Young and Restful
Alžběta Bačíková (*1988) is a graduate of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Brno University of Technology and a doctoral program there. In her theoretical research and in her own artistic practice, Bačíková has in recent years focused on the reflection of documentary tendencies in contemporary art. In this context, she is particularly interested in categories of objectivity and approaches that undermine the false illusion of the impartiality of the genre. At the same time, she focuses on the medium of the moving image and works mainly with video installations. She regularly expands her individual work by collaborating with other artists and also works as a curator. Bačíková regularly presents her work in the context of the Czech independent art scene, but she has also exhibited at the National Gallery in Prague, the Emil Filla Gallery in Ústí nad Labem or the Studio Gallery in Budapest. In 2014, she was in the finals of the Startpoint Award for beginning artists.
Dante Buu lives and works between Rožaje (Montenegro) and Berlin. He is an artist, storyteller and performer. Through intimacy and autobiography, intertwined with the lives of others, the core of Dante’s artistic practice is to tell the untold stories of love and resistance of those who are unwanted and unloved. Buu represented Montenegro at the 59th Venice Biennale (2022) and his works and performances have been shown at numerous international exhibitions and festivals, including: and you—do you die happy?, Berlin Art Week, Good To Talk, Hallen #2, Wilhelm Hallen, Berlin (2021); “thigh high”, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin (2021); Montenegrin Art Salon 13th November, Montenegrin Art Gallery “Miodrag Dado Đurić”, Cetinje (2019); Weekend Lovers II, Art Weekend Belgrade, Dim, Belgrade (2019); NEXUS 1, TBA Festival, PICA, Portland (2019); Careful with that axe, Eugene, AKT Art Space, Kyiv (2019); I do not want my lover to go to work, CC Tobacco 001, Ljubljana (2018-2019); Universal Hospitality 2, FUTURA Center for Contemporary Art, Prague (2017); This is not my history!, Steirischer Herbst, <rotor> Center for Contemporary Art, Graz (2015); 3. Biennial of Contemporary Art, Tito’s Bunker, Konjic (2015); Mama I am OK in the Neon Green, Gallery Duplex100m2, Sarajevo (2013-2014).
Dante participated in the Künstlerhaus Bethanien residency in Berlin (2021-2022), while previous residency programs include: Ankara Queer Art Program, Ankara (2020-2021), CC Tobacco 001, Ljubljana (2018-2019), KulturKontakt Austria, Vienna (2017), Q21/MuseumsQuartier, Vienna (2017), West Balkan Calling, Graz (2016).
Juliana Höschlová (*1987) lives and works in Bratrouchov in the Giant Mountains. She graduated in painting studio with Vladimír Skrepl and Jiří Kovanda at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, in 2010 she won the NG 333 award. She completed internships and residencies in Taiwan, Kiev, Budapest and Graz. In her work, she deals with environmental and social issues and examines consumables such as plastic and textiles. He is currently mainly involved in digital painting.
Kristýna Šormová (*1985) graduated from the Prague Academy of Fine Arts in 2006-2012 (Painting Studio II, doc. Vladimír Skrepl). In 2009 she completed internships in the studio of a visiting professor (Jan Merta). In 2010 she studied at the Belas artes da Universidade in Porto and in 2011 at the Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. She won third place in the 6th year of the Critics’ Award for Young Overlay in 2013. She has been exhibiting regularly since 2010. We last met her in Prague “Mixed Feelings” (ATRIUM Gallery, 2019) and together with Kateřina Štenclová at the exhibition “Every time a picture” (Gallery 35, French Institute in Prague, 2019).
Marie Tučková (*1994) also known by the pseudonym Ursula Uwe, she obtained a bachelor’s degree at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (Alexandra Vajd and Martin Kohout’s photography studio). She continued her master’s studies at the Dutch Art Institute Art Praxis. She completed an internship at the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem. Her work is thematically related to new technologies and social networks and asks how they transform human perception, communication and language. MarieTučková’s work is mostly autobiographical, but in her projects she often expresses herself through the alter ego, thanks to which she is able to objectify the researched situations or look for other ways of sensitivity, developing empathy and renaming feelings. He connects these realms with text, which often transforms into lyrics, a voiceover to a video, a sound story, or a performance script. Tučková presented her work to a number of independent galleries and institutions in the Czech Republic, but also abroad. In the years 2016–2018, she was part of the Atelier without a Leader team.
