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SK/AT Border/line translations Curated by Doc. Silvia Saparová, ArtD. Martina Šimkovičová Pavol Truben Consultants Jaro Varga, ArtD. Mag. art Ivan Jurica, ArtD. Pedagogical supervision Doc. Silvia Saparová, ArtD. Concept Mgr. art Martina Šimkovičová Doc. Silvia Saparová, ArtD. Mgr. art Pavol Truben Dramaturgy Mgr. art Martina Šimkovičová Translation Marc Hinz Hana Chmelárová-Marková Jakub Uhlík Uršula Melicherová Martina Šimkovičová .týždeň (Poznámka cudzinca) Andrej Gogora (Approaching Stadlnova) Exhibition documentation Sophie Pölzl Petra Pucherová Martina Šimkovičová Videodocumentation Jakub Šípoš

Ateliér o fotografii Simona Donovalová Iva Durkáčová Terézia Kopecká Michal Huštaty Zuzana Pustaiová Jakub Šípoš Ján Skaličan Fachbereich für Kunst und Fotografie Prof. Martin Guttmann Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien Maurizio Cirillo Thomas Garcia Sophie Pölzl Proofreading SK Hana Čiefová Kristína Karabinošová Martina Šimkovičová Proofreading DE Reinhard Bachmaier Jürgen Rendl Thanks to Estuardo Chacón Friedemann Derschmidt Michael Hoepfner Design dot2dot Print Typocon s.r.o. English translation Mgr. Emília Borzová Proofreading Mgr. John Peter Butler Barrer, PhD. footnotes translation Martina Šimkovičová

Sponsored by


The past of the more than 100-km-long border between Slovakia and Austria is marked by change: its loosening and tightening, political acts (of crime) and unclarified situations. The rhetoric used by the media and in social debates in the 1990s does not reflect the current events in this area. The SK/AT exhibition project is based on and confronts the aforementioned assumptions in an effort to study the actual state of this border: to list the current stereotypes, open a discussion about them and ask whether these stereotypes persist or whether they are now only part of our historical memory.


PAVOL TRUBEN Author of the project, artist


The SK/AT Project came together quite spontaneously. At its beginning, there was no daredevil search for a “big” topic or an exaggerated effort to do anything meaningful. The project started with an ordinary conversation in one kitchen at 21 Pražská Street when Martina Šimkovičová and I discovered that our Master’s diploma theses at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava were dealing with the same topic in terms of the basic idea as well as geographically. At that moment, it was only an outline of an idea. My thesis about the Slovak-Austrian border viewed this area from a historical perspective. I studied illegal crossings and the legislation of those days that ordered border guards to stop every attempt to cross the border at all costs. It was the main focal point of our territory with the West. Nowadays, this border is open, although we can hardly call it that anymore. Martina does not work with history, she focuses on the problems of present-day people – Slovak people who decided to move to Austria and who are trying to create a home there. At the beginning it was one border, two periods and two perspectives. Our belief in making a joint exhibition was strengthened when we both received the Rector’s Prize of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design for our work. In the second half of 2013 we knew that the exhibition had to take place in Bratislava as well as in Vienna and that we wanted to get more perspectives on this subject. We asked Jaro Varga to be our consultant, and we actively involved Jϋrgen Rendl, who has been located in Bratislava for several years now. The artist and theorist Ivan Jurica also joined us spontane-


ously. Together, we worked out the concept of two exhibitions and incorporated a broader range of artists who responded to the topic. Silvia Saparová and her photography studio at the Photography and New Media Department at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design and Austrian students from the Faculty of Arts and Photography at the Academy of Fine Arts actively joined the project. Originally we wanted to select two or three of the most interesting works on the topic and exhibit only those. However, the diversity of perspectives convinced us that in this case a selection was neither imperative nor necessary. We decided to exhibit all works and thus form a more complex picture of the current state of the Slovak-Austrian border. A theoretical line that originally was supposed to complement the concept of the exhibition was developed simultaneously alongside the artistic line. As it turned out, it was just as important, and it rounds off the artistic expression. During the workshops we had some very inspiring conversations with people who either live on the border or are inherently affected by it. We interviewed the Mayor of Záhorská Ves JUDr. Boris Šimkovič (Doctor of Law), and Mr Gerhard Schödinger, the Mayor of Wolfsthal. We then turned to panellists who were supposed to introduce the topic to a broader audience so that the public could also express itself. The discussion in Vienna was entitled “Reflections from the Other Side”, and featured Jϋrgen Rendl and Hana Chmelárová-Marková. In Bratislava Ľubomír Falťan and Ivan Jurica discussed the topic “Mental Border: Its Character and Background”. We wanted to complete the project with an artefact that would give a perhaps incomplete but at least informative testimony of our activities, analyses and thoughts. You are now holding it in your hands. It is filled with “border stories” and texts by theoreticians, historians and artists; it is an equally important part of the project as the exhibition itself. The SK/AT project gradually came together over a period of more than a year. Individual parts were added spontaneously, and only when I summarised the data needed to design the poster just before the Vienna exhibition in mo.ë did it occur to me how complex the result was. It is not a comprehensive account. But we were not going for that. However, we started a topic in the field of public discussion; we raised questions about the persistence of stereotypes and the existence of historical memory within a specific geographical area that more or less affects every one of us.




Life is full of unexpected turns. Twenty years ago I never would have thought of causing a scandal because of Europe. I did not think of it five years ago or even last year. For this, I first had to go to Brussels. At first I must point out that I am one of the usual suspects. I’m from Lower Austria, but for the past decade I have been leading a vagabond life across Europe. In 2004 I moved from Vienna to Slovakia, and in 2008 I moved to Brussels. Whenever someone needed an exemplar European citizen, they called on me. Thanks to that, earlier this year I got invited to a major international conference at the Vienna Hofburg which marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain. The event took place in a huge ceremonial hall full of politicians, diplomats, notable figures and an audience. On stage a group of Central European students were supposed to discuss the future of Europe with Central European writers. Nothing unusual. First, three writers were supposed to recall the events of 1989. And so we did. The Czech Jaroslav Rudis was funny. The Slovak Michal Hvorecký, always the most progressive of all at any event, explained the complicated relationship between the Velvet Revolution and the invention of text messaging. I, for one, did not have much to talk about. On 17 November 1989 I was seventeen years old; I saw it all on TV since there was no revolution in Austria. I told them that back in ’89 I was the spokesperson at my monastery school, and I had to fight for a Coca-Cola vending machine. I myself had no desire for a Coca-Cola vending machine, but my voters did, and after that I withdrew from politics. The audience laughed. After that it was time for the students to share their visions for Europe. Even though one Polish student did not know the difference between the Lisbon Strategy and the Lisbon Treaty, all students fell into the same category of typical nominated over-achievers that you meet at such events. Boredom was falling upon me like manna from heaven. The host was trying to change that by asking the students sharply worded questions, but apart from their prepared statements the students had nothing to say. They kept repeating how many opportunities they had now that Europe was united. The elections to the European Parliament were just around the corner. The host asked everyone on stage whether they were going to vote. I was the last one to respond. I said that I had just returned from Brussels, and therefore my answer would be too long, so I’d


rather avoid it. But the host simply would not let it go. And so, in the end, he managed to lure out a vision from me: “The EU could become a democracy.” To me, my answer did not seem so scandalous. But suddenly I felt like a brat that had spoiled the party. The notables were sitting there petrified. The organisers were horrified. A smaller portion, perhaps a quarter of the audience, started clapping vigorously. Alois Mock, Austria’s Foreign Minister in 1989, a historic figure and a graduate of the same monastery school I had gone to, was sitting in the first row. He was seriously ill and looked confused. I was ashamed. When the next round of questions came, the host left me out. A Paneuropean Movement official in the audience got up and called my vision “cheap”. What have I done? I thought to myself. They will never invite me again! Thank God my mum’s not here! When I was leaving Hofburg after the event, several young women addressed me in the lobby. They congratulated me on my courage. They were from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and they were grinning at me with mischevious pleasure. They were pretty, too. If worst comes to worst, a Euro-dissident could be my new profession, I thought to myself, shaking all over. But if it were not for 1989, I would not even be here. Or there. Or I would be someone else. Turmoil, Europe is scandalous, the curtain falls. first publication November 15th 2009 (49/2009)





