In the previous article published on August 28th, 2017 in The Dongguk Post, we looked into the art education system in countries from Eastern Europe and came to the conclusion that it is important to perceive art as something that is always breathing with us in our daily lives. Here, we will broaden our scope by looking at several programs and policies in Eastern Europe including Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary that support artists to work on their pieces, which ultimately makes the arts scene more colorful with diverse voices and messages. Moreover, we will see the problem that both Korean and Eastern European artists share that interrupts their work to expose diverse ideas to the society through their artworks.
The art is the expression of people’s thoughts and ideas. It is appreciated for inspiring the viewers with new perspectives. In other words, the art means encouraging and preserving variety of ideas to us. However, the society is interested in popular and beneficial aspects leading to standardization. It is not different for the art, threatening its essence: diversity. To manage the problem, Europe as well as other society seems to try various ways to sustain the value of the art.
Museums become the arena to share diverse artistic ideas
The world is full of people in different professions. It is not too much to say that everything is the result of the interaction between these people. The interaction comes from diversity. People with different ideas get together and create new ideas in the society. However, such cooperation and creation can be possible when individuals’ ideas are recognized and activated among the people in the society. In Eastern Europe, art museums are one of the communities that provide the arena for such interaction for the artists.
Christopher Elpons, who is in the Team Educational Service, Art & Architecture Kunsthaus Graz, an art museum in Austria, said, “I believe the museum is where people get inspiration through interaction. The artists can try to express their opinions in the artworks. Then, people from different professions would get inspiration from the pieces and discuss the matter, influencing on each other and other people as well.” However, it seems that many museums are suffering from the circumstance of having small audiences. Therefore, many museums in Eastern Europe like Kunsthaus Graz are trying various methods to bring in more people. Barbara Steiner, the head of Kunsthaus Graz, said, “We have a program called ‘The Question of the Month.’ People ask me different questions regarding the interpretation of a specific art piece and I answer to them. For instance, the questions could be ‘How much is the price of the art piece?’ and ‘Why are they so expensive?’” As a result, having these questions and interacting with them boosts the artistic interaction and the positive effects that museums can have on the arts scene such as making it more colorful with diverse voices.
Financial supports provided to help artists carry on their work
Although many people could be the starting factor of a movement that increases diversity in the arts scene, it is no use if everyone has the same idea. Gathering many people could sustain its meaning when they have different ideas. When it comes to the art, it becomes more important since the art is the emblematic field for accepting different ideas. However, due to the influence of capitalism, a lot of unknown artists suffer from financial deficit. To support these artists and conserve diversity in the art field, the government provides some practical support in Eastern Europe. MeetFactory, which is located in the Czech Republic, is a good example of an art museum where the government is funding to create new ideas.
Sarka Marouskova, the PR Manager of the MeetFactory, said, “An interesting aspect of our museum is that we provide support for artists who are out of the mainstream in the area of Drama, Art, and Music. It is for the sake of diversity in the arts scene. Also, I would say the works exhibited in our museum are bolder and more experimental compared to the art pieces, so called ‘mainstream.’ The government is funding our museum which helps us to run exhibitions for free for our visitors. Plus, we provide workplace, residence, and some living expenses for our artists.”
Bringing new people to the field of art is guaranteed
New artists bring new thoughts to the field, coming up with changes and filling the scene with numerous diverse ideas. However, in many cases, novice artists experience difficulties stabilizing their careers. To expect the new artists to play their part as catalysts, the society needs to build up an environment for them to stand on their own. This includes guaranteeing the minimum condition to make a living, which is well-developed in the art system in Eastern Europe.
Lee Yong-bum, a graduate of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna in Austria, described the life of new artists in Europe. “There are lots of programs for students to receive support from. Not to mention a plenty of works for new musicians in the scene, when it comes to finding jobs, more opportunities exist for the new musicians to enter orchestras compared to Korea.”
Government interferes with the works produced in the arts scene in Korea
Still, despite the fact that some artistic institutions are making efforts to support young artists, there are still some barriers that not only block young artists from developing their careers and creating their works but also injure the artistic diversity in both Korea and the countries in Eastern Europe.
