Mirela Baciak | Curator, Writer
Mirela Baciak is a curator and writer in the field of visual arts. She is interested in the systems of transaction that are used for profit around the globe, and in crisis as an inherent quality of things that makes them more volatile. The aim of her practice is to address the contradictions between human needs in terms of ethics and neoliberal conditions on both a theoretical and practical level. Her projects take formats commonly used in art-based knowledge articulation and communication in the present day, such as publications, lecture-performances, exhibitions, symposiums, screenings, or workshops.
During the talk, she will present a selection of curatorial projects realized within two recurring large-scale festivals that she worked for: Public Art Munich (2018) and steirischer herbst‘ 19: GRAND HOTEL ABYSS. She will concentrate on performative projects in public space that critically engaged the with the local context.
Public Art Munich
Public Art Munich was launched in 2013. For its first edition, the Scandinavian artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset curated a wide-ranging temporary art project in the center of Munich, contributing to a renewed debate about the concept of public space today. The exhibition A Space Called Public/Hoffentlich Öffentlich was accompanied by a series of public lectures and an extensive catalogue.
The second edition of Public Art Munich took place from April to July 2018 as a time-based program inviting artists from various countries to develop new commissions related to Munich. Projects will be performative in nature and will include, among other things, a congress, a one-day citizen orchestra, temporary installations, and architectural pop-up interventions. Participating artists came from the fields of visual arts, filmmaking, opera and music, architecture, theater, and theory. Each of the projects will be developed with a local partner and accompanied by a public program. With a budget of EUR 1.1 million, the program represents a clear cultural and political commitment by the city council to engage contemporary art as a catalyst for urban development and civic discourse. This is especially crucial given how digitalization, privatization, and global commerce have increasingly transformed the concept of “the public.”
steirischer herbst was founded in the pivotal year of 1968, in opposition to the resurgence of nationalist cultural initiatives gaining traction at the time. This founding moment drew upon a tradition of international modernism in music, theater, and visual art—which the Nazis had labeled “degenerate” three decades before—and the belief that it could (still) provide a bulwark against the deep-seated remnants of the totalitarian mentality in the world. steirischer herbst would appear on the scene with the unexpected force of an earthquake, cutting across the wholesome idea of a cultural “autumn harvest” in a region very proud of its wine and fruit. It would enchant, confound, and shock audiences out of their complacency, in the seemingly placid former retirement-capital of the Hapsburg monarchy.
From its very beginning, steirischer herbst stood out as one of the world’s few interdisciplinary art festivals, long before the fashionable overuse of the term. Fostering dialogue between the arts by combining aesthetic positions with theoretical reflection, the festival’s various iterations have integrated visual art, music, art in public space, theater, performance, new media, literature, and everything in between, with an emphasis on one field or the other varying over the years. Useful disruption and productive conflict have always been part of steirischer herbst—an institution that has sparked dialogue time and again throughout its history. Every autumn since its founding half a century ago, the festival has provided a platform for new productions, provoking and shaping public debates in a variety of forms across disciplines and media. Reinventing itself many times over, steirischer herbst has always redefined the terms of the conversation about what culture might mean in a changing contemporaneity, as seen in Graz, Austria’s second most populous city.
Mirela Baciak (born 1987, Warsaw, Poland) is a curator and writer in the field of visual arts. She graduated from the Critical Studies department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and currently works as a curator at the steirischer herbst festival in Graz – a large scale festival with a strong focus on performance and work in public space. Recently she curated the exhibition Nature \ nature at Kunstraum Niederösterreich (2019), was assistant curator at Public Art Munich (2018), Curator-in-Residence at CCA Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw (2018), Talks Fellow at the Dhaka Art Summit (2018), and kültür gemma fellow at Kunsthalle Wien (2017). She also worked as a managing editor of the reader Curating the City. Public Art Munich 2018, as well as I Can’t Work Like This. A Reader on Boycotts and Contemporary Art (2017), and writes occasionally for art magazines.