Intervention #12: Dominik Gajarský
"Dominik Gajarský expresses himself primarily through the media of photography and moving pictures, with a special sense for analogue technology, including its history. The jury appreciated the precision of his work with these media and its connection with current, intimate topics." (Statement of the jury of Jindřich Chalupecký Award)
Dominik Gajarský graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (Studio of New Media II/School of Anna Daučíková). He spent his internship at UdK in Berlin (Studio of Josephine Pryde). In 2014, he was one of the finalists for the Leinemann Foundation Award. Besides his work in the visual arts, Gajarský is also an active musician.
Imagine a classic film gag: a woman sees a mouse in the room, starts squeaking and jumps up on the table. What does the mouse do in such a situation? It is probably frightened, too, and runs away fast. Let us think of a hike in nature: we are trying to avoid wild animals, such as a viper or a wild boar. Unless we take them by surprise, these animals will mostly get out of our way in fear of the human predator. Who is then more afraid of whom? Who is a bigger threat to whom? Let me give you yet another example: many people today are afraid of an “invasion“ of refugees from the Near East and Africa. However, how much fear must someone leaving their home and going to a foreign environment full of uncertainties feel? It is this fear, with two sides of the same coin, that is in the focus of Dominik Gajarský’s exhibition.
Gajarský has addressed the concept of exoticism and the conditions of exoticization on a long-term basis, including his dissertation thesis. This theme is inseparably linked to the theoretical framework of post-colonialism as well as emancipation movements (in terms of gender, race, sexuality etc.), primarily through the category of the Other. Exoticization (for instance of natives in former colonies) with an emphasis on otherness (for instance their alleged primitivism or barbarism) can serve as a discursive tool of power which helps maintain the hegemony of one over the Other. However, one does not have to go far to find examples of exoticization. In the language of teenagers, the word “exot” is quite common in the Czech environment. Labelled as an “exot”, someone who is an oddball, a weirdo, an eccentric, or simply somehow different attracts attention, causes outrage, faces rejection. Paradoxically, even those societies that adhere to western, modern values of uniqueness and originality show a large degree of intolerance towards any otherness. One can stand out in show business, business, science or sport, be it thanks to their talent, diligence or brazenness; however, when it comes to a handicap, sexual orientation or alternative life style, being different is mostly not generally desirable and leads to exclusion.
Dominik Gajarský demonstrates this issue on the specific example of “Goths”. The representatives of the post-punk subculture are characterized by a rather morbid look (black-and-white make up, dark clothes appropriating medieval or romantic elements, crosses, corsets, leather etc.) which (in connection with an obscure interest in death, occultism, vampirism etc.) classifies them as true weirdos (“exots”) in the eyes of the general public. The appearance of Goths may be slightly disturbing for “decent people”, however, in fact it is a subculture which does not constitute any public danger.
The exhibited four identical portraits in Gothic style are complemented by four photograms with ironic rhymes depicting moments when expectations are turned upside down. A purplish semi-darkness, evoking a haunted funfair castle or a music night club, generates a spontaneous atmosphere at the gallery which can be enhanced by active viewers by playing the sound component embedded in the QR code at the exhibition’s entrance.
The look of the girl depicted in Gajarský’s photographs, despite her make up reminiscent of a skull, ghost or the image of the Kiss band, is peaceful and absorbed in thought. By the multiplication of the face on the gallery wall, “deviation” is symbolically recreated into serial norm. If we get used to otherness, we will most probably discover that there is no need for fear.