2016 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 20
At the heart of this issue are three studies following on from the international conference “Art Criticism 2.0”, which took place last November as one of the events surrounding the Věra Jirousová Award. Elisa Rusca warns of the pitfalls linked with using social media for art criticism purposes, pointing out that specialist analyses can be replaced simply by the quantitative measurement of popularity. Eve Kalyva interprets the interplay of social media and contemporary art as part of the broader process of the commodification of culture under neoliberalism. Sebastian Mühl examines the question of the critical evaluation of the outputs of “artistic research” from the perspective of their cognitive and aesthetic status. Theses texts are available in Czech in the printed edition and in the original English in the online magazine. This edition also contains a translation of a text by Luis Camnitzer, in which this renowned representative of conceptual art offers an interpretation of the transformation of the concept of an arts education during the course of the twentieth century, and formulates a manifesto for the emancipation of the process of teaching art from the shackles of the academic world. The edition closes with a review by Slavomíra Ferenčuhová of the essay by Hubert Guzík on the phenomenon of the koldom, or collective house, in Czechoslovakian architecture of the mid-twentieth century.
Elisa Rusca, “Tumbling Down the Rabbit Hole: Art Criticism on Social Networks and Internet Freedom”
Abstract Since 2012, the New York-based curator and critic Brian Droitcour has been using his account on the online platform Yelp to write exhibition and art reviews. In reaction, Orit Gat analysed some questions about Yelp and its potential use as an art-criticism tool. By taking Droitcour as an example, Gat seemed to be encouraging the reader to view the Internet as a place where one could find new ways to write about art, opening up to a larger number of writers and a more diverse audience and range of styles. This article argues to the contrary: the online and social-media experience has been personalized to such an extent that exposure to diverse views and writing has become increasingly difficult. The English version of the essay is made available on Sešit’s website at http://vvp.avu.cz/sesit/.
Keywords art criticism – social networks – social media – contemporary art – internet
Author Germany (Berlin), curator, email@example.com
Eve Kalyva, “Where Are My Keys? The Now of Critique in a Plurality of Voices”
Abstract Social media are intrinsic to marketing. They contribute to the intensification of consumerist culture, and, together with prevalent neo-liberal policies across the educational and the cultural sectors, shift the dynamics of our access to knowledge and culture. This causes changes in museum policies and the traditional model of plan–produce–publish and affects the institutional position and validity of criticism. The essay tries to identify these changes and reflect on the state of criticism today. It examines different artworks that use social media, and suggests an interdisciplinary approach that, based on social semiotics, turns attention to the act of communication. By understanding art criticism as interpretation in operation, we can negotiate its position within overlapping discursive frameworks and evaluate the social and
critical dimensions of art. The English version of the essay is made available on Sešit’s website at http://vvp.avu.cz/sesit/.
Keywords art criticism – social networks – contemporary art – gallery – museum
Author United Kingdom (London), curator, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sebastian Mühl, “Artistic Research as a Challenge for Art Criticism”
Abstract In the last decade, artistic research arose as a new avant-garde practice in the arts. Regarding the dissolution of artistic limits, research-oriented practices increasingly challenged the once inflexible boundaries between art and science. Not only did artistic research challenge well-established notions of scientific knowledge production, but it also confronted art criticism with a number of problems. Considering contemporary theories of aesthetic experience, one can reasonably criticize the claims of artistic research as being contradictory to one another. While they tend to lean on the production of knowledge through artistic forms, the inherent “aestheticity” of the materialized objects of this production leads to the undermining of all conceptualization. The English version of the essay is made available on Sešit’s website at http://vvp.avu.cz/sesit/.