If we want to deal with the issue of borders, physical or psychological, between two European countries, we must first ask ourselves what the term “border” actually means. In the Duden dictionary the term is defined as follows(1):

1.a. a line in the country, separating certain (political) administrative entities (countries, states) according to regulations;

b. a dividing line between territories that are the property of different owners or that differ from each other by their intrinsic properties;

c.  a notional dividing line between different, opposing areas and phenomena, etc. 2. limitation, final line, ramp.

Word origin From medieval German greniz(e), from the West Slavic language, cf. Polish granica, Russian granica, root Russian gran’ = corner; border.

Typical words associated(2) with the word “border”



narrow, inter-German, Polish, open, national, Czech, clear, enchanting.

abide by, impose, come across, know, show, erase, pass, cross.


chance, rule, obstacle, wall, barrier, precondition, overrun, opportunity. 11

1.a. For almost 20 years the border between Slovakia and Austria was very noticeable since it simultaneously embodied the Iron Curtain between the “Eastern” and “Western” European countries. After its fall, the Slovak people could finally cross the vicious line that had meant freedom. Europeans who had been trapped in the Eastern Bloc could finally visit their relatives and friends who had managed to flee the country during communism; with their own eyes they could see the country they previously could only admire on screen (if they could catch the Austrian ORF TV signal). Most of the residents in neighbouring Austria, on the other hand, remember how the (then) poor Slovaks would come in their Skodas and stand in line in front of the stores in Hainburg. Bratislava residents sent their children to school in border villages so they could learn German as quickly as possible, taking full advantage of the proximity to Austria and thus granting them a better future. Only the buildings that are left standing in the middle of fields remind us of the border crossing points(3). Today, several years after the signing of the Schengen Agreement, life on the borders is busy. For Bratislava residents and people living near the Austrian border, crossing it has become part of their daily routine. Most of them do not even notice that they are crossing an inter-state border; they are more likely to think about what groceries to buy, that they need to fill up on gas, or where their next bike trip will be to. For the same reason (the sense of freedom), Austrian border villages are intensely confronted with the influx of the Slovak population. The prices of land or older houses are still low compared to the overpriced real estate in Bratislava and its Slovak surroundings. Thus, their economic situation is significantly improving. On the other hand, at the former end of the “Western” world life is flowing again(4). A few years ago, there was talk of the population in this region dying out; today, the situation has changed. Naturally, the costs of infrastructure are rising since the municipalities must adapt to the new conditions and build and restore old kindergartens and schools. However, most municipalities are controlling the situation and are making use of their economically lucrative location near Bratislava. However, in some places the influx of new people is so fast that they are unable to respond promptly enough.


Kittsee, one of the border municipalities in Burgenland and Lower Austria, is the biggest and officially the fastest growing municipality in all of Austria(5). Of course, young Slovak families who found their new home here are contributing to this trend. While a decade ago the municipality prided itself with the influx of Slovaks(6), today the rhetoric is changing(7). In addition to the original inhabitants, newer residents that immigrated earlier are not satisfied with the rapid growth of the municipality, and very few of them identify with the idea that Kittsee should become a suburb of Bratislava(8). Even though discussions about this topic are often based on a misunderstanding(9), their content is becoming more and more pressing: all the more so since in the future a further increase in population is expected. Together with the influx of residents, crime rates have gone up. Even though a few years ago it was not necessary to lock one’s doors or bicycles, today this is ancient history. There is even increasing talk about a possible restoration of border controls. 1.b. 1.c. The general dissatisfaction is caused in part by the fact that a relatively small area is inhabited by culturally, linguistically and economically different types of people. Many of the original inhabitants of Kittsee have a pretty realistic grasp of the situation: people from big cities (perceived as wealthy) are moving to the countryside, which, on one hand, means money for the community. On the other hand, it brings an increase in noise, anonymity and crime(10). This would not be an exceptional situation in this context alone since this is happening in several places near (large) cities in both Austria and Slovakia. It is the proximity of the neighbouring country that makes this course of events in the municipality more complicated. Moreover, the increase in population gives the impression that half the municipality speaks a foreign language that no one understands. In shopping malls, grocery stores or on the street, Slovak resonates in addition to German. Also, due to the large share of Slovak-speaking children in kindergartens (about 80 %) and schools (about 60 %), it would seem that the original German-speaking inhabitants are literally being steamrolled in a linguistic sense. However, this is only one aspect. A second and more positive one has the nature of the often mentioned assimila-


tion. All children who go to kindergarten and school here are in fact learning German and, as is the case with children, this process takes place relatively quickly. Although they speak Slovak among themselves, they can distinguish between situations and their surroundings and linguistically adapt. Their parents, who previously may have had no knowledge of German (which does not happen often), are even more motivated to learn the language in order to avoid (and we are maybe exaggerating a little) not understanding their own children. Linguistic assimilation goes both ways; however, of course this is not as “planned” and is not on all generational levels. While German-speaking children have the opportunity to learn Slovak in kindergarten and school, their parents’ attitude toward the new language is, shall we say, torn, which can very likely be attributed to the feeling of uncertainty about the overall development of the situation in the area. These people are a contrast to the older generation that remembers a time when a third of Kittsee spoke Croatian. Thanks to this, it seems that this generation can better adapt to the current situation. They are somewhat disturbed by current events, but this has probably more to do with the loss of peaceful village life(11) than their language. 2. These experiences are clearly proof that the 20-year-long blockade of the Austrian-Slovak border was simply unnatural and lasted too long. People who lived (in isolation) on both sides, even though they were just a few hundred metres apart, now must again get used to each other and learn to live together. The process of assimilation and integration is not easy, and it will probably take several generations until it is finished. With a little patience and political skill, today’s children could already be the ones to overcome the idea of a (physical and mental) border and the constructed prejudice that originated from its existence. This process must not run into any more obstacles/borders.


