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.
A French mathematician, Bernard Morin is blind since childhood. Yet he has excelled in the so-called mathematical topology, a discipline that does not work only with numbers, but also with three-dimensional models. The subject of his long term work have become joint deformations, turning the models of spheres into complex and difficult to imagine shapes. The ability to recall an object or a form we usually associate with our ability to see. It does not matter if what we perceive is in front of us, or in our imagination, it is still a visual activity. In human biology the retina is linked to the brain by such a dense network of connections that a healthy individual can hardly imagine any other way to perceive the world. But Morin, when making his self-produced clay models, did not use only mathematical speculation, but an important – his imagination. The ability to “see” in his case gained another meaning. The absence of visual sensations of the outside world obviously did not prevent, and maybe on the other side strengthened, his inner vision. A door to a concentrated contemplation about form through touch had opened for him. What is for a sculptor a technique in daily practice, meaning dealing with the shape of a tactile activity, changed into an autonomous system in the work of a mathematician.
In the videos presented at the exhibition in the Fait Gallery David Böhm and Jiří Franta reflect just this situation where imagination is not associated with the experience of visual perception of an external reality. What can a blind man, who has never been able to see, dream of? Sure, it could be more a question for the cognitive sciences, however, here it is the questioning itself that is more important, it opens an interesting creative space for the authors. Both authors are already known for how, within their creative cooperation, they often, with a humorous playfulness, deal with the actual creative act as well as many obstructions. As the creative process is getting intentionally more and more complicated, it becomes an art piece itself. At this exhibition the moment of being different and obstacles, that move the normal functioning of man in this world, become directly a topic, to which both authors also relate their other presented work. The imagination of a blind man is just as impenetrable for us as the strangeness of faces of soldiers from the First World War, reconstructed during the first attempts at plastic surgery. The feeling of distance is associated with a grotesque and fascinating strangeness. The use of these sources of inspiration, is not merely a circus attraction in this case, but it actually points to the unexpectedly beneficial side of strangeness, revealing much more diverse parts of humanity and its quality in comparison to how it is being defined by the commonly occurring norm.