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.
Božetěchova Street 1 (entrance from Metodějova Street), Brno
31/5 – 13/11/2014
Opening: 29/5/2014 at 7pm
Curators: Denisa Kujelová & Martin Nytra
For the entire initial plot and interpretation of an exhibition there are two important topics: the uncovering of layers and an archaeological approach to clarify the cause of our misrepresentive perception and a need to change the reality of things. However, the process of unmasking itself creates a new semantic line of depicting the reality and is a kind of narration in itself, a theater and multi-layered scheme of a sometimes absurd nature. The turmoil caused by a gesture of the revolt is a type of catharsis of the creative spirit and present reality. It is also an event that starts a myth to spread ritually in all different directions. The event of the stage forms the topic of the show, which is reworded by subsequent productions and interpretations.
The stage divides the action on stage from other events beyond its borders, it is a space where the attention and sensitivity of the stakeholders meet on the level of a different meaning to daily routines. The talent to imagine falls into a private place for both the author and the audience, while language and gestures and symbols fall into the common features of cultural identity. The polarity of the different ways of perception, however, collides with the accelerating rate of received stimuli of a hardly identifiable quality that is typical for the period after the release of freely available technologies spreading the material, which is losing part of its function as a means in a dramaturgically limited performance. The specificity of the subject is replaced by an ambivalent, open figure, rapidly changing as well as non-binding content of the ongoing conversation. The boundaries between stage and audience mingle with indefinite timing into never ending event.
In these circumstances, the demand for autonomy is a challenging task, as well as the skill to keep focused and a compact constellation of meanings and depiction. The composition of fragments and forms, scenery of day and night, scenes, figures, types of characters. The stage is filled with piles from the depositories props, assemblages, staffage, the thought and may be even unthinkable language games become real, the spirit transforms into a concrete object, the established sign bends. The meaning is taken away, the content is attributed, the grimace and sketches with a serious tone and a sincere consistency are presented. Displayed is what is and has been. The Shooting Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch finds itself in a difficult, yet magical situation, surrounded by the Surrealism and Dada in practice.