The idea of their joint exhibition has circulated through the Czech cultural universe for at least a decade. From time to time, it floated close to the telescopes of major art galleries, yet was never described and named by their specialists. The complications involved in its non-execution are not interesting enough to deserve attention. However, they preceded a paradox that their joint exhibition, despite the lasting interest and a suitable opportunity, is not held this time, either.
How to understand the “+” between the titles of two neighbouring and yet individual shows? Is it just a sign for a formal coverage of two autonomous entities? Is it an atavism of the original, unexecuted intention? Both artists lead us, in a certain “unified direction”, towards speculations about the last days of mankind, to visions of the end of civilisation which does not come from the outside but is a consequence of its inherent dynamics. Like with authors of fiction, films and computer games on the postapo subject, with Kotzmannová and Q: it is also possible to place their “seconds before” and “the last traces” in relation to an imminent threat of an environmental disaster, including an ever more obvious fact that for a radical change of the course a social accord, political will or simply time are missing… Under these circumstances hope, the last resort that has got mankind through so many hopeless situations, turns against its host.
Nonetheless, the idea of two parallel exhibitions can be understood slightly better when we take into account the temperament with which Kotzmannová and Q: approach their subjects. Alena Kotzmannová takes the stance of a melancholic observer, a traveller through a scorched landscape in which the finds of the relics of the human desire for beauty and social status resemble the finds of unusually shaped objets trouvés. The figure of the last human walking through a desert with a camera can be equally well replaced with the image of an automaton which, long after the disappearance of its creators, is still running its programme, mechanically sorting out its finds for a museum that nobody will ever visit. Kotzmannová’s relationship with the current environmental crisis is somewhat looser. It isn’t written anywhere that her photographs are not “aired” from a future so distant that the extinction of mankind occurred “spontaneously”, through wear and tear, as it were.
In contrast, Q’s attitude is different: he considers “here and now”, even “seconds before” raises the alarm, challenges the existence of plan B and the possibility of an escape. A monumental model of a rocket carrying “elsewhere” a message about mankind, as well as a diorama of a desperate family of astro-settlers are, rather paradoxically, intended as suggestive sensory perceptions, fascinating last images on the collective retina of the human race. Perhaps this is exactly what a memento should be like: visually powerful in order to emerge in the memory a second before a dystopian reality becomes the present so that we will try, for the one last time, to swerve in a final attempt to rescue ourselves.
The preservation of a certain autonomy enabled by the division of the planned joint exhibition thus does not reflect a personal (ideological or relationship-wise) dispute. It enables to fully demonstrate the difference between elegy (Kotzmannová) and lamentation (Q:), the introvert (Kotzmannová) and the extrovert principle (Q:). And yet, Kotzmannová at one point can’t resist and gatecrashes Q’s display to, at least partially, cool down his zeal. Or is the supplementing of “his” exhibition with fire extinguishers a symbol of a brake needed more by the civilisation living on Planet Earth?
|Alena Kotzmannová, Q
|Place / venue
|Fait Gallery MEM, Brno
|17 October 2018 - 12 January 2019
|Alena Kotzmannová Jiří Ptáček Q