The Bid Book is a comprehensive document that describes the concept of our candidacy, our proposed artistic program, the connections between Nitra 2026 and cultural strategy of Nitra (NK31), the European dimension, the audience development strategy, participation of the general and professional public in the project, or plans of the City and the Region in terms of the development of cultural and tourist infrastructure.
Hundreds of people from Nitra, the Nitra Region, Slovakia, Europe and the world have worked on the Bid Book from March to December 2020: the Nitra 2026 project team, employees of the Nitra Municipal Office, independent cultural actors, representatives of important cultural institutions, university representatives, activists, creatives and many others. What connects these people is a vision of a more lively, active and cultural Nitra. Moreover, we have worked with 244 international and 196 Slovak partners who are eager to start working on our projects. Huge thanks to all of them!
If you don’t have the time, you can find our concept, themes and a selection of our proposed programme and project activities below.
Nitra 2026 – Breaking Point in short
1. Concept – Breaking Point
The concept of our programme is Breaking Point. When talking about Nitra, we realised that not only is it at a breaking point, it can also be best described as one – both in time and space.
Geographically, Nitra lies between lowlands and highlands, between fertile fields and impenetrable nature. Historically, as the first Slovak city that is an important part of the country’s identity. Ethnically, between the south where the Hungarian ethnic minority strives and the north where it is absent. Socially, between progressive and prosperous west and traditionalist and resilient east.
The times we live in are also a breaking point. The ongoing pandemic makes us question the ideas of social interdependence and culture’s ability to connect us as human beings. The climate crisis urges us to reevaluate our relationship to the environment we are a part of. The post-factual era calls for cultivated dialogue as a way of searching for clarity and equality; the brain-drain and migrant influx for broadening the concept of our identity.
We believe Nitra can be the space where solutions are attempted. But how exactly? By Nitra being the Breaking Point where culture and art are used as ways to underpin a process of change, a space where habits, mechanisms and relationships are confronted, examined, thought-through and put back together better and healthier. Not for good, but always, continuously and systematically. We are aware of how difficult and painful a quest this may be. But as they say: In order to make an omelette you have to break a few eggs.
That’s why our programme concept is divided into three main BREAKS as our programme lines:
2. Programme lines – 3 BREAKS
Break the Cycle – Identity
Do I belong to my family, community, city, region, country or to Europe? Identity is arguably the biggest of European society’s themes, that due to rapid societal changes undergoes constant reevaluation. Nitra is often called the mother of Slovak cities. The centre of the country’s identity, based around the traditions of the Great Moravian Empire, princes and knights, kings and bishops. Of the mission of the brothers Cyril and Methodius. Each year we tirelessly commemorate these unquestionable idols of centuries ago the same way… only to make them seem tired of themselves even. Yes, we have been revolving in the cycle of the past for far too long. And in the process, we forget to celebrate those whose existence can actually make a difference.
And sure, the old history is a part of us, but we feel a dire need to break this cycle through addressing our successes and traumas of the recent past and through constant reflection of the present. The projects of this BREAK are about a genuine and sober look within our past heritage and present state that will hopefully result in surefooted stepping ahead to a less backwards-looking and more inclusive future of shaping a European identity.
Did you know that… on the break of the 19th and 20th century, Nitra was an important Jewish metropolis? In 1900, the Jewish inhabitants made up 28% of the city’s population.
Break the Silence – Dialogue
The unprecedented situation of isolation we currently face highlights the biggest problem Nitra has – atomisation of our society. Residents, migrants, cultural actors and others, each locked up in their own echo chambers listening to like-minded voices or screaming in complete isolation. We believe that Nitra could find an answer – by breaking the echo chambers we live in, through openness to ourselves and to everyone we share common space with. After all, our most revered art form is theatre. And that means dialogue. The projects of this BREAK propose a way out of these issues in a way of multi-faceted dialogue that can connect the different layers of our society to come up with healthy and systematic solutions to present and upcoming issues.
Did you know that… Nitrančans and the inhabitants of Nitra Region are a true theatre folk? The yearly theatre attendance in the region reaches a fantastic 180 000 viewers.
Break the Ground – Sustainability
Sustainability is one of the most widely used terms in recent years. For us Nitrančans, however, it is nothing new. We have always been caring farmers and growers with a strong relationship to the land and nature around us. In recent decades, however, this bond has weakened. Can we revive it and use its principles not only in relation to nature but also in cultivating human potential? Break the Ground is a line that perceives environmental sustainability, creative participation and the development of human potential as one closely related topic.
Did you know that… Nitra is the greenest Slovak city? Yep, that’s right – there is 140m2 of urban green space per inhabitant.