1. w,

updated on 30/10/2014 the typical connections are generated by computer and in the form of word clouds show the context in which the keyword appears typically. The text base builds the body of the Duden. It is a digital full-text collection with more than two bilions of word forms from texts from the last 10 years, which represent diverse text sorts (novels, non-fiction, newspapers, magazines and yearlies) – more at typische-verbindungen 3. w After Schengen Europe’s dissolved border crossings photo-graphed updated on25/10/2014 4. Guten tag und dobry den, aktualizácia 25/10/2014 5. w Guten tag und dobry den, updated on 25/10/2014 6. on 10.10.2014, Klaus Senftner, former Mayor of Kittsee in www. updated on 04/10/2014 7. Gabriele Nabinger, present-day Mayor of Kittsee in www.kom-munalnet. at, updated on 04/10/2014 8. Zusammenleben Bratislavas neuer Vorort heisst Kittsee, updated on 04/10/2014 9. Die The locals take the word “suburbs” as an expression that Kittsee 2. Ibid.

would become a part of Slovakia – however, this is meant in a future cartographic sense, NOT to be seen as a political connection of Bratislava and Kittsee – see one of the examples in discussions on the online FB forum:


Zusammenleben Bratislavas neuer Vorort heisst Kittsee, updated 10/10/2014 11. „Kittsee is not anymore what it used to be.“ (from a talk with a neighbour which has been living in Kittsee since 30 years)




km 0,000 Stadlau Entering the REx 2528 „Marchfeldwiesel“, my train. At present not exactly the most swift train connection, the Marchegger Ostbahn once used to be a major railway line. Opened in 1870, over decades it provided the rail connection between Vienna and Budapest, also featuring the legendary Orient Express. The fact that our weasel is currently riding Austria's longest straight railway track tells a lot about the morphology of the territory we are passing through. It is the westernmost spur of the Eurasian Steppe, the great wide open, for Austrians associated with a primal fear of sorts. km 0,725 Wien Erzherzog-Karl-Straße This is so nowhere, I once thought after having left my train from Bratislava to Vienna at that stop, still quite far from its final destination Südbahnhof. Somehow this suburbia captured me, and soon I found myself immersed in a Ballardian cityscape of large scale retail infrastructure, post-industrial brownfields, and shops that used to be, all nerved by the tentacles of commuter corridors. Suddenly, standing in front of a former secessionist cinema, now inviting to bet and win, I felt like discovering traces of some pre-suburban community long since gone. Actually it was back then, when I firstly imagined a fictive suburb between Vienna and Bratislava, a sort of neutral space enabling the two cities to confront each other at equal level. Back in the train I notice a group of young Spaniards sitting behind, obviously getting excited about their trip to Bratislava. km 3,981 Wien Aspern (under construction) My gaze follows a dead end railway track to the right, almost entirely conquered by weeds. Somewhere over there, in the middle of a former airfield, once there will beat the heart of the city of the future. According to its vision, right here Aspern - Vienna's urban lakeside should become home for 20.000 people until 2025. The accompanying brandbook does not only offer an incredibly detailed outlook on the everyday life of an exemplary future inhabitant of the development, but also nothing less than a clearcut frame to juxtapose things that might seem incompatible elsewhere. (1) Like one wouldn't have to choose


between career or family but could have carreer + family, and one wouldn't be forced to decide between committee meeting or yoga session but would indulge in committee meeting + yoga session. An awkward orchestration of hip urban leisure time trends like bicycle activism or guerilla gardening should invite the desired target group to acquire new cultural connotations with the location. Staged around flashily decorated shipping containers carrying the logo of Vienna's urban lakeside in the middle of the windy former airfield, that spectacle should lure potential future inhabitants out of their gentrified inner district comfort zones. Given these attempts of creating juicy perspectives of groundbreaking new lifestyles to emerge at Vienna's north-eastern edge, investors remain rather tentative. Critics claim that the concept of the development, placing emphasis on living and office spaces, is doomed to fail: What about manufacturing facilities? And the leading industries? Given that, why doesn't the brandbook simply promise a future where one wouldn't have to struggle deciding between shopping or sleeping, but could have it all at once with shopping + sleeping? Meanwhile, the management of the adjoining GM-engine-plant made one hundred of its contract workers redundant, though assuring its will to maintain its permanent employees. (2) Somehow it seems likely that Vienna's urban lakeside doesn't count on such neighbors. km 19,478 Siebenbrunn-Leopoldsdorf Vast heaps of sugar beet, and a factory. Marchfeld, the lowlands between the rivers Morava and Danube are known as Vienna's breadbasket and region of market gardening. A century ago it was still common even for farmers from the western Slovak region Zåhorie to sell their Sauerkraut in Vienna. Like the grandparents of my supplier of crunchy root vegetables in Bratislava, Mrs Cilka from the market on Žilinskå Street. The merry travelers in my train seem as if confronted with the limits of their Lonely Planet Travel Guide. I'm surprised by the fact that they are obviously thumbing through an edition for Central Europe, featuring Slovakia and Austria alike. km 22,676 Untersiebenbrunn My memories about this place are rather vague. Usually trains between Vienna and Bratislava don't stop here, but once, it had to


happen. Actually the train got stuck near Untersiebenbrunn, stuck for more than an hour in a typical Marchfeld kind of nowhere, with no human settlement in sight. It was an early January evening five years ago, after my christmas vacation back home, I was excited to return to Bratislava, and then stop. The conductor announcing an engine breakdown, and that we would have to wait for a new one, which was just about to approach to literally save us. But from what? After almost an hour of waiting, I felt this was no way worthy of a train connection between two Central European capital cities in a supposedly booming region branded as Twincity (3), Centrope (4) or whatever. Even though hardly anybody living between here and there would consider her or himself a proud citizen of these abstract regional constructs, their promises still remain out there : The Twin City model empowered by the close proximity of Bratislava and Vienna holds unbelievable hidden potential. [...] The area of Vienna–Bratislava will enjoy great success in terms of competition as a production locality with other European agglomerations, if it strengthens further its economic integration and the forces of both cities are united. (5) Meanwhile our Marchfeldwiesel is gaining speed. km 27,120 SchÜnfeld-Lassee Tall yellowish concrete silos, just like around any other station after we have left behind Vienna. They are the only landmarks around, bearing the gable cross logo of that influential banking group, with shares in a diverse range of more than 700 companies still determining much of material Austria's fate. The head of this conglomerate, Walter Rothensteiner, is a dinosaur in the group's business. Unlike his predecessor, he isn't a hunter, but still knows what the beet looks like (6), as he once revealed in an interview. The apparently still thriving international division of the bank group could be considered as one of quite a few recent examples, where Austrians seem to have successfully overcome their fear of the great wide open. Along the track I notice piles of rotting onions and occasional hectic rabbit movements. Still, that doesn't seem to be enough of a reason for a hint of excitement from my Spanish fellow travelers. km 35,606 Marchegg Separated from Bratislava only by the river Morava, the historic


