Intervention #27: In Their Skin
The intervention in The Baťa Principle exhibition at the Museum of Southeast Moravia in Zlín presents the work of the emerging generation of artists as well as long-established authors. The displayed works touch upon the topic of shoemaking and fashion, but also point out the broader context of labour and working conditions behind the design products for everyday life and luxury goods. The participating artists explore these themes from their own specific perspectives: through poetic and engaged, adoring and critical lenses. The exhibiting artists include the holders of the Jindřich Chalupecký Award in the years 1996 to 2020.
Contemporary art often incorporates principles and starting points applied in the field of design and fashion, and the selected works employ elements of textile production, shoe motifs or mannequins. The works of Romana Drdová, Kateřina Vincourová, Julie Béna, Eliška Konečná, and Veronika Přikrylová tread the thin line between the desire for beauty and fetish, between commercial items and art, and between home and the “outside” world. Their art pieces are set in the exhibition space among the original exhibits, playing a subtle game with the visitors, who can usually only distinguish these works from the existing exhibition objects at second glance. The intervention also includes works thematizing the mechanisms behind the creation of shoes and other practical and aesthetic products: a video by Lukáš Hofmann shot in a tannery captures a disappearing craft, at the same time being a reflection on a material made from the skin of a living being that later becomes a commodity. Jiří Žák's video deals directly with the question of Baťa’s method of work organization, and, above all, the expansion of Baťa’s empire all over the world – into distant contexts that the Baťa brand unexpectedly interconnects, at the same time pointing out the mutual differences and fragility of the emerging relationships. Jiří Skála’s work deals directly with the theme of labour, whether depicting the often invisible workers behind large-scale projects and products, or the very mechanisms that enable the synchronisation and collaboration of large numbers of people, at the intersection of the utopian universe and social engineering. The intervention also includes a sculpture by Tereza Štětinová, the aesthetic of which takes us back to the realm of children’s games. It also opens up the theme of exoticism and exoticization – a phenomenon frequently associated with museum exhibitions around the world, which often display “exotic objects” without a more profound explanation as for the exact place of origin of the artefacts, their initial purpose, and how they actually got there.
As a whole, the intervention is a reflection on the pros and cons of the existence of beautiful things and luxury goods, their symbolic value and (ethical) price, on what is important and what becomes useless, what can be used to cultivate our (human) world and how to act to satisfy our own aesthetic and practical needs while being fair to all human and non-human entities that participate in such satisfaction: animals, nature, and humans.