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
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.