We spoke to Slovak artist OTO HUDEC his works with lusophone communities, the contradictory relationship between man and nature, and his passion for storytelling.
MAZIPOS – Why don’t you start describing what you have in front of you, how does your studio look like?
OTO HUDEC – For two years I’ve been working on Archipelago project that connects the rural community in Cabo Verde with caboverdian immigrant neighborhoods in Lisbon. My next shows are in some way connected with this project and now I will build final sculptural and video pieces based on the material collected over these two years. I am happy that I could manage to understand a little bit deeper reasons behind immigration, as for example the drought and growing difficulties for growing food in subtropical regions. My studio is a mess, recently I moved from Bratislava to Kosice and I have to say I did not have a lot of time to be there and work on a regular basis. One thing that I find strange is that although I work on many works at the same time, it seems that beside some books, machines, wood and material, there is not one finished work in my studio – some are in pieces, some are spread around Slovakia and Europe.
M – In your paintings, there’s an awkward relationship of the individual with nature… as if they didn’t speak the same language. Can you explain what are you trying to convey?
OH – That is true and I am happy that you realized that. My paintings represent a different way of creation. I use to say that painting cannot be bend – by concept for example (although I know there are conceptual paintings too..). In my case painting is closer to feelings, the illogical, dreamlike world. It can be still a commentary on political or environmental issues, but escapes simple declarations, and words. It has it’s proper language that can tell, what we are not able to tell through words. But it was always a difficult medium for me. And yes – this contradictory relation between human and nature – where man tries to conquer and the nature answer with unpredictable phenomena – volcanoes, floods, etc- can be well portrayed by painting.
M – There’s a character that I’ve seen often throughout your work and that’s the astronaut / beekeeper (which you’re presenting for MAZIPOS project). Tell us how did you come to this idea, and if it’s part of a larger project.
OH – Yes, this is a part of a larger project that started with a construction of a space capsule with Periférne Centra in Dúbravica, Slovakia. The idea was to create a beehouse with several beehives that will take a shape of a spaceship and will be used by my friends running the residency Periférne Centra. Later on, I created a story about a man, who is flying to a planet similar to the Earth to save his bees. Since then I did several artworks based on this story and I am putting together a fiction book. The number of bees around the world are in decline and this is quite a serious thread for our existence. Although the story is very psychological, it tries to pass this message too.
M – You have numerous experiences in Portugal and lusophone countries, what is your link with that part of the world?
OH – I’ve been living in Porto for 5 years and it shaped me a lot. I still have a lot of friends there and I identify a lot with Portuguese culture and way of life. I keep putting together projects in Portugal and Cabo Verde (a former Portuguese colony) to keep this link alive. And I was a fan of Portuguese football team at this year’s Eurocup!
M – When you’re working abroad, what is the biggest misconception people have about Slovak art or Slovakia in general?
OH – I don’t know.. I think most of the time, they just know really few about Slovakia. In the art world Slovak art from the 70ies has good name and it is quite known. This is bit simplifying, but sometimes I think that when looking for contemporary Slovak art there is still expectation that it will emulate those years. But since then we made many steps forward and also backward and we respond to very different issues. Eastern Europe behind Berlin wall had certain exoticism and by joining EU we have lost it. But I have to say, I don’t really feel my Slovak identity. My European identity is stronger. If we manage to look at our politics, social situation and everyday problems from distance, we will realize that we share same issues with most of European and western/northern hemisphere countries: rising nationalism, split between city and periphery, social inequalities, forgotten minorities, corruption and distrust towards elites. I think realizing what we all have in common will help us to deal with those issues.
M – Any new projects?
OH – I have been working with Roma community in Slovakia together with artist Daniela Krajcova. As now I moved to Kosice in Eastern Slovakia, where this community is more present, I would like to start new projects with these communities. There is not a larger institution- a museum/cultural center to represent this community, although we are one of the countries with largest percentage of Roma. I would like to open this theme for discussion in future, hopefully.