Warm-up Party 2023: Maja Štefančíková & Kunsthalle Bratislava team & audience
Dancing relaxes us. It liberates us. It offers us space for self-realisation. It brings us closer together. Dancing can do this and much more. It helps us to develop physical, creative, imaginative, emotional and intellectual skills. It deepens our social skills and gives us the opportunity to manifest our moods and thoughts through movement. And what is more, dancing also warms us up. Dancing people and their energy are at the heart of Warm-up Party 2023. Through dance, a group of people will merge into one homogeneous collective that will send vibrations to the surrounding walls, which will send a response in the form of an energy signal. Through dance, we will warm up not only ourselves, but also the space around us.
Why do we want to try to do this? Energy prices reached an all-time high in 2022, mainly due to the unjustified Russian invasion of Ukraine and the use of Russian gas supplies as a war strategy. EU countries have severely restricted imports of Russian energy supplies, imposing sanctions in response to Russia’s brutal and large-scale war in Ukraine. Russia is deliberately reducing gas supplies, which is why gas prices in the EU are rising sharply. This is also affecting the price of electricity generated by gas-fired power stations, but also the price of electricity in general.
The Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic, like other institutions of public administration, decided to tackle high energy prices by taking cost-saving measures. The general recommendations aim to save 15% during the heating season, if the nature of the institution’s purpose permits so. Kunsthalle Bratislava, together with the building manager – the National Centre for Enlightenment – have taken measures directly related to the regulation of the heating system of the premises and offices and are currently operating in a saving mode at 16-18 degrees °C.
It is cold in the exhibition spaces of Kunsthalle Bratislava. We are experiencing cold, we are shivering. We are thinking how to warm up. Until recently the building kept us warm, now we and the building have to warm up. Can we raise the temperature in it with our own bodies? In The Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo that the human body produces 25,000 BTUs of body heat. Is that really true?
The average person generates about as much heat as a 100-watt light bulb. How many people would have to work at the Kunsthalle to heat its spaces? It depends on a number of factors – the size of the room, its height, the ventilation system, how much sunlight penetrates the windows, the number of people in the office, their clothes, whether they are sitting or walking around, how productive their brains or metabolisms are, their weight, what they had for lunch, how many calories they can burn in the form of heat per joule etc.
Each building is a separate organism. When we enter it, we perceive a temperature difference. In the summer the entrance hall cools us down, in the winter it warms us up. Now, during the winter months in the building of the House of Arts, when we don’t move, we feel the cold. We last here only a short time, shivering from the cold. In the exhibition space A Black Box on the first floor of Kunsthalle Bratislava – intended for discussions, lectures, films screenings – only highly motivated individuals in warm jackets last until the end of films. The staff of Kunsthalle Bratislava work in their coats.
When we are cold, we shiver, we get goosebumps and unconsciously rub our hands to keep warm. What process is actually going on in our body? Chills are caused when the muscles in our body squeeze and relax in an attempt to generate heat. When hypothermia sets in, the body shakes to warm itself. Shivering, trembling and quivering are essentially automatic processes of warming up. While shivering is often healing and relaxing, it can also occur when the body is caught between life and death, when it is struggling on the edge of mental breakdown and psychological disturbance. Tremor is generally associated with stress and fear, that is, a state in which we seem to be unable to control our own bodies. And just shaking as a kind of movement is also used as a proven anti-stress and dance technique. Shaking is a form of release and relaxation. It is the basis of every dance party and an escape into a kind of shared relaxation trance. The trance is hot. We are people working at Kunsthalle Bratislava. But we are also dancers. We dance to warm up our workspace.
Just fourteen dancing employees can produce 7kW of energy in 30 minutes. This means that they could raise the temperature in the main exhibition space A Hall of Kunsthalle Bratislava by 2°C. So come and join the heating system powered by dancing human bodies. Dance with us. Every kW of energy produced counts.
Maja Štefančíková is a visual artist. In her work, she creates temporary performative situations that are created primarily through movement and voice. She has experience with different kinds of media – from glass to video to dance, but most often she works with the body in space and time. Maja creates performative situations or performative environments that are contemplative but also playful. She produces the situations as continuous, prolonged actions in the gallery or public space. She creates a fixed choreographic structure that is also modified by external factors. Her works and performative actions have been exhibited at the Slovak National Gallery, the House of Art in Brno, Kunstverein Eisenstadt in Austria, tranzit.sk in Bratislava and Ars Electronica in Linz. In 2022, Maja exhibited at the Budapest Galéria and at the We Are All Emotional Biennial in Prague, organised by tranzit.cz. In 2021, she participated in residencies in Pezinok and New York.
The research for the project was made possible thanks to a grant from the City of Bratislava Foundation.