06.10.2021 - 08.01.2022
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Curatorial concept: Boris Ondreička
Exhibition architecture: studeny architekti
Project coordinator: Denisa Kujelová
Opening: 6. 10. 2021, 7 pm
Stanislav (from now on Stano) Filko (1937, Veľká Hradná, Czechoslovakia – 2015, Bratislava, Slovakia) remains undoubtedly one of the most important figures of (Czecho-)Slovak art in all of its history. At the same time he is one of our most internationally active artists – whether by participation in important international exhibitions, or by being included in most relevant collections or respect-worthy critical reflection in media. Filko is an inseparable part of parallel chronologies of global art.
His defining, unique position grew from elements of permanence of the most actual, primal and groundbreaking (time). It is specific in complex ideational and formal levels or dimensions. His submersions into sensitivity / spirituality – in a conflictual relationship with mundane contemporaneity and system-oriented (cosmologically-directed) everything (that) is unique. Hence we can read him also as a nonagressive critique of concretion. Filko’s (truly transgenerational) œuvre is also quantitatively excessive and internally most diverse alongside all its coordinates (x-depth, y-width, z-height).
Filko (by his nature “permanently” and “everything” and “most”) can never cease to “have something to tell”.
Even if REGISTER presents every one of his periods and all of his typical artistic positions, it does not seek to manifest a complete retrospective. Filko’s art is perpetually expansive and scattered. It still needs a much longer-term examination and a final “tidying up” (synthesis). A complete analysis, catalogue raisonné, will be difficult to assemble.
That is not the possibility nor the ambition of this project.
This, perhaps the largest exhibition of Stano Filko’s works to this date, has the ambition of technically sorting and arranging a focused collection (list, register). The extent includes just as the capacity of the Fait Gallery so a number of artworks brought from other sources. Fait Gallery (for example by its height) allows for a presentation of works that have not yet been possible to install. REGISTER for the first time ever exhibits many artworks that have never been made public.
REGISTER wants to be a literal enabling of a didactic entry into the encyclopedia ~ thesaurus of the supply and grammar of this multi-talented artist (listing, registering). It seeks to present logics >> logistics of his thinking, expressive elements and procedures of production and distribution. It assigns the logos (“what”, denominator), grapho, pathos and nomos (“how”, numerator) in its orientation towards the cosmos (“for what purpose”). It shows the amazing variability of Filko’s performance in presently and spatially organized variants of his particular attributes, sortes.
REGISTER wants to help read and (weightfully also) understand these artworks / this work of art. Already their / its viewing requires the activation of a relatively high amount of awareness (contemplation) and a subsequent combinatorics. Filko lectures in „foreign“ languages, the literal translation of which will not help us. It has to be interpretative and allegorical. Interpretationism means that REGISTER can not shed the form of a commentary.
The curator and the architect are here rather registrars (conservators, record keepers) taking care of the order of the matrices (matrix) of Filko’s already proto-archival grids. REGISTER is a phenomenological / typological and also a methodological approach to his thought, work and language. From this language comes also the production of a family of architectonic, furniture, modular elements / sdk system. Podia, tables, vitrines, stands, shelves... are utility platforms of communication. Even if their material, construction and geometry accord/respond both to Filko’s vocabulary as well as to the Fait gallery, they are not commentaries towards the artists’ work or locale. They seek to be only transparency- and overview-making support, basis. The use of reflective plastic wrap is seeking to neutralise the ambient as much as possible, to the place of useful facticity.
REGISTER is processual. It accents the observation and understanding of the evolution of becoming against the result of being. REGISTER can no longer even be an exhibition of Stano Filko. His (to the location specifically reacting) personal / singular installation of works in situ will remain unimitated. It does not seek to play / simulate HIM, his ark. It doesn’t seek to imitate. But it can legitimately (quasi-archivally) speak ABOUT HIM. So that it is not an “exhibition of Stano Filko”, but an “exhibition about Filko”.
