Thanks to the project City to City, she could collaborate with the artist from Mexico and share their artwork among people

City to City Košice – UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts UNESCO

Ivana Durkáčová was one of 13 artists chosen for the second year of the project City to City: PLAY!, where she represented Košice – UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts. What did the international artistic cooperation look like in practice, and why does Ivana recommend it to others?

Ivana was born in Košice, and studied Photography and new media at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava. Currently, she is a PhD student at the Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Fine Arts Wroclaw, Poland. For the last ten years, she has been part of the collective of artists called dsk., where she cooperates with two other artists. Since she was missing some closer artistic cooperation during the lockdown, she was appealed by the opportunity to apply for the project City to City and try to collaborate with complete strangers. The project aims to support art and creativity as significant forces for sustainable development during the pandemic and encourage artists to collaborate online. “It is focused on media art, which is great because it has been the only way to work and showcase the artwork to the public for the last two years. I have already been so frustrated to be one of many whose artwork is exhibited in closed galleries for no one to see,says Ivana.

Since each artist from the UNESCO cluster of media arts was from a different city, the whole project was online. The initial meetings were held in form of Labs, where the ideas and collaborative groups were created. 

During one of the meetings, the artists agreed to make a random draw to decide groups for further collaborations. Ivana got paired with a Mexican artist Luciano Rodriguez Arredondo from Guadalajara, with whom she collaborated on the media art named PlaceHolder for three months. “It was funny that Luciano spent around three hours in Košice some time ago as he was transferring a train during his trip around Europe. So it was great he had already known the downtown of Košice, as we were creating it in the project. He told me a lot of interesting information and showed me many pictures about Guadalajara on Google Earth, so right now, it is not just a random city on the map for me.”

Even though Guadalajara has six times more inhabitants than Košice, Ivana and Luciano have found out that the cities resemble each other a lot during their discussions. This fact inspired them during the project’s creation. “I have a feeling that if we do not take into consideration some historical centers, all the cities around the world look alike. You can find the same shops, the same brands, and similar problems everywhere, so these conversations are what started our project, remembers Ivana.

The creation of PlaceHolder.

What happens when we press PLAY?

The theme of the 2021 project was PLAY. One of the questions artists were supposed to think about was, “What happens when we pres Play?” “I have long thought that it does not really matter what kind of PLAY we press – be it music, film, or a computer game. It is important why we press it. Usually, it is because we want to get out of our everyday reality and experience something different.” It was interesting for her that the word PLAY can be translated into the Slovak language as “playing some profession” during childhood. “When we were creating the concept with Luciano, we often returned back to even the most simple computer games. It was all very playful and childish. All the time, we worked with the concept through the kids’ perspective. 

The creation of PlaceHolder.

Ivana defines her artwork as multidisciplinary, while she often works with appropriation and moving images. She liked that she didn’t have to focus on a kind of medium in which she would create it. “As I knew that the project is about collaboration with a certain number of people, I thought it was too limiting to have a specific idea about what I want to create and then either give up on it or fight for it. But fighting for it would prevent me from creating something new. So I had an idea, but it was very open.” Since the beginning of the collaboration, Ivana and Luciano knew that they didn’t want to create a video, as an example, which is usually played once by a person – they didn’t want something fixed and stable. After weeks of brainstorming, they came up with an idea of an online 3D environment, which a person can visit repeatedly. After some research, they chose a virtual environment Mozilla Hub, as it works on all platforms, operating systems, mobiles, or computers and in virtual reality.

Space for virtual meetings

Their final artwork, PlaceHolder is a virtual space you get into once you press PLAY. The environment resembles a maze, it contains four rooms, and it is possible to host more people simultaneously while they can choose their nicknames and avatars. Since not everyone gets on the same spot, you can virtually meet others by walking around. You can even talk to them if you use your microphone. Even though the plan views of PlaceHolder are inspired by Košice and Guadalajara, the space doesn’t have any identifiable elements. “PlaceHolder represents a city that does not really offer any essential information and therefore needs to be filled by the real ones. I hope visitors of the virtual space might be the source of that information.”

Except for other people and exciting environment, people can also see many visual objects, through which the authors comment on current consumer society or our presence on the internet. They focused on functionality first when choosing the right environment, and therefore, they were forced to search and use very simple means of expression for such topics. “There was a time I was working on something that couldn’t be used in the end. For example, a GIF can’t process transparency, so I was not able to use any light gradients. It was quite a challenge to always think about the functionality first, but we handled it very well in the end, I think.” Simple animations were eventually the best option since they also fit into a visually strong environment of the artwork PlaceHolder.

Three months of intensive collaboration

The project City to City offers interesting international collaborations and space for personal or artistic development. “Some time ago, I got interested in 3D modeling and 3D space. Since I needed to gain those skills quickly through the project, I learned a lot during those three months. For learning some of those things, I would otherwise need half a year or more,” states Ivana. She also realized that she could overcome her limits and work on something perseverantly. Even though Ivana only collaborated with one of the artists, she was appealed to by the other participants’ portfolios. She would gladly collaborate with them if there was a chance in the future. The fact that the whole world is connected nowadays, and that I know someone from the social media doesn’t mean we get to collaborate together. It was also motivating to receive a financial stipend since it is not very common in Slovakia. It was great to focus on the project itself and not deal with other things just to have sufficient income. I am delighted that I could participate in the project and definitely recommend it to other artists as well.” 

You can visit a virtual space PlaceHoldere, here.

If you are interested in other artworks with the theme PLAY!, created during the project, visit the official website of UNESCO Creative Cities of Media Arts.

Luciano Rodriguez Arredondo is a multidisciplinary artist and an academic. His explorations are based on the representation of abstract concepts and theories related to complex systems, cybernetics, and chaos. To materialize his ideas, he uses several electronic media and supports. He is a co-founder of Cima studio, a transdisciplinary center that develops experimental and interactive projects.

The project City to City was supported using public funding by the Slovak Arts Council.