Foto © Hubert Lobnig
Foto © Hubert Lobnig

lukáš houdek


Amateur actors with immigrant backgrounds living in the Czech city of Čížov, where one of the last pieces of the Iron Curtain still stands as a kind of memorial, collaborated to produce an artwork that formed the centerpiece of the structure for two years. The work consisted of photographs that slowly became bleached by the wind and weather and were finally taken down in the fall of 2012. After this, it was decided to continue this project, which had been started in 2009, because the debates had since evolved and become more urgent. The border structures between the Schengen countries have actually been dismantled for the most part, and everything resembling a border in the traditional sense has been taken down and sold off. The border stations have been privatized; the annexes, fortifications, gates, control booths and so forth have been removed. Gone with them is a piece of recent history, leaving us its witnesses. While we have more freedom in the EU today, we are also more anxious about the stream of refugees pouring in from war zones and crisis areas and the realization that fences and walls are now being built somewhere else. Fortress Europe is trying to barricade itself from intruders along external borders. It is charging international security firms with the surveillance and protection of its borders, the apprehension and deportation of people crossing over by foot, boat, or (motorized) vehicle, and the maintenance of the status quo for Europeans. Several states are building unpassable walls, while others are considering following in their footsteps. State-of-the-art barbed-wire and security barriers measuring several meters in height protect the outer European border in Morocco, where the "border problem" has been outsourced to a non-EU country. Every day, we read about the rising number of people who have died or been apprehended at invisible yet effective borders – people who failed to achieve their dream of a better life.
The question "Where Do the Borders Go? / Kam mizí hranice?" is more urgent in 2014 than ever before. While it is only right that we celebrate the fall of the Iron Curtain, this project is an attempt to direct our attention toward new borders and walls and to raise our awareness of the importance of a continuous peace effort.
To this end, we invited artists from the Czech Republic, Poland, and Austria to address and reflect on former, current, and future discourses on borders.
(Iris Andraschek and Hubert Lobnig)

Lukáš Houdek
The Art of Killing, selection from a series of twenty-five photographs re-enacting selected massacres of German civilians in the Czech lands in 1945. Costumes by Jana Edrová, 2012.
The work The Art of Killing consist of a series of twenty-five black-and-white photographs in which massacres of German civilians in 1945 in the Czech Republic are re-enacted with puppets in exemplary scenes. "Especially after the end of the war and before the Potsdam Agreement that laid down the conditions regarding the expatriation of the Germans from the Czech borderland, thousands of German civilians were killed as a result of collective guilt – along with people who participated in the anti-Nazi resistance, foreigners or Jews. The instigators of these brutal acts were often members of Revolutionary Guards (sometimes nicknamed the Looting Guards), units recruited from partisans and volunteers after the Prague Uprising. … Similar conduct was adopted by some of the members of the Red Army and the reconstituted Czechoslovak Army. … Later, it was forbidden to speak about these crimes."

The Art of Settling, a selection from a series of 20 photographs with a typewritten text, 2011-2013
The Art of Settling is a follow-up to the project entitled The Art of Killing (2012). It draws on archival materials from a dossier named "Settling Committee" kept at the State District Archive in the town of Tachov. These materials provide an authentic documentation of the nature of the recruitment campaign targeted at future settlers. They also document the subsequent living conditions of the families who settled in this bleak border region.