Roman Ondak

In 2001 the Slovakian artist Roman Ondak’s contribution to the exhibition Ausgeträumt… was to park several Slovakian cars behind the Secession in Vienna. They stayed parked there during the entire exhibition period occupying these exclusive parking spaces in the city centre. Ondak’s minimal intervention in everyday life had numerous implications: shortage of parking spaces, symbolism and representation – the parked cars from Slovakia were not upmarket middle-class vehicles. The occupation of the scarce parking facilities by ‘strangers’ not only played with the xenophobic resentment of the alleged legitimate user of the parking spaces, but also with the debates evoked where actually only a displacement of the sense of reality had occurred.

Another intervention by Ondak, made especially for an exhibition site, consisted of a sentence that apparently came from the radio, and was transmitted at regular intervals in the spaces of the exhibition: ‘As a sign of solidarity with recent world events, for the next minute do not interrupt the activity you are doing at this moment.’ This request (Announcement, 2002) worked as an instruction for the visitors to relate to the exhibits in the show in a certain manner, and through the repetition of it, to become themselves actors in and part of the exhibition.

When a queue forms in front of an art institution it normally means that it is housing a successful exhibition. The connotation of the queue – that too many people want things of too little availability or that they are exposed to bureaucratic structures – is here inverted: it seems to be a promise of an attractive experience, which the queue delays. That the queue in good feelings in good times  (2003) is made up of extras especially engaged for the regularly-executed performance, and who are not particularly interested in the art exhibition, is one among the calculated confusions created by Ondak.

Ondak is a precise observer of our reality who records his perceptions of everyday life in drawings and notes, which are then transformed into artistic interventions. He operates within a well-known horizon of perception, where through subtle displacements of the context, he generates new forms of visibility. Dislodging the meaning of everyday actions play a role as well as the staging of familiar scenarios in which unexpected actions occur. That Ondak executes his subtle performances in art-specific contexts, which are loaded with numerous in- and exclusions, cultural attributions and social perceptions of value, adds another layer of meaning to his interventions in reality.

By Vanessa Müller, translated by Eva May