The Danube Art Lab artists come from European Danube countries and have attracted attention through their space-oriented artwork.
The exhibition "Danube Art Lab – Hidden Spaces / Hidden Places" – Verborgenes / Vergessenes – Positions in contemporary art" is an event of the city of Regensburg in cooperation with donumenta. It takes place in open space (July 28th to October 14th 2018) and in the Städtische Gelerie im Leeren Beutel (July 28th to November 18th 2018), Bertoldstraße 8.
Catrin Bolt lives in Vienna, where she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. She works with photography and projects in the public space. A laureate of the Otto-Mauer-Prize, she also won the Uni- versity of Vienna’s artistic contest in honour of female scholars.
The Neupfarrplatz reflects two thousand years of the city’s history: its remains span the Roman legionary camp, the medieval Jewish quarter (which was destroyed in 1519), a sixteenth-century Virgin Mary pilgrimage, the Reformation, all the way to an air raid shelter from World War II.
Catrin Bolt’s work recalls the medieval Jewish quarter. Today’s square contained almost forty houses, including public buildings, and a population of roughly five hundred people. Against the backdrop of Regensburg’s economic decline in the Late Middle Ages, anti-Jewish sentiments were on the rise; in 1519, the city’s Jews were dispossessed and expelled, and their buildings razed to the ground.
Like an additional storey, the cellars and remains of the houses lie directly beneath the sprawling Neupfarrplatz. Catrin Bolt’s video installation makes do with only a few components, and is designed to act on the square like a sculpture. The flickering light of a TV unit reaches the surface through a glass pane in the ground, just as if people were still living there. “The usual evening pro- gramme points to a society which has managed to assert itself without scrutiny, aside from a few multicultural elements”, explains Catrin Bolt.
The Austrian artist presents new photographs in the Städtische Galerie im Leeren Beutel: using the macro lens of her analogue camera, Catrin Bolt turned her attention to small, seemingly insignificant details on the streets. Framed from the right angle, she transforms parts of the historic cultural heritage, as well as functional elements, into fictitious “Objects of Interest” – in opposition to the canonical “worthy-of-being-seen-ness” of the classic tourist attractions.
Alena Foustková is from the Czech Republic. She majored in printmaking at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, before emigrating to Toronto in 1982. After her return to the Czech Republic in 1995, she worked as an Art Director for Saatchi & Saatchi, a globally successful advertising agency with an affinity for the arts sector. Some of her works are part of the Neue Sammlung in Munich. Alena Foustková focuses on the people of the monasteries of the World Heritage city of Regensburg. Religious groups such as the Order of Saint Benedict, the Carmelites, the Conventual Francis- cans, as well as the Dominican Sisters, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, and the Congregation of Jesus have all left their traces on the city in the past – and some continue to do so even today. Alena Foustková reveals a central aspect of monastic life, one that has largely gone unnoticed amidst the urban bluster of the twenty- first century. She translates the silence of the monastic cell into the present.
In the artist’s own words, “the ‘sound of silence’ is a very wise expression coined by the medievalist Julie Kerr in her book ‘Life in the Medieval Cloister’, in order to describe the sounds and noises religious men and women heard in the cloisters of silence, such as the sound of bells ringing throughout the day, the music emanating from the church, the sounds of birds and running water. In this sense, the cloister of silence was still viewed as the neces- sary environment for meditation and reflection, despite the various noises that could be heard within.”
In order to create an interactive place of contemplation, Alena Foustková used transparent polycarbonate for a reconstruction of a monastic cell, the dimensions of which correspond to the socalled Modulor, the proportional system of Le Corbusier. Those who enter the cell are cut off from the outside world, and the only way of perceiving sound is through one’s imagination, stimulated by inscriptions on the transparent walls, such as “bell”, “horn”, or “shout”. One associates acoustic impulses without actually being exposed to them.
In the exhibition in the Städtische Galerie im Leeren Beutel, the artist reveals her sketchbook to offer insights into other projects she has developed, and also displays a detail drawing of her installation.
Milijana Istijanović studied sculpture in Cetinje. She aims to recreate history and thereby bring it back into our awareness. It is her firm belief that “spaces remember people”. In the “Danube Art Lab”, Istijanovi ́c developed a concept for the Peterskirchlein located in the green space in front of Regensburg’s main station.
