Center and Periphery

Cultural Deserts in Eastern Europe

13. 04. 2021 - 31. 03. 2023
2021 2022 2023 EEA Grants

Center and Periphery: Cultural Deserts in Eastern Europe was a two-year project organized by in collaboration with OsloBiennalen and Kunsthall Oslo as a part of the activities of the Biennale Matter of Art. The project was supported by a grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway (EEA Grants) as a part of the program Culture. Within the framework of the project, we organized artist and curatorial residencies in Prague and Oslo, initiated the creation of new artworks and participated in their production and funding, published a discussion podcast series, and organized public discussions and workshops. The project culminated in an international exhibition of contemporary art – the Biennale Matter of Art 2022.


Power relations permeate the artistic field and create hierarchies – among spectators and participants, within artistic institutions, and between artists and other actors both inside and outside the artistic field. They are determined by social and economic conditions, and they define art and how much and for whom the art in question is accessible, but they never do so without limits. How is it possible to subvert existing power configurations from the position of one who is themself permeated by them? Where does the desire of the artist, curator, producer, and other actors come from, and what role does it play in disrupting these power schemas, in creating collaborations that seem impossible and relationships that inevitably collide with great social and cultural differences? How does one create relationships and collaborations with others, transform one's own institutional practice on the basis of these relationships, and think about the extent to which various socio-economic processes (e.g. gentrification, revitalization, state funding strategies for the arts) imprint themselves on these relationships? The project focuses on peripheral and liminal forms of art making and transformative artistic strategies that enter into open and active relationships with other disciplines and communities. It turns its attention simultaneously to the inner essence and the outer context of artistic operations. We direct our focus toward people with a broad range of experiences and those who come from different social classes, and in dialogue and collaboration with them, we search for new and different (or old and rediscovered) content and formats for artistic, cultural action.


Mycelium Litvínov


Mycelium (which translates as Podhoubí in Czech) initiative was created with the aim of supporting the community in the Janov neighborhood of the town of Litvínov and expanding its emerging solidary network for sharing time, experience, and resources to which not everyone has equal access. The venue for the project was the Libuše socio-cultural center in Litvínov, which supports the long-term development of community life for the residents of Janov. In the framework of getting to know each other, building trust, and finding the boundaries of dialogue, free creative workshops and activities open to all locals and visitors took place in the Libuše center and its surroundings throughout September 2021. The creators of the project were artist Bára Bažantová and anthropologist Lenka Podroužek Polčová.

Mycelium started on September 1, 2021, and throughout the month, several activities, events and workshops were held, for example, a video creation workshop, a field trip to the zoo combined with an art workshop, a graffiti jam combined with a concert by the hip-hop group Gipsy G, and a workshop led by artist Laura Fiľáková. Dozens of children from the local community took part in the program

Michal Karvay - Dyk more

The program continued in October with a public-space exhibition of drawings by Michal Karvay, a talented young student from the primary school in Janov. The exhibition was installed on public poster boards and took place from October 4–24, 2021.

Hoří chemička, něco si přej. / The chemical plant is burning, make a wish.

In September 2021, artist and social worker Bára Bažantová and anthropologist Lenka Podroužek Polčová moved to the Libuše community center in the Janov housing estate in Litvínov for the entire month. During this time, Bažantová kept a diary, which became the basis for the book Hoří chemička, něco si přej (The chemical plant is burning, make a wish). In the text, Bažantová records—with an awareness of the problematic nature of her position—the everyday life of the local community, its patterns, and its unwritten rules.

At the same time, the author allows the text to be permeated with her doubts and questions about the borders of the individual worlds she finds herself between and with the possibilities of their intermingling. This makes the book more than a mere record of an artistic project; it presents its readers with an empathetic message about the ways we can perceive the pursuit of understanding between people with different starting points and life experiences. Not least of all, it is also an adventure story. This aspect of the book is highlighted by the illustrations by Michal Karvay, a resident of Janov. However, Karvay is not just the book’s illustrator. Michal’s drawings and Bára’s text are largely based on their shared experiences and mutual dialogue, thus bringing together, among other things, an account of an unusual friendship.

Podcast Raut

Raut was a discussion podcast about contemporary art with a focus on marginal and borderline forms of art and the transformation of artistic strategies that enter into open and active relationships with other disciplines and communities. The hosts of the series were Agáta Hrnčířová and Max Dvořák, and the dramaturge was A2larm editor Táňa Zabloudilová. You can listen to Raut on SpotifySoundCloud and Apple Podcasts. Please note that the podcast is available only in Czech.

Pavel Karous APART Collective BCAA system Podcast Audio

Raut #1 Collectives, Associations and Unions in Art

21. 06. 2021

Social Work Podcast Audio Bara Bazantova

Raut #2 Art as Radical Social Work

21. 07. 2021

Podcast Audio Essential Workers Institutions

Raut #3 Nobody's Asked Us Yet

26. 08. 2021

Podcast Audio Education Safe Space

Raut #4 Who has the power to change art schools?

15. 10. 2021

Podcast Audio Degrowth Hraničář HaDivadlo

Raut #5 Degrowth prevents burnout

22. 02. 2022

Audio Podcast Poland Art & Politics

Raut #6 Poland's Museums Are Taking a Conservative Turn

28. 03. 2022

Podcast Audio

Raut #7: Sisterhood of the Feminist Killjoy Audre Lorde

15. 04. 2022

Podcast Audio

Raut #8: We’re Girls from the Streets

04. 05. 2022

Podcast Audio

Raut #9 Are art schools accessible to all?