Keywords Artistic Research – Art Criticism – Art Critical Judgement – Aesthetic Experience – Conceptual Art
Author Germany (Offenbach am Main), Ph.D. student and research assistent at Offenbach University of Art and Design, where his thesis is supervised by the philosopher Prof. Dr. Juliane Rebentisch, email@example.com
2015 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 19
The texts in this issue of the Notebook all in some way reflect on the paradigmatic shift between high modernism, associated with a formalistic theory of art and a concept of the specificity of media, and the post-war neo-avantgarde, which sought to part company with the aesthetic autonomy of art as understood in this way (conceptualism and action art). This shift took a somewhat different form on the western and eastern sides of the Iron Curtain, and this in turn calls out for a comparative approach when examining the period in question. The texts contained in this issue are organised with regard for the chronological development of the issue under discussion. Tomáš Hříbek confronts the modernist theories of the artwork propounded by Greenberg and Mukařovský, and interrogates the limits and particularities of formalism. Taking her lead from the article by Diarmuid Costello (Notebook, 2009, no. 6–7, 44–66), Michaela Brejcha criticises the formalist theory of art for the way it fails to take on board the legacy of Kantian aesthetics, and offers a means of subsuming conceptual art within an aesthetic conception of art. The interview by Pavlína Morganová with Robert Wittmann introduces the activities and opinions of the one of the unjustly overlooked figures of the Aktual movement. In her comparative review Milena Bartlová examines the latest books by Karel Císař and Tomáš Pospiszyl.
Tomáš Hříbek, “A Czech Greenberg? Mukařovský and Czech Formalism”
Abstract This article revisits Tomáš Pospiszyl’s discussion of the split between the US and the Czechoslovak postwar modernisms as a difference between the views of two critics who dominated the American and the Czechoslovak art scenes, Clement Greenberg and Jindřich Chalupecký. Pospiszyl convincingly traces the evolution of American art to what has been called Greenberg’s “formalism”, and the developments on the Czechoslovak scene to Chalupecký’s ideas about art as part of social social interactions. Though the author of the article agrees with this analysis of Czechoslovak modernism as anti-formalist, he seeks to draw attention to the writings of the Czech literary theorist Jan Mukařovský, which were contemporaneous with Chalupecký’s and Greenberg’s – in particular Mukařovský’s 1944 lecture “The Essence of the Visual Arts”. The author provides a comparative analysis of Mukařovský and Greenberg, suggesting that the former was quite close to the latter’s “formalism”. This might seem incorrect, given that Mukařovský is considered to be a precursor of the semiotic theory of art, which is generally understood as antithetical to formalism. The solution, he argues, is to realize that Greenberg is subtler, hence not so “formalist” after all. At any rate, it turns out that in addition to Chalupecký’s “social” theory of art, Mukařovský had a more “formalist” alternative which – for well-known historical reasons – had no effect on the subsequent
development of Czechoslovak modernism.
Keywords Greenberg – Chalupecký – Mukařovský – essentialism – formalism – autonomy of art
Author Czech Republic, The Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and Institut of Philosophy at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
Michaela Brejcha, “On the Concept of Medium Specificityand the Kantian Interpretation of Conceptual Art”
Abstract Th is essay discusses the Kantian interpretation of conceptual art, which emerged recently in debates about the status of conceptual art and other styles of neo-avantgarde art in aesthetics and art theory in the second half of the twentieth century. Its primary focus is the thesis Diarmuid Costello presented in his essay “Greenberg’s Kant and the Fate of Aesthetics in Contemporary Art Th eory”. Costello sees the problem of the uncertain aesthetic status of conceptual art and the related divorce between art practice and aesthetic theory as a result of a misinterpretation of Kant made by the infl uential art critic Clement Greenberg and his concept
of medium specifi city. Th e aim of this essay is to show that although Costello is right to see the theory of medium specifi city as the main diffi culty aesthetic theory has in accepting conceptual art, he is wrong to make Greenberg responsible for this difficulty. Th e essay seeks to demonstrate that the problem lies instead in the essentialist point of view, beyond the Greenbergian and formalist approaches to art.