Austrian town of Marchegg is a maverick of sorts. Apart from the nearby, recently opened footbridge, which has provided a fair share of international fame, thanks to an American action hero having almost become its eponym, only a single track railway bridge is connecting here and there. Otherwise, the town could well develop into a suburb of the Slovak capital, like some Austrian towns located in the southern borderlands. Well, otherwise it could atually flourish, like Hainburg, Wolfsthal or Kittsee, just a bit south, where people from Bratislava are fulfilling their dream of an affordable family home. Marchegg, though, even seems a bit oversized for its just about 3.000 inhabitants, while some 750 years ago, it was supposed to become the biggest city of eastern Austria. Reminders of this failed utopia by its founder, King Ottokar II of Bohemia, are the remains of the massive eight-meter-tall town wall, of which the Wiener Tor (Vienna Gate) is in quite good condition, while the Ungartor (Hungarian Gate) lies in ruins. The trains are calling three kilometers from the very town at Marchegg Bahnhof,, a location bearing the dreary ambience of a place of transit, only appreciated by few. What is more, it got it's dubious share of international attention in 1973, as the site of a terroristic act. Two Palestinians took hostage of three Jewish emigrants, being on their way from former USSR to Israel, and the customs officer Franz Bobrik. With no hero in sight and after strenuous negotiations, the Austrian government finally decided to grant the demands of the hostage takers. Then-Chancellor Bruno Kreisky agreed to close down a refugee camp, established to support Jewish emigrants on their way to Israel, and to permit the hostage-takers to leave towards the Middle East. What a glorious proof of applied Austrian nekonfliktnost(7)! While we are leaving Marchegg Bahnhof, the Spaniards have fallen asleep. km 37,910 National border Austria-Slovakia We are crossing the river Morava, the meadow-lands of which are considered a stork paradise. The railway bridge is lined with the tattered remains of what used to be a major connection a century ago. Sadly my fellow travelers miss the welcoming committee of seemingly intact concrete bunkers, topped by Volkswagen's smoke stacks on the Slovak shore - an obviously fertile ground for any investor's wet dreams, with industries booming and urban developments sprouting. Like the nearby Bory, a whole new suburban district projected by the infamous, nearly all-encompassing PENTA investment group, placing


emphasis on the motto 'shopping first', with Bory Home supposed to follow after the completion of Bory Mall. (8) How could one dare to question paradigms of economic growth, with the Volkswagen plant having almost doubled its car production in 2012? The German car manufacturer is now considering to produce hybrids in Bratislava, an investment that would create hundreds of new jobs in Slovakia (9), and their CEO Albrecht Reimold claims that Slovaks are just more enthusiastic. (10) All that might still appear like an investors' playground, seducing with promises like VW's Offroad Parcours in Devínska Nová Ves: We believe that the adrenalinpacked fun and unreal lifelike situations will mobilize your team and encourage all its members to relaxed cooperation. (11) But then, who is in the team? km 41,530 Devínska Nová Ves I get off the train. Feeling kind of numbed by the drab journey, I'm starting to wonder about the occurrence of Robert Musil's sense of the possible (12) in the peripheries between here and there, while the Spanish travelers dream on towards Bratislava. Stadlnova, November 2012 1. w Brandbook-english-version.pdf Retrieved 2012-12-11. 2. Retrieved 201212-11. Own translation. 3. w Retrieved 2012-12-11. 4. w Retrieved 2012-12-11. 5. Retrieved 2012-12-11. 6. h  ttp:// Retrieved 2012-12-11. Own translation. 7. Slovak for inability to handle conflicts 8. Retrieved 2012-12-11. 9. h  ttp:// hybrids_in_bratislava.html Retrieved 2012-12-11. 10. Retrieved 2012-12-11. Own 12. h  ttp:// Retrieved 2012-12-11. Own translation. 12. Musil, Robert: Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften. Erstes und zweites Buch. Neu durchgesehene und verbesserte Ausgabe. Reinbek: Rowohlt 2003.




The political changes of 1989 in the countries of the former Soviet bloc started a process in which Austria and Slovakia again became closer and aware of each other as neighbours. Slovak-Austrian relations are centuries old and date back to the days of the Habsburg monarchy. At that time “the other ones” were perceived as “exotic” as well as “familiar”. The aim of this paper is to point to the perception of the neighbouring country in the 20th century, particularly in the years between 1945 and 1989. It is important to state that after the Habsburg monarchy came to its end in 1918, the existing economic structure changed much less than is often said. An example of this can be seen in the traditional economic links between Czechoslovakia and Austria that were maintained even though the new “nation states” often looked at each other with suspicion. The states were able to notice each other despite the fact that their view was often influenced by stereotypes. Until the 1930s, Slovakia was seen by Austrians as a country that was a central part of Central Europe, even in the textbooks of the time. This perception was largely based on monarchical traditions as well as cultural conditions prevailing in Slovakia. Also, Czechoslovakia was praised as an economic model in Austria during the interwar period. Big changes in the perception of the two neighbouring countries occurred only after 1945. Unlike Czech-Austrian relations, SlovakAustrian relations until 1945 were not burdened by the Second World War. However, immediately after the war Slovakia began to view Austria as the “loser”, whereas Austria started to perceive itself as the “victim” of German National Socialism. Austrian society therefore considered the Czechoslovak treatment of them to be unjustified. This view caused initial conflicts that arose when borders were being established. Until 1947 Austrian Foreign Minister Karl Gruber led a campaign to annex the villages of Petržalka (Engerau) and Devín (Theben), arguing that they were inhabited by a “German” population and that the fruit produced in this area had great economic importance for Austria. Around the same time, the daily Čas [Time] (the central organ of the Democratic Party) printed an article supporting the Czechoslovak annexation of the Burgenland municipalities of Kittsee and Deutsch Jahrndorf as part of a required bridgehead and the strategic securing of Bratislava. This intention was, among other things, justified by the huge number of Slavic (Croatian) residents in these municipalities.


Although neither party was able to enforce their requirements, both parties fuelled fears in the border area that lasted until the end of the 1950s. After the communist coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948, the perception of the neighbour changed again in the light of new doctrines. Officially, Slovak political circles criticised Austria’s capitalism and its socio-political “excesses”. On the other hand, diplomatic documents hint towards admiration for Austria’s rapid economic growth. Especially in the 1960s, when Czechoslovakia started to follow a path of “socialism with a human face”, relations with Austria and cross-border cooperation improved. The symbolism of the “German fascist aggressor” disappeared from the political vocabulary when talking about Austria. Austria’s perception of Slovakia was, however, much more complicated and changes occurred very slowly in many areas. Despite the fact that Austrian neutrality was strongly emphasised, society was strongly influenced by “Western” advertising and considered itself to be part of “Western Europe”, whereas Prague and Bratislava were already in “Eastern Europe”. The term “Central Europe” almost completely disappeared from textbooks, and the countries behind the Iron Curtain were often ignored, for example, in geography. In Austria, communism was perceived as an ideology of oppression and exploitation, and in many polls taken between 1968 and 1989 Austrians expressed compassion toward their Slovak neighbours, who lived in an “impoverished country” under a “dictatorship”. This is one of the reasons why the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia was uncritically perceived as a “liberation” in the Austrian press. After 1970 many Slovaks experienced a strong dissatisfaction with the development of democratic relations and freedom of religion under communist rule. On the other hand, it was overlooked that people simultaneously appreciated the social involvement of the government and the secure standard of life. This is also the reason why many Slovaks did not know how to react when the existing structure collapsed. Although Austria and Slovakia have come closer since Slovakia joined the EU, and officials in Austria depicted their neighbour in a positive light, some stereotypes from the era of the bipolar world order stay firmly rooted in the Austrian population even after 1989. In order to have an unbiased picture, a lot of work needs to be done in terms of cross-border understanding at both ends.



Kurt: Der Karpatenraum in österreichischen Geographie – Schu-latlanten. Ein Beispiel selektiver Wahrnehmung östlicher Nachbarräume. In: Österreichische Osthefte, Jahrgang 46, Heft1/2; Wien, 2004; 125-143.


