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A Diamond in the Rough
"The central mission of FCCA is to serve as a lab where ideas can be developed through social and artistic platforms"
If your spirit is being drained as fast as you drain a glass of beer at your favorite hospoda, the Center for Contemporary Arts Prague (FCCA) may be your ticket to a rich cultural experience unparalleled in urban nightlife. Tucked away behind the Castle, FCCA offers a unique look into the underground art scene, which may be quiet and subtle, but still survives in hidden corners of the city. Currently, FCCA is hosting artists from Argentina, Canada, Japan, US, and Kazakhstan. In addition to providing a resource for international artists, the Center runs a monthly program of screenings, concerts, art openings, and workshops.
In the last three years, funding from philanthropist George Soros has thinned, leaving FCCA to fend for itself. Growing concern over support is enhanced with the Czech Republic slated to join the EU. Dana Recmanova, FCCA’s Jeleni Studios coordinator, views the Center as an excellent platform for maintaining a democratic balance. “Many things are happening here, although the Prague art circle is quite closed to outside influences. Things happen here in real time, without much planning, through live, self-supportive environments of close friends and collaboration.”
She hopes that in the future, residents will be provided with stipends and free accommodation, paving a way for an expanded international scene in Prague. But until the state is willing to see the value of such resources, places like FCCA run a risk of sinking below the horizon of cultural enrichment. When art communities spend more energy searching for art resources than celebrating the arts, there is an unequal balance between culture and commerce. Funding for the arts has never been easily achieved, but a society without art is a society without spirit. Jeleni Studios, ArtLab and the Jeleni Gallery provide artists a chance to share their work with the community. Atsuko Arai, a resident from Kyoto, Japan, has been studying the ancient tradition of the tea ceremony, which she demonstrates by periodically inviting the public to attend ceremonies and experience this cultivated and refined tradition.
Tomas Hrùza of the Faculty of Visual Arts in Brno has been working diligently with motion sensors and software that allows for the viewer to interact closely with the art process, blurring the lines between artist and perceiver, environment and object.. Motion sensors are strategically placed underneath a small desk with a piece of paper placed on top. The participator is invited to sit at the desk and draw on the piece of paper. As the pencil scrapes across the page, its sound is amplified in another part of the room, giving the space a viscous aural texture. The motion sensors, triggered by the location of the pencil on the paper, are connected to several sound files on Hrùza’s computer in another part of the room. The sound files range from white noise to notes played on a keyboard. As the participator draws on the page, he or she also ‘designs’ a sonic space, depending on where the pencil is and how long the drawing continues.
The central mission of FCCA is to serve as a lab where ideas can be developed through social and artistic platforms, activated by shared interests. “It is a place for communities who want to find the scene, to introduce their work, and meet people,” says Recmanova. “It is not a closed structure or focused in one direction; instead, it gives open space to help formulate ideas.”
She hopes the art scene of Prague to open up a bit more to the international community through a raised level of criticism, collaboration, development and self-reflection. For the art scene to reach beyond a provincial status, it needs to be taken more seriously in the local community. Having international residents allows this opportunity to expand. “We get to meet interesting people with inspiring life-attitudes, and psychologically varied people. We have more international response than local support, but there is always an opportunity for social networking.”
If the function of art in society depends on the relationship between the creation and the participator, then how we respond to art will determine its survival and health. Spaces like the Center allow for such dialogues to take place. But Recmanova reminds us that, as for FCCA, “Major Soros funding has stopped...so we have to look for other ways to support art now.”
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