Michael Nosek (*1990) was born in Litoměřice, lives and works in Prague. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, where he studied at the Painting Studio III. Michael Rittstein. Physicality and emotionality repeatedly appear in the range of topics the author works with. A corporeality that is portrayed either directly and explicitly or one that carries a work that exists and resonates in combination with the body. Emotionality, facial expression, facial expressions, expression – such contents then describe the masks that the author creates, whether intended as a separate object or in connection with the body and in the installation.
Pavel Havrda (*1984) graduated from the Faculty of Art and Design at UJEP in Ústí nad Labem in the digital media studio of Štěpánka Šimlová and then in the interactive media studio of Pavel Kopřiva. In his artistic work, he examines the development and process of structuring organic forms across their changes in time and space. His works oscillate between different media, and their character is mostly procedural and ephemeral. Havrda’s frequent, but not the only, interest is research into natural and plant communities. Thanks to the experience with archiving, with the help of a specific autopsy, he gets to understand the basic elements, thus offering the viewer an insight into the complexity and complexity of the systems through the created diagrams, maps and instructions. It thus presents the viewer with a unique opportunity to look into the processes that are constantly taking place around us, but at an unobservable level.
Radka Bodzewicz (*1991) is a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts (Graphics Studio II / Vladimír Kokolia School and Socha II / Jindřich Zeithamml School, 2017). He calls his work figural abstraction, in which the nature and absurdity of human life resonate. On his canvases, he captures figural worlds / abstract and real landscapes, which encourage people to approach and observe the detailed microworlds of people from a distance-observable ornament. In the painting, he uses a fingerprint as an imaginary trigger, which enables play and creates a mental map of a personally lived story with a thread of interpersonal relationships. In her work, she likes to experiment with technology and materials. In recent years, he has been using painting with a mobile application with painting in virtual reality, thus creating a moving painting called Augmented Reality. He presents virtual reality in parallel with the classic image in the form of video art, holographic image and 3D printing. During her studies, she took part in an internship at Robert Gordon University – Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen (2016) and in 2018 she was a finalist for the Leinemann Foundation for Education and Art Award.
Semir Mustafa lives and works between Rožaje (Montenegro) and Berlin.
The Young and Restful is an exhibition of artists of the very generation that encountered the dominance of conceptual minimalism at schools and galleries during their studies almost ten years ago. With hand-crafting techniques becoming the center of international contemporary art, the featured artists took to them in recent years as well. The repetitive rhythm of crafts and the haptic sense of material bring about the beneficial state of full concentration or flow that is praised by all the mindfulness coaches generated by our performance-based society. At least in theory. Long hours of manual labor may also cause stress, exhaustion, and physical pain. The exhibiting artists often turned to handiwork because they were frustrated with either creative arts (the oversaturation of both digital and conceptual art approaches), societal marginalization or changes in their living conditions (social isolation connected with early maternity, worsened health or the pandemic). With a touch of humor, I call them Young and Restful, as they do not scream at the challenges of today, but instead sew, carve, dig and engrave them in their artworks. But as it turns out, that description is not at all fitting.
The exhibition is a part of the long-time exhibition cycle of the MeetFactory Gallery called Other Knowledge cThe exhibition is a part of the long-term exhibition series of the MeetFactory Gallery called Other Knowledge. Through it, we try to observe forms of knowledge transfer that go against the rational principle that dominates the Western and Central European society. During handiwork, we pass on the experience not only orally through stories but also through muscle memory. Our knit and purl is the same as that of our ancestors who taught us the craft.
