Dílna Mikulov - Art symposium
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First of all, a bird's-eye-view that is more or less impersonal. Symposium shall be imagined partially in archaic medieval form, as ten small workshops (let us say ten, as their number has changed within the last ten years) spread around the town and ten masters working completely independently and freely on the work, which should be representative one way or the other.
However,we have to realize that these ten artists are not connected by any trend of the contemporary art development. Rather we need to imagine them as ten personalities, one not resembling anyone else: if they have anything in common, it is the fact that they have "a name" and they are a guarantee of originality. These artists are sufficiently provided with material and have total freedom with respect to ideas and subjects. So general and vague can be the basic outline of these undertakings, which, aside from everyday and normal work, somehow automatically obtain nature of events as they bear a seal of the remarkable and the unique and enable people to meet and discuss (and in this spirit, we can understand them locally as places perfectly suitable for the idea of friendship), but they can also be seen as a ceremonial and ritual place, a place of celebration. As every symposium is a celebration.
Therefore, an event and a celebration, and somehow extra there is the fact that the produced pieces form a foundation of collection of contemporary art, which is rather a practical consequence of such symposia.
Contrary to common exhibitions and typical art events, the personality of the curator stands somewhat in the background, as he or she does not think up their nature, does not give the names and specific content, but he or she works as one of the participants and curatorship rather consists in being a guarantor and a co-ordinator. Should we name all participants in ten annual events of the art symposia in Mikulov called "dílna" (the workshop), we would somehow obtain a survey of the generation of artists, who debuted (individually and as a group) in the eighties and who are often incorrectly and generally called "The Generation of Hard Headed". Though this generation dominates here with respect to the number of names, it does not define the nature or "poetics" of these workshops. If their variety goes against any classification and bad habits of typical Czech schoolmasterly art history, it is preferable.

Now a personal, biased and subjective insight. Every visitor as well as every direct participant in the symposium "dílna" is fascinated from the first moment. This fascination is called Mikulov. So they run and walk, climb hills and walk through valleys and their horizontally vertical unrest is rewarded by the town, in which the present times speak in a historical scene. However, it is not a mere external façade, a scene for tourists, but a piece of history, living, solid and habitable. So they walk and run, from pub to chateau and from chateau to church and then up to the chapel on the hill and again back down to pub and all those profane and sacral things, which are provided by the vivid history of Mikulov, are beneficially spread and blended in their bodies. That is Mikulov, as peculiarly unbalanced cake with giant mass of the chateau on the top, next to which the houses below the chateau seem picturesquely small.
It is not too simple for "symposium artists", as their work, even if directed somewhere else, shall also capture something from this special architecture and atmosphere of the town, which, more than others, manages to get its attention and stands on its genius loci. And everybody can realize that he or she is not only a part of a complex but also of something transcendent, which exceeds usual rationalism of a sceptic and horizons of a consumer person. They can feel the breath of greatness and they need to organize thoughts and dimensions and even if it were only the dimensions of a country town and a spirit of old history, foreign pathos and ancient glory, they cannot avoid being moved. Do not also forget what has never been missing in the symposium: its mystic foundation. Also here, there is a mere word in the beginning that needs to be filled with content. "Symposion" meant a banquet but also a carouse for ancient Greeks and since the era of Platon's Symposion we have known that it was an event linked with witty discussions. Nowadays art symposia are unique events, which are also rare and, therefore, precious. They resemble relict of the sixties to some but they are not accepted totally unquestionably and positively by the art community. They are demanding for both organizers and artists. Beside other things, you need time, place, money and good will. It results in a work, which is created on the spot and its theme is often initiated by the location. The location is unique and, furthermore, it is decisive. Hence, a rough outline of genius loci of this border town needs to be pictured by a few sentences. It is located close to the borders of Austria and Slovakia, of course, as a part of the Czech Republic, the part of which called Moravia it truly significantly represents. So it is an intersection and also a place with wine-growing tradition stretching back to the ancient times. However, there seems to be something more important than houses, which are said to sing by a poet, and wine butts and all diversified folklore – spiritual tradition, as in comparison with what can be drunk and sung, this stone dialogue of cultures and ages is a place, the definitive shape of which was imprinted by cardinal Ditrichstein, a man of faith and also of extraordinary understanding of arts, a thoroughly Baroque person. It was him who made the Holy Hill at Mikulov a place of pilgrimage – with Black Loretta Madonna. As a native of Madrid (who learnt Czech), he continued with the tradition, which made Mikulov a place of spiritual toleration. Let us remember that under the preceding rulers of the Lichtenstein family, Mikulov had become a refuge of Jews, who had been driven out from Lower Austria in the early 15th century. Legendary rabbi Löw spent twenty years of his life here. A sect of Anabaptists also found a peaceful place here and they established a centre of their ceramics here. In recent history, Mikulov is known as the town where Alfonz Mucha started his art career at the age of twenty.

The audience is a specialty of symposia as they often look at the creation of the work and express their opinion. So the undertaking becomes a natural place of dialogue, which is only spoken about so often elsewhere (and usually uselessly). It is the "symposium" artists who have the opportunity to show their works as a part of the whole performance and, at least for some time, bridge over that gap separating the "profane" public from the "sacred" world of art and artists, existing from the beginning of modern art and separating the author from the spectators, who monotonously repeat their "I cannot understand". They will never understand completely (art is not a fruit of dialogues and democratically rounded tables!), but they will get over the first barrier of mistrust, which exists a priori, as a part of bad tradition towards a "higher" world of contemporary art. This communication with the spectators is required, enables them to be "in", be witnesses and, therefore, to some extent also co-participants in this great adventure, which is still called the art.

Jiří Olič


Mikulov Art Symposium 2003

July 19th - Agust 16th, 2003