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The Last Underground... In the shadow of the mainstream

More than a decade since the fall of Communism, underground culture that defined the era seems to have been swallowed whole by the mainstream media.

 

the last undergroundHeld on the eve of the millennium, April 15th, 1999 at the Roxy The Last Underground re-kindled the scene. For three fast and furious days the Roxy displayed artists from over 11 countries.

Organized by artists and a host of dedicated volunteers, the exhibition played host to a bevy of live performances combining dance, music, video and audio-video performance.

The idea for The Last Underground originated with Prague born multimedia installation artist Marek Schovanek. The youngest artist to have held an exhibition at MANES in Prague, 1996, Schovanek has had dozens of exhibitions in Prague, Paris, and Western Canada and regularly shows in Berlin solo and collective exhibitions.

An active member at Kunsthaus Tacheles, a public art cooperative housed in the remains of a building in East Berlin, Schovanek's work includes portraits on monumental canvases with multiple layers of different media often covered in running illegible text.

Participating artist's included Schovanek (Czech-Canadian), Francois Giovangigli (French), Florian Langmaack (USA), Damian Loboda (Polish), Bastiaan Maris (Holland), Pete Missing (USA), Manfred Moorkamp (Germany), Tim Roelofs (Holland), Safi (Israel), and Wolfgang Spahn (Austrian). Performers include Vicki Bennett (UK), Butoh Dance (Japan), Diana Exotic Kitchen (Cuba), Furious (French), Mahatok (Germany), Stephanie Maher (USA), Bob Ruttman (USA), Safi (Israel), Technical Support (CZ), and Video Virus 23 (CZ).

Underground art refers to contemporary art that is provocative, and which transforms traditional notions of aesthetics and beauty. Through diverse media and forms, this new art incorporates traditional formula and modern technology to deconstruct and employ new uses and meanings that transcends boundaries.

This show presented life as art and art as life; an art that is socially relevant and which carries social repercussions. The Last Underground showcases a freer art, an art for the next millennium.

The Last Underground was the inaugural exhibition in the Linharts Foundation's 765m2 gallery located above the Roxy. The first floor of the Roxy building is to be used as a permanent gallery to showcase contemporary art and developments in multimedia and hopes to become a cultural focal point in Prague.

The gallery space, untouched for the past five decades, is magnificent with its glass ceilings, catacomb of rooms and seven-meter high ceilings and is the perfect showcase for bringing the Underground above ground.

As popular cultural thrives in the era of mass reproduction, the arts are witnessing a slow but escalating cultural genocide. Arts funding has been severely slashed over the past decade and governments worldwide have left responsibility for the maintenance of art in the hands of the private sector. This counter-enlightenment has resulted in a virtual separation of art and life.

The Last Underground was the first project developed and orchestrated by MANIFEST, a Prague-based non-governmental organization supporting and promoting progressive art. Nadja Kymlicka, co-founder of MANIFEST, hopes that The Last Underground will expand to other International cultural centers.

Started on April 15th, the exhibition kicked off at 18:00 and after 23:00 the party gravitated downstairs where participants were assaulted by the images and audio of Safi, Berlin's premier video DJ.

The festivities continued Friday and Saturday nights from 18:00-22:00 in the Gallery, and 23:00-05:00 in the Roxy. The dearth of mainstream media threatens to plough over the artists with visions not tied to dollar signs. Missing events like these pushes the real artists farther and farther from legitimacy. The passing of the millennium is now.

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