The Peterskirchlein was built at the beginning of the nineteenth century, in what was then the new Catholic cemetery outside the city walls. Plaques commemorate individuals such as the cathe- dral priest Bishop Georg Michael Wittmann, who ordered the construction of the church, and Johannes Kepler, who had been buried in an already existing Protestant cemetery in close proximity some two hundred years previously. The cemetery has long since been abandoned, with only a few gravestones remaining; the church is being used by the Bulgarian Orthodox community. Today the building stands at the heart of one of the city’s social hotspots. Milijana Istijanovi ́c brings the Christian-Orthodox elements to the outside, cladding the church windows in Byzantine blue. By doing so she moves it back into consciousness, granting it respect.
By calling her work “Somnium”, the artist unlocks an additional layer of meaning.“Somnium”(dream) is also the title of a story by Johannes Kepler, which dates to 1609 and describes an imaginary journey to the moon. Milijana Istijanović herself writes about Byzantine blue: "In Orthodox churches the colour is used to represent the sky. However, the latter can be understood not just as a limitation, but rather as a connection to God, as cosmic energy.” At the same time, the sky had been studied by Kepler, who was a Protestant. Thus Milijana Istijanović manages to link together the three main Christian denominations, while simultaneously crea- ting a bridge to the very beginnings of modern natural science.
In the Städtische Galerie im Leeren Beutel, the artist displays photomontages related to another project in Regensburg. For the ruin of the medieval women’s collegiate church of Obermünster (one of the Old Town’s few casualties of World War II), Milijana Istijanović has designed a violet place of longing, entitled “The Sun has always been on her Side”.
Nikita Kadan works and lives in Kiev, where he studied at the National Academy. He views himself as a political artist. He has an international presence at exhibitions, such as the Venice Biennale.
In his work for Regensburg, he contextualises the history of his own country with the history of the city. On 19 March 1945, a satellite of the Flossenbürg concentration camp was set up in the guesthouse “Colosseum” in Regensburg’s Stadtamhof district. Some four hundred male prisoners were detained there, who were sent out daily and under guard to repair damages to the rail- way network caused by aerial attacks.
The inmates, hailing from the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, Belgium, France, and many other countries, were lodged in the guesthouse’s ballroom. Over the course of the five-week existence of the satellite camp, more than ten percent of the prisoners died. It is of special interest to Nikita Kadan that every day, there were also Ukrainian guardsmen among those who drove the captives out across the Stone Bridge through the Old Town to their work sites at the rails.
Nikita Kadan turns this historic event into a social sculpture and, finally, into a sound installation. On 27 July 2018, at the opening of the exhibition, men and women of today are invited to retrace the steps of the prisoners of the past. In rough wooden slippers, about four hundred volunteers – roughly corresponding to the number of prisoners – will walk in silence from the “Colosseum” across the Stone Bridge.
“Wearing wooden shoes like those worn by the inmates, the participants in this interactive performance will themselves become a part of their history”, Nikita Kadan says about his work. Following his concept, the clatter of the shoes will be recorded during the performance and then transformed into a sound sculpture.
In the Städtische Galerie im Leeren Beutel, Nikita Kadan illustra- tes his idea for the project in the form of an installation consisting of photography and text. The returned wooden shoes, as well as audio recordings, will document the performance.
A master class student of Jannis Kounellis, Notburga Karl studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, and worked in New York before starting to teach visual arts education at the University of Bamberg. Her performances, sculptures, mobiles, as well as her video and sound installations act in concert with the space around them.
Her work for Regensburg is concerned with the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who resided in the city on several occasions and eventually died here in 1630. Even today his person is deeply embedded into the town’s memory. One of Regensburg’s streets bears his name. The “document Keplerhaus”, the place of his death, illustrates his research through the exhibition of books, letters, historical instruments, and various models.
Notburga Karl locates her intervention, in the form of an ellipsis, at the Kepler monument in the Fürst-Anselm-Allee, which was set up as a monopteros in 1830. By doing so, the artist recalls the central conclusion Kepler drew from his scientific work. For according to the first of Kepler’s three laws, the planets do not orbit the sun in regular circles, but in ellipses. According to her interpretation, “Kepler’s ellipsis is a circle that has gathered momentum.” Following this finding, Notburga Karl combines the circular shape of the Kepler monument with her ellipsis: she places a coloured, widely swinging oval between the columns of the monopteros, lending the memory of Kepler a new level of visibility.
In the Städtische Galerie im Leeren Beutel, the artist shows how she engaged with the life and work of Johannes Kepler.
Bojana S. Knezević is a multimedia artist and an art journalist, working in the fields of performance, video, audiovisual installation, and sound art. In her socially engaged and participatory art projects she aims to redefine manifold stereotypes, with a focus on the un- heard voices of marginalized or hidden individual and collective identities. Bojana S. Knezević holds Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts degrees in New Media Arts (Academy of Arts Novi Sad) and a doctoral degree in Interdisciplinary Digital Art (University of Arts in Belgrade).
