Intervention #23: Rooster's Cry
Intervention #23: Rooster’s Cry was yet another case of Jindřich Chalupecký Society entering regional museum expositions with a focus outside contemporary visual arts. This time, we teamed up with the Museum of Moravian Slovakia in Uherské Hradiště.
The installation of four contemporary artists (including an artistic duo) from the Czech Republic and Slovakia within the permanent exposition Moravian Slovakia proves the lively bond between young artists and folk culture. While many are inspired by its motifs, techniques and visual elements, others reflect it consciously as an aspect of personal and social cultural heritage which needs to be protected as well as critically examined in many respects. The selected works create unexpected conversations between the exhibits presenting the folklore of Moravian Slovakia and the globalized world of today. The intervention is held in collaboration with the 46th edition of the Summer Film School with the aim of bringing together diverse audiences.
Pavel Jestřáb was born in Southern Moravia and has a strong personal relation to folklore. In his videos, he is usually featured in a traditional folk costume; however, instead of glorifying the motifs of folk culture and figuratively the theme of national identity, he puts them into (often ambiguous) natural and cultural contexts.
In his video Rooster’s Cry , Pavel Jestřáb travels through Thailand, visiting its prominent and touristy places such as the royal city of Huan Hin, the phallic shrine dedicated to the goddess of fertility Tuptim, an elephant reservation, the Mahathat temple in Bangkok and the Saket temple with a crematory and a cemetery. The scenes, whose quality deliberately matches that of vacation videos made by tourists, seem rather inappropriate, showing the artist dressed in a Moravian folk costume sailing on a boat, riding an elephant or a horse on the beach, and entering Buddhist shrines. These situations may remind Czech viewers of the moments when the folk costume is worn today – mass at church, feasts, Ride of the Kings, funerals. Jestřáb is bridging what is “ours” and familiar, and what is “foreign”, exotic and remote, making us reflect on the relation between diverse cultures, on how they differ and how they meet, and how we are inevitably a part of a much larger whole; one we can protect our traditions and customs from but also one we can learn and draw inspiration from. The crowing of a rooster is a symbolic constant, a sound we can hear in almost any village around the world.
A series of four short videos by Pavel Jestřáb further in the exposition  picks up on the theme of the local meeting the foreign (fakir, cobra, mantra chants driving away the danger of reincarnating as an animal) while giving space to the artist’s interest in the sound and music elements.
For several years, Adéla Součková has been employing the Strážnice blueprint technique. While synthetic indigo is mostly used for its production in the Czech Republic today, the artist still uses a natural Indonesian dye, naturally relating to the fact that some methods and traditions, inherent to Moravian and Czech folklore and perceived as familiar and local, have their counterparts or even roots somewhere far away from us. Even the very motif of a monumental figure , which joined the mannequins wearing traditional folk costumes in the exposition, is showing the influence of Eastern symbols at first glance, as it is reminiscent of the Hindu goddess Parvati (or Durga) with its multiple hands. The title of the work, A Portrait of the Artist in Her Productive Years – Multitasking, alludes to a very contemporary and personal symbolism which can have a universal resonance as well; a single pair of hands is simply not enough today.
The artistic duo Jarmila Mitríková and Dávid Demjanovič have been employing folk culture motifs with great intensity on a long-term basis and their work is characterized by technical virtuosity as well as an interest in ethnographic research. Their series of black ceramic bowls [6, 7, 11] was created by an ancient technique of smoking in a field oven in collaboration with one of the last living masters of this technique based in Bardejovské Kúpele. There were several ceramic workshops in Moravian Slovakia in the inter-war period that were using this technique and the exposition of Moravian Slovakia features several samples of “black pottery”, even though the colorful majolica of Tupesy is much more popular and well-known. “The cult masks are loosely inspired by the morphology of folk masks such as the Strawman, Devil, Kubo, Old Man and others linked with fertility cults, agricultural cults, protective magic and religious processions,” the artists say about the subject. The masks are therefore naturally embedded in the part dealing with ceramic production on the one hand and carnivals on the other hand.
Two new paintings were created by Mítríková and Demjanovič directly for this occasion using the technique of plywood burning and coloring [10, 13]. They are part of their latest cycle following the development of folk costumes after big epidemics. Thus, they interconnect their historical and ethnographic research with a highly topical issue again. The Bridesmaid of Vlčnov and the Chief Miller of Kyjov are wearing face masks besides all the traditional folk costume elements and accessories. While this is partly a humorous comment, the artists also raise the question of the possibility of updating folk traditions and to what extent changes conditioned by the present are desirable or inevitable.
Out of all the participating artists, Johana Střížková is the one to least relate to folk art as such. She works in the medium of photography and mostly creates minimalist “still lives” out of everyday objects. However, the artist always makes them special in some way, drawing much more attention to them. Her series of photographs embedded in the household section and in the collection of painted Easter eggs within the exposition [3, 4, 5, 12], with its simplicity and visual purity, contrasts with the rich palette of colors and patterns typical for the folklore of Moravian Slovakia. However, Johana Střížková addresses a raw material without which folk feasts and everyday life are inconceivable. The egg is presented in its perfect purity as a precious jewel as well as a multiplied “infinite” egg. The series of photographs can also be interpreted metaphorically as a note on the “resources” which feed us, going beyond the factory farms which are far away from the procedures and care of traditional farmers.