REGISTER aims to secure (in the space, architecture of the exhibition) an overview with a through-view. It wants to make available the diversity of the backgrounds not only of his idea, but also the factical reverses of his works (often as important as their front sides). Here it is possible to speak of a non-linear text-time-spatiality, both in the sense of works themselves as in the progress of his laborious self-museologization (or mythologization), as in the layers of the present REGISTER. It is only the self-museologization that Filko devotes himself to after his return home from emigration = since the beginning of the 1990s until his death. His interpretational self-museologization (recultivation via the means of a linguistic turn) is physically image-shattering. It is, in a way, möbiuous. It redraws, drills through, readjusts. It robustly, even brutally enters into its past. Physiognomically, he (harmoniously) accords to his enormous work. His art is mimetic to him (and vice versa). Illusory mimesis is the precursory substance of all art. It re-vitalizes. It re-constitutes. It ignores physis and time against conservation – for improvement. He is exceptionally counter-conservative. He considers everything equivalent, referential and linking. He perceives everything as generic of a multivalent one (where from) to a unique one (where to). He remains therefore permanently young until the last of his days. He creates “third” artworks. REGISTER focuses on the whole = Filko’s everything.
Even for the presence of the “third” artwork, the construction of this, automatically polyphonous and multimedia (polymuse) ambient does not apply chronology and avoids periodisation (even though it does not deny their importance in the possible catalogue raisonné).
On one hand, REGISTER concentrates on formal (object-oriented) numerators. On the other hand, on content-oriented / thematic (subject-oriented) denominators. With him, the subject and object (the variables of morphing states) alternate and interweave. Filko finds corresponding material for his expression – versus – in material he finds the expression of his ideas (or epoch…). The exhibition aims to elucidate also the tensions, energetic or logical synapses (strings) and the omnipresent infrastructure between them. From that follow regularities (wireless and wired) of networkings of organizational, hierarchical (infographic, diagrammatic, organigramic) molecules and structures. It seeks to illuminate by attached (parallel) annotations (thesaurus) and spatially / architectonically. It therefore orders the movement, pathways (or fractals) of visitors’ own readings. In Filko, these linkages are not ordered one-by-one, but as crossing-through (literally) = dia-, meta- and trans- (through), kinetic cobwebs of the object, image and text (additive and comparative meshwork of versions) and ultra- or hyper- (above). At his, the height is a continuation of the depth = one axis. Somehow rotating diagonal (and crossing, crossroad) is in his works marked in this direction (in all directions, as a quasar). Just as Filko connects (by painting, drawing) points (holes) of stars into constellations and repeats them also via explicit or metaphorical names or amends them by dashed graphemes of trajectories. In his take, even the particularities do cluster together fragment-to-fragment. REGISTER therefore assembles a hybrid foundation of components. It grows from the fact that (for example) the blue coordinate on a map simultaneously belongs to the group (dimension of cosmic) blue as to the medium of maps. We can not tear the map apart. The logistics of the arrangement of REGISTER is associative. It is more analytic than synthetic.
REGISTER does not consider Filko complicated and difficult, but as composed and complex in the direction of understanding him in toto.
His essentially created system contains a typologically-oriented (allegoric) sign and object, his color coding (as on, in the object itself, so between juxtaposedly, and becomes an individual artwork in itself) and a kind of masores(notational, interpretative apparatus, also justifiedly autonomous). Filko’s logos and grapho (also pharmakon) name, describe narratively, to come to an acronymical generalization = legislating a suprapersonal sign of validity. From gnosis to dogma. From soul to spirit. His order of the whole (cosmos) resembles periodic tables of elements (thing, name, sign, quantitative expression / number, color, sub-group entry…). This exhibition is an effort to understandably overdub or at least subtitle the individual attributes. REGISTER is a simultaneous (vis-à-vis works of Filko, and with a temporal distance from him physically consecutive) translation of an experimental language of a gematric (and digital) perspective. See the following (in the table of REGISTER the key) chapter – thesaurus (treasury register). Thesaurus has a direct relationship to the didactics of his Transcendental meditation – TEXT ART (paper print, 1980).