Protecting diversity in the arts scene is critical in that it delivers messages of different people and enables them to co-exist in the society, not to mention the voices from the young generation which can be easily ignored. Hong Seung-oh, an actor and the owner of “Theater 99c,” which is a theater company of young artists, made a note that their group tries to make plays that involve stories which are not often freely discussed in the society. “We try to convey diverse messages that are actually all related to social and political issues in our plays. As a result, we want the audience to feel something and at least look back on themselves and the society after watching our plays,” he said.
However, he pointed out that the way that the government and the policies perceive and treat the artists is not doing good to help express various messages from the society. To explain, the welfare for the artists is too unilateral in that it feels like the government is just giving away the money for the play production. This, in turn, gives the artists a pressure to make plays that fit the government’s interests as the government claims that the works come from their money. Hong added, “So to speak, it is censorship, just like the so-called ‘Black List,’ which is a hot potato in recent days.”
Contemporary art in Eastern Europe is subject to government pressure
When having a look at the situation in Eastern Europe, their artists are also having a hard time due to the government intervening in the arts scene, ruining artistic diversity. Zsofia Szemzo, a young artist in Hungary, maintained that the arts scene in Hungary is very divided and fearful. “There is an official art which is dogmatic, and if you do not belong to that, doing more contemporary art, you have to go into a jungle to find a way to do your work,” she said.
|Borsos Lorinc, a group of artists from Budapest, has been working on their artworks that have a critical view on the government in their art studio funded by a private organization.|
|/Photograph by the Dongguk Media Center|
Furthermore, Borsos Lőrinc, a group of artists from Budapest, mentioned that there is a big wall surrounding the politicians and power figurers where artists cannot reach. “You cannot even release any critical work to the mass. There are some little things with which you can sort of poke them, but nothing really changes. They are nothing more than just symbolic gestures.”
This year on July 27th, which was only four days before the team of journalists had an interview with Borsos Lőrinc, they actually experienced censorship and had to take their works down from the exhibition because they were regarded as something against the national ideology. “We made a new series of paintings of flags. We had worked a lot with flags, for example, putting one flag on another flag and working with it like Lego because we think that a flag is not enough to represent a whole state as there are so many different people inside.” Even though they talked to the curator in advance that they will hold the works of flags during the exhibition and explained it to him, on the day of the exhibition, they suddenly received a phone call from the director of the institute that the paintings should be immediately removed. Team Borsos Lőrinc added, “They said that our works were scandalous and that they cannot show such political paintings as they ruin Hungarian flags. We were told that we must not play with national symbols in this way. ‘Do not shit on them,’ that was what they actually said.” When they went back inside the exhibition, they found out that their works had already been taken down from the wall and they were consequently removed from the exhibition while they were invited to the exhibition.
|Borsos Lorinc, a group of artists from Budapest, said, "There are some good approaches done to get out of the state and the system. Two years ago, an event was held in Budapest, which did not apply for any money from the government. They exhibited artworks not in institutions but in interesting places like flats, basements, and abandoned places. Still, there is very little money. We need changes to get the rich people to give their money for these kinds of efforts."|
|/Photograph by the Dongguk Media Center|
Diversity is an indispensable key in the art scene
It was noticeable that the countries in Eastern Europe had sophisticated system for artists. They held programs that allow more voices to interact with each other in various places like museums and provided opportunities to actually make a living as an artist, which was something that Korean society should learn to improve the environment for young artists. However, for sure, it was not only artists in Korea who are suffering from producing independent artworks which may be critical to the government but also the ones in Eastern Europe. Hong Seung-oh commented that people agree to the saying that “Play is the spirit of generation.” Likewise, Borsos Lőrinc said, “Art is not about a scandal but a tool to reach out to the society and make critical sounds.”
|Dr. Harald Lothaller, a director of the Career Centerof Graz Uiversity, mentioned, "We regularly open concerts for the locals as well. This gives opportunities for the students to perform their music and the locals to have a cultural experience. As a result, this exposes students to the outside world and helps them to be more open to it, not to mention that it brings the locals to the music scene."|
|/Photograph by the Dongguk Media Center|
Art is not about dividing and censoring. What both Korean and Eastern European artists agreed on was that art should be open and flexible. Despite the efforts that are going on now, greater efforts still need to be made to involve the voices of more diverse people in the arts scene.
Lim Ji-soo, Khang Seok-jun email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
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