If one of the purposes of art is to surprise and delight, and more often now, to be interesting and make people think, then it must be tough striving to make an interesting and surprising art festival year after year. On the eve of the sixth annual Tina B. contemporary arts festival, director Monika Burian-Jourdan is actually fairly relaxed.
“My team is very great, and now I don’t feel the stress of Tina B.,” she told Czech Position. “With each edition I’m more relaxed and I’m still having fun and lots of ideas.”
Organized every year by the Vernon Gallery in Prague, Tina B. presents the latest trends in the fields of new media, light art, video art, performance and more. This year the theme is Art-Eco-Bio and Burian-Jourdan says that ecology, although a political theme is rarely addressed in an artistic way. Nearly 100 artists will offer their artistic visions of new ways of thinking about the environment. “We are also speaking about not only the recycling of materials, but of thoughts, ideas, situations,” she adds.
Performances, not paintings
The festival runs through November 13, but most of the action occurs this weekend. Burian-Jourdan is excited about this year’s line-up, saying that in addition to a strong performance section, they are also introducing a new film section curated by Aleš Vašíček that will be screened at Bio Oko.
In addition to an international group of artists, Tina B. also reaches out for curators from around the globe. One of those is VestAndPage made up of German Verena Stenke and Italian Andrea Pagnes. They are curating the performance section – called Making Up-Tearing Down which, as Stenke told Czech Position “concentrates on radical transparency and eco-intelligence in contemporary performance art” and presents performances by seven international female artists.
“The intent is to show a selection of expressions from different cultural backgrounds, hence from Mexico is invited young and forward performer Melissa Garcia Aguirre; African artist and organizer Nathalie Mba Bikoro comes to Prague from Gabon, and there will be challenging performances by Serbian performer Snežana Golubović, Christina Georgiou from Cyprus, Swiss artist Gisela Hochuli, Heike Pfingsten from Germany and London-based Lynn Lu from Singapore,” she said.
The artists will present their performances the first three days of the festival, with Heike Pfingsten and Snežana Golubović performing opening night and Christina Georgiou, Nathalie Mba Bikoro and Melissa Garcia Aguirre showing their works on Friday (Oct. 21) at Bio Oko. The festival’s entire program can be found online.
Performance art can still be misunderstood by audiences, an idea not lost on Stenke. “We chose artists and works which we consider also pertinent for opening up a first discourse about this art form,” she said. “We think that the works showcase not only a variety of high-quality performances, but also allows visitors, which are still unaccustomed to this art form, to gently but purposefully discover it.”
From Germany to China
One artist Burian-Jourdan is excited about is Yuan Gong, one of the best-known contemporary Chinese artists. Currently enjoying success in the Chinese pavilion at the Venice Biennale; here in Prague he will be presenting his environmental work Fly Release in Tina B.’s special projects section at (A)void Gallery on the quay below Rašín Embankment.
The main exhibition space for this year’s festival is the fallout shelter below the Jalta Hotel. Here, among other installations, you can see native Czech Shalom Tomas Neuman exhibiting his light installation called “Neo Nuky Madona” and German artists will also be exhibiting work in the special German section of the festival, curated by Burian-Jourdan and Florian Grond.
In addition to a big arts festival, Burian-Jourdan and Vernon Gallery have just opened the newest space in the Vernon “family” of galleries, Vernon Depot in Prague 7.
The gallery’s inaugural exhibition will be in conjunction with Tina B.: Little Absurdities which consists of Swiss, Israeli, and Italian art, selected and organized by the Swiss curator Oliver Orest Tschirky and Universal Habitat, My Habitat, curated by Aleksandra Grzonkowska and Anna Zalewska. Other sections include Tina B. Eco Bio goes Around the World which features “green” works by a variety of artists; Tina B. At Play Outdoors and Tina B. By The Water. In all, there are seven different locations; with the Jalta Hotel being the main venue.
The Jalta bunker is not normally open to the public, Burian-Jourdan said: “We always want a very special place and soon we’ll have done all the special places.”
The contemporary art world brought to Prague
Burian-Jourdan says she is pleased to see how far the festival has come. “The first Tina B. didn’t have an identity – now we have one – we are a multimedia, performance, installation festival; we’ve defined its position,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of international recognition, and this for me is a sign of today; through digital marketing and with a low budget you can promote an idea and get confirmation if it’s a good idea.”
VestAndPage had two performances at last year’s Tina B. festival and Stenke concurs that this is an innovative festival.
“The mix and amplitude of artistic expression presented in outstanding venues in this beautiful city makes this event definitely unique,” she said. “Through the years, Tina B has been able to present a fertile ground to experience contemporary trends and movements, always up-to-date and one step forward.”
And with no entry fee (yes, Tina B. is free, but you can support them with a donation) Burian-Jourdan and Stenke both urge Prague residents to attend at least some part of Tina B.
“Keep your eyes open while being in the city these days, there are a lot of things to be discovered,” said Stenke.
Tina B. Contemporary Art Festival
through November 13
Jacy Meyer is a Prague-based freelance writer