Filko draws from a syncresis of mediterranean myth (especially judeo-christian traditionalism with speculations about Slavic paganism…), art history, mas-media reflexion (or mediation) and popular science (especially physics and technology). He is involved in and in an avant-garde way creates a new axonometry of Western (European…) and supra-planetary mysticism – ethos in his seeing. His language is intertwined by individualized versions of archetypal hieroglyphs. For this REGISTER also introduces a number of historical analogies to the possible annales of his thinking and production – on the basis of comparative or metaphorically intuited “something (yet unnamed) and something else (already named)”. References to references.
Flko’s arrangements of principles permanently react to everything actual (overimpulsedness of the heartbeat of the present). He is characterised by an exceptional ability of adaptation or of appropriation of any possible attributes ~ resemblance to itself (some kind of reverse mimesis). Perpetually, he is interested in the correlation between the physical and the metaphysical. On the other hand he concentrates on the relentless material, sourceful (textual...) retrospectiveness of his biography ~ autobiography. His retrospectival reconfiguration denies personal time. Some phases of reconfigurations are dubbed clones in the sense of identi-fiction. According to the clones he heteronymizeshis own ego. He uses his diasphorical self as a mirror of transpositioning (in his sense centre, core) of humanity (including the deep Big-Bang) and in contrast – humanity (and the entire universe) is seen in the concept of “I” or – “I” is donated to humanity. From imagination to the image. That is the mode (or meme) of his specific altruism. At the same time he is looking in front (futuristically) and above (para-theologically and cosmistically) himself. It Is a kind of permanent out-of-body experience or fantasy. And the retroactive redrawing of himself is also defined by a securing of control (reinforcing) of the reading of him (as a totem, for some connoisseurs a cult, even) by others in the future. In a textual ambition for reincarnation, he secures immortality for himself. He leaves behind sufficient coordinates. REGISTER follows (them).
If we speak of a system – his lucid aim is an all-embracing re-normativization with a significant suggestion of extraordinary morality. Re-normativization assumes that it is important to get rid both of sediments (habits, prejudices, doxae) of the previous political reality (learned >> to unlearn). Only in that way we would be able to settle for a (single) true substance, coherence (episteme). So Filko’s work does not accept the difference between the subjective and the objective. Everything is everything in a totalitarian (auto- and cosmocratic) demand (in his faith of truth / truth of faith). Universal truth must traverse the step of the physical state of the universe and socially must shed all moral relativism.
There is probably no place, area or medium (or -ism), with which Stano wouldn’t dedicate himself to. He „painted“ (on) EVERYTHING he had at his disposal.
Filko would like to have the volumes (and scrolls) of his ars magna sorted linearily (as the ladders of Ramon Llulla and Leibniz’s monads and the cabalistic schemes of Isaac Luria or the trees / scales of being of Porphyry of Tyre). But he understood that individual elements (and methods, methodologies) do relate and conjoin, overlap on the basis of gravity, magnetism, sympathies of contents (materials...) and values. He is fully aware that many of the first words are already composed and have multiple meanings. He knows that there are flexible partial affinities, transient states – what the overall character of the (predatory) contemporary art is... His work does (rhizomatically) concern numerous platforms of his genealogical stump at the same time.
He thus creates (for us a multimodal and modular and multimedia) cosmology of alchemy of an internet of everything. Therefore we must visualize and read him hypertextually, metalinguistically, asymmetrically, synchronously with all elements at once. A possible reading of such an amoeba (or liquid crystal) is possible only by a spatial arrangement.
To take Filko (as how still it is moving in cycles) for a conceptualist is wrong. His work is changing since (generationally) legendary 60s and 70s of the 20th century. And as is mentioned – even by manifestly drawn and through other entries into his inside he morphs precisely that inside. We must speak of him as of a continually contemporary art (or Contemporary art). From a certain angle of view (or a bird’s eye view also enabled by the Fait Gallery capacities) it can be taken for a symptomatic nomisma (or token) of the entire post-war art history (including asides into earlier avant-gardes and a recollecting of classical art), integration of all styles and directions (not giving up on the image of an art style). Even in regard of the use of an entire spectrum of media we could consider it responsible, a flowing representative of all medial strategies after the avant-gardes. Afterwards it creates its own termina technicae, -logies and -isms.
