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.
Fait Gallery MEM
Božetěchova Street 1 (entrance from Metodějova Street), Brno
21/9 – 27/10/2012
Opening: 20/9/2012 at 7pm
Curator: Petr Vaňous
Richard Stipl’s work is primarily fulfilling of critical relationship to the genre and what it represents. Genres are not viewed from a distance, with no contact, from a safe distance, but to the contrary. The author himself puts on a mask of a genre to be able to play on of the selected roles. The important thing is to get inside the problem, to places where the first moments of narration occur, the first words of narration, to places where the dead matter changes in subjects and bodies, where it can communicate something.
History of art studied the human body literally from all sides. What else is left to exploit from it today? Probably the same thing, but in a different way. It will not be the cult of physicality, titanic strength and health anymore. It will not even be erotic attraction or metaphor of divinity, the healthy spirit in a healthy body. This version is heretically rejected by Stipl and exacerbates physicality in a different direction, toward repulsion. He explores the expressive range of the face. Anywhere from resting state to states of exaltation and aggression. Gesture deforms. It changes the composition of matter, shortens or lengthens physiognomy, caricatures all seriousness, transforming the face into grimace. There is something very conniving here. Transformation of a human into some kind of a puppet, in a silent actor, in a sad clown or a circus clown. The sadness is multiplied when the composition of bold human dummies executes an ugly ritual. When the limbs are being shortened, the viscera are being exposed and there is blood everywhere. Nudity is not attractive. In the case of Richard Stipl, it is scary. The parody of the genre in put into details, not only in gestures. Head devoid of hair and eyebrows has elongated hybrid eyelashes, sometimes even braided into dreadlocks (Stigma). Elsewhere, the author does not hesitate to separate the head and arms and make them into independent totem-like elements (Ruce), or to place on the head of a statue real denture. Naturalism of most statues stems from used materials: wax and surface polychrome. The author seeks by all means to ensure that the statue does not serve the myth. The more it is obvious the evocation of the fact that it’s impossible to escape from the myth and that we still remain its hostages. Its persistent echoes are seeping through everywhere. It only reveals its reverse, dark side. The mere gesture of closed eyes remains forever full of mysteries and secrets.
If this exhibition is called Pocit konce / Sense of an End, then let’s imagine this “end” more like a repetitive and never-ending Promethean ritual. Recurrent pain, followed by recurrent relief. The desire for definitive death that will never be fulfilled. Genre is breaking down on metaphor. The metaphor is not the death of the genre, even if we wished it thousand times. It is impossible to start again from zero.