23.05.2018 - 04.08.2018
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
opening: 23. 5. 2018 at 7 pm
A grid becomes a symbol of organisation in the most general sense of the word, a kind of order of things, and at a symbolic level also a world order.
- Jan Nálevka
The A4 format paper is the most widespread kind of paper in both households and offices. We use it to print ordinary documents, for photocopying, notes and sketches. It is also used for the printing of formal court decisions, meals of the day in cheap restaurants and university theses, as it is the only format with which one can be sure that the diploma work will be bound in covers imitating leather as late as an hour before the deadline. Files for this size are available from any stationery shop, and millions of sheets pile up in millions of metres of office archives. Text editors now offer the digital version of A4… The standardized A4 format is guaranteed by the ISO 216 international standard for paper of the A, B and C categories. The first attempts at standardisation go back to France during the Revolution in the late 18th century. The main advantage of this proportion of sides is the simple division in halves after which the sheets retain the same proportion of sides. The major benefit of the adoption and dissemination of the standard was its compatibility and coordination of the manufacture of a whole spectrum of products. Nowadays, when you ask someone to picture a “common sheet of paper”, they will most probably visualize paper of the A4 format.
When lining A4 sheets, Jan Nálevka adjusts the drawing to the standard. He opts for a neutral handwriting, and steps back as an artist. He uses blue ballpoint pens in order to emphasise office work where the compliance with prescribed administration procedures is essential. Reams of paper covered in lines and square grids are virtually indiscernible from mass-produced prints. And since Nálevka further segments the paper with lines and square grids, while in fact still preparing it for writing and drawing, he can talk about the creation of “standardised blankness”, a blankness achieved through work. Its volume, as well as the time it requires, are not proportionate to the result. However, in their reflection there is always space to realise the absurd nature of this activity. Nálevka’s drawings can thus be considered implicitly critical, yet at a more general level they are abstract visualizations of an order introduced into art, or into a work activity as such. And in its ultimate form, the segmented A4 paper format is a symbolic representative of standards predestining our factual possibilities, shaping our perception and behaviour, and providing a basis for our imagination in the private and social dimension of life.
The And now, finally, let’s finally turn the page exhibition can be understood as a public audit due to which the material that in the previous decade had progressively emerged at preliminary, autonomous and semi-autonomous presentations was gathered in a single place. And although the show exclusively presents drawings from the years 2009—2018, it captures Nálevka’s thinking concerning the external conditions of the organisation of human life. It is divided into three basic sections. The first one observes the subjects of the basic organisation plan and “standardised blankness” as the consequences of the adopted art-work load. In the second section, the issue of the time invested in the drawings, and lost, comes to the fore. Finally, in the last section Nálevka abandons the point of view of an individual and with plans drawn over reproductions of books on modernist art comments on the historical and possible future social orders.
The Islamic State is the most successful terrorist group in human history. They receive global recognition through their smart use of social media, which results in many young people joining ISIS in order to take part in the Jihad. The propaganda videos show very graphically the execution of their prisoners and enemies and shock repeatedly the world. Those professionally well made clips draw especially our attention because of the familiar look we know from Hollywood movies and TV series. It happens vice versa when we try to cope with the shown cruelty: We reference pop culture when we watch those videos. As long as we think these atrocities could be fiction, the whole content remains digestible and can easily be transformed into entertainment. The smallest unit of entertainment is a joke - one central piece in the exhibition “Erase / Rewind“ - found in the commentary section of an ISIS article posted by the avant-garde blog gawker.com.
Gawker.com hosts also an article which became infamous in 2011. Asma al-Assad, the wife of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, was glorified as “A Rose in the Desert“ in a long article originally published by the magazine Vogue, right before the civil war started and the situation for millions of Syrian citizens escalated. Not only the wife as a fashion icon was subject of the article, but also Syria’s exemplary role in the Middle East: The Peacemaker! A couple of weeks later, it was revealed that the article was financed and commissioned by the Assads to promote their country, as well as to distract from their vicious style of government, which lead to the initial protests - as part of the Arab spring - and to the ongoing civil war which still keeps the world in suspense. After the article was pulled from the Vogue’s website, it can only be found in the hard copy of the March Issue of 2011, on gawker.com and the pro-Assad website presidentassad.net: As a masterpiece of propaganda!
The Assads are passionate users of Instagram - another channel for their propaganda. One post shows a picture promoting a flag contest for the Syrian Independence Day in 2014, for which you could submit your self-drawn flag of Syria. The example drawing in the photograph was made by one of the Assads’ children with color pencils. It is striking how the Syrian regime exploits social media (and even their own kids) in a similar smart way like ISIS does. The images are touching in their kindness and appeal successfully to our sentiment. Without saying, the staged photos contradict many facts and the Assads fictionalize successively real life.
In the exhibition “Erase / Rewind“ the artists Christian Weidner and Lukas Kaufmann operate like a watch group: Within the ephemeral world of the internet and media coverage, digital information can be forgotten very quickly and in terms of emotional response, can make us look like fools very easily. The hard copy in the form of painting and object witnesses irrevocably the present time and functions as physical evidence against the lies of any oppressor. By layering the propaganda and anti-propaganda material mentioned above, a new method of infiltration is created. The exhibition “Erase / Rewind“ envisions a future, which mistakes reality for fiction: “This is how you can have peace!” (Bashar al-Assad in “A Rose in the Desert“)