Past: January 11 → February 22, 2014
The idea of this exhibition started with a coincidence: the simultaneity of an exhibition of Hassan Sharif with a new project by Jiří Kovanda. Very soon, the parallel between the performances realized by Hassan Sharif in the desert of Hatta and the actions of Jiří Kovanda in Prague became clear; this proximity between the two universes questioned how art has simultaneously grown up at the fringes and at the center and so emphasized the way we look at and legitimate an artistic practice. If Hassan Sharif and Jiří Kovanda were aware of some influences, their geopolitical context has given to their work its peculiarity.
We later discovered that the parallel has already been drawn by Paulina Kolczynska in a text entitled A Tale from the World of Parallel Thinking highlighting the formal and conceptual interplays between the two artists. Be it in Prague or Dubai, they both turn their immediate environments into field experiments. The absence of audience in their performances (invisible gestures amongst the anonymous crowd by Jiří Kovanda and solitary walks in the desert by Hassan Sharif) does not have the same origin but reveals a certain fragility. They both take the measure of their space, be it public or private, often urban, in order to redefine their world and position their work. The object progressively appears in their work as a unit of measurement or a pretext for an intervention. Often invisible and ephemeral, the artwork exists as a photographic document before slipping into a spatial and physical reality. Hassan Sharif and Jiří Kovanda will start pretty much at the same time a work based around the commonplace and the everyday life and will develop a very simple aesthetic with poor and often found materials.
If, for Hassan Sharif and Jiří Kovanda, the necessity to produce objects follows from a knowledge of conceptual art, this necessity is on the other hand the raw material of Ana Jotta’s conceptual work. From the same generation, Ana Jotta comes from a different background: she’s not yet an artist in the seventies and will never adopt the aesthetics of the photographic document. Her relationship to conceptual art expresses itself by other means, through a critique of the notions of authorship and authenticity. She revisits styles as if to erase her own signature. With Ana Jotta, the idea is on a secondary level: the process of doing, the spontaneous gesture and the handmade practice refers to this assertive ambiguity between the attachment to a conceptual practice and the almost unconscious necessity to produce objects. Other correspondences in this ambivalence between the assertion of the idea’s supremacy and the reality of the object can be found with Tamás St.Turba. Artist close to this legacy of Duchamp, he considers art as the expression of a way of living. The poet and superintendent Tamás St.Turba confuses the issue with his objects from the seventies to be reactivated in the present.
Július Koller is also in this gap between art and life when he creates his “Conceptual Cultural Situations”. He produces a repertoire of objects and signs that will become the starting point for his “anti performances”, expanding his field of action into real life.
These “baroque” collages by Hassan Sharif, minimalist, pop or surrealist by Jiří Kovanda, become irreverent Dada associations with Ana Jotta or strange readymades with Tamás St.Turba. If each work was conceived in different grounds, the build-up of Hassan Sharif’s sculptures in Dubai’s consumerist society is not so far from the self-restraint of Jiří Kovanda’s installation towards a certain artistic scene.
Further to these formal or artistic interplays, this exhibition tries to present the way these five artists keep on resisting their contexts, with their rules and codes. Singular and free, their works evidence this conceptual legacy as if it was above all a tool of emancipation bringing the scale of work back to that of the body; an economy of means that would focus on the individual rather than on discourse and makes it possible to remap the border between public space and the private sphere. With almost nothing, each of them, from his balcony in Bratislava, his studio in Dubai or her house museum in Lisbon, is from then on able to invent and imperceptibly transform reality.
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