Lost Human


This is the first time that JAMA – the 75th Year of Milan Adamčiak was accompanied by an autonomous parallel exhibition. The concept of the curatorial exhibition and performative project Lost Human was based on the juxtaposition of statements from 38 artists of various generations spanning the late 1960s to the present. The curatorial intention was inspired by the eponymous poem by Milan Adamčiak, which begins with a strong visual evocation:

One day I just noticed That I was Slowly disappearing. Initially no one could See or Hear it, nor could anyone feel it when they touched me I Seemed quite Normal like anyone Else every morning I woke up I got up Or I didn’t I don’t remember That exactly nevertheless I was Living it is infeRable and I’m prepared to fight for It if it comes to that.[1]


In the two-page typographic poem, Adamčiak describes the idea of ​​himself as a human being, which disappears from the world and from his own Self with Kafkaesque urgency. Parts of his body are vanishing while his consciousness accepts it gradually. Despite the state of being lost that has become his new feature and essence, as a conclusion he expresses his hope that someone may succeed in finding him in the future. At the same time, however, he concedes that it might not happen at all. In the poem, the artist described himself as a lost person and the content of the self-portraying poem whose unconventional composition of uppercase and lowercase letters and disintegrated structure of sentences result in the flowing stream of characters that emphasize that notion. Deviating from the grammar rules and setting different semantics established by the new relations of letters and words is in line with the artist’s exclusion from all social conventions, which he faced to such an extent that he had to hide from his own life, disappear, also out of his own artistic program, at least for a while. The Lost Human was one of Adamčiak’s last typescript works and was created in relation to the aftermath of the Warsaw Pact occupation of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. In the context of human beings disappearing from society, it is worth mentioning that in 1969, Adamčiak went on a hunger strike with the students of Comenius University to show solidarity with Ján Palach, who set himself on fire in protest against the occupation. Although many free events of experimental and intermedia art kept taking place “out of inertia”, purges continued in society until 1972, when the document Lessons from the Crisis Development in the Party and in Society from XIII. Congress of KSČ [Communist Party of Czechoslovakia] came out of the XIV. Congress of KSČ in December 1970. From then on, progressive and internationally oriented artists were denied opportunities for any public presentation. In 1972, when Adamčiak wrote The Lost Human, he had started a new job as a musicologist at the Institute of Musicology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences and from that time his “intermedia Self” kept creating the graphic scores and conceptual works, albeit hidden from the public eye, without an audience and with no opportunity of confrontation with colleagues and experts. As a small compensation, Adamčiak maintained correspondence with some artists and musicians from abroad.


However, the historical background of the Lost Human poem brings forth the interpretation of the topic of the Lost Human as an allegory of the half-century period of upheavals and failures from the end of the “Sixties”. The great utopias of the 20th century were based on desires for a better world of unity, freedom and justice, where love and respect to each other and to our planet would reign in politics, failed both in the West and the East. Many still important social reforms and revolutions emerged at that particular time, and although they were far from completing their missions, they have carried on in various transformations up to this day. In the so-called “Me Decade”, as journalist Tom Wolfe called the Seventies in the USA, people in the West began to focus more on their quality of life due to disappointment from political crises and economic recession. In Eastern Europe people had slowly learned to adapt to survival mode and had continued living with the awareness that their hopes for a free democratic state had to end and their rebellions against the influence of Soviet-controlled communist ideology in their countries were gradually defeated. The youth in Czechoslovakia grew up with the notion that everything is “futile and dead, forever”, as Ján Budaj once described it to me. Withdrawing from the world as such has since then manifested itself in various ways in art programs. Drawing inspiration from one’s own life and inner world has transformed many traditional genres from art history, such as self-portrait or landscape. The period of the “good-for-nothing seventies”, as Václav Havel called them, brought multi-layered immersion into the artist’s programs, a reassessment of the artist’s status in society and, finally, a new impetus for art stepping out of the museum categories. This was possible mainly owing to the instruments and approaches of the already fully developed conceptual art and thanks to authentic intermedia experiments.


“The minimization of the work of art since the early 1960s and its conceptualization decades later were certainly not the only changes and new qualities that emerged in the art of the last quarter of a century. However, they were probably the most radical and of the most general nature – along with other important aspects of the art of those years, especially with the emergence of the media and constituting the event as a work of art, they significantly contributed to a new concept, a new understanding of art. This is the quality that has been constantly present in art since then, and art that is based on historical circumstances, retro-styles and eclectic conceptions of art must deal with it. After all, the most interesting of them would not be without conceptual experience… ”[2]


