Maria Riskova & Ivana Moncolova interviewed by Nina Czegledy

BURYZONE is an independent alternative gallery and club in Bratislava, Slovakia established in 2001 and operated by a non-profit association. The space organizes regular events on each Friday in a small family house. These events include exhibitions, lectures, discussions, presentations, screenings. The bigger events are organized off site, mostly in cooperation with other organizations. Last year the great opening event of Buryzone was celebrated by a performance and an exhibition by STUPIDesign in collaboration with Polish graphic students. The opening of the library offering catalogues and books and exhibition of book like art objects served as a good excuse for a second opening event. In the summer of 2001 Beyond Gagarin. was one of the biggest events organized by Buryzone This open air festival took place in a nearby park presenting performances, drama and concerts. A monument made from concrete, from the Socialist era served as the festival stage. The Multiplace alternative festival of new media culture was held in April 2002 in three Slovak cities: Bratislava, Trnava, Nitra. The series of events included an interactive exhibition by Ivor Diosi, projections, VJs. etc.

> You have initiated Buryzone less than two years ago. Can you tell me about the background, in Bratislava? How and why this group formed?

Maria Riskova: Concerning the art scene, just like in a few other EE countries the issue of the "missing generation" is still evident. Artists and theorists from 6Os remain active and are still having their small and big arguments. But this is slowly disappearing now. My peers, who finished school 4-5 years ago and even later, are starting to be very powerful. We have so many possibilities compared to our colleagues who had to "sit at home" in the 70s and 80s. The other side of the story is that a lot of people are still passive, used to being consumers. And what is worse is that they still believe in dreams about the West and thus they make the difference between East and West bigger then it actually is. Many young people prefer to leave the country, instead of starting their professional life here (and I understand them - "I am tired" is the feeling of my last few months as well). I also planned to study abroad before BURYZONE. Now this idea is only postponed. I recomend to everybody to spend some time abroad. It is for a lot of young people the most important education and I think we will see results here in few years when they start to come back home. So, maybe this was an answer about WHY we started BURYZONE last year. Of course, my words are somehow black and white as the situation is much more complex.

The beginning of BURYZONE itself was a happy coincidence. It seemed to be a logical consequence of the situation and of our previous activities. The beginning was quite simple: a friend, Robert Parso, rented the space for the graphic studio STUPIDesign and I, having experience with organizing events, intended to share it. Both of us had a lot of ideas.
In the very beginning there was also another owner of the studio, Peter Huba, who cooperated with us, but he later started his own studio. Robert came one day with the idea to start the club with a gallery. Everybody in the studio knew how the place should look like. Soon we had a lot of volunteers, mostly our friends, helping with everything we needed. Of course, after some time the first excitement was not so high and a few permanent volunteers stayed helping with the realization of the events. I am working as program coordinator and also manager of the club and gallery, (this is actually the living room of the house), and some other activities outside. At the beginning people in the club and the studio were the same. Now the club is independent from the studio, paying its own rent but still closely cooperating with it. We decided a long time ago not to enter the battlefield of our older colleagues and to establish our own playground instead, which is Buryzone.

> What are the most recent Buryzone developments?

MR: The biggest one is the ability to realize the New Media Nation project supported by a grant from the EU Commission in the Culture 2000 program. The project aims to involve people from the arts and culture environments in new media production. It consists of various types of events, an alternative new media festival, workshops, an international text competition for students, a conference and more (you can find more information about it at www.nmn.sk). Actually, this is a very new development for BURYZONE, the program begins in September.

> I have been very impressed by the spontaneous way the regular Friday events are organized. Can you describe Buryzone activities and aims?

MR: We try to educate people how to change from consumers to producers and presenters of their own works. The club is also a contact point and informal space where people being active in different cultural and social environments can meet each other. Practically, we offer the space (and any needed help) to young, not established artists, theorists and other organizers to prepare exhibitions and any other activities - screenings, VJing, presentations of work, lectures. Everybody is also welcome to bring interesting topics or persons who can present a lecture. And people use this possibility - more then half of the events are organized by initiatives from our visitors and friends. Some of the people need conceptual help which we can also provide. Often it's the first impulse for a public presentation of their work or knowledge. Sometimes better known people from the domestic scene also give a presentation, especially if their work needs an alternative space or audience. Events which the Buryzone organizers initiate are mostly presentations by foreign artists and theorists and events which are providing a balance for the whole program. We always have some extra suggestions and if we need more music, or more fine art we utilize this. Now during the New Media Nation project it is a little bit different because we initiate many more events. The structure of the program is simple. The Buryzone gallery and library is open three days a week from Wednesday to Friday. Every Friday we have an event, every three weeks a new exhibition. From this season we have every Wednesday non-live music events.

