transparadiso: Internacionální Togetherhood

Internacionální, Prague-Suchdol

The Austrian art group transparadiso, i.e. Barbara Holub and Paul Rajakovics, has prepared an artistic performance “Internacionální Togetherhood” in cooperation with the City District Prague-Suchdol and the Czech Agricultural University, for Suchdol citizens, students and teachers of the Czech Agricultural University, and general public. After the thorough assessment of the current situation, both transparadiso and the Prague City Gallery decided to delay infinitely the final artistic intervention, formerly scheduled for March 23, 2022.

This being said, the ideas that gave birth to the performance are still alive and get stronger. The main mission of the long-prepared event was to support the ideas of solidarity, vicinity, cooperation and communication – i.e. timeless values that are now, when war has illuminated all our actions by a completely new light, more important than ever. The ability of coexistence and tolerance and the willingness for mutual support and cooperation is clearly the key not only for better quality of our lives but for the mere survival.

The “Internacionální Togetherhood” project was based on the open call of the Prague City Gallery (program “Art for the City / TriangulUM”) to create a temporary artwork in the public space. The initial aim was to open a public debate on the communication of the Prague-Suchdol Municipality and the Czech University of Agriculture; they have been living in close proximity here for seventy years, in mutual respect but without any visible connection.

After a series of meetings and the thorough survey, international authors became truly interested in the situation, which inspired them in terms of social and spatial (urbanistic) relations. The results was the project of artistic performance attended by the representatives of both communities (City District and the University) and artists. During a symbolic allegoric procession from the Suchdol Townhall to the rector’s office and back, existing physical obstacles were to be overcome, and speeches and artistic interventions were to be made. The procession was to be lead by a group of participants with the “Blanket of Knowledge” – a wide strip of fabric that could “clothe” up to 20 people. To walk and overcome physical obstacles in this “collective body” requires good mutual coordination and cooperation of all participants – in symbolic contrast to everyday behavior that favors individual interests.

The artists were inspired by the metaphorical situation of two squares in Suchdol, connected by the symbolically named Internacionální (International) Street. The aim of this “celebration of solidarity” was to ask important questions: What does the full circle and semicircle of both squares symbolize? Can the semicircle in front of the university open the space for unplanned visions to connect both areas and communities? What can be done to support these visions and struggle for their expression in the physical space?

The English name of the intervention is an intended pun – the idea and the form of the “Blanket of Knowledge” are based on shared actions, so the blanked is symbolically fitted with twenty hoods referring to hidden knowledge, inevitably present in the community. The idea of connecting a group of people, sharing the same interest, to a single “collective body” was realized, for example, by Brazilian artist Lygia Pape in Rio de Janeiro in 1968. Her essential work “Divider”, using a similar textile object, was reperformed several times in various social and political contexts (such as in Hong Kong in 2013). Divider is based on the shared experience, but also on chance, improvisation, and experiments; it blazes the way to appropriate any public space, introduce creative changes into urban lives, and disrupt the space between the art and the audience. The approach of transparadiso was a bit different: the “Blanket of Knowledge” is site-specific and context-specific, as it creates the space for shared activities and for overcoming borders in both physical and metaphorical sense, as Utopian visions of coexistence.

On a personal level, both artworks explore ambivalent emotions we experience when deciding between personal individual comfort and solidarity with collective interests through shared activities. The importance of this level has grown exponentially in the context of the political and humanitarian crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The current events prove that the idea of Internacionální Togetherhood was fulfilled and realized in this critical moment – not in the artistic context but in real life. The Czech Agricultural University now provides accommodation and other care for hundreds of Ukrainian women and children, while the Suchdol Townhall funds their meals and schooling. In the terrifying set of unspeakably cruel reality, the ideas of solidarity materialize to the extent no one could ever imagine. Let’s hope we can return to the original idea and capitalize on the energy invested into the project by international artists and local realization team, when we’re finally able to focus on beautifully ordinary everyday joys and worries. Let’s hope together these times will come soon.

blanket from the side_0675_1000
from above_totale_0742cr_1000
on the street_0737_1000