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Director of the Baltic Art Center - Lívia Páldi

Director of the Baltic Art Center - Lívia Páldi 3

Interviewed by Anna Iltnere

Beginning with December 1, the new director of the Baltic Art Center (BAC) is Lívia Páldi, who hails from Hungary; she has spent the previous four years as head curator at the Budapest art space,  Mücsarnok. Lívia Páldi is currently a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Art Theory and Media Studies at Hungary's Eötvös Loránd University, and is a curator of the prestigous contemporary art exhibition, dOCUMENTA (13), which will be held in Kassel, in summer 2012. 

Established in 1999, BAC is an international residency center for artists, curators and contemporary art theoreticians; it is located in Visby, the capital city of Gotland, Sweden's largest island. The Center's board consists of representatives from Moderna Museet, Copenhagen's Contemporary Art Festival and Warsaw's Museum of Modern Art, as well from Gotland's local government and other institutions.

The new director of BAC found some time in her busy schedule to share her future plans and hopes for the Center with . Páldi characterizes the intensity of her new job in an ironic remark, stating that the first day at her new place of work lasted a whole week.

Can we expect some changes in the strategy of BAC? As the new director, do you plan to bring in some new ideas?

After a longer interim period, and myself coming from a rather different context compared to the previous directors, BAC will definitely open a new chapter in its history. There is an inspiring and challenging institutional legacy that unquestionably has an impact on future operations and activities.

I have to rethink not only BAC’s current agenda, but also reassess its resources and capacities, as well as its funding, within the changing cultural-political and economical situation. That means to look for new strategies of working and collaborating internationally, regionally and locally.

Although the institution has taken different turns and has engaged different practitioners during its 12-year existence, continuous professional development and openness to experimentation should always play a key role.

Even though international production residencies will continue to be BAC’s priority, it will continue to feed into different platforms to test and catalyze new formulations of the relationships among artistic process, institution and society. What I would like to start with is the involvement of a different network of people/partners, and co-initiate longer-term collaborations that engage with the institution on the basis of thematic research and analysis. I have plans to team up with a couple of institutions and practitioners both in and outside of Sweden, and to keep developing and working with them for a period of 2-3 years. For instance, thanks to Lisa Rosendahl, the director of IASPIS, I had the opportunity to spend a month prior to my takeover to become familiar with the cultural climate and parameters of working in Sweden.

I have just started to work with Diana Baldon, who is the new director of Stockholm’s Index – The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation, to conceptualize and run a pilot inter-institutional project next year.

In the upcoming year, does BAC plan to also focus on the Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – by building closer relationships with artists or curators from these regions? Or will Scandinavia be the main area of concentration?

BAC has co-initiated and developed different types and formats of residencies, creating opportunities for artists, curators, writers and theorists with diverse needs. Artist-in-Residency, Production-in-Residency, Collaborative Research Residency, and Path Crossing Residency – all have been developed to give space to different types of involvement, and thus encourage both emerging and established, and both individual and collaborative, practices within the region and beyond. The aim has always been to prioritize content, but even so, in some cases we have to harmonize our objectives within a more restricted scenario. 

I would like BAC to engage more with publishing projects and to initiate a book series covering specific themes and phenomena. This would give greater visibility to BAC’s activities and would provide an opportunity to share the experiences of diverse artistic/curatorial explorations and research methodologies; it would also be an excellent way to disseminate the academic knowledge that has accumuled throughout BAC’s history (through artistic residencies, productions, and various projects).

I have just landed here and there is also a lot to discover regarding this context – Gotland – the immediate environment and its resources, its many cultural organisations. For me, attaining this knowledge also means going outside of Visby and connecting to other communities on the island, among which, hopefully, there could be some future partners.

Could you name at least one important exhibition that BAC is planning in 2012, or any other important events?

BAC has been involved in exhibitions in various ways, and in the last 4-5 years, the focus has shifted to knowledge production, and to generating and participating in mobile (platform) activities.

Actually, a question that I'm facing at the moment is whether BAC should – and if it does, then how and in what form – re-enter into white cube and institutional collaborations with curated projects (besides the dissemination of its production), as it has had neither a permanent nor a temporary exhibition space to work with since 2007. After all, BAC has been part of ENPAP – a network for organisations that produce contemporary art outside of traditional exhibition and gallery spaces, and which share an affinity for expanding the notion of public art. I would like to keep this as an open option.

Which projects would you highlight from Your Curriculum Vitae as the most important for you (so far)? And could you briefly elaborate as to why?

There are many to consider and somehow, it always feels unfair to pick just a few.

I started my career after the political changes in post-socialist Hungary, during a transitional period. In the second half of the 1990s, it was of great importance to challenge the inherited institutional system . Being a co-founder and curator of a new institution – the contemporary art centre, ICA-Dunaújváros – was a very defining experience for me; some aspects of which come back to me now at BAC.

I had the opportunity to position my local curatorial experience in a wider international context during my participation in the De Appel Curatorial Training Programme, which I completed in 2001. This then inspired my two-year period as a freelance curator based in Ljubljana, where I worked closely with the Slovenian artist, Marjetica Potrc, whose interdisciplinary practice between art, urbanism and architecture focused on a comparative study of different urban conditions and sustainability. I worked on a catalogue with her and also engaged in the editing of the East Art Map reader by Irwin.

After returning to Budapest, my curatorial approach continued through a series of monographic and group presentations, including the large Nordic survey exhibition Dreamlands Burn, co-curated with Edit Molnár, and the collaborative projekt, !REVOLUTION?, which I co-curated with Ulrike Kremeier – it connected the substantial issues of revolutions and the forms in which they manifest, and examined the interaction between documentation, reconstruction, interpretation and symbolization.

I will develop further, within BAC’s context, the reinvestigation of historical concepts and notions of socially and politically responsible artistic production and reflective attitudes, in relation to contemporary art, as I did in the project that I realised in 2009. Other Voices, Other Rooms – Attempt(s) at Reconstruction. The Fifty Years of the Béla Balázs Studio proposed possible approaches to recover episodes of this unique Budapest-based film studio, which operated between 1959 and 2004 – both its history and its experimental and documentary productions.

What three things would you wish yourself as you go off to your first workday as the director of BAC?

That first day… lasted for a week. I definitely hope that I will successfully channel my diverse past involvements and work in different cultural environments into BAC, and that I will be able to synthesize my different network experiences to secure its future; and well, obviously, that I make the most out of living in such a special and spectacular environment like Gotland.