01.06.2022 - 30.07.2022
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Curators: Denisa Kujelová and Jiří Ptáček
Opening: 1. 6. 2022, 7 pm
In the exhibition project of the versatile visual artist Petr Nikl, his creative approaches intertwine in a vast imaginative garden - a kind of ecosystem of moving and seemingly static organisms cultivated by the artist, but at the same time partially self-grown, much to his delight.
Petr Nikl is one of the few Czech artists who need little introduction to the cultural public. Almost everyone will remember some of his exhibitions, a painting, drawing or print, an exhibition project he initiated, a music recording, a concert, a theatre play or a performance or, for example, a book for adults and children he wrote and illustrated. However, it is not this multi-faceted and decades-long presence of Petr Nikl in our cultural space that makes him an unmistakeable and a rather unique figure. Indeed, this presence would not be worth talking about and would be just mindless hyperactivity were it not characterized by the imaginative poetics with which the artist draws us into a fascinating space of fantasy and play.
If we were to sum up what Nikl communicates to his viewers and listeners, it would probably be a non-violently subversive impact on the consensus of dignified and pragmatic adulthood which creates a wall of restrictions and a hard-to-fulfil desire to break it, and Nikl's ability to indicate, through the outcomes of his work, a path towards the fuller experiencing of the multi-layered and mysterious nature of existence that spreads underneath the veneer of the mundane and the superficial absorption of reality.
Nikl co-founded his puppet theatre company Mehedaha as early as 1985. At that time, he was a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague where intermedia fusions or performative forms in visual art were not discussed and taught. In accordance with the ideas of the cultural nomenclature of the period about clearly defined fields for the individual artistic disciplines, they were not even considered potentially enriching.However, he soon found kindred spirits among the members of the Tvrdohlaví art group which made its first public appearance in 1987, with understanding not only for artistic activity but also for self-realization in music and theatre. Yet only in Nikl’s case involving the wide spectrum of image, sound, language and body did it become the basis of all creative activities.
Like the performances of Nikl's plays where his visual sensitivity is strongly applied, many of his art projects are determined by the performative and procedural aspects of art. This is by no means limited to paintings which are executed by mechanical machines with the artist's assistance, often in the presence of the audience. This is also true, for example, of his recent works on paper in which he explores new possibilities by dipping rolls of paper in paint in anticipation of (again) only partially predictable results. Randomness and spontaneity help the artist to cross the horizon of his own imagination and provide him with the possibility of wonder at the resulting image. They are not far from Nikl’s drawing method in which his skill taps unconscious sources and the drawing is thus "let" grow out of contents which otherwise remain inaccessible. In them, too, Nikl is merely a participant who does not have a hundred-percent control over what kind of treasure his mind and hands will bring.
The exhibition in the Fait Gallery is rooted in the metaphor of a flower bed. While a garden is associated with a branching cultural symbolism, the flower bed as its sub-component is only a kind of working subject. Under normal circumstances it is cultivated and maintained in a state where it serves well the greater whole or a given purpose which, depending on the intentions of the grower, is either ornamental or utilitarian. A flower bed that is not weeded and consequently wild is a sign of neglect, while care is characterized by a high degree of restriction and control over what can take place in this demarcated area. In contrast, Peter Nikl lets his imaginary flower beds overgrow in anticipation of the unsuspected and surprising. For him, they are not what he carefully prepares and then follows a plan but a combined activity of plants, soil, sunshine, rain, insects, earthworms, moles and other elements that enter into the process. The flower beds - not dissimilar to stretched canvases or sheets of paper because of their limits - are thus filled with actions that we can only partially observe. And anticipate even less.
Thanks to this, they can turn into fascinating revelations which, through their self-organization and somewhat "disorganized organization" take us beyond (or "under") an objective and clear understanding of reality, to its massive organicity and complexity that is never fully graspable. And yet, this "big" takes place in the encounter with something as "small"... as a flower bed, a drawing or a painted image.
Text: Jiří Ptáček
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.