·S  CHRIFFL, David: „Slowaken?“, „Österreicher?“, „Deutsche?“. Streiflichter zu ge-

genseitiger Wahrnehmung und zum Selbstbild in Österreich und der Slowakei im 20. Jahrhundert. In: Marija Wakounig, Wolfgang Mueller, Michael Portmann (Hrsg.): Nation, Nationalitäten und Nationalismus im Östlichen Europa. Festschrift für Arnold Suppan zum 65. Geburtstag. Wien, 2010; 563-583.

·S  CHRIFFL, David: Tote Grenze oder lebendige Nachbarschaft? Österreichische-

-slowakische Beziehungen 1945-1968. Wien, 2013.

· SIPTAK, Ivan: Österreich – Slowakei. Gegenseitige Wahrnehmung, Vorurteile,

Stereotypen. Wien, 1999.


JAROSLAV VARGA Curator, artist



I. First I would like to mention a short story by Borges entitled “On Exactitude in Science”, which is about the relationship between maps and territories. The story is about an empire where cartographic science is at such a high level that only a map that has the same scale as the empire itself can be sufficient. The map of one province covers the area of a whole town, the map of the whole empire covers the whole province. In the end, cartographers create a map of the empire that is the same size as the empire itself, thus bringing the art of cartography to maximum perfection(1). The residents become so fond of the map covering the country that after a while they forget about the country itself. The map becomes the only reality. Baudrillard says the map in which the people live is a simulation of reality, and reality itself is disappearing from life. Thus, the representation becomes reality and there is nothing more: “Nothing left behind.” (2) II. European history is a history of wars over borders. Figuratively speaking, it is a constant reshaping of Borges’ utopian cartographic map that covers the country. The physical borders are clear, visible, impervious or easily crossable, and revocable. With the introduction of Schengen, physical borders are disappearing between European countries that are part of the exclusive club of countries without borders. Today physical borders are lining the Schengen Area from the outside, and the common interest of the countries within these borders is to strengthen and secure them, thus preventing illegal immigrants crossing them from the East. Slovakia and other former members of the Eastern Bloc find themselves in a new geopolitical paradigm, as has been the case several times throughout the 20th century. The work of Ilona Németh aptly reflects the variability of the physical borders of European states. The author quotes her uncle: “I was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I attended school in Czechoslovakia, I got married in Hungary, I live in Slovakia, and I never even left my home town.” (3) III. The neoliberal democracy develops the concept of a borderless society. A borderless society is defined as a global society without borders or restrictions.


From an economic point of view, globalisation erases differences between countries and creates a borderless world in which national borders cease to exist. On a corporate level, globalisation introduces new opportunities, new markets and new competition for local and international companies. The problem is that companies introduce the concept of a borderless society having the greatest possible profits in mind. Isn’t then a society without borders really just capital without borders? What are borders in a borderless world? The neoliberal world gives the impression of a democracy and equality among citizens, but behind this never-ending presentation of this image of equality, the exact opposite is happening. Respect is exercised within exclusive societies (equality within a particular economic class, ethnic group, cultural community, etc.), between which a hidden hierarchical model is dominant from the outside. IV. Borders can be generated through language. Rada Ivekovic talks about translation between cultures(4). To her, translation is the opposite of dialogue. Despite the fact that translation is perceived as a tool to equalise differences (e.g. different cultures), in reality it conceals a hierarchical model. Translation may have connotations of power, and it can be used to strengthen or weaken the position of power of one culture. It is influenced by a given situation and context. Translating one thing to another generates inequality, whereby the meaning of one thing is translated into the idiom of another, creating the typical situation of différend. Every translation is imperfect and incomplete, and something is always left untranslated. I will use the term “distance”. There is always something that is specific in one language and culture that cannot be translated, and something that is deliberately not translated. This untranslatable and untranslated creates a distance between the original and the translation. The “distant” is a colonial perspective. It represents the unknown, attractive, exotic and provincial. Rada Ivekovic adds that, at best, translation takes place in both directions and is continuously crossing borders. Translation is necessarily transborder.


V. The Polish theorist Piotr Piotrowski recalls the modernist utopia of language, the best example being the proposition of different variants of abstraction in reference to universalism – that is, what is universal is common to all people. The utopia of a common language says: “If we all speak the same language, we will better understand each other.”(5) According to Piotrowski, the problem is that there is no such thing as a neutral language. The universal or global language we all use is English. The same is happening in arts. The universal language of artistic culture is the language of Western art. According to Piotrowski, the translatability of language is one of the problems of the acceptability of Eastern European art. Language is a living instrument in which the genius loci can be fully reached and which reflects the identity of the artist the strongest. VI. Art students and artists attending the SK/AT exhibition explore personal and general aspects of the border. On one hand, it is a physical visible line that for decades divided and still divides the country into East and West. On the other hand, it is a mental, invisible border generated by language, culture, economic and social differences, and stereotypes. I realise that during this research and discussion about borders, the borders are present again – at least on the level of translating the texts and works of art that were created by Slovak and Austrian students. This lecture is also conducted in English, so some of the nuances of my thoughts are untranslatable or remain untranslated. nietoré moje myšlienkové nuansy nepreložiteľné alebo zostali nepreložené.

1. w

W. E.: POSTMETROPOLIS: Critical Studies of Cities and Regions, 3. NÉMETH, I.: Untitled, 2007, the artwork was presented in the public-art project Donaumonarchy 4. IVEKOVIC, R.: Transborder translating, In: eurozine, 5. PIOTROWSKI, P.: Awangarda w cieniu Jalty. Dom Wydawniczy REBIS, Poznań 2005, s. 17 2. SOJA,


IVAN JURICA Curator, artist


Like with the participants of this project, the first question that was raised during the making of the text was “What is a border anyway?” The search for the answer, if we can dare to expect an answer to this question in this day and age, is all the more uncertain when we consider that we are dealing with an internal border between two member states of the EU. This internal border has the more or less administrative purpose of defining national territory. For EU citizens or people outside the EU who, however, belong to the “right” social class, the rather traumatic expectations of crossing it have turned into a small spectacle together with the nostalgia for a further stamp in one’s passport. This desire can, however, be still satisfied at external borders – e.g. between Slovakia and Ukraine – which still represent the trauma of exclusion, impossibility and inferiority well-known from the Cold War era. Thus, the border as a solid thick line separating two worlds and two blocs, and indeed forming a hierarchy in terms of the value of life, has not vanished; it has simply moved (as is tradition in Europe) more to the East. After being part of the former socialist Eastern Bloc, Slovakia now belongs to the “elite” (or rather elitist) grouping of states, meaning it has had to adopt the very exclusion mechanisms that used to traumatise and make citizens of the former joint state of the Czechs and Slovaks feel inferior. And of course, if I may use a unitary national scheme in the context of statehood and nationality, the majority is proud of Slovakia’s current status. Part of the process of proving and defending belonging to the elite is also constantly pointing to the non-existent border as a symbol of democracy and the current freedom. In the meantime, however, the idea of the non-existent border has also become a symbol of Europe’s and (global) capitalism’s stagnation. In the past 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall (people in our country cut barbed wire), the term “border”, its official understanding and socio-political values have not changed. Along with media and other opinion-making institutions, official representatives of the country(ies) repeat phrases about freedom that lose their original meaning just by being constantly repeated. The more worn-out these phrases are, the more it seems that there


