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: 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.