Keywords conceptual art – medium specifi city – Diarmuid Costello – Immanuel Kant – Clement
Greenberg – formalism – aesthetic norm
Author Czech Republic, Department of Aesthetics at Faculty of Philosophy and Arts Charles University in Prague, email@example.com
2015 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 18
This issue of the Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones contains two studies from the sphere of experimental poetry, and a third that examines the convergence of contemporary visual arts and professional dance. As always, the Notebook ends with a review of an important specialist publication. Jan Wollner looks at the parallels between the journal-style texts of Pavel Juráček, the experimental poetry of Bohumila Grögerová and Jiří Hiršal, and the literary criticism of Jiří Pechar and the discourse of psychiatry, in order to highlight the conflicting ways in which the term “experiment” was used in the cultural life of Czechoslovakia at the end of the 1960s. Ondřej Buddeus also looks at the experimental poetry of this decade in a piece focusing on the Norwegian poet Jan Erik Vold. Buddeus maintains that the linguistic permutations and the deconstruction of poetic subjectivity to be found in Vold’s work derive organically from the ethos of the Scandinavian literary neo-avantgarde. Viktor Čech associates the growing popularity of dance and choreography in the contemporary visual arts with the broader phenomenon of the “archival impulse”, within which modern artists return to the reconstruction and re-contextualisation of the legacy of modernism. Hubert Guzik, reviewing the anthology published last year entitled Things and Words, finds it to be pioneering. However, he regrets the fact that, alongside the voices of the cultural avant-garde, we do not hear those of the technical and economic avant-garde.
Jan Wollner, “The Boundaries of Experiment”
Abstract “Experiment” was one of the most frequent terms in discussions on the arts, politics, and science in in 1960s Czechoslovakia. Instead of developing any strict definition of the term, the essay seeks to trace its various, often contradictory, and changing meanings. The same term was used by representatives of state institutions as well as by the so-called “independent” or “alternative” artists. It was variously declared as a source of independent creativity, a passing fashion, a scientific method, a space of freedom, or a symptom of insanity. The essay uses a couple of examples to show the ambiguous relationships among these meanings.
Keywords experiment – normalization – sixties – experimental film – experimental poetry – Pavel Juráček – Bohumila Grögerová and Josef Hiršal – Václav Havel – Jiří Pechar
Author Czech Republic, The Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ondřej Buddeus, “Meaning Inhabiting Structure: Jan Erik Vold and the Limits
of Experiment in Norwegian Literature of the 1960s”
Abstract In the history of literature, the term “experiment” is for the most part rooted in the 1960s. Its meaning and field of reference vary with respect to the context in which it is placed. The article aims to provide, and interpret, several instances of experimental techniques in Norwegian literature of the 1960s against the backdrop of Jan Erik Vold’s poetry. It outlines the occurrence of the techniques as well as their forms, both in the context of the Scandinavian literary Neo-Avant-Garde together with its intellectual impulses and in the frame of a specific author’s discourse. The article aims to demonstrate that the adjective “experimental” in 1960s Norwegian literature did not suggest any particular genre definition; rather, it was a general method of reconstructing literary language and reconstructing literature’s relation to reality.
In such an environment, as the article seeks to demonstrate, experimental techniques (that is, visual, sound, and concrete poetry) thus become merely one of many textual practices, which
are organically integrated into non-experimental poetic techniques. When juxtaposed with Czechoslovak experimental literature, the phenomenon appears to assume a position outside the established binary opposition of “natural v. artificial” poetry.
Keywords Jan Erik Vold – post-war literature – Norwegian poetry – experimental poetry – permutation – Scandinavian Neo-Avant-Garde
Author Czech Republic, Department of Germanic Studies Faculty of Philosophy & Arts Charles University in Prague, email@example.com
Viktor Čech, “The Choreographic Moment: Memory and Modernity”
Abstract Recent years have witnessed a growing interest of visual artists in using dance and choreography in their work. As opposed to the “conceptual” current in contemporary dance in the 1990s, this trend does not transform the practice of dance itself; rather, it introduces
dance and choreographic aspects into gallery art. The trend has attracted deserved attention in the global artworld and has been the subject of several large curatorial projects. This article is intended as an introduction to the topic in the form of case studies of several international artists. The term “choreographic moment” is meant to address what the author of the article takes to be central to the phenomenon: the application of choreography as a way of controlling
body movement against the background of social and cultural memory.