In Regensburg she devoted her attention to life in the convents, with a focus on the School Sisters of Notre Dame, founded by Mary Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger (1797–1879) and the Congregation of Jesus, founded by Mary Ward (1585–1645). Through interviews with the nuns who are part of these two communities, Bojana S. Knezević ́ explores the differences between the life missions of the nuns from the past and those of contemporary nuns. The artist attempts to uncover the possible reasons for the lack of new nuns – which has led to the closure of many convents across Europe. In fact, the convent of the Congregation of Jesus in Regensburg is about to be shut down, and several elderly nuns who lived there are moving to other cities and convents where they can spend the rest of their lives.
The conversations held with five nuns dealt with Mary Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger and Mary Ward – those remarkable women- founders from different centuries and backgrounds. They faced hardships and painful struggles in order to fulfil their mission, a mission dedicated to female education and empowerment. Inspired by the lives of the founders, the nuns also share their par- ticular experiences and personal stories that guided them to join their communities. Fascinated by the spirit of activism of these Catholic sisterhoods, Bojana S. Knezevic ́ wonders how this practice corresponds to the history and principles of feminism.
In the Städtische Galerie im Leeren Beutel, the artist presents her project as an installation. Bojana S. Knezević combines fragments of text and sound from the interviews with her own experiences, contemplations, prejudices, and doubts.
Dumitru Oboroc works and lives in Iași. He is a performer, sculptor, sociologist, art theorist, and a master of small gestures.
He titles his creation for Regensburg the “Nipple of the City”. The artist chose the Zieroldsplatz as the place for his intervention, and thus proximity to the monument of Don John of Austria, the illegitimate son of Emperor Charles V and Barbara Blomberg, the daughter of a metal spinner from Regensburg. John secured his place in the history books through his role as admiral in the naval engagement of Lepanto in 1571, for which he was hailed as the “Saviour of the Occident”. The romance between the aging emperor and the young woman is mentioned on every city tour, but few people consider what an illegitimate birth in the sixteenth century might have meant for the mother.
At any rate, Dumitru Oboroc is not concerned with this particular incident. Rather, his “Nipple of the City” points towards the nume- rous stories that lie hidden behind the touristic façade of Regens- burg. Shaped into an elevation of the pavement, the “Nipple” stands in direct competition with the monument. Its message is clear: “Look, there is your glorious John, and here you see how what is festering under the surface is beginning to make itself felt.” This recalls 5 February 2003, when the removal of the grue- some monument was called for, as it also contains the severed head of a defeated Turk beneath the hero’s left boot.
Dumitru Oboroc expects that those who pass by his “Nipple” will “bump into it, confront it somatically, physically, and ask them- selves or others: What has happened here? What is this under the surface that pushes the pavement into this form? What is hiding there?”
Thus he points to something beneath the surface that is indeterminable, eluding our awareness. The artist makes visible the unseen. “In spite of all archaeological and historical research”, he says, “we will never be able to comprehend the true emotions of people from bygone centuries. They will forever remain hidden from us.”
In the Städtische Galerie im Leeren Beutel, Dumitru Oboroc details his encounter with Regensburg through a series of videos, illustra- ting his personal engagement with the city and its inhabitants.
Klára Orosz works and lives in Pécs, where she attended university and gained her PhD. She also studied at Goldsmiths, London. Her artistic activity shifted from sculptures to largescale urban installations which interact with their viewers.
Her piece for Regensburg bears the name “The Black Tower”. It constitutes a novel interpretation of the now lost Black Tower, which was once located at the northern end of the Stone Bridge, in the Stadtamhof district. In its time, it formed part of the local fortifications and Regensburg’s toll office.
The original Black Tower was removed in 1810, after having been damaged by shot from French and Austrian troops in the course of the Battle of Regensburg the year before. During construction works in 2002, the structure’s foundations were revealed, which allowed the exact plotting of its position, length and width. Klára Orosz describes her motivation to reconstruct the historic building and give visitors an idea of its scale: “Today, hardly anyone knows about the existence of the tower and its border.”
Her interpretation sticks closely to the original dimensions of the Black Tower, and while its exact height has not been accurately recorded, inferences can be drawn from contemporary illustrati- ons. Furthermore, the artist takes into account the height of other medieval towers dotted around the city, arriving at a height of twenty metres for her own installation.