is a border or, better yet, that there are borders. With these rituals, the current national representatives remind us of the leaders of the previous regime, who even in the 1980s viewed Eastern European socialism as a free, democratic and prosperous society despite the fact that the exact opposite was happening right in front of everyone. The concept and definition of borders always correlated with power and capital (yes, even socialism had its capital logic). They are a strong symbol of their time and their perception is subject to the current political, ideological and economic situation. The hated and prominent border of the Cold War era was presented by the official authorities as an achievement of socialism which one must be proud of. Supposedly, it protected its citizens from the filthy interests of Western imperialism and capitalist exploitation. In other words, it symbolised the freedom and democracy of the working citizen. The non-existent post-Cold War border is also a symbol of the freedom and democracy of the working citizen, since mainly working and consuming citizens are those with civil rights. From today’s ideological perspective, this border is naturally a symbol of the “incorrectness” of the previous system and (Eastern European) socialism as such. I am neither an art historian nor an expert on the art of socialist realism, but I dare say that the theme of borders, even though it represented different social orders, has never undergone such an intense processing in the art world as in the era of global capitalism. There are at least three reasons for this: the first is the change in the paradigm of art in society, which shifted from a principle of a unique genius and universality to broader social communication. The second reason was the technological development that caused these changes, and the third is the rise of a creative industry which, like the term “border”, became a symbol of progress and creative freedom. And this is where the idea of creative freedom is another important factor in terms of rejecting the previous regime, since in its thrall even official art became one of the symbols of the previous oppression. For the generation born after 1989, the present and endlessly repetitious idea about free existence is probably a very vague term. The link between a vague reality and an inner border (both physical as well as spiritual) forms the basis of the works of art of the students that participate in the workshop. The question still remains of what this (non-existent) border is, how its focus


changed, where it can be individually felt and how we can grasp it with art. The perception of borders has thus become an important symbol of reading about the 20th century – from the disintegration of empires into nation-states, the wartime and interwar shifting of borders and annexations, the post-war Cold War to the globalisation era of the 20th and 21st centuries. In reference to Étienne Balibar and Ugo Vlaisavljević, Marina Gržinić claims that in the light of its current function, it is necessary to reconsider the concept of the border not just because the perception of it has changed, but also because it helps one to understand the concept of Europe itself(1). Yes, it is true that the (old) border dividing the East and the West has disappeared. However, the never-ending celebration of its fall shows its incorrect (old) conceptualisation. Using the aforementioned theoreticians, Gržinić observes that the border has become a symbol of non-integrated EU structures, and thus the dominance of these structures has become a means of extortion. Already in the 1990s Balibar discerned the process of border fragmentation rather than borders forming a continuous line in his analyses of Europe. This process lead to the idea of their disappearance on one hand and their multiplication on the other: “Borders might be vacillating but that doesn’t mean they are disappearing. On the contrary, they are being multiplied and reduced in their localisation, their function, thinned out and doubled, becoming zones, regions, border territories in which we dwell and live. The relationship between borders and territories is reversed (it is a relationship that represents a change in the concept of the border). This means that borders have become the subject of requirements and rivalries/disputes (leading) to the urge to put a fence up and take security measures.”(2) So the border is no longer viewed as the old static division of East and West; it is a movable line. It transforms the whole territory into a zone or zones based on the level of integration into the system of globalised neoliberal capitalism. It means creating conditions for full implementation. Gržinić adopts these thoughts to transform the territory of former Yugoslavia. Balibar elaborates on them in the context of migration to Western Europe. Within the scope of the project,


the interview with the mayor of the Austrian village of Wolfsthal perfectly shows a similar transformational thinking subordinate to the logic of transnational capital in a local context and the logic of inclusion into a “common Europe”. The interview mainly focuses on the migration of Bratislavans to the border village. The interview has a very friendly tone, and it is apparent that new residents from behind the internal EU borders are welcome and that there is a constant will to create conditions to attract them to settle down within a decent existential level. Within the above-mentioned policy of creating zones, this process is obviously reciprocal since the process of attracting new adequately well-off residents must have been preceded by a general transformation of post-socialist society that facilitated the rise of such a financially potent and stable social group. This is perhaps the best example of the integration process that eliminates borders on the level of individual success, social background and perhaps even mentality. Additionally, thanks to this process, former peripheral towns of Lower Austria have come much more into the centre of European events – capital circulation. In the context of the transformation of Europe’s borders, Balibar points to the parallel of these processes – European racism. Like racism in the context of migration policy and the antiIslamist rhetoric of the West, racism in Central Europe is mainly practised on the level of anti-Romaism. This represents some kind of point of origin in post-socialist societies in which various and otherwise incompatible political groups and attitudes towards fellow countrymen meet and unite. Of course, this is in addition to the classic racist attitudes of the majority of post-socialist cultures (today it is mainly the already mentioned anti-Islamism). In this sense, the fortification of borders not only affects the continuous external border of Fortress Europe but also the closely observed walls, panels, fences and bureaucratic and security measures that separate Us from Them (e.g. migrants and Roma). Although it is the social status that primarily affects our idea of mutual fellowship (or lack thereof) and the related legal status of citizens and the value of life, it is racism that remains “the shadow of Western political thinking”(3). Yes, within Europe/the EU, Eastern Europe is always late and bizarre (the history of socialist regimes is doomed to be in a museum


of bizarreness) and always has to catch up. But as Edit András stated, under no circumstances is it an exception to the European white mentality(4). The infamous Roma settlements/enclaves of Central and South-East Europe, and their exclusion and criminalisation, have become a place/instrument of dual ideological interests – the domestic (Eastern European) and the external (Western European). For post-socialist societies, these settlements are used to observe and point at “the Others” in the context of controlling them, ventilating negative moods in society, political ambition and strengthening social order. Western Europe uses these enclaves to point to the need for the further observation and establishment of discipline in Eastern Europe, since apparently it is an inhumane place where human rights are violated, which further deepens the “backwardness” of Eastern European culture and its people. As a result, Roma are the last ones within the context of this brutal patriarchal communication of both parties who can speak up about their own lives. And as already mentioned, this is not about racist/hierarchical principles which are exclusively paradigmatic for the era of the Cold War; this is part of the deeply rooted racial traditions of the European mentality. In the “cultural” and artistic paradigm, the process of producing a huge reservoir of cultural ideas/images of “the Others” has become an equivalent to the process of classifying people according to different categories: in this case, the formation of borders and hierarchies, zones and enclaves. A certain famous work of art lists and displays activities and the interest in exotic places that are home to “the Others” in the context of the Euro-Atlantic colonial mentality in the following order: Missionary, Mercenary, Ethnologist, Tourist, Artist. Apart from the historical order of the colonial-humanistic travellers at the end of which contemporary art and culture are proudly piggybacking, this “list” is a symbol of the interdependency of various social spheres throughout all eras of European or Euro-Atlantic ideologies, ranging from modernism to the present. In this sense, it is necessary to constantly raise the issue of “objectivity” and “neutrality” of art to see how much current free and critical art is affected by this paradigm of Eurocentrism and to what


extent it is (in)capable of freeing itself from traditional patriarchal and racist patterns of thinking. In other words, to what extent does the freedom of one party exploit the others? Whether it is in the context of race, gender, sexual desire/orientation or the relationship between the East and the West? At first glance, it may seem that this text is far from the topic of the border between Austria and Slovakia, but in the context of its transformation, imagination, shifts and creation of zones, it is deeply affected by it.



