Date: 18.07.2017 — 13.08.2017
Familiar? Yes! Stereotyped? Of course! Amusing – Why? Subtle – no, not here, but read on…
A massive materialized installation of twenty “menhirs” comes as a great surprise from an author of complex, live formats on the boundary of performance and participation. So far the time as a process has not been just a means but also a central theme in the works of Vojtěch Novák; a material measured, controlled and structured by social activity and communication.
The racy monoliths do contain the creative process and, through the updating of the archaic, do offer other possible options how to understand the time continuum, however formally we do not find precedents in Vojtěch Novák’s previous work, except for a certain inkling in the Set the Time for a Statue project (Gallery 44, Berlin, 2014). For example, in How Much Heat Can Concrete Withstand, Novák had almost substantially melted the time progression into a series of concurring open discussions. Later he repeated the project within the frame of the curatorial section How to Waste Time (Manifesta 11, Zurich, 2016), focusing on tertiary time policies. This is followed by a series thematizing anachronism and timelessness of the current globalized world Silk Road Hybridization (Studio Letná, Prague / Jan Naajkens Prize,’s-Hertogenbosch, 2016). An intensive collaboration with Andrew Jan Hauner includes, among other things, interactive plays, such as the 1st comes 3rd theatrical production for the Prague Quadrienale (also Vorbrenner, Innsbruck 2015) or the series of events in urban environment Token (WOUND, NY, 2016). And another multimedia installation the Oversleep Means Outrun (Kunstpodium Tilburg 2016) came up in collaboration with James Beckett.
It may not be necessary to emphasize that the phallic forms present are not the result of an inadequate sculptural ambitions of the author, but of his long-term interest in illusion, virtual reality and media theory. Despite the deliberate humorousness, he does have something to say about the medium of the sculpture. After all, the long name of the show is a recommendation of sorts as how to read this pseudo-sculptural installation. The absurdity of stone simulation in papier-mâché technique, taking into account the physical properties of paper (specifically newspapers and other commercial prints), opens up another large discourse field in the perspective of temporality.
Menhir models are a sort of an unaware negative of the imaginary model. The volumes pretending to be a stone are defined against the environment by their stylized surface – theatrical dummy layers. This dense, yet fragile and incoherent crust defines the objects themselves, but also determines the emotional and factual qualities of the context that models them. Vojtěch Novák describes the symbolic interface of more or less credible layers of interpretation of megalithic art. The hollow, lightweight and transportable dummy, in contrast to the full mass of topographically stable stones, further enhances the sense of dirigibility.
The weight, height and above all the human strength that has erected the multi-tune megalith in the landscape, incites not only professional speculation, but also immediate intense affections, from chauvinist enthusiasm to romantic nostalgia. The less is known about the old Celts, the more space remains for irrational fascination and mystical fiction. The more the mystery resists time and bears up against decipherment, the more intense debate around it becomes. A documentation is being collected, a typology defined, and Celtic relics in each country enumerated.
Creators of the Asterix comic books René Goscinny and designer Albert Uderzo, created the grotesque figure of the menhir “sculptor” Obelix, aware that the original Breton monoliths has been cut very little or not at all. Ironically, the sculptor’s role lies in the distribution of heavy stones across the countryside, while the authors do not even explain what is the use for a menhir. Thus, the comic refers ironically to the precarious status of the menhir in the evolutionary programme of the art history, while the conservative interpretation of the (un)art of prehistory or natural nations is left to archaeology and anthropology. It would be possible to develop a model scheme of greater general validity from such a contradictory situation.The potential of the present moment to manipulate history is being exposed by the theme. This phenomenon shows much more universal mechanisms of cultural patterns construction, national identities and mythologies.
Curator: Mariana Serranová