Keywords contemporary dance – choreography – Sharon Lockhart – Kelly
Nipper – modernism – archival impulse
Author Czech Republic, curator and critic, firstname.lastname@example.org
2014 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 17
The 17th issue of The Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones examines two major themes: the concept of the experiment, and post-internet art. The first section comprises two original essays and an interview based on papers presented at the conference “Boundaries of the Experiment” at UMPRUM. The first theoretical essay by Kamil Nábělek analyses the term “experiment” and the different ways it is applied in science and art. The concept of experimentation in architecture and urban planning is examined by Markéta Žáčková in a case study devoted to the activities of the Research Institute for Building and Architecture. Jiří Pechar addresses the possibilities of experimentation in literature, especially in respect of the French nouveau roman and experimental poetry of the 1960s, in an interview with Johana Lomová and Jan Wollner, organisers of the conference referred to above. The topic of post-internet art is examined in two texts. Václav Magid places the current debate around the term “post-internet” within the interpretative framework of critical theory. The last text of this issue is a translation of a text by the artist Artie Vierkant called “The Image Object Post-Internet”, written in 2010, which could be regarded as a kind of manifesto of this artistic trend.
Kamil Nábělek, “Some Remarks on the Concept of Experiment and Its Role in Critical Theory Discourse”
Abstract The essay is about experiment in art. It distinguishes the scientific-research experiment from artistic experiment (artistic experimentation). Experiment in art is seen as the practice of methods and techniques with no possibility of their full control. An artistic experiment is also shown to be related to the concept of experientia. The concept of experiment is treated in the context of selfunderstanding in the humanities in opposition to the methods of the natural sciences. In conclusion, the author attempts to integrate art theory and art practice, especially with regard to the context of “tacit, performative knowledge”.
Keywords experiment – artistic experiment – modern art – tacit knowledge – knowledge systems
Author Czech Republic, The Faculty of Art and Architecture of Technical University Liberec, email@example.com
Markéta Žáčková, “‘Although There Was a Plan…’: The Research Institute for Building and Architecture and the Experimental Housing Construction in the Late Fifties and Early Sixties”
Abstract This contribution discusses experimental tendencies in building and architecture in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It focuses particularly on the mass housing that was meant to have been based on work of the Research Institute for Building and Architecture (VÚVA). At that time, the Institute was commissioned to provide the theoretical basis for the experimental construction which should have later been transferred into standardization and introduced into production. In VÚVA work, the term “experiment” was interpreted very pragmatically in its elementary meaning – namely, the verification of the building and technological processes. The results of their research were meant to determine later work in the form of experimental projects and construction. The questionable outcomes of its practice, however, provide evidence of an essential discrepancy between the research and reality of architecture and urban planning.
Keywords Research Institute for Building and Architecture – VÚVA – Stavoprojekt – socialism – Czechoslovakia – Brno – architecture – urban planning – spatial planning – built environment – investment housing – complex housing development – theory of architecture and urban planning – experiment
Author Czech Republic, The Faculty of Fine Art the Brno University of Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org
Václav Magid, “Echoes of the Wrong Laughter: Post-Internet Art and the Culture Industry” Abstract The essay focuses on a new art movement called “Post-Internet” and its approach to the Culture Industry. In the first parts of the article the author introduces the reader to the main facts about the so-called “Post-Internet Condition”, in which the Internet becomes a banal aspect of our everyday lives, and about “Post-Internet Art” as a response to this overall change in the cultural climate. In the following sections the author examines the ambitions of Post-Internet Art with regard to the Culture Industry, comparing and contrasting the conceptual apparatus of Critical Theory with a current political tendency known as Accelerationism. The analysis of Post-Internet Art as represented by the DIS collective leads the author to conclude that this recent movement reinforces the ubiquitous power of the Culture Industry while harmlessly parodying its forms and strategies. The effect is the “wrong laughter”, which “echoes the inescapability of power”.
