01.06.2022 - 30.07.2022
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Curators: Denisa Kujelová and Jiří Ptáček
Opening: 1. 6. 2022, 7 pm
In the exhibition project of the versatile visual artist Petr Nikl, his creative approaches intertwine in a vast imaginative garden - a kind of ecosystem of moving and seemingly static organisms cultivated by the artist, but at the same time partially self-grown, much to his delight.
Petr Nikl is one of the few Czech artists who need little introduction to the cultural public. Almost everyone will remember some of his exhibitions, a painting, drawing or print, an exhibition project he initiated, a music recording, a concert, a theatre play or a performance or, for example, a book for adults and children he wrote and illustrated. However, it is not this multi-faceted and decades-long presence of Petr Nikl in our cultural space that makes him an unmistakeable and a rather unique figure. Indeed, this presence would not be worth talking about and would be just mindless hyperactivity were it not characterized by the imaginative poetics with which the artist draws us into a fascinating space of fantasy and play.
If we were to sum up what Nikl communicates to his viewers and listeners, it would probably be a non-violently subversive impact on the consensus of dignified and pragmatic adulthood which creates a wall of restrictions and a hard-to-fulfil desire to break it, and Nikl's ability to indicate, through the outcomes of his work, a path towards the fuller experiencing of the multi-layered and mysterious nature of existence that spreads underneath the veneer of the mundane and the superficial absorption of reality.
Nikl co-founded his puppet theatre company Mehedaha as early as 1985. At that time, he was a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague where intermedia fusions or performative forms in visual art were not discussed and taught. In accordance with the ideas of the cultural nomenclature of the period about clearly defined fields for the individual artistic disciplines, they were not even considered potentially enriching.However, he soon found kindred spirits among the members of the Tvrdohlaví art group which made its first public appearance in 1987, with understanding not only for artistic activity but also for self-realization in music and theatre. Yet only in Nikl’s case involving the wide spectrum of image, sound, language and body did it become the basis of all creative activities.
Like the performances of Nikl's plays where his visual sensitivity is strongly applied, many of his art projects are determined by the performative and procedural aspects of art. This is by no means limited to paintings which are executed by mechanical machines with the artist's assistance, often in the presence of the audience. This is also true, for example, of his recent works on paper in which he explores new possibilities by dipping rolls of paper in paint in anticipation of (again) only partially predictable results. Randomness and spontaneity help the artist to cross the horizon of his own imagination and provide him with the possibility of wonder at the resulting image. They are not far from Nikl’s drawing method in which his skill taps unconscious sources and the drawing is thus "let" grow out of contents which otherwise remain inaccessible. In them, too, Nikl is merely a participant who does not have a hundred-percent control over what kind of treasure his mind and hands will bring.
The exhibition in the Fait Gallery is rooted in the metaphor of a flower bed. While a garden is associated with a branching cultural symbolism, the flower bed as its sub-component is only a kind of working subject. Under normal circumstances it is cultivated and maintained in a state where it serves well the greater whole or a given purpose which, depending on the intentions of the grower, is either ornamental or utilitarian. A flower bed that is not weeded and consequently wild is a sign of neglect, while care is characterized by a high degree of restriction and control over what can take place in this demarcated area. In contrast, Peter Nikl lets his imaginary flower beds overgrow in anticipation of the unsuspected and surprising. For him, they are not what he carefully prepares and then follows a plan but a combined activity of plants, soil, sunshine, rain, insects, earthworms, moles and other elements that enter into the process. The flower beds - not dissimilar to stretched canvases or sheets of paper because of their limits - are thus filled with actions that we can only partially observe. And anticipate even less.
Thanks to this, they can turn into fascinating revelations which, through their self-organization and somewhat "disorganized organization" take us beyond (or "under") an objective and clear understanding of reality, to its massive organicity and complexity that is never fully graspable. And yet, this "big" takes place in the encounter with something as "small"... as a flower bed, a drawing or a painted image.
Text: Jiří Ptáček
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“)