press release

Emil Filla Gallery, Ústí nad Labem (Czech Republic)April – May 2009 Contemporary visual art is characterized by ever deepening concentration of its own institutional frame, and at the same time by certain globalization of individual artistic attitudes and creative strategies. In the specific post-totalitarian environment of Central and Southeast Europe, these centralization processes are balanced by distinct social and cultural instability. Transformation of social systems is in this context accompanied by lack of interest in artistic expressions, defects in the artistic exchange, and not infrequently, also by a neo-colonialist approach of the global scene to the local milieu. Limited financial resources, absence of production background, undeveloped art market and other factors limiting "operation of art" often direct post-totalitarian authors toward international artistic centres. However, the message they bring to this sophisticated and in comparison with their experience so different environment is often incomprehensible for the international audience. Therefore, the art from elsewhere, from the periphery gets into a communication crises and its authors find themselves in a kind of cultural and institutional state of weightlessness.

One of the strategies to face this transformation deviation can be a consistent reflection of the "margin" esthetics riches. It is accompanied with a strong social belonging to the given environment, and often also with the necessary organizational activities substituting the absence of any operational and production frame of contemporary art. Face to face the disillusion arising from the seemingly unchanging hierarchy of the systems of cultural representation, a number of artists are trying to create alternative creative relations. Artworks originated on the boundary between dominance and marginality then often attain the character of a cultural and social sign, the essence of which is applying the tenets of documenting reality, and the confrontation of reality with artificiality. The reality which becomes a theme is at the same time viewed in a complex way in the intersection of specific features of historic, social, cultural, and aesthetic. In this way, an aesthetic code comes into being whose basic function dwells in the capability of an authentic and at the same time tautological reference of a place, urban complex and its social climate. The focus on the “otherness“of one’s own position at the same time develops the critique of the dominance of the so-called Western world, and, in the context of Derrida’s “differénce“ also the tenets of deconstruction. Contemporary Central European and Southeast European visual arts often employ this “otherness“ in the process of signifying, giving preference within this framework to hybrid models of pseudo-documentarism, fiction, or representation. This gives rise to a specific discourse of aesthetic erroneousness, of visual unsettling and seduction, which is suffused with the critique of the dominance of globalization and the absence of a firm institutional framework as well as an intense supplementarity of meaning.

From the point of view of expressional media, the emphasis on the pseudo-documentary means, or fictitiousness, in contemporary Central European and Southeast European visual art is particularly accented in photography and in various forms of video art. In this respect, however, we must draw attention to a new understanding of photography which technological level has shifted, and which has expanded towards the sphere of the media producing technical static image (besides traditional photography, there are various digital and computer-manipulated prints). We may find a whole number of reasons for such a massive expansion of technical pseudo-documentary images into the sphere of post-totalitarian visual art. For the sake of a certain simplicity, we could divide these into external (responses to the theoretical and institutional trends in the global context of contemporary art), and internal (reflections on the local social and cultural situation) tendencies. Absolutely crucial in this context is the confrontation of the post-totalitarian cultural milieu with the position of the medium of photography within the overall context of the international art scene, which was itself still heavily influenced by postmodernist impulses during the first half of the 1990s.

The contemporary visual art, adrift in the vortex of influences of a multicultural society, only with difficulty finds a striking originality. That which in general still draws us to art is above all a mutual communication and nondirective individual involvement in a specific social environment. Visualized and aestheticized individual stories from various parts of the transforming post-totalitarian space can certainly expand the limits of our perception. These shifts may seem somewhat insufficient, unspectacular, or even chaste, but they always bring about new and unrepeatable experience.

Michal Koleček

Jiří Černický (Czech Republic), Hubert Czerepok (Poland), Oskar Dawicki (Poland), Šejla Kamerić (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Zdena Kolečková (Czech Republic), Kobas Laksa (Poland), Eva Mráziková & Martin Mrázik (Czech Republic), Pavel Mrkus (Czech Republic), Joanna Rajkowska (Poland), Erzen Shkololli (Kosovo), Slaven Tolj (Croatia)

Curators: Michal Koleček, Monika Szewczyk

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Kuratoren: Michal Kolecek, Monika Szewczyk

Künstler: Jiri Cernicky, Hubert Czerepok, Oskar Dawicki, Sejla Kameric, Zdena Koleckova, Kobas Laksa, Eva Mrazikova & Martin Mrazik, Pavel Mrkus, Joanna Rajkowska, Erzen Shkololli, Slaven Tolj