We still discover hidden treasures of their oeuvre that was reinventing art completely anew and through oneself, for example in the extraordinary works and performances by the artists such as Katalin Ladik, Michal Kern, Jana Želibská, Rudo Sikora, Stano Filko and many others. The era of socialism, with its limitations and suppression of rights but also with citizens’ desires, had many “lost people” who formed a network of parallel culture and who creatively recorded the ideas, challenges and strategies of survival of their time in their individual statements. The transformation of the countries of the former Soviet bloc into free countries with civil society in 1989 opened many closed doors but also many old wounds from recent history, to which artists were constantly coming back in their subjective microhistorical probes. These endeavors are essential for the intellectual and cultural testimony of the given period. As the Belgian-French director Agnès Varda once said, “life must be discovered”, artists interpret great subjects through their own poetics – the challenges and desires of their generations, freedom, justice, environmental harmony. They use different media and their combinations, establish collaborations and create an interdisciplinary discourse in an effort to break out from the bubbles of the art world into the real one and change it, at least a bit.


“/To offer everything I have – whispering, humming, pounding, grunting, muttering, mumbling, thunder, tide, sea foam, stellar vortex -/”[3]


This was written by Miloslav Topinka in the visual poetry collection Trhlina [The Crack] under the title Faiths – Quivers of Speech. His poetry has been open to other fields of art since the early 1970s and is also linked to physical and geographical knowledge and advancement. Poetry is like a bolt going through various artistic languages. Permeability of boundaries of intermedia art is not only a welcome quality, but it is (also in the concept of the exhibition) recognized as an instrument of artististic freedom, which one can often find only on the fringes of the art scene, in marginal spaces of artistic operation or even one’s own individual creative practice. In an interview for the magazine HisVoice, in response to a question about the search for a unifying element in the manifestations of Central European intermedia art, Jozef Cseres aptly put it:


“I have never sought any connection in the arts on ethnic or national basis; on the contrary, a diverse Central European identity suits me well. I was fortunate to be born in the time of not only the ideological and information revolutions, but also the time of a revolutionary change of paradigm – from the paradigm of knowledge to the paradigm of communication – which is rare in history. The historical opportunity to be there is a unique experience that outweighs any crossover in its significance and influence. I am interested in marginal artistic manifestations because they are usually more authentic than the official ones, they have nothing to lose, so they can afford to take risks and experiment. And as for intermediality, I have always seen it as a natural way of expression due to the spacetime nature of human experience. We live, perceive and think in time and space, and these quantities can be separated only by imagination.”[4]


Recent experience during the pandemic restrictions of 2020-2021 has made us more perceptive to topics that concern us not only individually but also our communities and the world. Several artworks at this exhibition e.g. by Katarína Poliačiková, Peter Bartoš, Svätopluk Mikyta, Oto Hudec referred to the environmental catastrophe the world is already actually facing, either directly or by allusion. Another artist is Michal Kindernay who, in addition to his films, also presented a suggestive live performance about unwanted human sounds in places that we consider distant and protected from human influence – the depths of the oceans: “Speaking of dangerous sounds, it is necessary to mention the invisible but fatal threat posed by the sound pollution in the seas and oceans. In their depths, we would not expect the sounds of human activities. Unfortunately, there is virtually no place in the world’s oceans where human sounds are not detectable. The loudest and most destructive anthropogenic sounds come from military sonars, oil exploration and industrial shipping. The deafening sounds of the propellers of giant intercontinental ships spread in the water hundreds of kilometers.”5 Acoustic ecology responds to global environmental problems such as climate change and loss of biodiversity and is ideologically based on the philosophy of the anthropocene, formulated mainly by Bruno Latour. Nowadays, many artists and experts from other scientific disciplines around the world focus their attention on this philosophy and learn anew to perceive the environment as human beings. In acoustic ecology projects, the idea of ​​planet Earth as the only living organism seems to be making a come-back. The Gaia Hypothesis or the Gaia Theory was put forward by scientists James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis at the turn of the 1970s. It presents the Earth as the only complex self-regulatory system that is based on the coevolution of organisms with each other and with the environment. Moreover, it takes into account evolving technology.6 This hypothesis became one of the cornerstones of ecology and environmental studies in the Western part of the world, in response to Christopher Lasch’s narcissistic “Faustian” relationship of people with the environment and the planet as such. In the late 1970s, Lasch skeptically stated that one way to deny our dependence on nature (on mothers) is to invent technologies that would allow us to control nature in the faith that we can adapt the world to our desires, to use nature for our own ends. “This Faustian view of technology was a powerful force in Western history, reaching its climax in the Industrial Revolution, with its remarkable gains in productivity, and in the even more remarkable advances promised by the postindustrial information explosion.”7 In psychological terms, however, the dream of subjugating nature is our culture’s regressive solution to the problem of narcissism – regressive because it seeks to restore the primal illusion of omnipotence and refuses to accept limits on our collective self-sufficiency. (…) The science of ecology – an example of the “exploratory” attitude towards nature, as opposed to the Faustian attitude – leaves no doubt about the inescapability of this dependence. Ecology indicates that human life is part of a larger organism and that human intervention into natural processes will always remain to some extent incalculable.”[8]