Marina: Analysis of the exhibition “Gender Check – Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe”, Museum of Modern Art, (MUMOK), Vienna, November 2009/February 2010;

Gržinić cites VLAISAVLJEVIĆ, Ugo: From Berlin to Sarajevo, Zarez, number 267, Zagreb, 15.10.2009, pp. 23–25 as well as BALIBAR, Étienne: La crainte des masses: politique et philosophie avant et après Marx. Collection La Philosophie en effet, Galilée, Paris, 1997, pp. 386–387 2. I bid., translation and quotation: Gržinić from BALIBAR, Étienne: La crainte des masses: politique et philosophie avant et après Marx, Collection La Philo-sophie en effet, Galilée, Paris, 1997, pp. 386–387. 3. M  BEMBE, Achille: Necropolitics, in Public Culture 15.1, Duke University Press, 2003, pp. 11-40. 4. A  NDRÁS, Edit: Who‘s Afraid of a New Paradigm? The „Old“ Art Criticism of the East versus the „New“ Critical Theory of the West, in ARTMARGINS [online], 2002. 37


Author of the project, artist

The SK/AT project began to take shape three years ago. Within the context of the breakthrough in my hitherto exclusively Slovak (or better yet Bratislavan) existence and the confrontation with a multicultural environment, I started to ask myself what it meant to belong somewhere. I also took an artistic approach to this topic, which later developed into my Master’s thesis entitled “Home(land)”. About a month before it was due, I learned about Guarding Borders by Pavol Truben while visiting friends. I realised that our two works of art had one thing in common – the topic of borders. My work of art is about the border being a non-existent line which we use as a base to perceive diversity; it is about the softness or sharpness of borders, based on which we can tell that something is “different”. The feeling of belonging somewhere is based on these boundaries of perception. In the first book, the boundaries of perception are diffusive, scattered throughout the past, present and future, and connecting personal stories with social context. The second book (W<<–>>BA) is a test of prototypes and images of a particular city in one’s mind. By contrast, Pavol Truben’s work refers to a specific historical event: the consequences of a harsh political border. It enshrines it in time, serves as a prop and asks about its current meaning. If we constantly try to view it through the rusty optic of the Iron Curtain, what kind of responsibility do we assume today? Neither one of us concentrates solely on the creative artistic statement; we also take into account the extent beyond the realm of fine arts. For me, an artist is a kind of communicational director or dramaturgist who has responsibilities. On the other hand, he can afford to be more critical and experiment because he is working with metaphors. Gradually, SK/ AT transformed into two exhibitions involving invited guests and an accompanying programme with people that are directly affected by the Austrian-Slovak border personally or professionally. The exhibition consists of works of art by people who were mostly born after the fall of the Iron Curtain or who were at that time at an age or in a situation in which these events did not affect them. Our and their experience is thus indirect. The exhibition is more about the current vagueness and instability of the border and a reflection on how we are dealing with its past rather than about a past personal experience. While putting together SK/AT, I found borders not to be about language barriers (English saves almost every situation in Central Europe) but more about different values, a questionable balance of power and the lack of understanding one another. More than a language translation, we are perhaps missing the transborder translation mentioned by Jaro Varga in his text. 39

GalĂŠria Dunaj, Bratislava

Stone, cardboard 335×325×240mm /2014

It was a Monday evening, 29 September 2014 around 6:45pm, when I entered the building of the main post office at 35 SNP Square in Bratislava and handed in a package. In that package there was a rock from the Berg/Bratislava border region. That same package arrived in Vienna on Thursday 2 October 2014.



300 copies 21×29,7cm The book 19×26cm /2005 — 2014


Between 2005 and 2007 I took a total of four courses of the Slovak language.


My work is a metaphor for the feelings of Slovaks towards Austria as well as Slovakia. Austria is perceived as the stronger country with an incomparably better political system and products of much better quality. A lot of people living in the border region shop in Austria. Their groceries are in fact on a completely different level in terms of quality, and therefore Slovaks often travel across the border. It is a paradox because by shopping in the neighbouring country they are sinking the Slovak market and are thus hindering improvements in their own country.

I am referring to the stagnation of Slovaks. They are not satisfied with life in Slovakia, but few of them are trying to improve the situation. It is as if they were just waiting for better days to come. Today food is being wasted and thrown out on a huge scale. In my performance I stand on the Austrian side of the Morava River, which is a natural border between the two countries. I am trying to throw Austrian groceries to the Slovaks on the other side. However, this is physically impossible. The river bank is far away, just like the vision of equality of the two states. (The groceries did not stay in the river during the performance.) â&#x20AC;˘

Video /2014



Borders are used to delimit. Although they are not relevant for ordinary Europeans, the division continues. We are welcome to freely move around the common area – to move, work, study and even shop. The game Europe is playing is to pretend to be one big happy family. Every game has its own rules, but they do not apply to everyone. Up to this day, we differentiate between the East and the West despite the fact that the Iron Curtain has long since fallen. Today it is not made of iron; maybe it is made of 100% cotton, but in the country that used to belong to the Eastern Bloc, it is surely made of

polyester. The term “former Eastern Bloc” politely replaces the term “inferior”. In addition to rooted stereotypes, a lack of interest in one another and the tendency to exploit the weaker are present even today. However, the border beyond which dolce vita lies is very relative. I created a short video film about the border from Austrian and Slovak feature films I retrieved; it is a fictional story that talks about the relationship, or a lack thereof, between Eastern and Western Europeans. I am subjectively regarding my own limits that are (not) being crossed by individuals, nations and systems.

Video /2014


THOMAS GGARCIA The premise of the presented video was the assumption that the information presented by the media is by definition always perceived as true and from a content point of view as positive or negative. Their predication/statement is always perceived as something given and unchangeable. The intention of the fine art design was to confront the viewer with what he sees and hears, and force him to reflect on his own perception of things through the technical provision of content.

On the level of sound and image, a quadruple shift of the communicated content occurs. The presented picture is supposed to be deconstructed within the process of perception. In the videos we can see pedestrians who answer questions about the neighbouring country â&#x20AC;&#x201C; in Bratislava about Austria and in Vienna about Slovakia. The Slovak answers are presented at the Austrian exhibition and the Austrian answers at the Bratislava one.

Video 10min. /2014


MICHAL HUŠTATY The present photographic series consists of matching pairs (diptychs). The placement of two photographs side-by-side forces one to compare them and search for differences in individual shots. Is this Slovakia? Is this Austria? In this way, the mental game we all know comes to life. The selection of deliberately contrasting views of a similar object like a block of flats or a bench only supports this game. The core of this work of art is based on this kind of stereotypical thinking. But all of these photographs come from just one of these countries – Slovakia. And this is what creates the “seriously?” effect with which we try to draw attention to the physical and mental border.

