Jindřich Chalupecký Society and Kunstvereniging Diepenheim (The Netherlands) proudly present the group exhibition (Dis)connection, with installations, sculptures and video works by eleven international artists. The exhibition brings together various artistic positions that are connected by a shared concern: how can we live together in today’s uncertain times?

The question echoes a larger field of social, political and economic issues. It suggests possibilities for rethinking the ways in which we organize ourselves – both personally and collectively. In the midst of a global environmental, humanitarian and political crisis, we have to ask ourselves what we can do to avert catastrophic scenarios. What knowledge can we resort to and which assumptions and values ​​should we let go of? By disconnecting from modern concepts, such as the idea of ​​progress, the participating artists offer space for new imaginative narratives and visions. The most diverse artistic resources are covered: from fictional documentaries and system installations to works that offer reconsideration of the concept ​​of 'time'. In a critical and intuitive way, alternative approaches of creating connections emerge. (Dis)connection invites the audience to explore these different perspectives and to collectively visualize unorthodox storylines for possible futures.

(Dis)connection is a beginning of a long-term collaborative research, exhibition and discursive project entitled Islands, initiated by the Jindřich Chalupecký Society and realized in collaboration with diverse international partner organizations and personalities. The notion of an abandoned island serves as an imaginary platform for projecting both utopian and dystopian visions and scenarios for the future pictured by “escapists” from contemporary global crises. The island here needn’t be a physical (lost) paradise, and doesn’t even have to be far ashore. It is rather a metaphor for our exploration of the joint agendas and disparities of past, present and imagined communities, communal practices and forms of “togetherness” which might inspire actual action plans and alternative forms of sustainable collaboration and coexistence.

The project begins in Kunstvereniging Diepenheim in order to highlight the specifics of this venue and similar arts organizations around the world – the kunstverein itself is an “island” of critical reflection and thought-provokingprogramming, situated in a rural environment remote from any larger cities, yet connected through the ideas and creative processes it shares with wide international (artistic) communities.

Exhibited artists and works

“When we have our own sea, we will finally be happy.” This was part of the reasoning behind the vision of Czech professor of economy Karel Žlábek, who in 1975 designed a tunnel connecting what was then Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The idea embodies a symbolical escape to freedom from a totalitarian regime as well as the communist utopian and megalomaniac longing for man-driven restoration of both natural and political orders. Based on this story, artist Adéla Babanová created a fictitious documentary, envisioning the sur-reality of the thus formed artificial island called Adriaport. The new holiday spot, only two hours away from the initially landlocked country, became a projection plane for unrealized dreams and hopes.  

Adéla Babanová’s (1980, CZ) films, videos, audiovisual installations and radio plays deal with the politics of the moving image, often manipulating historical or archival materials into fictional and critical narratives. Her work has been exhibited widely in the Czech Republic and internationally, for instance at the City Gallery Prague (2014), Tranzitdisplay, Prague (2014), Kunstmuseum Bonn (2014) and Screen for Loop festival, Barcelona (2013).

The spatial installation of Sybren de Boer can be read as a three-dimensional drawing of objects. Upon closer inspection, you might recognize materials from everyday life – neon light, parts of tiles or an ordinary piece of string.

De Boer’s methodical and systematic approach equallyhighlightseach object as well as the way the different elements relate to each other. The individual pieces are merged together through connections, lines, balancing acts and other compositional methods. By using mise-en-scene elements such as sets and lighting as visible traces, and a naive approach to technology that alludes to Cargo Cult, the work offers space for thought experiments,allowing a loose approach to logic and reason. The final result is a network of physical and associative connections that follow its own logic.

In his practice, Sybren de Boer (1980, NL) is continuously in search of the ideal combination of wonder about the material world and the abstraction of the thought process; a moment where magic enters reality and an unexpected logic arises. His work has been shown at numerous institutions, e.g. Pak/////t, Amsterdam, Baracca, The Hagueand Etc. Gallery, Prague, and he is one of the organizers of theartist initiative Locatie Z, The Hague.

In the course of the film Downtime by Lotte Geeven and Yeb Wiersma, a challenging thought slowly unfolds in front of the viewer. A proposition is put forward that plays with the possibility to pause a red traffic light for seven seconds, not one, but every single one in the city of The Hague. This relatively small gesture holds a potential for an almost unfathomable effect of disturbance. The artists’ proposal is a playful question, and yet equally philosophical and political: what would happen once a systemisdisturbed, like in this case, traffic?The film’s title refers to the notion of downtime within (electronic) systems, the moment the flow is interrupted. The malfunction gives way to different behaviors and patterns to emerge, as to consequences we might not yet foresee. The level of disturbance is a testimony to how systems behave when challenged and give way to questions regarding ideas of functionality and freedom of choice.

