Livia Paldi zigzagged across Europe before finding her way to Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar, and taking up her post earlier this year as its new visual-arts curator.
She was a student of art history and English literature in Budapest. Then she worked for a couple of places in the countryside in Hungary, co-founding an institution with a friend.
That was followed by scholarship to London to research the Artangel archive, the London-based organisation with a reputation for commissioning unusual works of art in unexpected locations. “It was a good production model to look at,” she said.
After that, Paldi headed to Amsterdam to do a curatorial training programme at De Appel, followed by a stint in Ljubljana in Slovenia, before returning to Budapest to work for the contemporary art museum there, the Kunsthalle. After that was Sweden and the Baltic Arts Centre, which was a residency-production place.
She knew about Project Arts Centre, and had followed Eva International – Ireland’s biennial of contemporary art – but doesn’t have an extensive network here, she said. “I have to say I have to catch up with a lot of things here.”
Paldi says her work at different institutions has depended on their histories, the physical space, and what is possible there.
In Sweden, that meant working a lot with people on residency programmes, rather than exhibitions. The move to Dublin is a change in that sense.
“I wanted to come back to exhibition-making, and being a curator,” she said. “It’s a very autonomous way of working here, which I very much like.”
The fact that Project Arts Centre recently turned 50, and the history of the space, also intrigued her.
“I think what’s also important and challenging in a way (…) is the different cultural contexts,” she said. Different cultural contexts invite you to do different things.
In Hungary, she found herself focused on twentieth-century history, traumas, the Communist past, the Cold War, the current political difficulties.
“You had much more a sense, in curating, to also look into social-historical backgrounds,” she said. “I do feel it here as well.”
She’s still reading into the situation in Ireland though, she says. “Of course, it has a colonial history, post-colonial discussions, [but] it’s a different set up.”
What to Expect
For now, Paldi is keeping her tentative list of artists to work with under wraps.
But she gives a vague outline of some of the ideas in her mind, the themes she will be teasing out ahead of her first series of projects in late August.
Collaborative projects, working with choreographers or those in theatre, are on the cards. As are collaborations with people from outside of Dublin.
She’s interested too in how to expand what the centre does at the moment with conferences and collaborations, to build on research and archives and the institutional history.
“It’s not necessarily just exhibitions, it’s trying to figure out if [it] can open up as a more conversational space, as well,” she said.
Paldi says that it’s inspiring to see how dedicated institutions here are to research. “These are all aspects that I’d like to look into,” she said.
She returns a few times to the fact that her formative years were in Eastern Europe, and the way that has shaped her thinking.
“There is an acute awareness because of the political situation right now that critical-minded, internationally involved institutions are in danger, or even being deconstructed during this last five or six years,” she said.
“I’m not saying that I’m a messenger or something, as everybody knows this and the situation here is also not rosy, but compared to where I’m coming from, this occasionally looks like paradise,” she said.
In Eastern Europe, she said, there seems to be a process of dismantling institutions that could be sources of criticism, of shrinking the space for creativity and intellectual work.
That makes you question your position and what responsibilities that position comes with and that, to her, meshed well with the history of Project Arts Centre.
“It’s not just an artistic place, or related to the history of art, but it’s the history of emancipation, and the history of exhibition-making, and the history of culture … cultural history as well as social history,” she said.
When she talks about responsibility, she says, she means how much you can keep a critical distance from what is happening so that you can guard a space for reflection.
“It’s also how much you can keep it a space for intellectual … a little bit detached from everyday reality and on the other hand a reflective space on what’s going on,” she says.