Exhibited artists: Radek Brousil a Jan Pfeiffer, Michaela Knížová, Maroš Rovňák, Tereza Zelenková
Curated by: Ivana Komanická
„The day that ended with a Great Fall started with the morning rain“
Peter Handke, Great Fall
Book culture, study, museum, photography, melancholy are typical modern institutions. Exhibiting artists critically engage with the medium of photography using the lens of history and reflecting past events, mythologies and the century long photographic traditions to analyze „the now“, the anxiety in the situation “when our life lacks any kind of tragedy” (Tereza Zelenkova). British psychoanalyst Adam Phillips questions whether the culture that is obsessed with happiness is not really in despair and describes a (melancholic) desire for unlived lives in the context of neoliberalism as being constantly stalked by one´s choices.
Radek Brousil and Jan Pfeiffer approach the death of a former Czechoslovak minister Jan Masaryk right after the communist regime took over from an uncanny perspective taking it out of media and political discourse. Instead they situate it within the metaphor and the aesthetics of fall, represented by the late romantic archetypal painting „Isle of the Dead“ (1880-1886) by Böcklin, the prints of which were very popular in central Europe in the early 20th century as Nabokov observed. In his digital photography of the reproduction of a small female statue found at Masaryk´s desk Brousil works with the strategies of futurist photodynamic photography which strived to catch the tragic pause, a gesture of terror, a single scene of an intimate drama.
Archeology of modernity is also archeology of melancholy. Tereza Zelenkova provides us this setting, her cycle is both a kind of museum exhibition of melancholy but also a melancholic exhibition of museum as a place destined to change, decay and fall. Her view on museum policy and its daily operation is a kind of psychoanalytic survey, like in the case of Freud´s study which Zelenkova discloses as a dream scene, opium den. Instead of iconic chaise-longue she documents the primitive and phalocentric shape of Freud´s chair specially designed for him and his reading habits showing us that Freud was a reader after all.
Maroš Rovňák collages the excerpts from the famous middle-age treatise on witchcraft “Hammer on Witches” together with those from the novel by the contemporary Catalan writer Jaumé Cabre “I confess” – a story about writer and historian who in the state of falling mad decides to search for the roots of evil. In his sound and video piece Rovňák re-uses a daguerreotype in the context of digital photo together with the noise and beast sound offering a healing ritual.
In her polaroid travel photography Michaela Knížová draws upon the visual melancholic clichés from blackmetal and gothic scene of 80´s and 90´s and their alternative life fantasies. The title of her photo series “Das Trauma der Geburt” refers to the book of early Vienna psychoanalyst Otto Rank for whom the birth was a prototype of all anxiety. Knížová moves in the space of violence, in the forceful imaginary of birth with unborn “I” and a will to creativity.
Is an artist again a fallen aesthete, universal schizophrenic who finds a deeper interpretative experience in the materiality of image and sign? The exhibition draws some parallels to fin de siècle that was also a response to the technological changes with the leftist critique of a bourgeois society and a liberal democracy, being a turning point, one that we also experience today.
Text: Ivana Komanická
The exhibition was sponsored by the Fund for the Promotion of Art from public sources
In co-operation with the Czech Center Brarislava.
Radek Brousil (1980), graduate of Academy of Arts, Architecture & Design in Prague, winner of Oskar Čepan Award 2015. His work is characterized by the reflection of photographic techniques, with emphasis on the historical, political and gender aspects of the medium of photography.
Ján Pfeiffer (1984), graduate of Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. For his conceptual artistic program there is a fundamental trait of a complex symbolic system, referring to social-cultural, mythological, religious and historical bonds to specific situations or moments, which he works with or in.
Michaela Knížová (1982), graduate of Faculty of Arts at TU Košice, works with photography. By her own words: „I work mostly with myself, with my personality and with my body, using self-portraits to express my artistic intentions. My topics are often related to forgotten stories or dark paranormal feminity, filled with symbolism of the classic fairy tale and traditional native folk myths.“
Maroš Rovňák (1972), graduate of Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, finalist of the Oskar Čepan Award 2002, in his engaged videos, performances and installations he discusses sensitive topics related to gender identity, religion, politics, social isolation and death.
Tereza Zelenková (1985), graduate of the Royal College of Art London, listed for Unseen Talent Award 2016, she works predominantly with traditional black and white photography, she creates series based on ephemeral and poetic relationships between photographs. In her work, she’s often interested in mythologies surrounding particular places or people, blends facts and fiction, and examines the limits of photographic representation.
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