Keywords Post-Internet – Culture Industry – DIS collective – Accelerationism
Author Czech Republic, Department of Aesthetic Faculty of Philosophy & Arts Charles University in Prague; editor in chief Notebook for Art, theory and related zones, email@example.com
2014 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 16
The 16th issue of The Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones contains three texts examining the different forms the avant-garde took during the 1950s and 60s, a short essay on the philosophical interpretation of photography, and a review of a publication on architecture. In an article based on her talk at last year’s conference organised by the AVU Academic Research Centre entitled “Between creation and production. Transformations in the artistic process”, Hana Buddeus compares different approaches to the photographic documentation of happenings, emphasising the significance of its legendary precursors Jackson Pollock and Vladimír Boudník. Having studied Jiří Kolář’s correspondence and other archival sources, Tomáš Pospiszyl untangles the web of contacts between Czechoslovak artists and the Fluxus movement in the 1960s. The winner of the first year of the competition for best article by a student, Lenka Brabcová Kršiaková, examines the work of Daniel Buren using a conceptual framework taken from Miroslav Petříček’s book Thinking by the Image. In a text entitled “François Laruelle on Photography”, Tomáš Koblížek responds to Laruelle’s book The Concept of Non-Photography, whose thesis he confronts with the literary procedures of Alain Robbe-Grillet. This edition of the Notebook ends with a review by Jana Pavlová of an anthology edited by Monika Mitášová entitled Oxymoron and Pleonasm II.
Tomáš Pospiszyl, “Jiří Kolář and Fluxus”
Abstract This essay follows on from Pavlína Morganová’s article “The Meaning of the Word Is Its Use: Jiří Kolář – Yoko Ono”, published in the last issue of this journal, as well as following on from other articles concerned with the relationship between Czechoslovak artists and members of the international neo-avantgarde associated with the Fluxus group. Based on new archival research, the essay traces and details the direct contacts between the Fluxus founder George Maciunas and Czech artists and critics in the second half of the 1960s. It compares the differences in the attitudes of Jiří Kolář and Milan Knížák towards the international art scene. Whereas Kolář was cautious in his treatment of invitations for collaboration from abroad and did not leave the field of experimental literature, Knížák – though critical of some aspects of the Fluxus movement – easily identified with the general goals of the global neo-avantgarde and took active part in it.
Keywords Jiří Kolář – Fluxus – George Maciunas – Milan Knížák – international art contacts –experimental art
Author Czech Republic, FAMU Center for audiovisual studies in Prague and Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hana Buddeus, “The Photographic Conditions of Happening”
Abstract In the art world, the upsurge of interest in photography has always been a corollary of the shift in emphasis from the art object to the process or perhaps to the activation of the viewer. Once the artwork itself had been withdrawn in favour of the action, photography began to play the important role of the mediator. The phrase ‘photographic conditions’ was coined by Judith Rodenbeck, in her book on Allan Kaprow, in connection with the happening and its inclusion in art history. Following on from her concept, this article compares Kaprow and his approach to photographic documentation with the the work of Czechs, specifically Milan Knížák, and points out the difference in the models of adopting predecessors. Whereas Kaprow alludes to Jackson Pollock, Knížák denies that the happening had any forerunners, and it is only the art historians who see Vladimír Boudník in this role. Both Pollock and Boudník entered art history as legendary figures whose existence is attested to in photographs capturing them at work. These photographic representations correspond to the ideal of the solitary creator – the modernist genius – while establishing the myth of the artist entering the space and a dialogue with the viewer. It is therefore supposed that in Boudník (as in Pollock, albeit based on a different trajectory of development) a certain stage of conditions existed which enabled the subsequent evolution and the inclusion of the happening into art history by means of photographic documentation. The retrograde institutionalization (and commercialization) of the happening through documentary photography appears not to have been an incidental paradox; rather it is fair to see it as an obvious consequence of the fact that photography has helped to connect this type of creation with the realm of visual art.
