the little infinity

Marian Palla

Matter in Eternity

Habima Fuchs

Marian Palla / the little infinity

21.02.2024 - 04.05.2024

Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno

Curators: Denisa Kujelová a Vít Havránek

Opening: 21st February, 7 pm


To create a picture using earth from a Moravian orchard is to abandon the modernist tradition of expressionism, fauvism, impressionism, and also what preceded them. For someone who doesn't paint every day, such a decision may seem easy. But it isn’t, as both the painter and the picture lose the joy of a brush sweeping across the palette and canvas, as well as the effects conveyed by colour. For curators and the visitors, the earth pictures, one of which gave the exhibition its title, are a gateway to the most extensive display of Marian Palla's work to date. We enter Palla's oeuvre from roughly the centre of its material sediment, literally crashing, like country schoolmasters, into the middle of a giant molehill. Because, in keeping with the artist's programme, this is neither a complete nor a scholarly retrospective but typically, or occasionally, a taxonomic (exploring the species diversity of the artefacts) and random show.

Palla's very first participation in a public presentation of young Brno artists (1971) grabbed the attention of Jiří Valoch, for whom the Nature picture was "something different at first sight".[1]. This event led to their acquaintance and Palla became an active member and a driving force behind the now-legendary[2] Brno circle. His studio in Kotlářská Street provided the space for countless meetings, debates, studio exhibitions and performances by invited guests. The distinctiveness that had enchanted Valoch was not only visible against the backdrop of the conformist art of the time, it also characterised Palla's work within the Brno circle. It centred around two opposites, seriousness resulting from the experience of land art and drawing performances (I existed in this painting for two days and ate 7,799 grains of rice, 24 hours, Journey to a touch, Drawings with tea, etc.), and humour, or more precisely, naivety, constantly present from the earliest paintings (My parents, Nature, etc.).

Palla actually describes himself as a naive conceptualist.[3] The starting point for this conceptualism was not Duchamp nor his idiosyncratic interpreter Kossuth, but rather Magritte's painting This is not a pipe. The language, idea and definition of art around which the interest of Anglo-American conceptual artists gravitates has its roots in Palla’s work in fiction, poetry, and increasingly in Zen spirituality. Humour, naivety, self-criticism, empirical observation, description of obvious facts, absurd questions, paradoxes, the great subjects of the philosophy of life. We find all this condensed in every single one of Palla's poems, objects, pictures which are created because the artist wants to "experience intensely" but at the same time "to do things without purpose". Art and Zen practice mutually intertwine.

The concept of abandoning modernity mentioned in the introduction (with the exception of conceptual art) was employed by the artist to move through the history that far predates it. He could view the manifestations of the zeitgeist and modernity with the hearty kindness of a caveman, and painting with sticks or body parts, Neolithic pottery, imprinting and other prehistoric practices hold a prominent place in his work. Perhaps due to his pre-modern perspective, his work naturally constituted itself from the positions of interspeciesism and radical sustainability topical today. He arrived at it not by reading Bruno Latour but through a concentrated meditation on the reality that surrounds him.

For that matter, even the essay Against Interpretation[4] relevant today draws attention to the simplification (undoubtedly related to conceptual art) committed by art theory when it forgets the qualities that arise in primary sensory perception and assesses the value of an artwork only through interpretation. Sontag notes the "experience of something mystical, magical" that the prehistoric creature had in the Lascaux cave. Palla's conceptualism was aware of the brain's one-sidedness and involved body parts and nature in creating art. Projecting the ideal of enchantment into a remote French cave, as the New York theorist did, was not an option for Palla; in contrast, he demonstrates that it can be experienced by anyone in their surroundings. In his case, also between cities, Brno, a country house with a yard and animals, and cosmic nature.

Note, for example, that the Spoilt picture, Crack and other works by Palla owe their existence to the correction of the insight into the meaning of error; the error of artistic skill or material in the creative process. The consistent concept of doing things without purpose directs the artist not to exclude error, awkwardness, displeasure, or any other option based on the outcome. It grants each variation a potential for intense experience, its own inherent and healing beauty. This may seem a serious error of judgment, a naivety in a society organised around the pragmatic pursuit of success and profit. But once the crack opens, the beauty of error and ruining starts working, as a source of therapy of the imaginary common sense.
T: Vít Havránek

[1] VALOCH, Jiří. Marian Palla: Ticho, čekání a dech (kat. výst.). Galerie Na bidýlku, Brno, December 1987.