In the spirit of insanity, which is one of the subliminal themes of the exhibition, I interviewed the artists to prepare In the spirit of going slow, which is one of the undercurrents of the exhibition, I interviewed the artists in an effort to understand their personal motivations for using time-consuming manual labor. Some of them said that the impetus for them using artisanal techniques was a desire for collective creation as an interhuman contact of sharing. On the other side of the spectrum are the artists who forego such moments of sharing and purposefully isolate themselves while working. However, it is apparent in both cases that these artists use stitches, knots, cuts and strokes to transfer their stories into their works. Sometimes, when they injure their hands, even their DNA can make its way in.
The materials turn out to be great confessors, both discrete and resistant to burning confessions. I also cannot resist making an analogy to the Greco-Roman mythological story of Philomela, which I came across while researching the current trend of crocheting in contemporary art in the context of the Bosnian artist Šejla Kamerić. The story, as captured by Ovid in Metamorphoses, is about Philomela who is dragged off into mountains, raped, and tortured by her brother-in-law Tereus. He then cuts off her tongue to ensure her silence. In the end, Philomela weaves her story into a white yarn and gives it to a servant to bring it to her sister who sets her free. “[H]er speechless lips could tell / No tale of what was done. But there’s a fund / Of talent in distress, and misery / Learns cunning. On a clumsy native loom / She wove a clever fabric, working words / In red on a white ground to tell the tale […]” (Ovid, Metamorphoses, trans. A. D. Melville (Oxford: OUP, 2008), VI. 577-82)
Apart from aforementioned frustration or need for loosening of the art form mentioned by artists themselves when talking about learning a craft, another often stressed theme is one of longing for a “return”. A return to the crafts which they learned the basics of during their teens and later left behind being burned out and fascinated by then new technologies. It is also a return to archetypal work, to basic skills which provide the feeling of self-affirmation and “re-anchoring” that are much needed today, in the times of fluently moving from the paralysis of the pandemic to a war in Ukraine which, until recently, felt unimaginable.
Dare to Waste Time
The monumental installation dominating the whole space of the gallery was created by the artist Pavel Havrda from the cuttings of discarded pieces of sector furniture of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. As a graduate of both the Studio of Digital Media and Interactive Media at the University of Jan Evangelista Purkyně in Ústí nad Labem, he combines the hand crafted and the digitally crafted. The huge floor installation was based on a digital draft which he transferred into the gallery space partially using CNC technologies (which are, by the way, held in contempt by more than a few “orthodox” carpenters and carvers). The installation is accompanied by Tenura, a ceramic object consisting of two broken vases. The artifact serves as a reference to inherited values that must be broken down and put back together. It was created in cooperation with his three-year-old daughter, Apolena.
During his studies and the first few years after graduation, Pavel Havrda worked with video and digital programs. His works were conceptual and focused on searching for different perspectives of that which is seen every day. He became a carpenter almost by accident when he was helping famous Czech artist Petr Nikl prepare the Orbis Pictus project. At that time, he was frustrated and burned out from working in digital environments connected with the imperative of conceptual possibilities.
“Whenever something pisses me off, I end up doing it,” says Pavel. He used to hate theater and design, so he started to design theater lighting. He had the same experience with the crafts, which he used to despise when he was studying applied cybernetics at a secondary school. He also disdained playfulness in art, something essential to his work today. He only began to focus on doing crafts in his workshop during the pandemic, when he had more free time from work. One of the things he enjoys about woodworking is how long and slow the process is. “You can’t be stressing over the idea that you’re missing out on something… When you do something that takes time, you have to accept that it’s not a waste of time. It’s like playing with children…” says the father of two.
Scrape It Out
Kristýna Šormová paints large-format abstract canvases. After giving birth to her son four years ago, she had to stop spending long hours in the studio and give up turpentine colors because her son was allergic to them. She therefore turned to drawing on paper, which she then tears and perforates using a needle. Kristýna Šormová has always worked in an unrestrained manner, even back during her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. She would project her emotions onto the canvases and drawings and direct them through skillful painting techniques. Now, she applies the same work methods to her series of drawings, although she takes into account the more adaptive scale of the paper format. Her “torn drawings” capture something disturbing – the borderline obsessively tears resemble self-harm wounds, even though the pain does not affect the skin but the artwork.