The end of the 1960s brought the serious global debate about the planet’s ecology and protection of the environment for future generations. For the first time, environmental threats were more broadly defined by the international organization The Club of Rome (Accademia dei Lincei, 1968). The conclusions of this “think tank”, which was made up of state representatives, officials, UN representatives, as well as scientists, economists and corporations deputies from around the world, were published under the title The Limits to Growth in 1972. It was also published in Czechoslovakia, although unofficially.9 The officials from the Ostblock countries disregarded these conclusions, because socialist regimes needed to exploit natural resources and did not acknowledge future threats, nor would they acknowledge any other failures and errors of the official totalitarian doctrine. “In Eastern Europe, of course, the doctrine of unlimited industrial production – and the absence of any effective opposition – has left the environment at the mercy of official polluters of any kind. (…) They built nuclear reactors in Czechoslovakia, planned massive Danube dams in Czechoslovakia, and continued to increase production in Hungary (also in Poland).”10 However, dissidents and unofficial artists responded. In Bratislava, Rudolf Sikora and Tomáš Štraus published Czech version of ideas and findings of the Club of Rome at their own expense. Later, Ján Budaj (among others) was engaged in protecting nature. During the 1970s, regular “Tuesdays” took place in Rudolf Sikora’s apartment, where not only art but also ecology and the environment, astrophysics, cosmology, technological inventions and futurological predictions were discussed. Not surprisingly, in the last decade, an interdisciplinary approach became a key principle of work for the participating artist.


During the pandemic of the past two years, quarantine brought unwanted isolation and deprived artists of opportunities to present their work and interact with their colleagues, thus causing serious existential problems for many of them. However, like in the 1970s, the sudden isolation made many artists review their own internal motivations and intentions, and reassess their social attitudes. Many were inspired to systematic thinking on the issues that determine our present day. Thus the pandemic stimulated the emergence of many unique works in all fields of art, that can be considered sincere, courageous, political and critical in a radically new way.


The idea of a creative wo/man hidden or disguised from the crowd and censors, but also from colleagues and friends, is still relevant to our understanding of the contemporaneity in a work of art. The “lost human” is like a shadow of the present times. We may understand the lost human as an allegory of the human , who awakens mentally to the full knowledge of her/his situation just at the time when society has excessive demands on self-defining strategies while politically it keeps maintaining the inertia of the old ideas and structures. New revolutions are extremely quickly absorbed by pop culture shattering individual determination into shards of visions. The Lost Human is an image of the person in an authentic, albeit peaceful and creative, yet urgent rebellion, which continually presents alternative ideas and images, and criticizes the totalitarian system that is reaffirming itself in nationalist and revisionist tendencies. A rebellion, which aims to fight consumerism in all areas of life. The Lost Human sprang up also from the idea of an imaginary artist transversely crossing the boundaries of media and genres, and detaching her/himself from the rules and limits of the art world and its ways of operation. Her/his contemporary reality is complex, because although s/he always acts in the present, which (according to Peter Osborne) contains not only various constructions of the past but also possible futures in the form of expectations and desires. “(Human itself is a utopian concept here).”[11]


Thus, the Lost Human deliberately expanded from the exhibition venue of the Parter BSC Banská St a nica, which served as a base camp with a focal point and which was a place densely populated with artistic ideas and works. However, they overflew the boundaries of the gallery into other venues and into the landscape. In accordance with the philosophy of the JAMA event, it had the ambition to touch and involve people from local communities of the towns of Banská Štiavnica and Banská Belá and their environs, where Milan Adamčiak lived in his last years. The Lost Human concept was also included in the program of JAMA – the 75th Anniversary of Milan Adamčiak, which is an important contextual part of the catalog. The intention of the Lost Human was to explore the personal reactions of artists from different fields to the changing world. Most of the selected works and performances could, therefore, get interpreted as impressive crypto-self-portraits capturing the ideas and emotions of the artists in the turning points of the intersection of their own world and the overwhelming “big” one. We may find in them individual comments on political and social events, topics of isolation and threats, emphasis on freedom, and we can detect their attempts to seek escapes, ways out, creative solutions, but at the same time also questioning the role of the artist and a notion of his/her retreat into the past, being forgotten or otherwise disappearing in the art world. The participatory audience of the project was given the opportunity to experience the objects and performances live and maybe also to cathartically go through the Lost Human’s feelings guided by the captivating and inspiring images and thoughts of the artists. To gain a greater perspective on the topic of the Lost Human, it was a crucial feature of the project to place some works of art outside this “inner territory” of Banská Štiavnica: interventions took place as site-specific exhibits and performances in the garden colony in Košice (Oto Hudec), in the Slovenian Alpine village of Dovje (Gabika Binderová) and in Upstate New York (Tara Fracalossi and Thom Lail) – the homeland of American transcendentalists and the 19th century utopians.