In 2013, artist Lotte Geeven (1980, NL) and Yeb Wiersma (1973, NL) joined forces to collaborate on a series of works called Formations; a series of public interventions that question and undermine the behavior and collective (sub)conscious of the mass in public space. Using the tools of mass psychology, social media and campaigning, the artists encourage the public to participate. Both artists have exhibited together at Design Museum, Gent and West, The Hague as well as individually at a number of institutions such as Kröller Müller Museum, Arnhem, Outpost Projects, US, Into Nature, NL and TodaysArt, The Hague.

Anna Hulačová presents a sculptural installation of recent and new works assembled for this occasion. Hulačová draws on modernist aesthetics and principles but also locally specific ideological narratives such as the communist-driven collectivization of agriculture which began in the 1950s and left painful tracks in contemporary Czech (social) landscape. She is interested in human intervention into natural ecosystems and vice versa, for instance in the networks created by beekeeping and its ecological and political traces. In her installation at Kunstvereiniging Diepenheim, a young boy with an animal attribute observes a specific order which shows traces of past establishments, gazing at possibilities of rearrangement.

Anna Hulačová’s (1984, CZ) sculptures and installations translate inspirations from both ancient and recent European history as well as non-western cultures, merging traditional crafts and surface minimalism. Hulačová has introduced her work at many renowned Czech art institutions such as the National Gallery Prague (2016) and internationally at venues such as Palais de Tokyo (2018), Kunstraum London (2018), Baltic Triennial (2018) and Biennale Gherdëina (2016).

“Is your blue the same as mine?”the girl asks. Can two pairs of eyes see the same color? Our realities are growing apart, and we each live our lives in our own private dimension. The rhythms of our lives, our emotional expectations, our political beliefs, and our view of ourselves all follow mutually non-intersecting trajectories, an infinite number of which fill the universe. Is there any chance for all of our trajectories to connect?” Valentýna Janů’s suggestive video installation features a female protagonist, possibly resembling the “Young Girl” described in 1999 by the Tiqqun collective as the ultimate symbol and product of capitalist society. However, the girl Janů depicts is not reduced to a mere symbol of consumerism. She is provocative and alive, while critically questioning the (artificial) realities she inhabits.

Valentýna Janů (1994, CZ) finds inspiration in culture at large: in literature, pop music and especially in social and cultural environments connected to daily life. Her evocative installations, often featuring video, photography and text, play with the grand questions in a life dominated by technology, alienation and overload.She has recently exhibited her work for instance at the National Gallery Prague (2018), AQB Project Space in Budapest (2018), Futura Center for Contemporary Art in Prague (2018) and Czech Center Vienna (2017).

Organic shapes, flesh-like surfaces and interiors resembling intestines, partly bulging out – the sculptures of Hannah Joka have strong references to the physical body. Their animate appearance and color range are reminiscent of some kind of a biological specimen, though the stiffness of the material and shape remains entirely unrecognizable. The tension between the surface and inner workings of each individual sculpture creates a dynamic of repulsion and attraction,adding to the mystery they seem to encapsulate. Body integrity and the relationship between the internal and external physical world are central themes in Joka’s work; an ambivalent border between inside and outside that seems to become clearer in the moment it is crossed, like in the case of a physical wound, or when in the process of healing. The related attributes, for example bandages, are reoccurring materials in the sculptures of Joka.

Hannah Joka’s (1993, DE) work ranges from photography to sculpture and installations. In her practice she puts a special emphasis on the sculptural iconography of the body and in particular the ambivalent aspect of vulnerability. After graduating in 2016, her works have been shown at Nouvelle Images, The Hague, Concordia, Enschede and DA, Kunsthaus Kloster Gravenhorst.

The central theme of the short film Slides by Martin Kohout is the issue of night work and its social, economic, physical and mental effects. The linking element of several featured episodes is a group of three partly fictional characters who never meet at one time: the couple Asli and Bora and their friend Sung. While Asli works during the day, Bora goes to work at night; the time they spend together is thus very limited and the main portion of their interaction takes place via notes and voice messages. The film examines this asynchronous relationship, and in a broader sense questions human communication and its technological and emotional aspects, today and in the possible near future.

Martin Kohout’s (1984, CZ) multimedia work reacts to the incomprehensibility of contemporary world and the inability of individuals to navigate it. They often deal with technologized communication and the conflicted experiences it brings. In the past years, Kohout has introduced his work in the Czech as well as international context at solo and collective exhibitions, e.g. in New York, Beijing, Tokyo, Berlin, Paris and Sofia. In 2010, he was one of the finalists of Germany’s Marler Videokunst-Preis.

