24.05.2023 - 29.07.2023
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Curator: Pavlína Morganová
Opening: 24th May, 7 pm
We have worked since 2019 under the unconductive trash label, which is an anagram of our home towns - Duchcov (Michal Pěchouček) and Traunstein (Rudi Koval). This fatalism-tinged pun metaphorically expresses the internal aspects of the joint working method. Trash accumulates during every creative process and production. Trash is an important and familiar concept from the landscape of cultural values. The The retardation property of the unconductive rules out the regulation of trash and the control of the direction of creative energy. The brand is therefore our distilled manifesto - in art, we do not consider it important to finish things. What matters is the beginning of creative activity, not its completed result. The purpose of our collaboration is to remove the layers of the past and discover a new artistic identity.
The starting point of our artistic interaction is the easel painting - it proved to be a suitable and accessible means in a joint search for a new linguistic and content identity. At the core of our collaboration is the desire to shed the layers of our own past, i.e. to learn to forget our original artistic handwritings. We explore a new painterly handwriting through different materials and methods, including the space and time dimensions of art. In a pair, it is possible to discover new subjects for artistic retelling and new ordinariness. We experiment with artistic means while trying to "moderate" the intensity and interconnectedness of joint everyday activities. We include in art not only common knowledge but also ordinary experiences, situations that can be planned and experienced together. We focus on one-day and long-term challenges. We try to employ this experience of subtle everyday reality in robust wholes such as exhibitions.
The title of the current exhibition LARGELY OBSERVED is inspired by one of the terms of the European macroseismic earthquake scale. It identifies a degree of critical condition that is widely observed, but need not be taken fatally - for us it is a possible expression of the quality of the viewer's experience, the power of the inner experience of an artwork. The exhibition opens with our first collaborative works, burning daylight (2020), and continues with unconductive chronology (2023), a series of forty-eight paintings sewn together. At the centre are two extensive cycles of paintings, gold tint (2022) and virgin blue (2023), inspired by research into visual evidence of suppressed stories of the past. We have conceived the exhibition as a dialogue between two worlds: past and present, big and small. Through monochromatic work with colour and figurative detail, we attempt to tell real stories of the 20th century that resonate with our everyday lives today.
virgin blue (2023)
This installation of paintings and a monumental work close to architecture, design and large-scale relief painting is inspired by period photographs of one of England's first women football teams, Dick, Kerr Ladies F.C., which was formed during the First World War. Despite achieving considerable popularity and sporting success, the team faced strong opposition from the Football Association which banned women from playing on their pitches and stadiums for fifty years. The reason for the ban was to "protect" women who, according to the association, were not physically capable of playing football. The series of paintings thus refers not only to the pitfalls of women's emancipation but also to the period of the world wars, marked by many structural social changes.
burning daylight (2020)
The first works of unconductive trash were created as an experiment - the artists jointly modified paintings created by Rudi Koval in 2017. The burning daylight series thus captures the moment of the encounter of two artistic personalities and their incompatible handwritings. A dialogue between abstraction and figuration, the painterly approached surface and the drawing of a sewing machine, the removal of a canvas and its stretching onto a different format, the elimination of what already existed as well as the clarification of work with paint were all part of a search for new procedures and subjects.
unconductive chronology (2023)
The continuous series of forty-eight paintings is conceived as a monumental element in space and as a sequence of film frames for a motion picture. The individual canvases show an intervention that shrinks their surface through repeated stitching, thus creating volume. The fabric creases irreversibly even after stretching on a wooden frame. Unconductive trash works on two sewing machines simultaneously, with minimum checking of the result and according to specified conditions that are repeated. In doing so, they capture a personal unity in something that is both work and idleness, that is both festive and ordinary.
unconductive loop (2023)
The subject of this interactive installation is the mechanics of the sewing machine, its magical sound and its unsurpassed contribution to human civilization. It is the stepping mechanism of the machine that made the movement of the film strip in the camera possible. The driving force behind this work is the observing audience - without their presence the work wouldn’t exist.
