08.10.2020 - 17.04.2021
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Curator: Denisa Kujelová
Special opening day: October 8, 4 pm–9 pm
Jiří Kovanda’s work is typified by several trademark aspects which manifest themselves continuously, from early actions and installations through postmodern drawings and paintings, collages, assemblages and objects of the 1990s to the current interventions, installations and performances: inconspicuousness, efforts at contact, humbleness, simplicity, spontaneity, sensitivity, humour and manipulation with ego.
The austere rendering of low-key, almost indiscernible installations and interventions is already apparent in Kovanda’s early actions in which he examined the most elementary possibilities of nonverbal communication. Back in the 1970s, the philosopher and art theorist Petr Rezek pointed out an interesting fact, saying that Kovanda’s actions signified, above all, a desire for contact. At the same time, they are set not to be fulfilled: they were often conceived so that they forced the artist to work with his natural shyness and to go beyond this mental barrier. The participants were placed in unknown situations outside the framework of art, or situations which through their non-diversion from normal behaviour remained invisible for viewers, and were only made visible by their subsequent documentation by means of photography and presentations in gallery contexts.
Photodocumentation was crucial in the next phase of Kovanda’s work in which his physical presence was gradually replaced by mere records of his activity. With installations intervening in private and public environments without the presence of viewers, photography presented the only possibility of recording the artist’s traces in the form of various objects of daily use and trivial materials installed completely inconspicuously in different places, both outdoors and indoors, also regarding the indiscernibility and ephemerality of these interventions. The artist already articulated his completely natural strategy of creating an unexpected context for an object and leaving a trace of his activity in his early works such as fallen leaves stuck to the ground with a sellotape, wooden wedges inserted between cobblestones and a pile of pine needles and nails in the forest, or interventions in interiors, for example, a flower pot hidden behind a pillar, a string tied around the same pillar two months later and a white string stretched across a room in Kovanda’s home.
Kovanda’s actions frequently involved banal situations, ordinary activities and mundane tasks that we do automatically, yet acted out in a shifted context. Likewise, in his installations and interventions the artist shifts ordinary, routinely used objects to a completely new, unexpected level by removing them from their original situation and taking away their primary utility function. Thanks to his work in the National Gallery depository Jiří Kovanda first started to use in his installations material related to installation practice in the everyday gallery run, for example strings, paper, glass and wooden wedges. He also employs things of daily use and household objects including foods in his current installations and interventions, along with objects typical of a particular place. Through them he makes a space more visible and defines its individual parts, and thus also slightly manipulatively determines how a particular space and its layout is perceived by viewers and sets a new manner of movement in this space. Jiří Kovanda’s installations are not rooted in an idea of a certain place suitable for or adjustable to a particular work; instead, he executes an idea and the preparation of a situation which is to make up the base of a new project, or of the employment of some of his older works, directly on the spot. This is also the case with the central installation Gold Ring which, perhaps most of all the works on display, prompts a reflection of values, in a metaphorical comparison of a string and a ring, an ordinary thing and an exceptional object. Everything has the same value, all depends on context and interpretation.
A virtual tour of Jiří Kovanda's exhibition - Ten minutes earlier can be found here.
 It was a provisional gallery space in Provaznická Street. The basement room of the Odeon publishers where Jan Mlčoch worked from 1978 was originally designed as an archive, and until Mlčoch’s resignation in 1980 was used by three Prague body artists (Karel Miler, Petr Štembera and Jan Mlčoch) as a meeting place. They staged there their own performances as well as those by their close friends, including Jiří Kovanda.
 In this respect, a key role in Kovanda’s art was played by Marcel Duchamp’s exhibition in the Václav Špála Gallery in 1969, prepared by the chief curator Jindřich Chalupecký in collaboration with the Milan art collector, gallery owner and art theorist Arturo Schwarz.
 In 1977 Karel Miler got Kovanda a job in the National Gallery in Prague; he was responsible for a depository housed in the Municipal Library. Kovanda worked there until 1995 when he became an assistant professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, in a studio headed by Vladimír Skrepl.
 Not surprisingly, the artist’s installations tend to be confused with ordinary things accidentally left in a space, and as such must be carefully protected from the over-enthusiastic cleaning staff.
