Kveto Hecko Headshot KVETO HECKO

From the Basement

(1989) 23min

Semi-clandestine underground exhibition at the end of the Socialist Realism era in Slovakia

You read the title correct, from the basement means from the underground and that is what it actually was. Spring of 1989 was here and a group of artists wanted to show their works and let the circle of good friends and colleagues know what they create and how they don’t think in the terms of the official Socialist Realism artistic policy. They found a place in one of the underground cellars in the center of the old Bratislava city that was in the state of renovation and convinced the owners to let them use it as an exhibitions space. Each exhibition in the state run art and culture had to be approved and curated by the state official and be under an art institution. This half-illegal stint evolved undercover, but of course, it could not absolutely escape the eye of the omnipresent secret state police in the longer run, and it was expected that at some point their presence will be identified. However, probably because of thawing of the communist power in the Eastern European countries and Gorbachev’s perestroika itself, or the cracks in the socialist state and its flawed cultural institutions, the gathering of the people wasn’t hindered and the underground exhibition Basement took place at the end. Not that you wouldn’t see any conspicuous and out of place faces during the underground exhibition opening, but the well-known blacklisted art historian Radislav Matustik, introduced with ease and humor the sum of installation created by eight artists: Peter Meluzin, Jana Zelibska, Milan Adamciak, Julius Koller, Peter Ronai, Milan Pagac, Viktor Oravec, and Matej Kren.

Since I knew about the preparation and the idea behind this exhibition-gathering, I dressed the script for the official acceptance in the Slovak Television. Film introduces the artists, and their preparations and progress with installations, shows cleaning the underground space, and exposes the discussions about the exhibition impact by the artists and their art historian. Despite the uncertainty about the political outcome of the exhibition and its possible repercussions, I wanted to take this challenge and make the film from the beginning I got to know about it. Now it seems like a piece of cake; however, in the spring of 1989, when the communists still ruled, it wasn’t so piece-cakey. We shot, edited, get approved, and broadcast this movie. Hurrah!

If you are interested in seeing the art works of the main players from this movie a couple of years later, freed from any political censorship, watch the movie Mrs. Cenko’s Children.

Director, Writer
Kveto Hecko
Slovak Television