gold tint (2022)
The gold tint cycle of paintings is loosely inspired by documentary photographs of everyday life of soldiers during the Second World War. For example, a series of reportage photographs taken in 1940 by John Topham while working in the RAF intelligence shows a home guard unit in Gravesend, England rehearsing an entertaining Christmas show - the soldiers performed in female roles and clothes. The rehearsal was interrupted by an alarm and everyone had to move to a defensive position, there was no time to unmask and change into uniforms. The whole story, including the rehearsal, is documented in several telling snapshots. They capture the desire of the British soldiers to forget the reality of war for a while, to have fun and to make present the missing female element - to let the yearning for it sublimate. The images were censored for a long time by the British Ministry of Information to prevent them from being exploited by the enemy as they placed the soldier-hero in a completely new situation.
Gender parody and cross-dressing common in the theatre are not unique in the military, either as evidenced, for example, in the book Soldier Studies (Martin Dammann, ed., Soldier Studies. Cross-Dressing in der Wehrmacht, Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2019), with amateur photographs showing scenes featuring German soldiers dressed up as women - scenes that were in direct contradiction to Nazi ideology.
The scenes in the pictures captured through specific gestures and situations symbolically touch upon many aspects of today's discussion on gender stereotypes, human desires and various forms of identities. The artists want to emphasise, among other things, that men are capable of absolute empathy and that femininity is inherent to them. The search for normality and everyday ordinariness is natural for human beings, even in the chaos of war.
macroseismic scale, 2022
A figurative transcription of the European macroseismic scale which, unlike the older Richter scale, takes into account the intensity of human perception depending on physical changes. For example, the degree of largely observed defines the critical condition that is largely observed inside buildings. At this level, no one can pretend not to notice anything. Earthquakes inside buildings are felt by many, but only rarely outside.
you have no power over me, 2023
The textual intervention in the gallery window involves the line used to break the curse at the end of the fantasy film Labyrinth (directed by Jim Henson, 1986). Here, it is intended as a possible analogy to the figures of soldiers, or rather, to their experience of chaos and their desire to get out of it.
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Opening: 17. 10. 2018 at 19:00
Curator: Miroslav Ambroz
To see nothing
For Vladimír Kokolia painting is an opportunity to reach things that one wouldn’t be able to get at well enough in any other way. Kokolia is the type of painter who wants to really see his subject.
It might seem that Kokolia wants to be considered primarily as an impressionist, in the original derogatory sense of the term. He deliberately aims for the impossible: to be, as was quipped about Monet, “only an eye”. He does not, however, believe in a prepared innocent gaze — that would be a great affectation — but relies on an acceptance of the full torrent of visual sensations, or direct visual waste, when one doesn’t have the tools (and perhaps not even a reason) to distinguish illusion from the “overwhelming disorder of the real world”. He quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to this kind of view of the ordinary world is the knowledge about seen things that one carries in one’s head. Even the names of things are disruptive for the naked eye. Kokolia declares that information inhibits the image.
Seeing the seeing
Nonetheless, a painter wants to “see this seeing”. When seeing, how does a person notice that they are looking? According to Kokolia, this can happen only when we sacrifice meaning and simply let our view float. “I have the distinct impression that precisely such blank looking is the default setting of our vision. It is the most fundamental state, the ‘container’, the womb, the landscape, the pilot frequency, the Tao of seeing, only on account of which individual forms arise”, adds Kokolia. He believes that a lack of information brings astonishment. Truly, a lack of information? We know, after all, how James Joyce’s characters marvel at a sudden recognition of very fragile and evanescent moments, when a character experiences a sudden revelation about the “whatness” of a thing.
