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, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
opening: 23. 5. 2018 at 7 pm
curator: Denisa Kujelová
Markéta Othová is a visual artist transgressing the clear definitions of photography, her most frequent medium. Her work defies conventional photographic procedures which the artist deliberately opposes, also in the case of this show. Here, Markéta accentuates the seeming banality of the documented, completely ordinary things with the use of the non-photographic record characteristic of digital archiving and with the choice of an ephemeral material for her typical enlargements. Large formats are in stark contrast with the intimacy of the chosen subject. Through the use of billboard paper and a scanner, the artist again intentionally defies photography in the true sense of the word, wiping out the borders between photographic and graphic art.
Examining the potential of a visual communication reflecting, in particular, the subjects of reality, time and memory which she addresses continuously, Markéta Othová employs her own means of expression which are also, to some extent, facilitated by her freedom as a self-taught photographer; in addition, this position makes the appropriation of the alternative possibilities of records easier for her. In this somewhat depersonalised manner she processes personal things from her private archive, subordinating them to the A4 format on the 1:1 scale. The colour digital record subsequently became for her part of a natural transition to colour photography.
While in her previous works the artist had often taken photographs intuitively, without a pre-set frame, and the meaning of the photos was only defined by the composition of the whole, the series of small scanned objects was preceded by a clear concept. In 2004 Markéta Othová systematically recorded her favourite things such as boxes containing photographs, fabrics, printed matter and patterns on paper, as well as various diaries including this series. She continued with their active use and the following collecting, and another scanning process took place in 2005-2017, within the preparation of this exhibition project, and in order to complete it, again in 2018. The result was literally the archiving on an archive. The missing 1992 diary does not render the work deliberately incomprehensible, which was often the case with the sequence of the individual shots with her previous pieces, neither is the year attributed a different meaning.
Due to its character and a clear regressive time definition, the exhibition is partially a retrospective. The storing of a dictionary entry is definitely a look back, yet at the same time it concisely and with a time gap presents past events and realities. However, these are hidden and only sensed underneath the white-printed signs of the years when they happened. And although the meaning of the artist’s personal retrospective is not transferrable, the succession of four-digit numbers indicates the validity of associations as the given data also obviously relates to all of us. Presumably, everybody has their own or mediated experience with the use of diaries, and through the general effectiveness and topicality of this object can be steered towards collective memory and an unexpectedly intimate self-reflection.