In 2019, Slovakia celebrated the 30th anniversary of its independence. An exhibition, in collaboration with Post Bellum, in Nová Cvernovka, was one of many related events organised by numerous institutions.
Obviously, this occasion created quite an overwhelming momentum in communications activity. One of the core challenges was to present an event that was not a reiteration of other similar events of that time. Furthermore, we wanted to skip the stale cliches and create a living experience for the visitors.
Our exhibition consisted of five parts. Post Bellum, a non-governmental, nonprofit organisation specialised in collecting and preserving memories of living witnesses of Slovak historical events, provided us with key input — a large collection of testimonies recorded on video. We used these in an installation, along with a slide-show of historic photographs, re-created revolutionary transparencies, and a thematic soundscape by Milan Jaslovský.
To bring a different character, we created a timeline of events that were happening simultaneously in six East Bloc countries (Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, East Germany, Soviet Union) from World War II until 1989, plus events from the early 1990s.
To make that information ‘more human’ and more personal, we decided to stage these historic events in a socialistic living room consisting of period design products from the collections of the Slovak Design Museum (curated by Maroš Schmidt). The point was to invoke the visitor’s own experience during this socialist era, because these products are still present in some Slovak homes.
We also designed a meta-newspaper about the exhibition for visitors to take with them. The newspaper offered a selection of articles from various revolutionary and post-revolutionary press, together with a revolutionary thesis and a timeline.
In the centre of the exhibition was a huge art piece, created by a collective of Slovak visual artists. Its aim was to represent the various layers of perception of all the events from that period. Paľo Čejka created a large collage with related historic prints, applied to four installation panels assembled in a cube. A group of three artists, Dzive, made a critical statement by creating street-art drawings on the cube, as an artistic intervention during the opening of the exhibition.
We hope that our project helped to preserve a sense of the same political, cultural, and social freedom that drove the revolutionary generation of that time, especially with the reanimation of the dark totalitarian tendencies in contemporary Slovak society.