MeetFactory is a non-profit organization based in Prague, focused on supporting contemporary art. It’s current program consists of four independent dramaturgic departments: music, theatre, gallery spaces, and artists residences. As art residency curators, Lucia and Piotr share their responsibilities in working within a multi-dimensional art space, that hosts close to sixty artists every year. In this interview they share their curatorial insights. We discuss their involvement in shaping the Central/Eastern European identity narrative, reflect upon their previous project, learn about their activity during lockdown and catch a glimpse of their ideas for future incarnations of the residency program.
Alicja Stąpór: I would like to begin by asking about your responsibilities in regard to MeetFactory. How did you first start working on the project? What inspires you the most when it comes to working within this multi-dimensional art scene that MeetFactory has established?
Lucia Kvočaková: As curators of the residency program, our main responsibilities oscillate around creating the program, inviting artists, structuring the dramaturgy of the program, taking care of artists and establishing partnerships. On top of that we also have to manage the necessary administrative issues, such as writing reports. With those things we are very thankful to have Zuzana Belasova working with us. She takes care of essentials such as project management, contracts or logistics.
What inspires me the most at MeetFactory is really the people, the artists. The atmosphere they create is really special. Somehow it always works, the sparkles are there with every group. It is extremely rewarding to see the artists’ work together and support each other. Beyond their artworks they always create a very healthy and inspiring ambiance.
Piotr Sikora: Me and Lucia came to MeetFactory at the same time. We realized that it is essential for this position to have two people around. For me, what brings the magic to MeetFactory is the people that come and create bonds of friendship and partnership. Even during the pandemic, they managed to bring back the sense of the ‘normal’, pre-lockdown life. Sometimes I joke that there are some spiritual powers here that align people that were meant to meet.
Alicja: MeetFactory is well known for its artist residency program. How do you find new artists to invite for the residency? What type of artists do you work with?
Lucia: Before us, the residency program at MeetFactory was invitation only. It was because there was only one curator and it was extremely challenging for one person to manage open calls on such a scale as we do now. When we started open calls, we wanted to find artists whom we did not know before. Thanks to that, nowadays we host a lot of people who work with different mediums and narratives. It is beyond our capacity to know who will submit their portfolios to us, so we have a variety of studio spaces to provide the very best experience to everyone. We mostly choose the artists ourselves, based on their portfolios, however we also get lists of artists from the network of our partnering organizations in Europe.
Alicja: What were your motivations to start ‘The New Dictionary of Old Ideas’ project? Could You tell us a bit more about the idea behind this project?
Piotr: It came to be as a result of our mutual interest in Central/Eastern European identity. We wanted to grasp some sort of universal lexicon that would embrace the spirit of this time and region. We were inspired by our own experiences of generational question of identity and a certain regional pride. As art historians, we are both particularly interested in such research so it really came naturally to initiate this project.
Alicja: In the description of ‘The New Dictionary of Old Ideas’ you write: ‘With Central Europe there are always more questions than answers.’ Do you feel it is still necessary to ‘educate’ the western art scene about what Central European art essentially is? Do you believe it is necessary to keep on defining and developing this geographical distinction of Central Europe in addition to Western and Eastern Art?
Lucia: We never really aimed at educating anyone. To me, it is always necessary to reflect upon our position in the world. We want to know how artists feel about this issue, whether they care to shape and define this narrative of identity. We wanted to initiate a collective wave of unified ideas and a web of network, oriented around the question of identity. Also, geographically, being the most western part of the Slavic Europe, Prague has been and continues to be an international meet-point. We witnessed that artists feel free to embrace their identity here, perhaps more than in other parts of the world.
Alicja: Is it correct to say that the overall program of MeetFactory reflects the ‘local’ Central /Eastern European identity?
Lucia: Our last project was focusing on it, but it is not an overall narrative of the MeetFactory. We manage four dramaturgies and each one has a different program and direction of focus. We always try to focus on international artists, and networks. During last year’s lockdowns we focused on supporting the local minor communities because of international health restrictions. That was a wonderful initiative to help local minority groups here in Prague, but usually we welcome all sorts of artists, regardless of their national identity.
Alicja: During lockdowns, MeetFactory pursued its activity as a multidimensional platform for artists and researchers with projects such as online artist talks, masterclasses and workshops. Has this time brought some particularly inspiring changes to your workflow? What are your conclusions on that period as an art organization?
Piotr: Even though we came up with many creative solutions and adaptations to the international health restrictions, this time has been so limiting… We realized many things are still doable online or on a smaller scale, but it never was a full glory. It never really satisfied us, because we know the potential of the place and people who come and reside here.
Alicja: Where do you see MeetFactory in 5 years from now? What are your dream projects?
Piotr: It is fair to say that we have been trying to set some vectors for the residency program but in a sense every time it is a journey into the unknown. However, the unknown is actually extremely exciting.
There are some things that I think will never change, for instance we will always focus on giving space for people who are unrepresented. I want to see where the vectors that we have already worked on will lead us, and how the future projects will develop. We work in a flexible environment, but we also have to adjust to certain aspects. I think in the next 5 years we will focus on mastering this balance and certainly stay motivated and inspired as much as we have been thus far.