The leading perpendicularity of his iconic systems is an expression of a faith in progress (accelerable evolution), ascension. He names it with a series of energetic plexes, nodes, which he calls chakras (points, frames…). He is holistically (Gestalt) identic inside of a body as in the whole personal living, civilizational struggle, in the entire universe. Just as the sephirahs of a cabalistic tree ~ Adam’s body and their hyperobject emanations.
Filko is elevated above the realms of body and matter. His appendices to the ordinary physical reality (including realpolitik and plebean tempos) are hubristic. For him, people are figures in a three-dimensional game. He objectifies. He sees his position in a similar way to a mise-en-scène – however as a screenwriter and scenographer (logos, graphos, pharmakon, tekton, architecton...). But also as director, CEO, architect. For him Being is not LIKE drama, but IS (disco-postmodern) farce, commerz.
He believes in reincarnation (being re-born). Instinctively >> intuitively >> spiritualistically he thinks about reaching something most noble. It elevates him above our strata. Maybe towards something that Judaism calls Ein sof. His whole life he is preparing for ascension (henosis = becoming one) into a limitless, formless (out-of-form) fluid. He plans and realizes a tour through the gold, white towards the transparent, the hole… to a nothing of depersonalization, dematerialization. His categorical contemplation does in many ways resemble also (Valentinian) Gnosticism and carries within pieces of buddhism or nihilism. He is a believer, however it is not possible to note any love towards God expressed or a (“more concrete”) God as such (except for himself, incarnate). His work has rather a different trajectory (similar to the iconoclasm of Judaism or Islam) – people and the world are reduced to geometric schema. Bodies are changed to solids, elements.
REGISTER (except for minimal exceptions) does seek to avoid psychologization and (distances) and disagreements (except for suggested analogies) or opinions. It wants to be as little personal as possible. It wants (by organized exposition of the collections) to analyze, talk about him without slandering. It wants to care about him. But it is necessary to remark that also Filko’s eminent interest in the cosmos (and everything above the scorned, profaned life) is perhaps an expelled, sublimated anxiety of a regime in which he grows up, from which he (for a while) runs away. Perhaps also even from a country which was always a bit too small for him (therefore not for its totalitarian regime). That could be aligned with similarly tuned horizons of thought of his more distant (towards Mlynarčík, Laky, Zavarský) and (it can be said) directly politically-oriented colleagues Július Koller or Rudolf Sikora. He collaborates with them on the manifestos Time I (1973) and II (1974).
REGISTER is therefore also our masores of Filko’s masores of his individual works and his indivisible œuvre. As is stated here numerous times – the artist’s final activities are aimed at re-creation, integration of a single artwork from all of them per se (magnum opus) par excellence. This concerns also his merz-bau atelier-object on Snežienková street in Bratislava and his intended final ark in Veľká Hradná = his birthplace.
Brevity is necessary for the requirement of manageable communicativeness (user-friendliness) of this enormous phenomenological, typological, methodological volume. REGISTER considers the intelligibility of interpretation as key to translation >> understanding of the work of Stano Filko (in the detail, individual artworks and) as a whole. A series of lectures and programme will be the accompaniment of the spatial solution-arrangement.
REGISTER is an expression of absolute respect towards Filko’s demand for “everything” and therefore can not be meant as a completed work. It is one of the phases (maybe) of an infinite relay of research of artworks and works of Stano Filko by many.
Translation: Lukáš Makovický
Project was created with financial support of Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and
Statutory city of Brno.
