Jindřich Chalupecký Award: Final 2016
An international jury has selected the following five finalists of the 27th edition of Czech Republic’s most prestigious award for artists up to the age of 35: Aleš Čermák, Katarína Hládeková, Anna Hulačová, Matyáš Chochola and Johana Střížková. After a series of side events held in the first half of the year across the Czech Republic, the artists will introduce themselves at the fall exhibition at the Trade Fair Palace in Prague.
For this occasion, they have prepared new projects ranging from sculptural and audiovisual installations through experimental work with the medium of photography to short film essays. Their common denominator is the fragile tension between a poetic and engaged approach to the latest themes and challenges. The exhibition is not conceived as a juxtaposition of individual “competing” principles but rather as a space for a generous presentation of five remarkable artists of the up-and-coming generation with the aim of providing them with as much conceptual and production background for their current work as possible. The exhibition is also accentuated as a whole representing an account of a certain time and a certain generation, merging the individual approaches and supplementing them with unexpected contexts.
While the 2015 edition took place in Brno, the exhibition of the finalists of Jindřich Chalupecký Award 2016 is held at the Trade Fair Palace of the National Gallery in Prague. It is conceived for the space of the Korzo and the surrounding spaces, often non-exhibition ones, thus continuing last year’s presentation of the Silver Lining exhibition organized on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Jindřich Chalupecký Award. The finalists of Jindřich Chalupecký Award 2016 were selected by an international jury comprising Holly Block, curator and director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York, visual artist Jiří Kovanda, art theorist and director of the Slovak National Gallery Alexandra Kusá, director of the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo Gunnar B. Kvaran from Iceland, art theorist and curator Pavlína Morganová, art critic, curator, artistic director of PLATO Ostrava City Gallery and former director of the Moravian Gallery in Brno Marek Pokorný, and Marina Shcherbenko, curator and specialist adviser of Bottega Gallery and Shcherbenko Art Centre in Kyiv.
The novelty of this year’s edition of Jindřich Chalupecký Award is the launch of the tradition of an international guest who will introduce his or her project in connection with the exhibition of the finalists. It will be a distinctive artist whose work resonates with the current events on the Czech art scene, although it may not have been introduced here in great detail so far. The guest of 2016 is Laure Prouvost, the first French artist, based in London and Antwerp, to win UK’s prestigious Turner Prize in 2013.
The video installation of Aleš Čermák creates a layered image of our time, the recent past and the (potential or near) future. While we are sinking deep into a mineshaft through the eyes of a drone, the partially mutated voice of the narrator presents unrelated (and yet relatable) events; the founding of the Intelligent Investment Fund and an explosion at a Turkish mine. The human ecosystem relies on an interconnected network of relations that could hardly be labeled as equal. Distant from each other due to power structures and technological innovations, we tend to forget that the laws of nature go for us, too and that an excessive disruption of the principle of balance necessarily leads to domino effects across systems. In Čermák’s video, the meditation on the complexity of the world and the impact of our activities is mediated by the figures of a doctor and a patient. Linking poetry, philosophy and prophetic ecstasy, their speeches are another metaphor of straying and searching for answers. The video asks many questions, ranging from social solidarity through ecology to the possibilities and impotence of medicine and artificial intelligence. The very way in which the video is installed does not give us much chance to turn away and ignore it. We are in the middle of a vortex.
Katarína Hládeková has made an installation consisting of three objects whose construction copies three typographical symbols: the hashtag, the infinity sign and the bracket. By their very shape, these signs evoke the central themes of the installation: closedness, cyclicity, balance and symmetry. Responding to the architecture of the specific exhibition space of the Korzo at the Trade Fair Palace by their scale, choice of material and color, the shapes also serve as load-bearing structures for the installation of other elements. The large-size prints on a textile base make use of found photographs, physically manipulated and re-photographed by the artist, while also working with Hládeková’s characteristic paper models; which, flattened into two dimensions through the camera’s objective, are getting even more entangled in the relations between reality and illusion. The middle part of the composition contains a set of photographs Hládeková started collecting based on the book I Am a Strange Loop by American scientist Douglas Hofstadter. The photographs depict closed and cyclic clusters of banal objects. The installation’s “circle” of meaning is imaginarily closed by the motive of looking, mirroring and photographing. In its own way, the whole installation creates a “model situation” of a closed circuit of representation and reception.
Anna Hulačová exhibits a collection of sculptures and sculptural groups set in an architectonic environment linking organic and crystalline shapes. Reminding of a cell, this framework takes us to the level of both macro- and microcosm, merging complex relationship networks. In this universe, each sculpture has its place, its role, its symbolism; whose reading, however, is not prescribed by the artist with definitive validity. There is a mutual hierarchy that can be sensed among the individual works; the plants and animals take on the role of servants or even decorations, while the relation of superiority and subordination is also found among the human figures. The collection has a rich array of meanings and the number of allusions is almost unencompassable for an individual (ancient symbolism of the bee related to death, computer “attributes” in the hands of the figures, chivalric and religious motives translated into a representation of a working relationship, yellow color evoking modernism as well as exoticism etc.). This richness further includes historical allusions (Civilism, Otto Gutfreund) and a variety of used materials and techniques. Nevertheless, Hulačová’s installation has a special compactness; besides embracing a whole range of motives naturally touching upon the aspects of the world of today, it also enables the viewers to experience the pure joy of sculptural forms.
The installation of Matyáš Chochola is deliberately separated from the rest of the exhibition; for, according to the artist, it is to lead the viewers through the bowels of the Trade Fair Palace to an environment inducing the experience of an “altered state of consciousness.“ Reminding of a desolate night club or even its ruins, the space brings us closer to the “dark side” of human nature with its sexuality, cult of the body and desire for danger and speed while associating the depths of the surrounding universe. The individual and the universal are inseparably linked in Chochola’s work. Although he often makes performances right in front of an audience, for the final of JCHA, he has realized several live events that are intentionally shrouded at the exhibition by a series of experiments with the possibilities and forms of documentation, ranging from video recordings and video installations to material remnants of performances that took place at the same space. That accentuates the tension between a live event and its recording and at the same time intensifies the impression of an environment capturing events that have already occurred while serving as a scene for other potential events whose development already depends on the imagination and courage of the viewers. In the labyrinth that is not far away from a decadent temple nor a trash dump, our own shadows can emerge from anywhere.
Johana Střížková has made a new video essay and a series of small objects for the exhibition of the finalists of JCHA. In both cases, she presents fragments of a potentially larger whole, or even a story. The short film with cinematic shots captures the “occupants” of an unknown apartment who silently perform activities bordering on purposeless pastimes and melancholy, even surreal rituals. The camera examines the details of their bodies, as if it wanted to touch them. In the videos by Johana Střížková, these tactile associations are mediated by bodily interaction with the surrounding environment and objects it includes. The installation in front of the black box brings the film motives to a material dimension. It consists of button-shaped candies of two colors whose pigment has “trickled down” to the pad and revealed the inner sugar crust. The chosen color scheme corresponds to the abstract “image” at the end of the film that can remind of film backgrounds as well as a minimalist landscape. The little candies bring back memories of childhood, however, their decolorized look can also be perceived as a metaphorical revealing of a substance and a common foundation. With great sensitivity, Střížková combines an almost naive playfulness and absurdity, which can lead to existential reflections on the meaning of human activities, interpersonal relationships and our place in the world.