„The goal of peaceful coexistence based on free mutual cooperation would be achieved in this area by a Czechoslovak „peace corridor“ to the Adriatic Sea, which would not hurt or bother anyone and from which everyone involved would benefit.“ (Karel Žlábek, 1967)

Return to Adriaport is a fictional document by Adéla Babanová (b. 1980). The young artist has recently centered her work on the recent history of Czechoslovakia, a period linked with a still painful and so far inadequately reflected stage in this country´s life: namely, the half-century of Communist rule. While Babanová works with facts with a good deal of precision, she at the same time never hesitates to use elements of mystification and absurdity. Starting from a real-life event, she pursues her job as a film maker, working with script-writers Vojtěch Mašek and Džian Baban, to create an entirely new story, complete with a protagonist and a dramatic plot.
Featured in the leading role here is economics professor Karel Žlábek, the moving spirit behind an ambitious project anticipating a tunnel to the Adriatic coast. An array of weird developments acted out by political leaders of the former Czechoslovakia, represent an explicit enough background to which no further mystification needs to be added. The film combines elements of docudrama with illustrative documentary shots from the period. The artist applies principles of animated collage which she couples with archival records, photographs, and mock interviews.
As a result of the project, Czechoslovakia was to become a “maritime country”, its citizens being able to reach the Adriatic coast within no more than two hours. At 350 kilometres long, the track was to lead from the city of České Budějovice, across Austria, to what is today Slovenian territory, reaching its terminus near the Italian port of Trieste. The avant-garde, indeed unprecedented project had hatched in Professor Žlábek´s head from as early as the end of the Second World War, but it was only with the advent of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia, favouring greater freedom and economic flexibility, that he could begin to hope in its implementation. Therefore, a year before the Prague Spring he was able to put his grandiose plan down on paper, and present it in a lecture at the University of Florida. The project´s future realization was to contribute not just to the fast transportation of fresh goods and improved quality of the environment, but also to offering the country´s citizenry an easy option of travel to the seashore rather than to their weekend cottages.
The project, which was to make come true the landlocked nation´s dream of its own accessway to the sea, as well as of its own artificial island of Adriaport, was cut short by the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies in August 1968. Although the further liberalization of the communist regime was then stifled for the ensuing two decades by totalitarian “normalization”, thanks to tireless efforts propelled by the avant-garde genius of Professor Žlábek, in the 1970s the idea of the tunnel was resurrected, and in 1979 the project of high-speed railway line was taken up by the firm Pragoprojekt.
Eventually though, the futurist vision did not materialize; only charts and designs of the project have survived. These now provide an eloquent testimony to the relevance of the concept as well as to the unbending will of Professor Žlábek in the pursuit of his goal of launching the nation onto a trajectory of freedom.

Adéla Babanová studied at the Department of New Media, Printmaking and Conceptual Art of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague from 2000–2006. The protagonists of her videos have gone through a dynamic process of transformation from fictional female characters to real-life figures from this country´s history, a subject with which the artist has become intensely preoccupied in her two most recent titles (Return to Adriaport; and Where Did the Stewardess Fall from?). In terms of genre, she has so far exploited the formats of radio play, television chat show, crime story, fictional documentary, and others. Adéla Babanová is currently making her second appearance in the exhibition programme of City Gallery Prague. Her previous show, in 2009, was mounted as part of the gallery´s series targeting the youngest generation of artists, Start up. Since then, her achievements have included for instance a nomination for the Jindřich Chalupecký Award in 2012. She has to her credit a number of exhibitions abroad. There, Return to Adriaport was presented with considerable success at the Loop Barcelona last year, and more recently also in a solo show in ZAHORIAN&co GALLERY in Bratislava.

Sandra Baborovská

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