Štefan Papčo


Project in progress



“Citizens” is abstract and concrete at once. As a sculptural group, the concrete form is its starting point: five mountaineers in various bivouacking positions, carved in wood. From a conceptual perspective, “Citizens” brings into play a complex viewing of entities such as individual versus community, citizen versus society. “Citizens” is realized in time and in high mountain space. High mountain space, though it has been “interfered with” by man, has nonetheless suffered only “superficial” interference as compared to space at a lower height above sea level. Time and “untameable”
space are the symbolic core of “Citizens”, which bears witness to a story of freedom.
Historically, “Citizens” draws on the period of “normalization” in the 1970s and ’80s in Czechoslovakia and the intense restrictions which this political situation implied for the individual and society as a whole. This period symbolized an accessible form of self-fulfillment, and the possibility to go beyond the political limits of the “iron curtain”. Climbers who achieved the most challenging ascents in the High Tatras were allowed to gather twice a year in the Alps or other major mountains abroad. Sport was a powerful motivation - in one season these mountaineers covered more high mountain routes in the Alps than all others from the rest of the world. Through their sheer will, bridges were built between Western and Eastern Europe at a time when the government was exerting its political efforts in precisely the opposite direction.


As a sculptural group, “Citizens” is modeled on five outstanding mountaineers from Czechoslovakia: Pavel Pochyly?, Miroslav Šmid, Igor Koller, Stanislav Glejdura and Alena Čepelkova?. Each personality is represented in a bivouacking position against a mountain wall and grouped together in a portrait like fashion.
Over a 3 year period, I will transport these 5 sculptures and place them on different mountain walls in Europe /and possibly North America/ where the mountaineers actually climbed. The sculptures as performers in period clothing, bivouac sacks and sleeping bags will replace the original real actors (who were indeed performers). Each sculpture will be photographed in its location by an IP camera powered by windmill or solar panel and satellite-connected.
The camera images of each sculpture will be virtually transmitted to various exhibition spaces worldwide and grouped together side by side in a single online projection.

The viewers will be able to follow the processual changes of the sculptures in real time. The sculptures are carved in wood, a material which undergoes processual changes. Wood is living and impermanent at the same time, with the capacity to adapt and reshape itself under the influence of environment and weather. The choice of material is meant to emphasize the symbolic level of the work: the materialization of possible inner mutations, which the human being
encounters on the way to freedom. The abstract form is added by the factors of time (the specific operation of weather conditions on the chosen material) and virtual transmission. The projected image will be an indicator of the material conditions and at the same time a processual work, whose changes will be recorded by digital technology. Static objects will come alive through interaction with the monumental nature that environs them. Based on these processual changes, a non-verbal dialogue will emerge and relating to its environment, an open form of monument, whose individual parts are hundreds of kilometers distant from one another. Through online transmission the spectator will be able to feel part of a circle of symbolically communicating people. Primarily, my artistic effort is to capture the materiality of the shared experience these exceptional individuals achieved. On a secondary level, “Citizens” takes the form of a universal statement about discovering and experimenting with one’s personal freedom.