Embroidery as an Artistic Dowry
Dante Buu comes from Montenegro. He learned embroidery by watching his mother, grandmother and aunts because “boys are not supposed to embroider”. In the patriarchal environment of his hometown of Rožaje, communal embroidery was one of the only forms of work women were historically permitted to do. For Buu, however, embroidery was something borne out of solitude, as it became both a refuge and solace to him after coming out. Dante first integrated embroidery into his artistic work in 2014, beginning with the performance piece A Portrait of My Parents / Summer, inspired by his experiences following a terrible accident his father had suffered. This work grew into the four pieces that together make up the Fifth Season series. It took him four years to complete Fifth Season and the works are now exhibited for the first time. Dante writes of Fifth Season:
“Wiehler’s tapestries jointly called Four Seasons still hang on the wall in the living room of my parents’ house. They have always been a hot topic among my mum, her sisters, and my grandmother. Actually, these Four Seasons were part of the dowry of my youngest aunt. She left them behind when she moved to Sweden and my mum took them. I am not sure if my late grandmother ever got over that fact. That’s how important of a role the dowry played in her upbringing. Back when she got married, it was customary for a young bride to open her chest lay out all of the handmade objects in the garden and hang them on the plum trees for the whole village to see how skillful she was. All this in the hopes of attracting the best possible husband. I am the Fifth Season and the Fifth Season is my dowry. Contrary to the dowries of the past young brides-to-be, embedding their hopes and dreams for their future life, my dowry embroiders feelings, stories of the past that are so dear and heartbreaking for me, which will forever be alive in my present.”
The Young and Restful exhibition also features a work by Semir Mustafa, Wozu Tränen, Schöner Mann? (Why Tears, Beautiful Man?), a large graffiti on embroidery canvas. Semir Mustafa intentionally presents his work with no further explanation – an invitation that gives the audience space personal interpretation, dragging them into the play of their own stories and experiences.
Creative Manual Work as a Means of Establishing Dialogue
Alžběta Bačíková represents an important figure in the Czech art scene thanks to her video audio-visual projects with social themes. We met during preparations of one of the future exhibition projects for the Other Knowledge series and her inclusion in the Young and Restful exhibition was the natural and lucky outcome of our discussion. A tiny bobbin lace work, made in collaboration with her sister Veronika Janštová, formally deviates from everything Alžběta has done so far. It is the first collaborative work of the two sisters and is essentially an experiment awaiting further development. However, even in the aptly named work “1”, one can see features shared with Bačíková’s other projects – her motivation to initiate collaboration was a desire to strengthen contact with someone she is interested in. The same can be seen, for example, in her project Setkání (Meeting), which centers young people with hearing or vision disabilities. For “1” as well, the time spent developing the work served as pretext for observing relationships, adapting a certain subject or simply for getting closer and establishing dialogue with another person. The collaboration with her sister is, of course, very personal and cannot follow a pre-planned script like in the case of her narrative audio-visual works.
In connection with “1”, Alžběta Bačíková stresses the need for returning to the basic skills from the time before self-professionalization – Alžběta got her PhD from the Faculty of Fine Arts and Veronika Janštová has a PhD in biochemistry. “One has to spend a long time professionalizing and specializing, but eventually, you reach a point when you miss something and have to take a step back.” The sisters were able to take a step back by going back to doing the things they did back when their personalities were still forming: “These are also skills we spent a long time honing, we just don’t have degrees in them,” adds Bačíková.
Michael Nosek learned to paint (much like Kristýna Šormová) at the Secondary Professional School of Applied Art and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. His field is that of realistic figurative painting. Over time, however, despite his mastery of canvas painting (or perhaps because of it), Nosek came to feel trapped by it. He lacked space for experimentation and spontaneous expression. He was able to find such in the embroidering of neutral linen masks, which combined the principles of painting and sculpture. To the surprise of no one, the masks became very popular on social media (and sometimes even in the streets of Prague) during the first wave of the pandemic, the symbol of which became hand-made cloth masks.