Keywords photographic documentation – happening – art history – Allan Kaprow – Milan Knížák – Jackson Pollock – Vladimír Boudník
Author Czech Republic, Department of Theory and History of Art, Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, email@example.com
Lenka Brabcová Kršiakova, “Thinking in Images in Daniel Buren”
Abstract In this article some of the ideas and concepts that the Czech contemporary philosopher Miroslav Petříček discusses in his book Myšlení obrazem (Thinking in images, 2009) are applied to the work of the French artist Daniel Buren. In the first part of the article, Buren’s art is briefly characterized. The article then deals with the “imagery of the image” in relation to Buren’s work. Imagery of the image in visual art is what turns colour, lines, and planes into an image. It is specific to art and cannot be translated into any other medium, not even language. Petříček suggests that the “imagery of the image” is characterized by several features, including the principle of formation – a system that manifests itself in the way a work is formed. Other features of the “imagery of the image” which are addressed here are perceiving and conceiving reality and understanding that works of art are images projecting different slices of reality. The second part of the article is predominantly focused on the concept of frames, frameworks, borders and limits, and how they relate to Buren’s work. The fact that art is framed by a theoretical framework is discussed in connection with this. Other topics addressed here and applied to Buren’s work in the second part of the article include borders and limits in art, the liquidity of shape, and the comprehensibility given by a work’s framing.
Keywords Imagery of the image – slice of reality – Daniel Buren – frames and borders – Miroslav Petříček
Author Czech Republic, Department of Arts Faculty of Philosophy & Arts Charles University in Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tomáš Koblížek, “Laruelle on Photography”
Abstract Drawing a comparison with Alain Robbe-Grillet’s approach to literature, this essay comments on François Laruelle’s theory of photography. Both authors emphasize implicit, non-objective aspects of the particular medium they discuss: Robbe-Grillet refers to the subjectivity or the ‘subjective gaze’ which is ubiquitous in his novels; Laruelle talks of the power of seeing which is revealed in photography. Nevertheless, the two approaches are significantly different from each other. Whereas Robbe- Grillet sees subjectivity as intentionally bound to its object, Laruelle considers the power of seeing to be condensed in itself. According to Laruelle, photography presents a special dimension of seeing which is not – strictly speaking – related to objects.
Author Czech Republic, The Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, email@example.com
2013 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 15
In the 15th edition of Sešit we continue to publish essays based on contributions given at the conference „Between East and West. How was fine art written about in post-war Czechoslovakia?“ Beata Jablonská familiarises us with the dramatic discussion on the role of the image „More“ by Július Koller in relation to the birth of conceptualism in Slovakia. In an examination of period debates, Josef Ledvina shows that the „historical truth“ of postmodern art resides in the very form of the dispute around its definition. The text by Pavlína Morgan also links up to the theme of the conference and is entitled „The meaning of a word resides in the way it is used. Jiří Kolář – Yoko Ono“. The last essay in this edition of the magazine is by Karina Pfeiffer Kottová and is entitled „The institutional avant-garde“. It focuses on current self-critical strategies of contemporary art galleries and collections.
Beata Jablonská, “Controversy over the Slovak ‘Sea’”
Abstract There is a continuing debate in Slovak art history on whether the label of “the first conceptual work of art” belongs to Július Koller’s painting The Sea (1963–1964) or to Alex Mlynárčik, Stanislav Filko, and Zita Kostrová’s project Happsoc I and II (1965). Koller’s claim to the label is harder to defend since his painting does not comply with the dictionary definition of conceptualism. The very existence of the unresolved debate, however, demonstrates that the painting plays a more important role in the history of Slovak conceptual art than has been admitted in some canonical art history essays about conceptual art in Slovakia. The Sea has several times provided an opportunity for theoretical disputes that went beyond its “frame” and spoke to the sources and character of conceptualism. It is reasonable to say that one can now hardly find a more controversial artwork in Slovak art history, paradoxically not because of its radical nature, but because it remained true to a traditional medium. I argue here that the chronological aspect of the dispute has provided a battleground for a larger debate about the character of conceptual art and its place in the history of Slovak art.
