Czech university sponsors art project referencing opponent of Hitler in town known for its intolerance
The University of Jan Evangelista Purkyně (UJEP) in the Czech town of Ústí nad Labem has allowed large banners to be posted on the building of the Faculty of Arts and Design as of a project called "When...". The banners attempt to provoke passers-by to reflect on controversial subjects.
UJEP spokesperson Jana Kasaničová informed the Czech News Agency of the project. The large-format banners read as follows: "When they murdered the Jews, I was silent...When they expelled the Germans, I was silent..., When they beat up the Roma, I was silent..., When they refused the refugees, I was silent..., When they came for me, everybody was already silent." The project is one of the exhibitions in the Mo(nu)mental Topography series that the Faculty is producing on the occasion of its 25th anniversary.
"When..." was designed by Ilona Németh. "The project 'When...' gets under viewers' skin in an unpleasant way, not just through the content of the author's questions, but also through its use of a highly sophisticated, layered, subversive strategy consisting of a repeated attack on the attention of Ústí nad Labem residents who will be confronted with this artwork in different forms and situations," Vice-Dean for Development Michal Koleček said.
The Faculty of Arts and Design is now celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of university-level art studies at UJEP and in Ústí nad Labem. The creative exhibition project Mo(nu)mental Topography focuses on investigating subjects that, from various perspectives, touch on the specifics of the locations where they are installed - the town of Ústí nad Labem and the surrounding region.
Németh was born in Dunajská Streda, Czechoslovakia, in 1963. She spent the 1980s working for the Madách publishing house as a graphic designer, and during the 1989 Velvet Revolution she collaborated with the Public against Violence (Verejnosť proti násiliu) movement in Slovakia.
In 2014 Németh became a professor at the University of Fine Arts in Bratislava, Slovakia. She became a Docent and received her habilitation at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest in 2007.
She was a guest lecturer at The Oslo National Academy of the Arts in 2007 as well. "When ..." draws on the famous poem by Martin Niemöller (1892–1984), the prominent Lutheran pastor in Germany who was an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler.
Niemöller spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. He is best known for these lines:
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