In this second plan I am creating my own game where I first seduce the observer into comparing the “two countries” based on the photographed objects. After he reads the descriptions, I then let him know that he has been fooled. Most of the time, the spectator starts to play a game that does not really exist; he creates the whole thing in his head, just like we all make up the differences between the East and the West (in this case, I am referring to the SK/AT border). This is why we ask ourselves: Is everything Austrian new and pretty, and is everything Slovak ugly and destroyed?

source of the pictures: internet •

15 Digital Prints 42×29,7cm /2014


TERÉZIA KOPECKÁ Natural borders are those created by nature itself. The crossing of rivers, valleys and mountain ranges requires human effort. The Morava River forms a natural border that divides the land and the people living in its immediate vicinity. This area has a rich history. Historical sources in communal and municipal archives near the river give evidence of more than ten places where passageways over this natural border were created. From a historical point of view, these places were parts of important trade routes. From the human point of view, crossing the border was a means of communication with the “other shore”. The towns that formed on both sides of the river shared a variety of information, learned new trades and enhanced the ones they already knew. Austria’s present inhabitants crossed the Morava River to get quality products that they then even brought to Vienna to sell. Slovaks, on the other hand, sought work in sawmills or sugar refineries.

The towns were joined by bridges, fords or passageways, creating mixed families. Even during communism, people found a way to cross this border that was no longer just a natural but also a state border. At present both countries that are divided by the Morava River are part of the Schengen Area, and the state border has again lost its power. The borders are open, but there are only three bridges and one ferry that allows for the crossing of the river. Part of my project is made up of photographs of bridges, fords and passageways mentioned in historical sources. They are accompanied by authentic texts from archives and give information about specific sites. By searching for these places, I pose the question of why such passageways do not exist today. Is it because of their uselessness, money or the lack of interest in communicating with the people from the other shore?

Book 26×29cm /2014


SOPHIE PĂ&#x2013;LZL Photographs of the landscape along the border between Slovakia and Austria. Many photographs are converted into abstract drawings using an episcope. Landscapes are brought onto paper in the form of lines â&#x20AC;&#x201C; like borders on maps. All this results in overlapping lines that cannot further provide accurate information about the country. The border becomes diffusive.

Pencil on paper, framed 50×70 cm /2014

48°01’52.8“N 17°06’37.4“E 48°22’56.6“N 16°49’59.9“E

ZUZANA PUSTAIOVĂ In each country, history is preserved in our traditions. In Slovakia, embroidery was one of the richest, most developed and most variable displays of folk art. Kitchen wall taperstries (so called image cook books) had hand-embroidered motifs and inscriptions, and they decorated or protected the walls of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers. They were mostly embroidered on industrially produced canvases with various motifs. The inscriptions carried parts

of song lyrics, grains of truth and folk wisdom. Like in Slovakia, these wall decorations are slowly falling into oblivion in Austria as well. I am moving the kitchen wall decoration from the household to the gallery in a grandiose size. Embroidery is a symbol of beauty and perfection, of the way how we often perceive Austria. By using a white thread, I am referring to the past and the gradual elimination of the borders in our minds.

“Das Weglöschen von Grenzmarkierungen auf Fotos in der Postproduktion.”

embroidery on canvas 600 ×140 cm 30×50 cm /2014



What do people look for in another city, another country? And how do their expectations match reality? Tracking Austrians in Bratislava and Slovaks in Vienna based on their internet footsteps. Between them lies the Morava River, representing at least something in common and maybe even a space for reflection. The work is based on curiosity driven by habits: on rummaging through Slovakand German-language internet forums where people exchange their experiences and needs – Slovaks about Vienna and

Austrians about Bratislava. The collected posts created the source material for both text collages that were put together from unedited text fragments. The video sequences were filmed northwards on the Freedom Cycling Bridge that connects the two municipalities of Devínska Nová Ves (SK) and Schlosshof (AT). The texts were recorded by Nikola Bajánova and the author. The work is part of the project Stadlnova

videoloop, text /2014


MARTINA ŠIMKOVIČOVÁ My thesis “Home(land)” examines the feeling of belonging through the perception of home and homeland. In particular, it deals with how this feeling forms in exile in an environment that is not perceived as fundamentally different from the original one. The thesis is made up of two separate bilingual books – the first is called “Home(land)” and includes interviews and photographs of selected people aged 20 to 60 from different regions of Slovakia and with different social backgrounds. The goal of this selection was to point at the diversity of the perception of home and how different life situations influenced the decision to go abroad. The people portrayed are photographed in their home environment and in their wider environment in which they normally function (their work and favourite places). Their home interiors and still lifes with memorabilia or otherwise significant objects are photographed. The textual part of the book is made up of interviews about the departure from their place of origin, the

building of a new home, the confrontation with a new environment, the critical perception of Slovakia and Austria, and, last but not least, their personal values. The second book, entitled W<<–>>BA, includes urban still lifes of Bratislava, Vienna and their immediate surroundings. It follows the visual, historical and social similarities and differences of both cities. The pictures are taken from the perspective of a person who considers both places as equally dear or strange. It pays attention to places of personal as well as historical significance and creates a subjective atlas of the area. Together, the two books comprise several levels of meaning and reading possibilities – such as personal stories, a partial chronicle of a shorter period, and a reflection on the formation of group identity of people from a country whose existence did not yet leave a mark on it. It is like following a relationship of two similar yet very different spaces. The work was awarded the Rector’s Prize in 2013 for the best diploma thesis in photography.

2 artistic books 22×28×3cm /2013



W <<->> BA

W <<->> BA


The photographs deal with the definition of the visible/invisible and the mental/real border. They try to visually capture the abstract environment that is not subject to the definition of borders and deny their real existence. It is based on the definition of the state border as defined by Slovak law, and it reads as follows: “Regulation No. 298/1999 Coll. – Management of State Border Act: Article 2 Definition of terms: (1) The state border is an area which vertically crosses the border lines along the surface of the

Earth and separates the territory of the Slovak Republic, its airspace, area below the ground, above the ground and underground constructions and appliances of all kinds from the territory of neighbouring states.” The research and artistic study of airspace compares two views of the same spot in the sky, from two sides of the Slovak/Austrian state border, at the same time. It seeks to highlight the current absence of a physical border, which only exists on a mental and legal level.

digital print, 4 pieces 60Ă&#x2014;51 cm /2014

Ä&#x152;. 298/1999 Z.Z./ NR. 298/1999


The abstract picture is a reaction to plasma donation in Hainburg in the border area between Slovakia and Austria. Everything is brought to the satisfaction of both parties, but the meaning of the term “donation” becomes ambivalent, as is the resulting art work and its form.


video, blood, canvas




PAVOL TRUBEN This object is directly inspired by the Volvo Penta GSB 066. This model, also dubbed â&#x20AC;&#x153;the pikeâ&#x20AC;?, was used to guard the river segments of the border in socialist countries. In Slovakia, the most guarded part of the border was between Slovakia and Austria as it was the only point of contact with Western Europe. At least 42 people were killed while trying to cross the border in that particular place. The same number of applications to cross the border is attached to the object. Each form is filled in with the name of a specific person, whereby the place and

time indicated in the application is actually the place and time at which that person was killed. Up to this day, Slovakia has been unable to enforce criminal liability for the killings. And so the object resembles the famous skeleton in the closet which we as a state have failed to come to terms with. The artwork was awarded the Rectorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Prize and was in the final round of the Celeste Prize 2013 international competition in Rome.

Spatial object / corroded iron parts 120×340×75 cm /2013


SK/AT - English version  

English translation of the catalogue of exhibitions SK/AT. Including work descriptions and photographs from the exhibitions.

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