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Opening: 16 October 2019 at 7pm
Curator: Denisa Kujelová
Exhibition architect: Tomáš Džadoň
The global rise of modern architecture with visionary projects by Richard Buckminster Fuller, Hans Hollein, Roger Anger, Kenzo Tange, Arat Isozaki and others, together with the publishing of Michel Ragon’s revolutionary book from 1963 devoted to the issues of housing and urbanism in more or less distant future, triggered in the 1960s and 1970s a number of neo-avant-garde responses among further architects, as well as artists. Within the period contextualization, those worthy of note include Ron Herron’s Walking City, Instant City and other designs by the British Archigram studio, New Babylon by Constant Niewenhuys, Spatial City by Yona Friedman, designs by the American Ant Farm group, sea abodes by Japanese Metabolists and the work of the proto-accelerationist Italian collectives Superstudio and Archizoom.
Michel Ragon’s book Où vivrons-nous demain? (Where Will We Live Tomorrow?) was published in Czech in 1967 and came out in instalments in the Výtvarná práce bi-weekly. It summed up the ideas and projects of international architects and urbanists in step with the era of intergalactic flights, anticipating changes in technology and society. Ragon explores in the book new forms of the cities of the future and their possible forms, including futuristic funnel-shaped cities, metabolic and underground cities. He also devotes considerable attention to individual houses, for example, in the form of statues, mobile constructions and future buildings on the Moon. The area of fictional utopian cityscapes without clear territory as envisaged by Thomas More, Tommaso Campanella and Francis Bacon became for many Czechoslovak authors the outlet for frustration over their hopeless situation in the totalitarian regime.
Karel Malich’s utopian architectural projects are the results of his long-term fascination with ideas of space and its potential for the needs of mankind in the future. The artist systematically recorded these visions from the 1960s in the form of preparatory drawings, studies and provisional models. However, only a fragment was executed in the third dimension, due to the limited material possibilities and unfeasible technical requirements.
The artist’s reflections on space were anticipated by landscapes from 1963 in which the motif of an acronex circle rose from a low tempera relief. The landscape subject was developed in early reliefs which show the undulation of surface and segmentation resembling fields, and are viewed as original images of terrain seen from above. The artist increased the plasticity enabled by new materials in further monochromatic reliefs in which he developed the motif into a circle activated into an ellipse and individual dynamizing elements, most often rods and tubes. The interest in relief in the context of the 1960s can be explained by the general trend of special attention paid to relief which progressively grew independent of architecture and sculpture. In regard to Malich’s relief monochromes we should mention other international artists of the period such as Pier Manzoni, Oskar Holweck, Günter Uecker, Yves Klein, Pol Bury, Herman de Vriese, Jan Schoonhoven and Sergio de Camarga.
In parallel with reliefs, the artist started to address in 1967 the subject of corridors in which he continued investigating the possibilities of representing spatial intersections, passages and planes for the movement of energies. The corridors in which the artist first primarily dealt with the problem of overpressure, were for him materialized zones of intersecting paths and flows of energy. These objects are characterized by the polarity of pure, calm planes and dynamic metal elements intersecting them or partially passing through cuts in them. The gradual restraining of the dynamics of the incisions resulted in 1970 in absolute reduction and monochrome areas. At the same time, the artist developed his fascination with space from 1967 also in structures referring to architecture and urbanist projects of utopian visions in which spatial simulations of the flows of energy took place.
Karel Malich continuously recorded the monoliths of elementary forms with unusual and varied shape combinations in the form of sketches approximately from 1964 onwards, yet only a small proportion was realized. Nonetheless, what survives is a large number of designs in several dozen sketchbooks and 3D models made of paper, cardboard and wood, showcased here in this extent for the very first time. Some of these visionary drawings and models were reproduced as early as 1969 in an extensive study by Jiří Padrta entitled To work in accord with the universe and the elements in the Výtvarné umění journal. In this article, unusually long for its time and including an interview with the artist, Padrta emphasized, among other things, that many of Malich’s plastic-spatial constructions were directly intended for the context of internal space without the traditional exhibition approach, i.e. were intended neither for the wall nor for the floor or pedestal but for an open, weightless space. “Others count with the interplay of winds, water and with changes in thermic relations. And yet others count with much larger scales, as well as with matters and materials different from those that can be utilized now in terms of technology and material.” Unfortunately, an ideal exhibition design as proposed by Padrta would be impossible to execute even today.