Katarína Hládeková and Jiří Kovanda
SIAMESE UNCLE & MONTAGE
The unusual format of the exhibitions of the two authors Katarína Hládeková (1984) and Jiří Kovanda (1953), having been prepared in parallel to each other by two curators and in two connected Fait Gallery areas intentionally reflects the possibility of their cooperation in different ways. Whilst being a classically approached exhibition the Siamese Uncle by the curator Pavel Vančát is of an expected retrospective nature disturbed by the mutual paraphrasing created by their existing art works making the identity of the artists mingle and almost merge. The new joint project of the second exhibition Montage, in cooperation with Marika Kupková, does, to the contrary, clearly display the separate roles of the authors and their mutual intersection is defined by the specific concept of video installations.
Denisa Kujelová, Head Curator of the Fait Gallery
Katarína Hládeková and Jiří Kovanda are connected not only by Hládeková’s PhD studies in Ústí nad Labem, but also by a sense of tranquil atmosphere and frequent emphasis on unexpectedly transformed detail. But while the very existence of Kovanda’s art works is always a bit of an unpredictable and uncertain nature, Hládeková is a storytelling perfectionist; while Kovanda is a grandmaster of improvisation, Hládeková, on the other side, constructs whole microuniverses. So how to introduce art works by artists of different generations and also with such different characteristics, connected rather by mutual sympathy and in two connnected exhibitions at once?
Their joint exhibition in Brno takes up a series of Kovanda’s various collaborations with other artists in a radical way: both artists completely give up their solitude and indeed the exclusive authorship of their artworks and allow them to coalesce, but also be seen in stark contrast to one another. The new and old works by both artists do not only communicate together here, but also merge and morph into collective new formations, postscripts and mutual comments. Some of them are a result of a joint debate, others were a unique intervention by one of the authors, and some were created during an improvisation in the gallery space (and some of them were borrowed from Kovanda’s biggest collector, Richard Adam). So Kovanda lets the curator’s car crash into Hládeková’s birthplace, Hládeková counters with a pack of hankerchiefs and a line of cactuses. Inspirations, allusions, contexts and after all the whole exhibiton start to move.
All of this allows us to see the works of both authors through the eyes of only one of them, through the prism of their own method, point of view and their opinion about the world. As if we among their art pieces happen to be again and again in that moment, when the approaching magnets start to repel or attract. This creates a strange Siamese duet of the two artists (and through a wall of two curators), a fun nonverbal dialogue between two generations about different bases, mutual influences and pure joy of the game and surprise, but also a small study about the principles of contemporary art and its elasticity.
Pavel Vančát, RailJet W. A. Mozart, 22. 9. 2015
The video by Katarína Hládeková and Jiří Kovanda, that was created specially for the exhibition, is untitled. That’s why this text is a short reflection of its possible names that could be found for it on the literal level. So. It could be called The Ruins because Jiří Kovanda works with a largely divided photo of a model created by Katarína Hládeková according to the famous painting The Ruins of Holyrood Chapel (1824), which was painted by Louis Daguerre according to his own dioramas. The Ruins can symbolize the final disintegration of the integrity of the original picture, as well as the partial remains of many media forms that are present between Daguerre‘s diorama and the exhibited video.
It could be called Holyrood Chapel as per the place that Daguerre supposedly never visited and whose reconstruction refers to repeatedly mediated pictures which actually do not relate to the reality at all. And that means as to the reality of the Holyrood chapel as well as the reality of its model produced by Katarína Hládeková. The emphasis on locality also points to the author's choice of the attractive sight worthy of postcards from trips or jigsaw puzzle (and once even dioramas).
In accordance with the name of the exhibition the video could be also called the Montage, as it is based upon the variation of the set of constant elements. What is important, however, Kovanda‘s attempts are spontaneous and uncorrected. In the video there are purposefully represented all variants that Jiří Kovanda had tried without selecting the "better" ones or adjusting their order. The purpose was not to make a movie, based on a prepared scenario, but to record the progress of thinking of a performer when handling a source, that he had not selected himself. So the video could be called the Test which was carried out by Katarína Hládeková on Jiří Kovanda and which simultaneously took place at the level of a unique joint work of artists based on the challenge set by the curator. (As well as, Learning or Mastering, which already brings us to the relationship between the two authors on the level of the former teacher and his student.)
It could be also called Patience from the famous card game played by a single player and which has an infinite number of variations. The subject attracting the audience might be the predictability as well as the surprise factor of his acts. Nota Bene, when playing with the cards, let’s say of a familiar cultural and historical nature.