3. A selection of the proposed programme and project activities
Break the Cycle
The Alley of Unsung Heroes
Who and what deserves a statue? And do they need to be put up? Probably, yes – but they don’t have to be eternal. The Alley of Unsung Heroes is our contribution to the ongoing heated debate on the reevaluation of history, which involves devaluing statues of important historical figures and idols all over the world. The project curated by Slovak-Lebanese art curator Omar Mirza consists of sculptures, installations, objects and interventions in non-traditional forms of contemporary visual art which overlaps into performative art, literature, discussions or film projections placed in an outdoor space of Nitra City Park. Contemporary European or local heroes – may it be the latest Nobel Prize Winner or a local nurse – will be depicted in various art forms: made of local beeswax, ice, decomposable plastic, mushrooms and plants, sound, light, words of poetry, films or visible only in mixed reality. Transience and ambivalence will be present not only in the material level of the works and interventions, but also in their content and ideological framework. Who is a hero? When and how does someone become one? Is he for life? And who said that heroes have to be just people
The best way to preserve the cultural heritage for future generations is through play! Judit Börocz and Bence György Pálinkás, a young independent artististic duo from Hungary, will return to children’s games connected with objects representing the agricultural heritage during an 8-week residency in the Nitra region. Working with local children, craftspeople and ethnologists they will use machines, machine parts, work clothes, raw materials – products of the region’s agricultural heritage – to design 4 unique playgrounds around the Nitra Region.
Lead by Typogaráž, an alternative space for contemporary type design, graphic design studio Andrej & Andrej and Palo Bálik, a renowned designer and typography theorist, the project Hlaholica Neue presents the past, present and future purpose of typography in the development of European civilisation. A series of events will fill the gap in public knowledge about writing systems, its creation and development, its place and importance in the daily life of not only designers. From guerilla rewriting of amateur graffiti into professional type designs through developing new and updated Glagolitic script to international conference and experimental workshops organised in partnership with Peter Biľak, author of renowned Dutch type-foundry Typotheque and pedagogues from Swiss Écal University. A new section dedicated to books designed by Slovak typographers with interactive elements to inspire the next generation of font designers will be set in Nitra Regional Library. Hlaholica Neue will be accompanied by an eponymous showcase curated by Zuzana Husárová, where international artists will draw from the original Glagolitic script that would form a linguistic, visual and auditory basis for various forms of textual projects, presenting historical documents but also various texts about contemporary identity. The project would also delve into xenowriting: posthuman recording mechanisms and AI in textuality. Several modes of writing would be presented: written text, projected and kinetic text, virtual schemes and imaginary fields of textual production.
Break the Silence
Divadelná Nitra ’35
More than a progressive exhibition of contemporary performing art that presents new artistic tendencies and crosses genre borders. In 2026, the biggest theatre festival in Slovakia and one of the biggest in Central Europe will celebrate its 35 years in big style. Breaking out of its traditional proportions and boundaries in length, size and boldness.
The main festival programme in September 2026 will present 20 – 25 productions that deal with personal and social distance in 5 sections: Slovak Showcase, European Contemporary, Suomalainen Teatteri (Finnish showcase), (Me)identity – (EU)identity (open call projects), and A Touch From Afar (atypical virtual space projects). Additionally, it will provide: activities as artistic interventions in public space, AGORA that develops public conversation with different communities, MORE THAN BEAUTY, a series of events devoted to the arts ability of dealing with mental health issues. The festival will also hold speed meeting sessions and networking events for theatre professionals and amateurs alike in pursuit of searching for borderless theatrical connections.
But that’s not all. For the first time ever, a special format Divadelná Nitra_Polycentricity will spread the festival atmosphere throughout the Nitra Region – in the form of weekend festivals during the year. Prepare for Divadelné Nové Zámky, Divadelné Topoľčany or Divadelná Šaľa!
Protesta Festival & Conference
We see protesting and the ability to speak freely without being threatened as one of the most important signs of free society. Protesta Festival celebrates this right with a unique event aimed at presenting the idea of protesting and speaking up around the world. From French Revolution to current protests in Belarus, the festival will present the history of protesting through visual art exhibition, series of concerts, a theatre-like protest flash mob; a special VR installation in the city centre will transport its visitors to famous historical rallies and protests and a participatory exhibition for locals to share their memories on Czecho-Slovak Velvet Revolution or recent protests of 2018. The festival will conclude with a two-day conference where journalists, media experts, protest organisers and philosophers from around Europe will look at the problems and dangers that modern democracy and its most important institutions such as free journalism and the right to speak up face in today’s post-factual era.