> In view of Buryzone's success, can you tell me more about your audiences and special events?

Ivana Moncolova: Our regular audience ranges from ten to a hundred people, consisting of students, artists, theorists and the general public. On the three weekdays when we are open the public has an opportunity to come in for a coffee or a drink, read journals and chat. Every Wednesday evening we have a broadcast event, however our broadcast range is only 10 meters. We would like to stream on the internet, but we have neither the time nor the funds to do so, consequently we began in this modest fashion and intend to develop it step by step. Heavy Metal For Sale was one of our popular events. People brought objects and records for sale as well as video tapes and curiosities such as a guitar made of soap. These events bring in not only artists but a much wider audience. Eighties was another similar event, dedicated to fashion items and other objects from the eighties. We had an exhibition of posters from the eighties and an opening disco party with hits from the eighties.

> Maria, before Buryzone you worked as a curator. Can you tell us about your previous experience, especially the conference CENTRE-EDGE organized in 1999?

MR: I was active in a Group of Young Art Historians and Art Consumers, called ERRATA. We formed the organization after finishing our studies at the university in Trnava, a city which is on the cultural periphery of the Slovakia capital Bratislava. In 1999 the situation of arguing with the "old generation" was still strong (and we felt it even stronger right after our studies, without our own experiences). Everyday we had to face the situation that someone considered us less skillful than our colleagues from Bratislava university. So, we decided to discuss this issue at an international conference which organized under the name CENTRE-EDGE, Elite-Averige. We knew that the topic was at that time already old-fashioned but it was the main concern for us after finishing that school and we needed to face it somehow. Also one of the impulses to start the group was to be more powerful (and clever). From the beginning we wanted to fight those prejudices and work on new projects. The conference was the first one, then we organized one very successful exhibition in the train from - Bratislava to Kosice in the west of Slovakia, another big cultural centre which was considered on the cultural periphery. Again this was the same old topic, but the aim of the action was trying to organize an event in a public space. By now the members of ERRATA are having their separate "business" - I have Buryzone, the initiator of ERRATA, Viera Jancekova, is now the youngest state gallery director in Slovakia, and the other two members started to edit an art magazine. ERRATA was important for me as it made me realize that I like to organize events rather than curating exhibitions in a white cube or involving myself in theory. Before Buryzone I also worked in the state gallery in Trnava, organizing accompanying events for big international graphic design events. This work gave me the very valuable knowledge: in no way do I want to be an employee of any state institution.

> What are your plans for the future?

MR: There are a few plans and as usual they depend a lot on some other people around me. From next year, from the founders only I will continue with BURYZONE, as Robert Parso plans to devote his time again to graphic design. My first plan is to continue with BURYZONE in the same form as it is now, but I want to find people who could run Buryzone without my permanent presence and they could realize their own visions about the programs and the management of the place. I would like to be responsible only for a part of the activities because I plan to shift my work more to research and educational activities, mostly in new media. I am impressed by the work of some of my colleagues in other places who run similar spaces for new media and technologies, so I want to try establish here a space with a medialab and mediatheque, but not isolated from other fields of culture. This shift of Buryzone is already on the way now. Every audience needs a special attitude. Slovaks still stay locked into their own profession, so sometimes one needs "tricks" to attract them to new things. That's why the existence of a space presenting both old and new media, discussing art, science and social issues in balance has some sense here. People here are orthodox and do not trust new things. It would be perfect if I could run a "new media section" in a space like Buryzone. If I will not find people who could share this work, I will concentrate on establishing the media space. Next year I will also be the curator of the Trnava Poster Triennial, an event I participated in two years ago. My other plan is to go to study somewhere abroad for some time, but I need to find an offer which is perfect for me. And another plan is to start editing an alternative magazine with my friends and to edit publications on theory, but this plan I can save for later, now I feel this is the time for running spaces.

This interview was conducted by e-mail with Maria Riskova and in person with Ivana Moncolova at the Tranzindex Symposium in Cluj, Romania, on September 28, 2002. It originally appeared online in year01 together with three other interviews (with Tranzit House from Romania, Kuda.org from Serbia and Janos Sugar from Hungary).

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