On the occasion of the exhibition, Frank Mandersloot presents a new, site-specific installation. The work transforms the room into a tactile interior that invites the audience to be aware of the space as well as of the sense of time. The central sculpture, featuring a piece of petrified wood, is surrounded by large felt pieces with quotations on time, mounted to the wall. The words derive from a great variety of sources from scripture through Persian poetry to fellow artists. They are connected through a shared reflection and questioning of the concept of time. Each aspect in Mandersloot’s installation points towards a cyclic idea of time and how a process can evolve without thinking in terms of linear progress. A consideration that is at odds with our contemporary idea of efficiency andway ofthinking, yet suggesting that that knowledge and “alternative” have always surrounded us.

Frank Mandersloot (1960, NL) uses spatial practice or sculpture as a way of thinking or reflecting on the way we relate to our surroundings and accordingly act and organize ourselves. This investigative stance can be traced in a great variety of artistic production, from installations, sculptures and work in public space to text and teaching methodologies. Mandersloot’s work has been shown internationally, e.g. at the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, Kunsthalle Zurich, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Centraal Museum Utrecht.

The installation by the artistic duo Anetta Mona Chisa and Lucia Tkáčová, re-created in response to the specifics of the exhibition space at Kunstvereiniging Diepenheim, invites the viewer to enter a cave-like environment, a quasi-archeological site of aging technologies and beauty traits, mixed up with ancient symbols; a cosmetic salon for what was left from the surrounding forest. The omnipresent hands have evidently exchanged the prehistoric flint for the rhythmic sounds of typing on the laptop keyboard. The installation is a temple of lost and found connections – between contemporary mindsets and our roots that were turned to emptied and copy-pasted symbols; between belonging to the Earth and reaching out for an iPhone, which already became our second nature. Thus portrayed beauty eventually becomes attacking, sharp and potentially dangerous.

Anetta Mona Chisa (1975, RO) & Lucia Tkáčová (1977, SK) collaborate as an artistic duo since 2000. They work across a variety of media including video, performance and sculpture, often employing language and game tactics in their acts, searching fora means of reconciling the political with the aesthetic validity of art.Their most recent solo shows were presented at Museumcultuur Strombeek Gent (2018) andFuture Museum, Bucharest (2017). In 2011, the artists, along with Ion Grigorescu, represented Romania at the Venice Art Biennale. Their projects have been featured at numerous international venuessuch as Art in General New York, n.b.k. Berlin, the 54th Venice Biennale, MoCA Miami, MuMoK Vienna, Manifesta 10, The Power Plant Toronto, Taipei Biennale, ZKM | Museum für Neue Kunst Karlsruhe, Bozar BrusselsandMoscow International Biennale for Young Art. They live and work in Prague, Vyhne and Berlin.

The installation A Way of Making is a joint effort by Maria Pask and Frédérique Bergholtz. The collaboration was initiated by a shared curiosity and need to re-evaluate how “things” are made and how the creative process actually takes shape. The artistsintended to free themselves from their own conditioning and re-invent the relationships to process and outcome. This attitude can be traced in the use of clay. Pask and Bergholtz investigated the connection we have with materialsand objects and how we relate to them with and through our body. This experimental curiosity is echoed in the accompanying video work in which three men (and a passing cat) appropriate these objects and invent new ways of movement and behavior. The resultsare potential artifacts that invite the visitor to think about new uses within everyday life.

Maria Pask (1969, UK) is an Amsterdam-based artist whose performance and installation works interpret the nature of collective creativity, empowerment, and the live moment. Working with open formats and social structures, her works have been described as a “cocktail of social commentary, political doctrine, ecological soundings, philosophy, feminism, body politics, and religion.”  Pask presented her workat Skulptur Projekte Münster, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford and BAK, Utrecht.

Frédérique Bergholtz (1968, NL) is co-founder and director of If I Can't Dance, I Don't Want to Be Part of Your Revolution, a curatorial production house for performance related to art and research based in Amsterdam. Bergholtz has collaborated with numerous institutions and regularly commissions new work, e.g. by Yael Davids, Mariana Castillo Deball, Katarina Zdjelar, Haegue Yang, Suchan Kinoshita, Sarah Pierce, Jon Mikel Euba and Jeremiah Day.

The exhibition is kindly supported by the Ministry of Culture, Czech Republic, State Fund for Culture and Czech Centers.