Similar to the already mentioned exhibiting artists, Michael Nosek used handiwork as a means of improving his relationship with someone close, in this case by enriching the routine of family reunions through creative work. He collaborated with his grandmother Hana Nosková to create a carpet for the Young and Restful exhibition. Following Michael’s drafts, they tied over 120,000 knots over the course of several months using the tapico technique (a very popular form of domestic crafts before 1989), putting them in the lead of the fictitious competition for “The Most Suffering Artist of the Exhibition”.
The Myth of Eternal Return
The large-format paintings by Radka Bodzewicz are inspired by the archetypal stories from mythological and religious texts. She creates at night while her two small children are asleep. The motifs on the canvases resemble cave paintings not only in their earthy colors but also in their use of figurative shortcut. This reference or “return” to the very archetype of art puts Bodzewicz’s works in the context of the “Young and Restful” group conceived for the exhibition.
When asked about her creative process, she mentions katathym-imaginative psychotherapy. Its aim is to completely focus on a specific image out of which then spontaneously arise other images coming from the collective unconsciousness. As a recently published review of her solo exhibition from Respekt magazine states: “She does not wish to make literal illustrations of the ancient stories, the basic outlines of which are used by nations across both borders and time. She merely uses them as a stepping-stone for her own imagination.”
Radka Bodzewicz essentially follows the opposite direction than the aforementioned artists. She supplements her mastery of painting techniques by later adding in a level of digital animation. She sets her paintings in motion in an augmented digital reality by using the app Artitive. More than by trying to achieve a spectacular effect, Bodzewicz feels the desire to push the medium into a more digital space as well as the need to learn a new, in this case digital, craft.
The Infinite Rehearsal
Marie Tučková (aka Ursula Uwe) used the crocheting she learned from her grandmother as a temporary refuge. As a fresh graduate from the Dutch Art Institute, where she completed her master’s degree after getting her bachelor’s from the Studio of Photography at the Academy of Arts, she made an effortless transition from photography and video to handiwork and is currently working on a music video with elements of performance. Her works combine a number of themes into different shapes and forms, including music, landscape, birth, womb, and cyclicality. When it comes to her creative process, she stresses the importance of the cyclical conception of time and the concept of the “infinite rehearsal”, described by the Guyanese geodesist, poet, and writer Wilson Harris, as the core principle of her artistic thinking. In her own words, she does not understand the meaning of “waste of time” in the context of her relentless handwork and she never views her works through this metric. She compares the rhythmic arrangement of cotton loops to music and adds: “It’s like a stream of consciousness that can be easily interrupted or lost – all you need to do is pull on a single yarn and the whole row disappears…”
The Embroidered Apocalypse
Juliana Höschlová is a multimedia artist whose works feature strong social and cultural undertones. In recent years, she has been focusing on climate change and environmental activism. Her Suits series connects her own artistic interpretation of the coming climate apocalypse, which will wipe out the human race from the face of the Earth, with an anxious reaction to media pictures of the refugee waves currently coming from the Eastern Europe. Winter jackets and overalls thrown in the streets and out in the border forests as a reminder of forever lost bodies and lives, they used to cover. The colorful organic form of the embroideries purposefully goes against the exceedingly depressing model of the humanitarian disaster. Although humans can no longer be saved in Juliana’s vision of the apocalypse, life itself is not lost. The organic motifs embroidered on the inside of the clothes left behind suggest the arrival of new life forms which will establish a post-human era on (formerly) our planet.
The colorful motif embroidered in the worn-out jackets are inspired by a series of digital paintings Juliana created during the pandemic lockdown as a form of a regular exercise. This transferring of the digital paintings onto the medium of fabric marks her return to working with recycled materials, which she used in her previous works (in previous years, she focused mainly on the critical use of plastic). In addition to being a suitable tool for expressing conceptual expression, Höschlová also views working with fabric as a way of slowing and calming down. Working offline from her mountain cottage helps her regulate the flow of information and be present in the moment.