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 & Fait Gallery MEM
Božetěchova Street 1 (entrance from Metodějova Street), Brno
28/9 – 14/11/2013
Opening: 26/9/2013 at 7pm
Curator: Denisa Kujelová
In his conceptual work Marek Meduna demonstrates ambiguity in the norms of human perception and the apparent definitions are deliberately disturbed by the linking of, or even the blurring of the border between language and image. The viewer, similarly to the model of medieval art, i.e. the production and subsequent perception, becomes a reader. A semantic game in the relation between text and pictorial motif, illustrating and illustrated, is further supported in the reading of the artwork by questioning the conventions of installing, various combinations and the accumulation of metaphors, symbols and attributes. As clues for the reader, except for the artworks themselves (they often contain text boxes as well), there are the descriptive labels, that are often changed into artistic video installations, which are works of art in themselves, and of course there are the titles of the exhibits. The interpretation of mutual connections and parallels intended by the author ultimately lead to their decoding. The overall impression of the carefully thought-out design is actually helped by intuitive arrangement and a chain of set out principles and themes.
The author's statement is intentionally directed semantically only in part. His resignation to a full understanding of the artist's intent, supported by multiple meanings of the particular artifacts used in the installation and hidden associations and connections, allows the reader complete interpretive freedom. In this challenging narrative Meduna only sketchily applied the main theme of the exhibition (which is an offence) in different paradigms, and presents a possible line of a detective story, which should, however, as well as it's reality, principle and form remain unreadable. Therefore the construction of the story is intentionally fragmented, the characters of the detective, the victim and the offender are interchangeable and the symbolism of variations and suggested motives and attributes of the characters unclear. By breaking down the canvases into horizontal, vertical and diagonal patterns and spreading most of the drawings into bands he additionally creates an impression of a celluloid movie, which has resulted (as well as a partial absence of perspectives) into impeaching of the reality of the offered event and also the possibility of distance and detachment. Any evocation of cinematic sequences is enhanced by close-ups of objects functioning as possible signs to reveal the core of the story and by repeating motifs of the used symbolism in the consequential reading of the drawings and their possible order. Iconographic patterns of crime are derived from the author's subconscious and are shown also in the form of details and the locations of particular objects in a site-specific installation, where there are repeated the symbols of traps, baits, lures, slings and boobytraps along with motifs of investigation, searching, tracking and wandering in different plans.
In the second room we move from the detective plots of the fragmentary presented story and drawings with encrypted personal messages into general levels of ethical and philosophical categories. Through the demonstration of concepts of balance, causality, fatality, and categorization as well as others, the author encodes via acrostic the word Europe and clearly refers to Aristotle and Immanuel Kant, and their theories of causation. It is clear that the work of Marek Meduna is based on the specific humor coming from a semiotic play with meanings and through this exhibition the audience will be intentionaly caught in the schemes of their own imagination.