Similarly, for the nameless heroes in the hundreds of drawings from Kokolia’s Big Cycle, the inescapable mechanism of their actions is suddenly revealed to them at a single moment. Here, the vehicle of wonderment is an unexpected recognition of meaning. However, wonderment that is purely visual in origin is, in contrast to narrative epiphany, lacking in substance. The one who is experiencing wonderment just stares and does not actually know anything. Here, the intensity of not knowing shows the depth of wonder. It is as if the one in wonderment sees only one thing, so emptied that it can be considered null. For Kokolia, an example of such views momentarily without content are the squares and rectangles in Mondrian’s paintings. Here, they also have roots in Kokolia’s individualistic theory about cubism and in his thinking about the picture plane and “paintings within a painting”. For Kokolia, the view gradually became an independent entity in which it is possible to study only the visible content and to eliminate for the given moment both the observer and the observed thing.
Why would the one in wonderment even paint at all? Isn’t it enough just to have the experience? A painter’s embodiment of what is seen is a passage from one world to another, and what was true in one world is not necessarily true in the other one. It is a completely new situation that presumes “the picture has the logical form of representation in common with what it pictures”.  A painting may be able to adapt to the form of depiction, but it also has its own special demands as a physical object covered with paint as well as an object with the aim of controlling how the viewer will see it. It must remain adequate, even if it has done away with the function of depiction. The same brushstroke is both a physical trace and also creates the ideal of an image that arises only with the viewer’s gaze.
Kokolia describes the realisation he had in the Hermitage Museum in 1980 while standing before one of Matisse’s paintings: “... something tells me that this is the genuine space, not the three dimensions out there; at the same time, it really and truly is on the surface, literally just oil paints on a canvas. I am looking directly at the union of the greatest abstraction and the greatest materiality…” For Kokolia, the idea of transferring images across different worlds might have its origin in printmaking. He has dedicated himself to this medium for almost as long as he has to painting (originally to be able to disseminate his drawings under the previous regime, when copy machines were under supervision). Since 1992 he has led the Studio of Experimental Graphics at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts. The themes of a matrix, an imprint and a reversal of the image appear repeatedly in his written musings. He similarly incorporates his experience with Tai Chi in his painting. Both of his Chinese teachers, Gene Chen and Zhu Jiancai, taught Tai Chi to him in a completely matter-of-fact manner, without a pseudo-spiritual overlay, and Kokolia likewise leads his brushstrokes with a consideration for the precise transfer of strength.
The concentration on direct, unprejudiced seeing and effort to see seeing was followed by the materialization of seeing in an artefact. Apart from this, Kokolia certainly does not underestimate the special moment when a viewer turns up in front of a picture. This is confirmed by the fact that at his exhibitions he examines in detail the distance between the viewer and the picture, their movement around it, viewing angles and orientation of the view, as well as the time spent before the picture.
For the sake of interaction, Kokolia occasionally resorts to popular or “discredited” forms. He styled one of his shows as a commercial sale in the course of which he lived, cooked and worked in the gallery. Another time he displayed “healing pictures” to which visitors were to “expose themselves”.
These and other strategies sought to provide viewers with sufficient time in front of pictures. Kokolia believes that the spent time itself causes that the mode of perception switches from a simple registration of visual information to abidance in a field of vision. The viewer, at least for a while, does not perceive a picture as a separate object, and the distance in the field of vision disappears. This situation can be generated, for example, by the induction of afterimages on the retina or by a view into the visual space of autostereoscopic pictures, as manifested by some of Kokolia’s exhibitions.
In interviews and texts, Kokolia speaks ironically about such common and seemingly problem-free terms as “communication”, “opinion” and “expression”. And he doesn’t even have the word “art” in his lexicon. So, if he isn’t just taking a position, what would he offer instead? I suspect that Kokolia has own sect (of which he is the only member) that believes in the “image-in-itself”. Meaning that images exist, even if they are independent of observation. Even if nobody has seen them yet. Perhaps it is this belief that helps him not to be perilously captive to changes in the contemporary context.