13. 07. 2022

Podcast Audio

Raut #10 On decolonization with Rado Ištok and Anna Remešová

13. 07. 2022

Podcast Audio

Raut #11 In the Czech art scene, we are still first and foremost foreigners

12. 12. 2022

Artistic and curatorial residencies

In the framework of the project, curatorial and artistic residencies took place in Prague and Oslo in 2021 and 2022. Artworks created throughout the residencies were exhibited at the Biennale Matter of Art 2022 in Prague. Participating were the following artists and curators:

(c) Tereza Havlínková, Jonáš Verešpej

Biennale Matter of Art

21. 7. – 23. 10. 2022

The second edition of Biennale Matter of Art took place from July 21 to October 23, 2022, at the Prague City Gallery, the General University Hospital, and the Šaloun Studio* in Prague. The Biennale was curated by members of the international curatorial group comprising Rado Ištok, Renan Laru-an, Piotr Sikora, and On the occasion of the biennale, published a bilingual anthology of texts that further develops the thematic anchoring of the project from various artistic, critical, and historical perspectives. The exhibition and public program was open to the public free of charge.

Participating artists


(c) Tomáš Souček / Tereza Havlínková

(c) Jonáš Verešpej

(c) Jonáš Verešpej

Soft Spots

The publication Soft Spots brings together essays, interviews, short stories, and reports from different fields and geographies on various issues, mapping the space of Eastern Europe and beyond with a special emphasis on beyond, with the point of departure being exhaustion—mental exhaustion, cultural exhaustion, material and economic exhaustion—and the ensuing strategic position of weakness or softness.

Featured authors:
Hamja Ahsan, Giulia Loi, Gwendolyn Albert, Dorota Brázdovičová, Amanda Carneiro, Jana Krejcarová-Černá, Brenda Villanueva Fajardo, Robert Gabris, Jana Horváthová, Ábel Ravasz, Ramon Guillermo, Robin Hartanto Honggare, Filip Herza, Brigitta Isabella, Tarek Lakhrissi, Dorota Jagoda Michalska, Anna Remešová, Sráč Sam, Františka Schormová, Markéta Soukupová, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò, Zai Xu

Somewhere in Between: On the Challenges of Artworld in Norway



OsloBiennalen is an international biennale of art in the public space. The projects in Oslobiennalen use the city of Oslo itself as a starting point, taking place around the city or in the public arena such as on the radio, in newspapers, on the Internet, in films, and so forth. The biennale aims to engage a varied public in order to underline, expand, and disseminate the long tradition held by the city of Oslo for collecting and investing in art and for engaging artists in projects in public spaces. The idea is that through the biennale, local and international artists are invited to work in Oslo with the city itself as a material for artistic production. Oslobiennalen is initiated and financed by the City of Oslo Agency for Cultural Affairs. The inaugural exhibition, with the subtitle osloBIENNALEN FIRST EDITION 2019–2024, opened 25 May 2019 and was conceived, developed, and curated by Eva González-Sancho Bodero and Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk. is an initiative for contemporary art and a member of the network, founded in 2002 and working independently in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania. Over the course of its existence, has been engaged in numerous international projects and exhibitions within the framework of, such as Monument to Transformation 1989 – 2009; Manifesta 8, Murcia, Spain (2010); Report on the Construction of a Spaceship Module; New Museum, New York City, USA (2014); and others. From 2007 to 2017 tranzit was a part of the project of the tranzitdisplay gallery in Prague. In 2017 initiated the code of practice of the Feminist (Art) Institution, and in 2018 it established the Biennale Matter of Art, which is a member of the East Europe Biennial Alliance (alongside OFF–Biennale Budapest, Hungary, Kyiv Biennial, Ukraine, and Biennale Warszawa, Poland). ERSTE Foundation is the main partner of

Kunsthall Oslo

Kunsthall Oslo is a non-profit art space located in the Bjørvika area of central Oslo. The space presents a programme of international contemporary art, with an emphasis on new commissions and a parallel commitment to exploring the social and historical context of contemporary art production.


"The exhibition’s emphasis on softness stood in direct opposition to a certain post-Communist image of Eastern Europe as an impenetrable yet fragile shell."

Artforum, September 2022

"While watching, we half laugh at the witty remarks, half feel bad for the gallery visitors for what the women are experiencing. But the vulnerability and weakness are subversive because while care could perhaps mean an end and resolution to an untenable situation, here it is not forthcoming, and so the only way forward is still, unfortunately, a difficult fight with the system."

Artalk, 11.10.2022

"Romanian artist Alina Popa’s video speaks powerfully about the search for oneself after receiving a fatal diagnosis from a doctor, about trying to survive, about the need for human closeness, and about how the world is much more colorful than we usually realize."

ČTArt, 11.10.2022

"The work by Austrian Romani visual artist, writer, and musician Ceija Stojka (1933–2013) can be seen in the Czech Republic for the first time at this year’s Biennale Matter of Art in Prague. Through impressive paintings and drawings, Stojka’s oeuvre reopens a topic that has been reflected on far too little in Czech society—that of the Romani Holocaust."

Deník N, 16.9.2022

"The exhibition curated by Rado Ištok, Renan Laru-an, Piotr Sikora and incorporates artworks situated on the antipodes of political commitment, presenting often irreconcilable perspectives. As such it seems to be a reflection of the dissensus triggered by the recomposition of colonial grammar within Eastern Europe."

Blok Magazine, 22.9.2022