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Heterotopia. Recollections of the SNG's Bridge in a digital installation

From 15. September 2022
Esterházy Palace,

Before we open the new site of the Slovak National Gallery, we decided to look at the memories of the Bridge - probably the most prominent and most debated part of the gallery complex. The digital installation Heterotopia gives the Bridge a voice. It speaks of itself, the world around it, and what it heard about itself from others; how it was shaped by the vision of its architect and the history and aura of its location. Everything that left its mark on the Bridge over the years will be revealed to those looking at it or walking through it.

Author: Samuel Chovanec
Alexandra Kusá, Miroslav Žolobanič, Branislav Horňák

Professor of architecture Jarmila Bencová, referencing Michel Foucault, described this phenomenon as "heterotopy and heterochrony in a condensed form". Heterotopy is a space that has more layers of meaning or connections to its surroundings or the environment than immediately meets the eye. It offers a unique experience, allowing us to encounter multiple places simultaneously but within the same physical space. Experiencing Dedeček's Bridge is like looking into a mirror ball. We are looking at a genuinely real space with its surrounding environment and, at the same time, at a virtual image of the world and time around us.

They say that the walls have ears. Then we can assume they also have mouths. After all, if they wouldn't have them, we wouldn't have to worry about them revealing what they heard. Here we encounter the usual personification or anthropomorphization, when human characteristics are attributed to non-human actors in the same form we associate with people. However, in this equation, we should not underestimate the value of the walls themselves. Where the wall is located, how old it is, who built it, where and for what purpose, its current state, institution or ideology it represents - all this determines the individual hiding behind it. The wall plays a significant part in what is said and heard under the roof it supports.

The building and the site on which it stands have undergone numerous radical transformations. Both the Bridge and the wing of the building that stood in front of it had the opportunity to listen to these changes, words and sounds. From the courtyard of the former water barracks, the headquarters of the city militia, the museum and finally, the gallery, they could listen to the sounds of dancing couples and salon orchestras and the Hungarian Sappers' marches. After the demolition of the southern wing, the Bridge could hear through the ears of its walls that it is a jewel of Slovak architecture. But it could also hear less polite names, people calling it a "monstrosity" or a "red cow". During its conception, its walls could undoubtedly recall words like agora, stoa or odeon coming from the mouth of its creator, Vladimír Dedeček. They know, better than anyone else, the noise and the rumble of the Danube, which, it seems, flows not only alongside the Bridge but also through it. So tell us, what do you hear?


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