Outside the Boxes
Outside the Boxes project aims at integrating new minorities, activating them and improving life in Nitra by spreading the values of a multicultural society and tolerance. Within various residences, we will open and revive the gray zone of Nitra’s industrial park by collaborating with visual, performative and multidisciplinary artists from different parts of Europe. The open call through which they will be selected will be carefully coordinated with the help of the company employees directly. During the intersocial creative exchange, artists process the life stories of the workers from Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, the United Kingdom and many others. The shadows of the industrial zone and the city itself will thus become their gallery. Various groups of Nitra residents will also be involved in the preparation of the works. The results of their joint work will be presented during special guided tours, in which visitors will get acquainted with the finished works. Part of the results will be installed in the city center. The general public in Nitra will get acquainted with the lives behind the walls of the area also through a web comic series. In cooperation with OZ Mareena and Open Pasta Kitchen, we will provide an integration program My Home Is Your Home for smaller groups that will work with a principle of pop-up folkekokken kitchens that presents new cultures by the best friend-making tool – sharing their national meals with locals.
Break the Ground
Gardens of Nitra
This project simply makes too much sense. As a society culturally connected to the soil but facing atomisation, isolation and consumerism, in need for more functional public space, yet blessed with perfect natural conditions, we aim to build 4 state-of-the-art community gardens as local neighbourhood centres scattered throughout Nitra.
In 2022 we will develop a cohesive plan along with local community garden pioneers CUKETA and the Faculty of Horticulture and Landscape Engineering from the Slovak University of Agriculture which will include online questionnaires, door to door campaigns and participatory meetings and discussions in different neighbourhoods interested in having their own garden. In 2023, the faculty will put community garden projects with their specific localities in the curriculum, creating a co-creation platform for students, teachers and garden-hungry residents. In 2024 and 2025 the project will be implemented, in 2026 already flourishing.
The gardens will not only enliven our neighbourhoods visually but will mostly serve as organic community hubs offering an inclusive space that stimulates social interaction. Primary activities will be planned with experts from the Slovak University of Agriculture and the teams of CUKETA and Hidepark, and will include eco-education, workshops (plant care, cooking classes, preservation workshops, up-cycling workshops, creative workshops). All gardens will be equipped with basic event inventory (stage, audio and light equipment, projector, etc.) for its co-owners to host their own cultural programme with the help of Nitra 2026 Team. Swaps, upcycling workshops, barbecues, screenings, concerts, markets could form just a part of the programmes that local people can develop.
Through a series of activities we want to teach people how to rethink the clothes, to navigate the viewpoint that new fashionable clothes does not necessarily mean it was never worn. Activities are structured around five pillars, each looking at the garment from a different perspective. Starting with the research that will be looking into the history of up-cycling in our region that was applied on both traditional and modern garments. While cooperating with European educational institutions like University of the Arts in London, The Swedish School of Textiles, VIA University or Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, the initial part will help us to draw a discourse around the topic. To better understand the starting point, historic data will be combined with data collection focused on the sewing skill and relationship with the fashion nowadays. Results of observations will be applied to the final structure of the workshop that will tackle the needed skills and knowledge of all generations while cooperating with the Slovak Fashion Council, second- hand chain Textile House, Hungarian Fashion & Design Agency and experts in the specific fields. Considering the emerging digital universe that plays a significant role in our lives while combining recent history, we will introduce the platform of open source sewing plans that would be shown on virtual 3D avatars with adjustable measurement. Sewing patterns will be applicable to the post-consumer textile waste and ready to be hand-made at home. As part of the pop-up designers project, there will be a seasonal collections presentation introducing foreign designers to expand the diversity of clothing created from up-cycled materials or post-consumer waste and with the opportunity to purchase clothing that is not only rare, but also sustainable.
Fields of Multiculture
Break the monocultures, bring on the multicultures! The aim of Fields of Multiculture is to point out the dangers and disadvantages of agricultural monocultures through the prism of visual art. Resident artists from all over Europe in cooperation with scientists from Slovak Agricultural University will transform several hectare sized and rather dull fields into visually interesting and colorful works of large scale land art. These will serve as striking invitations to the city for those coming to Nitra 2026 by highway. And will make just driving by much harder. Fields of Multiculture is a unique co-creation project bringing together artists, agricultural researchers and local farmers.
You can find our complete proposed artistic programme and projects in our Bid Book Nitra 2026 – Breaking Point on pp. 18-40.You can download and read it in english here (pdf, 5.3 mb) You can download and read it in slovak here (pdf, 7.7 mb)