Karel Malich came closer to his objective of weightlessness and dematerialization of objects through the use of copper wire depicting the flow of energy in linear outlines; it also gave him the opportunity to test the possibilities of the transparent material of pure or colour plexiglass in the first year of the Artchema symposium in Pardubice in 1968. The artist employed this new material in the series called Broken Blocks and Boxes, where plexiglass perfectly blending with the surrounding space replaced non-transparent plywood and metal. Both these materials were used in some of the artist’s models of utopian architectures displayed here.
As has been noted in the broader historical context by Jiří Padrta and later by Jiří Ševčík, Karel Malich’s work shows numerous parallels with Russian constructivists. “Like some of the pioneers of the constructivist idea fifty years ago, namely Tatlin, Gabo and Pevsner, he understood at the onset of his work in the early 1960s that space was, in the words of Gabo’s and Pevsner’s Realistic Manifesto, one of the objective forms which underpin life itself, and on which art must be based as well. It needs to be said, however, that Malich always rejected the proposed affinity with neo-constructivism as he did not feel himself part of this (or any other) movement and his art had completely different points of departure. Yet Malich shared with the 1920s avant-garde the vision in the designs of ideal plans of the future environment addressing people’s alienation from nature and the universe, and the idea of this new dynamic model of mankind, the world and the universe brought him close to Kazimir Malevich.
Malich’s architectural designs have a character of urbanist projects for future, more human societies. In the studies of constructions he incorporated the finding that the stereometric shape was not impenetrable but hollow under its surface, and that this passive block could be activated by a narrow crack, thus linking it to the surrounding space. Based on the needs of new structures, the artist gradually abandoned rectangular shapes, and from circles and ovals employed chiefly in reliefs, he moved to ovoids (by transformation to 3D form) and spirals (by extending into space) as his main motifs in the second half of the 1960s. Spiral also appears in the model of architecture syntheticizing on a circular base several shapes of different materials, one of which is an oval surface of plexiglass underneath which is a spiral-shaped undersea corridor linking copper satellites of different shapes. This morphology, together with the pellucid and transparent materials, gave rise to utopian projects of cities under the sea and rivers, under the ground, thermic architectures, cities for states without the existence of the police, cities on other planets‚ tidal cities, cities in deserts, and the like. Malich’s interest in architecture was triggered by his journey to the USA, and especially his visit to New York in 1967 and its right-angled network of streets in which in his opinion sound traces were confined and amplified. He mentioned the hypothetical realization of some of his studies, provided the flourishing of science and technology continued, in an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist in 2003. Malich’s proto-images of future environments were thus born out of the combination of abstract forms and existential contents, in complete harmony with natural elements.
The importance which Malich attributes to his architectural projects is illustrated by his comment: “Architecture is the final issue that interests me and which I’d like to have a go at. The approach chosen by many sculptors, the sculptors of dwellings, may not be interesting. Architecture of this kind has existed for a long time. It is strange nostalgia for life in the times long gone.”
Although Malich’s architectural work is cited alongside Yona Friedman, Walter Jonas and Paul Maymont, Malich’s sketches and notes were probably closest to the French architect Robert Le Ricolais whose reflections appeared in Michel Ragon’s book: “And as it will be necessary to coin a new word for the urbanized landscapes arising out of the disintegration of old cities, because those will no longer be cities, or perhaps cities — galaxies (is a scattered planet still a planet?), so it will be necessary to find new names for future constructions, as the word house sounds really anachronistic.”
The ideas of utopian urbanism of future states and cities, as well as small-scale plans and buildings, were preceded, with Malich and further artists represented at the exhibition, Milan Knížák, Václav Cigler, Alex Mlynárčik and the VAL studio, Július Koller, Dalibor Chatrný, Stano Filko and Jozef Jankovič, not only by the rejection of the concept of the existing constructions and cities but, in particular, by radical criticism of the unfree society and the newly introduced ecological topics. The unprecedented progress of cosmic research advanced the visions of futurological worlds as well, including a strong emphasis on their social and environmental aspect.