Boris Sirka is an artist, a musician and one of a very talented group of former students at the Košice Faculty of Art. He left the city after graduation but decided to return last year to teach a new generation of art students. His Košice studio is where he paints, composes music and it is also where we met him to talk about his return to this city, about art, music and Japan.
You left Košice only to come back again. Why?
(Laughs) I left Košice in 2010, about three years after graduating. Last November, I decided to come back to start my PhD studies in Professor Peter Rónai’s studio of graphic and experimental art.
Has the city changed much in the meantime?
It’s definitely been upgraded. I was surprised to see how the services have improved. And the overall spirit of Košice is definitely comparable to that of the capital city.
Why do you think so?
When I was weighing all the pros and cons of returning to Košice, I gave serious consideration to culture — exhibitions, concerts and, naturally, food and the general feel of the city. There are many people active in this sphere, all you have to do is go and see the venues what were opened while I wasn’t here. They’ve done a great job and it’s obvious they love what they do.
Your university class was considered very active and talented.
That’s right, we were all eager to start doing things. Often with our own money, before we even applied for grants. But that was when I was already about to leave Košice.
Let’s talk about you as an artist. Your work changes periodically, both in terms of form and genre. Is it because of your need to keep moving?
Yes, that’s right. The visual aspect of my work reflects the subject mater. I don’t want to stick to the same form for the next 30 years. Six years ago I also became interested in sound and music and started exploring that, initially without any goals, such as playing on stage and doing an opening act for so and so. But things started happening and I can confirm that all those rap lyrics about following your dreams and doing what you love are true. I can’t rap it, though …(laughs)
Your work is clearly inspired by external influence. Did you feel a bit overwhelmed by the experience you had during your Tokyo residency three years ago?
Definitely. Landing on another planet, Earth 2, which is in many ways better, cannot leave you unchanged. It was a very powerful experience that taught me several things. Just finding yourself in a country where you immediately stand out. That’s completely different from being in New York with people of all races and ethnicities. The Japanese treat each other with great respect. Paying for six cans of beer and a pack of cigarettes was so formal it reminded me of being handed a university diploma. (Laughs)
There are so many people living together in the city but everything runs smoothly. They can get along and follow the rules, which is fascinating for me. I don’t understand why the rest of the world cannot do the same.
How do you feel about Košice?
I like it very much here. My original concerns about moving back quickly disappeared when I reconnected with my old friends and found new ones. With my new studio and teaching duties at the university, which I really enjoy, I think this is one of the happier periods in my life.
Is it reflected in your work?
My art is more relaxed, I no longer focus on the topics I used to explore before. Recently I’ve been working on a series inspired by my two-week holiday in Sardinia. It’s rather loosely based on that experience, not a word-for-word recording of my memories. In addition to that, I also produce music.
Speaking of music, do you as an artist feel the need to express yourself in this way as well or has it been more of a hobby?
Initially, it started as a hobby but then I was given a chance to play at some major events. I had concerts in Tokyo, Sweden and London, then in the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. I think my creative life is well balanced and the music complements my visual art. Since I listen to my music when working on other projects, I feel like I’m a part of a complex, creative world.
You work alone as an artist but as a musician, you’re a part of a project. What does creative cooperation with other people mean to you?
I’ve been cooperating with others on two projects — BIOS (Basic Input Output System) with a graphic designer Jozef Tušan and BRADA with Nenad Brankovič, a Serbian graphic designer, whom I met at a market in Bratislava. He sold me some delicious anchovies. And I also have a solo project called Æ.
I’ve been lucky to find people with whom I can engage in non-verbal communication via sounds. We play this ping pong, sending messages to each other and replying to them. I think this sort of shared mental connection is quite are.
What does being back at school and passing your experiences on to students feel like?
It feels like coming back home. Teaching is very interesting and the longer I teach the more I enjoy it. There’s always space for improvement at school but with new PhD students, teachers and a new head of the studio, things have been moving in the right direction.
It seems like there’s been some progress but it takes time.
I think it was the same in Bratislava but the further East we go, the longer things tend to take. That includes trivial things like fashion and food, what happens to be trendy and what people like, but also independent small galleries and so on. All these things need to go through a more difficult period at the beginning before they really take off. Take Peter Radkoff and his Tabačka Kulturfabrik project, for instance. He didn’t give up his vision and it paid off, he’s created a great space. The same goes for the Úsmev Cinema, Šopa Gallery, Kotoľňa, DIG Gallery etc.… Things just take time.
As we’ve already mentioned, your work keeps changing and so does your place of residence. Are you planning on moving again?
My PhD studies will end in 2020, so I should be here until then, that’s for sure. But I’d like to stay here anyway. I no longer have the ambition to live in Berlin … now that Berlin is here. The East Berlin of the East Coast. (laughs)