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
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.