The city’s current plan is to implement the installation on the Stone Bridge in 2019. Documents and research related to the art project, as well as a model created by the Hungarian artist, can be seen in the Städtische Galerie im Leeren Beutel. The purpose of all this? For Klára Orosz, the Black Tower contains the reconciliation of oppositions. Whereas viewers might initially expect “The Black Tower” to be monolithic and opaque, the artist’s foam com- position actually presents something that is intricate and trans- lucent.“‘TheBlackTower’wouldsymboliseandcontainsomekind of contradictions like dark and light, soft and hard.”
Alexandru Raevschi is originally from Chișinău, actually living in Marburg. An artist of many interests, he studied Fine Art, Architecture, Economics, and Political Sciences. Over a series of works he has engaged with the collective heritage of his home country.
Hence, during his time in Regensburg, Alexandru Raevschi examined the ways in which the World Heritage city’s past and present relate to each other, and what importance, if any, the town’s historic legacy holds for its modern inhabitants. In effect, he presents the city with a reflection of itself: mirrored cubes at the north-eastern corner of the legionary camp’s walls allow passers- by to connect past and present, to see and experience themselves as part of them.
Those who walk past the cubes and pause to consider them will see not only themselves, but also the newly built Museum of Bavarian History behind them, as well as the original stone blocks of the Roman wall in front of them. Thus, history presents itself as a construct of different elements, and as a result of one’s own individual perspective and environment.
Alexandru Raevschi himself calls his installation “a visual composition which creates a dialogue with its surroundings via the surfaces of the mirrors. Thus, it becomes possible to establish communication between past and present.”
The artist further develops the playful interaction with the mirrored Roman cubes in the Städtische Galerie im Leeren Beutel. As part of the preparation for his intervention he required plaster and silicone casts of the original blocks. This in turn led to an installation that has its own roots in the Roman wall.
Selma Selman comes from Bosnia and Herzegovina and is of Romani origin. Her work embodies the struggles of her own life as well as those of her community, employing a plethora of media, such as performance, painting, photography, and video installations. Selman utilises her personal background as a lens through which to understand the universal human condition and its idiosyncrasies. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Banja Luka University’s Department of Painting, and she graduated as a Master of Fine Arts at Syracuse University in New York. Selma is a founder of the organisation “Mars u Skolu!” (“Get the Heck to School!”), which aims to empower girls all around the world who faced poverty and ostracism from society.
Selman calls her work for Regensburg “I wish I had a German Pass- port” and “We, who are dreaming of”. She engages with the air raid shelter beneath the Thon-Dittmer-Palais, which during the Cold War housed two thousand beds and sanitary facilities. The first time she saw the bunker, Selman established a direct link to her own family’s history, who had to look for similar shelter during the Yugoslav War.
The artist herself was born during the war, in 1991. The sight of the shelter cast her back in time: “When I entered the empty bunker in Regensburg, I was thrown back to memories of hudd- ling in my family’s basement during bombings, and I realized that this desire for cover and protection is how I connected my own history with the history of Regensburg. I am interested in the fact that Regensburg’s space of protection was never used and that the beds have become old without use.” Selman uses a shop window on the Maximilianstraße to arrange the beds from the shelter into a video installation.
Borjana Ventzislavova works and lives in Vienna, where she studied visual media art, and in Sofia, where she was born. In recognition of her artistic work, Austria awarded her honorary citizenship. The tools of her artistic expression are photography, film, installation, and performance.
In the “Danube Art Lab” the artist engaged with the Anatomy Tower. Located in the west of the Royal Villa, it originally formed part of the city’s fortifications along the Danube, which had been built between 1320 and 1330. In the seventeenth century, and once more at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the defensive structure served as a storage for gunpowder. In 1739, physicians began to conduct autopsies in the tower, and used it for anato- mical studies. During the construction period of the Royal Villa, from 1856 to 1858, the tower was remodelled in the neo-Gothic style.
Borjana Ventzislavova realised that “history shows that the tower was very much connected to the human body, to life and death: on the one hand, it was a place where bodies were disjoined for scientific purposes; on the other, it was a storage for gunpowder, a substance used in warfare to demolish and take lives. Both scenarios reveal the tower's historical relation to human life and blood.”
As an artistic conclusion, Borjana Ventzislavova completely veils the tower in royal purple fabric, which falls from its battlements like a theatre curtain. She calls her work “The History Theatre”. Using royal purple is crucial for the artist, as it signifies wealth and power. Because the sea snails producing the rare dye only generate a few drops each, the colour was once among the most costly in the world. As a theatrical staging next to the river, this artwork emphasises the beauty and rich history of Regensburg, but at the same time it suggests that there is still much in our past that is unknown and undiscovered.
In the Städtische Galerie im Leeren Beutel, Borjana Ventzislavova displays an installation of her project “Brown Spots“, which deals with the National Socialist era in Regensburg.