Intervention #14: Kateřina Olivová – Tattooed Mermaid: Ovular
Kateřina Olivová graduated from the Faculty of Visual Arts at the Brno University of Technology, Studio of Body Design. In her work, she addresses the themes of femininity, feminism, corporeality, sexuality, motherhood, interpersonal relationships and emotions. Through her performances, often balancing on the edge of kitsch and deliberate awkwardness, she raises the questions of deep-rooted social taboos. The primary medium of her work consists in the body involved in a performance filled with bright rainbow colors, glitter and joy of one’s own existence and nudity. She is the founder of the support group for (not only) mothers-artists Mothers Artlovers.
Can a poetical act be political?
The essence of love
Kill, kill, kill, Heal, heal, heal
You know what matters most
Tattooed Mermaid: Ovular
I live a lot now
I am one with a cucumber
A mouthful of glitter
But I’m a cheerleader
An Emancipated Mermaid
For the exhibition space of Liberec Regional Gallery, Kateřina Olivová created what first seems to be an idyllic, almost fairytale-like environment of a seashore with a mysterious feast luring the visitors to join the mythical sea creatures and be washed by the golden waves. However, upon a closer look, the initial amiability of the entire arrangement proves only apparent and doubts begin to creep in whether it is a staged disturbing game that the artist plays with us through the mysterious glistening water nymphs. This impression increases in proportion to the time spent watching the video emerging from the lustrous waves framing the gallery space.
The work of Kateřina Olivová typically employs the medium of performance in which she is usually the main actor. The exhibition features performance, plus the artist, in a screened recording of a tattoo session of four mermaids decorating exotic fruits with signs and images. Here, however, one of the classic motives to decorate the (primarily male) body – the mermaid – does not become a schematized symbol but rather an active emancipated creative force that takes the tool of power into her hands, turning from a passive object to a creative actor, or rather actress. This reversed situation thus naturally and perhaps slightly ironically addresses the reduced perception of woman-object typical for the traditional patriarchal society. The documentation of this act of a non-ostentatious yet decided “tattoo rebellion” induces the atmosphere of a kind of a modern mythical story with a feminist message.
The exhibition installation seems to reflect the scene taking place in the video where living creatures use ink to write their ideas onto real fruit peel. The mysterious being – a mermaid – is physically present there, even in her home environment of glistening water waves, and so is the marked fruit. However, unlike the ones held by the nymphs captured in the moving image, it is obvious that the fruits that the visitors will be able to touch with a little courage and curiosity at the gallery will spout no real juice. The mermaids (was it really them?) only left a mere substitute there, a lifeless echo of their fabled land, as if they wanted to remind us that the peaceful world of fairytales is remote from today’s reality and that its stories which may be passed on to the generations to come one day are rather in danger of becoming dystopian legends from the times before the irreversible changes caused by the reckless human treatment of the surrounding environment.
Seminar – meaning of the word: training, course, exercise;
Word origin: semen (semen – seminarium in Latin), figuratively a space for planting and growing the seeds of knowledge.
Ovular: a feminine linguistic variant of a seminar, with an identical meaning; the substitution of the overly masculine term “seminar” was suggested by the students of the University of Ostrava in the 1990s; during informal discussions, they found the term of the seminar too masculine and suggested to rename it to ovular instead.