Here, I borrow a thought from Rainer O. Neugebauer, who in his painful journey to Banská Štiavnica provided his own unplanned performance of becoming the Lost Human on a travel for one day and due to pandemic limitations arrived “as slow as possible”, which was the topic of his talk. Neugebauer was invited by Fero Király and Eva Vozárová to JAMA – 75th Year of Milan Adamčiak. He gave a lecture on the project that he curates in the German city of Halberstadt which is the composition for Organ2/ASLSP by John Cage that is scheduled to be played for 639 years. Giving the contemporaneity a structure of future and the vice versa, this lecture became the hallmark of the whole event in the spirit of the Cage-Adamčiak sort of randomness, and provided another though unexpected appearance of the Lost Human, whose important features could also be “The dignity of the individual, the utopia of the absence of domination, the eloquent silence, curiosity and empty mind, and finally accuracy and patience (…).”[12]


Last but not least, I would like to thank Eva Vozárová for her valuable cooperation in the preparation of The Lost Human and I express my gratitude to all the artists for sharing their ideas, artworks and performances.

“Nothing we ever experienced is wholly lost.” [13]


Lucia G. Stach

List of artists:

Milan Adamčiak (SK), Peter Bartoš (SK), Erik Binder (SK), Gabika Binderová (SK/SLO), Ján Budaj (SK), Martin Burlas (SK), Jozef Cseres (SK/CZ), Pavlína Fichta Čierna (SK), Hugh Davies (US), Jarmila Džu- ppová (SK), Stano Filko (SK), Tara Fracalossi (USA), Juraj Gábor (SK), Oto Hudec (SK), Matej Gavula (SK), Peter Kalmus (SK), Michal Kern (SK), Michal Kindernay (CZ), Fero Király (SK), Marek Kuboš (SK), Katalin Ladik (HU), Thomas Lail (US), Zorka Lednárová (SK/DE), Dominika Ličková (SK), Peter Liška (SK), Vlado Martek (HR), Daniel Matej (SK), Juraj Meliš (SK), Svätopluk Mikyta (SK), Michal Murin (SK), Viktor Pantůček (CZ), Katarína Poliačiková (SK/CZ), Eva Priečková (SK), Rastislav Sedlačík (SK), Rudolf Sikora (SK), Boris Sirka (SK), Gréta Mária Srnová (SK), Martin Špirec (SK), Lucia Tallová (SK), Martin Vongrej (SK), Jana Želibská (SK)

[1] Milan Adamčiak: Stratený človek. In. Murin, Michal (ed.): Milan Adamčiak – Archív II. (kopo). Konkrétna poézia 1964 – 1972. Košice: Dive buki, 2015 – 2016, s. 226 – 227.
[2] Valoch, Jiří: Minimální a konceptuální umění. In: Dorůžka, Petr (ed.): Hudba na pomezí. Praha: Panton, 1991, s. 203
[3] Topinka, Miloslav: Trhlina. Praha: Trigon, 2002, s. 56
[4] Cseres, Jozef: Libuji si ve vlastním stínu. S Jozefem Cseresem o dopadech uměleckých PR strategií, Johnu Cageovi a středoevropské identitě. HisVoice, 12. 6. 2020. Dostupné na: https://www.hisvoice.cz/libuji-si-ve-vlastnim-stinu/
[5] Kindernay, Michal: Úvod do akustické ekologie. In: Jitka Hlaváčková (ed.): Zvuky, kódy, obrazy. Praha: GhmP, 2021, s. 147 – 148.
[6] Lovelock, James E.: Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. Oxford – New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
[7] Lasch, Christopher: The Culture of Narcissism. American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. London – New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1991. s. 210 – 211.
[8] Ibidem, s. 244.
[9] Meadows, Donella – Meadows, Dennis, et al. (eds.): The Limits to Growth. London: Universe Books, 1972. [Hranice růstu. Praha: samizdat, 1972. Preklad do češtiny: J. Vavroušek, B. Moldan].
[10] Judt, Tony: Povojnová Európa. História po roku 1945. Bratislava: Slovart, 2005, s. 477.
[11] Osborne, Peter: Anywhere or not at all. London: Verso, 2013, s. 194.
[12] Neugebauer, Rainer O.: “I think what we need in the field of music is a very long performance…” In: Prednáška na JAMA – 75. Ročník Milana Adamčiaka, 23. 10. 2021 v priestoroch skladu Antikvariátik.
[13] Hollis, James: The Broken Mirror: Refracted Visions of Ourselves. Chiron Publications, 2021