[2] Let us note here the publications and exhibitions of Barbora Klímová, long-term research of Jana Písaříková and Ondřej Chrobák of the Jiří Valoch Archive in the MG in Brno, the similarly focused research of Helena Musilová, the catalogues of the works of Vladimír Ambroz (Tomáš Pospiszyl), ČS koncept 70. let by Denisa Kujelová (ed.), Akční umění by Pavlína Morganová, etc.

[3] Marian Palla, Naivní konceptualista a slepice,2014.

[4] Susan Sontag, „Against Interpretation." In Against Interpretation and Other Essays, 1966.

Jan Šerých / On Exactitude in Science


Fait Gallery MEM, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno

Curator: Tomáš Dvořák

Opening: February 22, 2023


Jan Šerých and I belong to the last generation that had a globe in their children's rooms. Children were usually given this decorative teaching aid when entering the primary school, as awareness of the whole world and the ability to read a map were, along with reading, writing, counting and telling time, among the basic skills that resonated with the modern ideal of literacy. The popularity of spherical, often rotating, relief, or even illuminated models of the Earth grew in the 1970s as a result of space exploration programmes on both sides of the Iron Curtain and the opportunity to view our planet from the outside, through images taken by astronauts. The globe thus no longer referred only to adventurous voyages and travels, when all places on its surface were described, but rather to the exploration of space: the Earth became a home port.

I didn't get my son a globe. The reason was not only the fact that we now carry the models of our planet in our pockets, but also the inappropriateness of such a gift, the guilt felt when "passing on" the planet to the next generation. On the globe today we can discover at the most diminishing glaciers, sinking tropical islands, or new ones made of garbage. The routes of overseas explorers have been taken over by cargo ships and refugee boats. Geography today is inherently geopolitical; maps show not only the unevenness of the globe's surface but also the inequalities among the planet’s inhabitants. What I found most off-putting about the student globes, however, was their small and fixed scale, reducing them to mere decorative symbols, and the flatness of the image emphasized by its application onto a sphere. The three-dimensional globe lies more than the flat surface of a map: although they appear so at first glance, paper or plastic have no inside or depth. 

I am not referring here to the inner spheres of the Earth which are as inaccessible to us as the outer space, but to the area only a few kilometres thick that us earthlings inhabit. Bruno Latour calls this relatively thin layer, a fragile biofilm surviving at the interface between land, water and air, the "critical zone" in his recent books and projects. Negligible as it may be in relation to the size of the planet and the universe, it has thickness and density of its own; it is not just a surface but a living and diverse layer, a skin, a coating. The film needs to be peeled off from the globe and properly examined as to what it is made of and how it is made.

The critical zone can only be seen from a distance: we have to climb a tree or a hill, take off in a balloon or a plane, and today we can use from the comfort of our homes virtual globes made up of a multitude of continuously updated satellite images. Among the most popular ones is Google Earth, which gives the impression of a continuous and homogeneous map on which we can zoom in on any place on Earth and view the stage of earthlings' existence. In reality, however, its software assembles images taken by different providers, with different spatial resolutions or levels of detail, with different colours and from different eras (Ukrainian Bachmut still exists on Google Earth). Especially in less-exposed places, its mosaic character and complexity (in the original sense of composition) can be revealed the closer we get to the Earth. Zooming in and out and refocusing are among the most important media techniques today. It is no coincidence that the golden age of zooming in cinema goes back to the 1970s, a time of awakening planetary consciousness stimulated by spaceflights, when zooming still implied the possibility of a smooth transition between different dimensions, ultimately always related to humans. But zooming is not just an optical, aesthetic effect; it is at the same time and above all a technique of comparison. It is a special kind of moving image (no longer in the sense of the virtual motion of a film, not even the movement of a person navigating through a map); it changes the scale of things and thus of the observers. Rather than as a technique of overview and appropriation, zoom can be understood and used to encounter otherness and to learn to approach and move away, closeness and distance, in spatial, chronological, mental and cultural terms. Such an encounter is no longer a manipulation of a unified, neatly arranged model of the world, but a negotiation of particular people in particular situations in which we are always a detail and the whole at once.






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