18.11.2020 — 27. 02. 2021
Curated by — Michal Koleček
House of Arts
Ústí nad Labem (CZ)
The exhibition that Italian artist Hannes Egger has prepared for the House of Arts in Ústí nad Labem refers in its title to a performance he realized in September this year in Milan. As part of that event, a rented billboard car drove round and round bearing a simple message: Everything’s Changed — Nothing’s Changed. At the heart of the region heavily affected by the coronavirus crisis, Hannes Egger drew attention to dramatic shifts in the functioning of society in response to the pandemic and at the same time offered hope, determination to face this unusual situation with respect for each individual destiny and ethical relations within a complex society.
The idea formed the starting point for the artist‘s new Ústí nad Labem project, it being increasingly clear that in alternating waves of hope and threat, the possibility of using the traditional exhibition format is irrevocably fading away. Faced with apparently insuperable external restrictions Egger gradually began to transform them into inspiring creative stimuli, which not only determined the choice of expression and communication strategies for the exhibition, but also gave it its final thematic focus. The artist used an exclusively remote mode, not being able to work directly with gallery space in Ústí nad Labem, for which cooperation with the production team of Ústí nad Labem House of Arts became an important factor shaping the final form. The exhibition Everything’s Changed — Nothing’s Changed is thus built on a hybrid structure, while a significant — participatory — part takes place online in virtual form. The results of this online communication will give decisive shape to the ensuing physical presentation of the exhibition, which, however, given the coronavirus situation, can occur either in a closed gallery space or, again, virtually.
The exhibition’s structured participatory scheme includes closed social and cultural institutions (schools, universities, galleries, museums, theatres, concert halls, music clubs, etc.) operating mainly in Ústí nad Labem and its surroundings, artists from various fields cramped in their everyday artistic practice, and an audience sending letters to the organizers with stories related to the year 2020 as part of an open call. Institutions temporarily inaccessible to the public are cooperating to provide selected pieces of currently unused equipment from which Hannes Egger and the production team will assemble a processual installation visible via the gallery windows. Stories of viewers relating their 2020 experiences are to be published anonymously, with their consent, directly in the House of Arts Ústí nad Labem and on its online platforms. This material also will serve to recap the artist’s output — a kind of chronicle of 2020 – cum – exhibition catalogue. Hannes Egger will offer some of the stories to participating actors, musicians, dancers and audiovisual artists to interpret, and these artistic études will be recorded and presented in short video format in the gallery window and online. Hannes Egger’s exhibition in the Ústí nad Labem House of Arts thus becomes a platform for overcoming communication difficulties associated with isolation of individuals and closure of institutions. It provides a moment and a space for reflection on the current complex pandemic period which is tending to reinforce mechanisms preventing freedom of imagination and social functioning.
Michal Koleček — curator
The year 2020 has been marked by the Covid-19 pandemic. It all started towards the end of last year with individual cases in China. By February and March the pandemic had spread uncontrollably to Europe, the United States and the whole world. Not only has it caused thousands of deaths, it has changed the lives of many people. All over the world everyone has experienced this, and the spread of the virus continues this autumn, prompting governments to take radical steps. So far, situations hard to imagine have arisen, and some think that our world and our relationships have changed irreversibly. Nevertheless, it is still not entirely clear whether there has been a real transformation, and whether we have learned social and individual lessons from these restrictive measures. Many things seem to have remained unchanged, but apparently our perception of the world is now divided into “before Covid-19” and “after (or with) Covid-19.” At present in the fall the pandemic is back in full strength.
Will we survive this plague? And if so, how? Can we develop a new and better world under the influence of global crisis? And if so, what kind? Or will the world remain as it is and everything just get worse and worse, with growing inequalities? What is likely to remain and what will disappear forever? Everything’s Changed — Nothing’s Changed…
The exhibition consists of 3 (or more) parts:
1. Hannes Egger’s video performance Everything’s changed — Nothing’s changed realized in September in Milan will be presented in the gallery window.
2. The gallery brings together furniture (tables and chairs) from institutions (schools, universities, offices, theatres, exhibition halls, etc.) which are closed due to government restrictions. The furniture will be arranged as an installation in the gallery space.
3. The residents of Ústí nad Labem (and elsewhere) will be invited to write a letter to the Ústí nad Labem House of Arts about their experience of the year 2020. The letters will be published online and displayed in the gallery space. The Gallery reserves the right not to publish such letters as do not correspond to the ethical values of the Ústí nad Labem House of Arts. Selected letters will be handed over to performative artists (actors, musicians, performers, dancers …) for further processing. The artists will translate them into their own artistic language. These interpretations will be recorded (in DIY conditions) and projected in several blocs in the gallery window. The artists will receive a fee for these activities. The letters will also serve as a source for the preparation of Egger‘s book — a kind of chronicle of the year 2020. As a reward for the letters, the participating viewers will receive an author’s t-shirt or a poster Everything’s Changed — Nothing’s Changed. Through these T-shirts and posters, the exhibition will expand into the public sphere and into the participants’ private zone — their bodies or their apartments.
The exhibition has a processual character and tries to respond as flexibly as possible to a constantly changing situation.
Hannes Egger — October 2020