a special free concert and the part of the singer is going to be another singer from a band called Pluto - it doesn't exists anymore. We have an exhibition opening on Friday of the pictures of the deceased singer."

How do you get the bands to come and perform at your festival?

"Well, the festival already has a good name because we have tried to make it an alternative music festival - we do not want to have the musicians or the bands that are playing at all of the festivals this summer and we decided to make it different. We offered the musicians to play with musicians that they do not usually play with."

One of Prague's biggest tourist attractions is its cultural scene. Classical music, theatre and exhibitions are an essential part of any visit to the Golden City and one of Prague's bigger art promoters responsible for many such programmes is the Prague City Gallery. With several galleries around the city, its curators work around the clock to find the perfect displays for artwork. I met up with Vit Havranek, one of the gallery's curators and asked him what it was exactly that was keeping him so busy.

"Mostly, my work is about exhibitions so we prepare and develop a sort of strategy of exhibitions and then we produce these exhibitions. The other part of our work is looking after the artworks in the depositary and also the permanent collections."

So what sort of exhibitions do you focus on? Is there a certain type or maybe from certain parts of the world?

"Well, we are presenting art exhibitions from Europe and also from the Czech Republic but mainly we have two main strategies: contemporary art and then classic avant-garde from the 20th century."

What do you think of modern, contemporary art? I am asking because, as a curator, you have obviously seen and worked with real art, real talent - something that's been produced and cannot be reproduced by just any other person. Often, contemporary art looks like it's just basically taking a table and turning it upside-down. How can you respect something like that? Is it difficult for you, after you have seen that there really are works out there that have been done by talented people, people who really know about art?

"The problem is that from the beginning of the 20th century, art is developing its own strategies. It is obvious today that classical art is not contemporary art and I spent a lot of time studying the history of art and I understand that artists need to make some sort of perpetual revolution, to review all the history. They have to react somehow to all the things that have already been done so they need to react to contemporary life and, on the other hand, on the history. They have to put these two references together and they have to make something new, that is different. So, I have to respect this approach. I spent a lot of time studying the history in this context so for me it's like a sort of scientific field. It's obvious that everybody cannot understand it all, it's a very special human activity. But finally, it's made for people, for everybody, so artists are always trying to make it work somehow - this contact between the public and the own history art."

How many curators are there at the City Gallery?

"We are four curators and each curator has a different field and different collections of objects and artworks and then a little bit of a different historical field and interest."

How do you choose what you want and how much time does it take to actually organise an exhibition here?

"We prepare our exhibition plan one or two years in advance and we try to make a sort of equilibrium between classical avant-garde and contemporary art and there are two types of exhibitions. There are exhibitions prepared somewhere else, not in our gallery, and we just make a production of this exhibition, transportation, presentation with architects, graphic design, and so on and the other type of exhibition is more complex and it takes much more time and preparation and that is exhibitions prepared by our gallery, by our curators, and it means that from the beginning until the end, we have to make all the choices of the artwork, the idea of the exhibition and it takes at least two years to make a really good and important exhibition because we are always depending on other galleries as we need some space and some artworks from different places and all of that takes a long time to prepare."

One of the City Gallery's most recent so-called travelling exhibitions that's still being held at the House of Golden Rings is an exhibition of photographs by the highly controversial Andres Serrano. It focuses on many taboos in life such as scenes from a morgue, nudity - young and old, bodily fluids, and last but certainly not least, Christ on a cross emerged in the artist's urine and you can find more about it in Radio Prague's NewsView program from Tuesday, August 21.