Keywords conceptual art – Slovak art – Július Koller – conceptual painting – Tomáš Štrauss – Jana Geržová – Aurel Hrabušický
Author Slovakia, Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, firstname.lastname@example.org
Josef Ledvina, “On the Historical Truth of Postmodern Art”
Abstract The essay explores different and often conflicting definitions of the concept of postmodernism as presented by various art historians, critics, and theorists on the Czech art scene in the 1980s. The essay does not search for the “historical truth” of the concept in any of those definitions, nor does it seek a synthesis that would overcome the contradictions amongst them. Instead it locates the truth in the struggle for the dominant definition. In “Loučení s modernismem” (A Farewell to Modernism), a key Czech essay by Jana Ševčíková and Jiří Ševčík, the leading figures of the Czech postmodern turn, postmodern art is treated as the New Art and set against the depleted late modern art of the previous generations. Thus the question of postmodern art becomes a question of new, contemporary, and so, in a sense, true art. Besides the Ševčíks, the other participants in the struggle who are discussed in the essay were the art historian and critic Josef Kroutvor, the art historian Jan Kříž, the aesthetician and art theorist Josef Hlaváček, the art historian and artist Vladimír Skrepl, and the philosopher, writer, and guru of the Czech underground Egon Bondy.
Keywords postmodernism – 1980s – Jana Ševčíková and Jiří Ševčík – New Painting – art criticism – art theory
Author Czech Republic, Department of Arts Faculty of Philosophy & Arts Charles University in Prague, email@example.com
Pavlína Morganová, “The Meaning of the Word Is Its Use: Jiří Kolář – Yoko Ono”
Abstract The fascinating similarity of two slender books created on each side of the Iron Curtain in the mid-1960s was the impetus for this article. The works in question are the final book of poetry by Jiří Kolář, entitled Instructions for Use, completed in 1965, and Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings by Yoko Ono from 1964. The conceptual nature of Yoko Ono’s individual poems and “event scores” is derived from the haiku, and also resonates with the experimental methods of the New York Neo-avant-garde of the early 1960s. Many of Kolář’s poem-instructions take a similar approach, inviting the reader to enact the poems either in his or her imagination or in reality. It is strange that such seemingly similar approaches arose in such different environments. How could it be that two individuals from such differing standpoints achieved such similar results in the 1960s? The article aims to answer that question.
Keywords Jiří Kolář – Yoko Ono – event scores – Fluxus – experimental poetry – collage
Author Czech Republic, director of the Research Center and vice-rector for study affairs at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
Karina Pfeiffer Kottová, “The Institutional Avant-garde”
Abstract Discussing authors such as Nina Möntmann, Brian O’Doherty, Sven Lütticken, and Jan Verwoert, this article assesses some of the major questions and challenges concerning the notion of “new institutionalism” and the so-called “hybridization” of institutions that present contemporary art. The term “new institutionalism”, which the art world borrowed from sociology, emphasizes the resistance of these institutions to commercialization or politicization by means of an engaged, critical approach both towards their programmes and towards the possibilities of working with visitors. This largely theoretical concept faces a range of challenges in practice: in order to achieve the ideal, institutions have to resolve problems connected to financing, promotion, management, and external and internal demands for their programming as well as for their target groups and educational or communication strategies.
Keywords New Institutionalism – white cube – transformation – hybridization – public – participation
Author Czech Republic, Department of Arts Faculty of Philosophy & Arts Masaryk University in Brno, email@example.com
2013 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 14
Three of the essays contained in the 14th edition of Sešit are based on contributions to the conference „Between East and West. How was fine art written about in post-war Czechoslovakia?“ that was held in November 2012 at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. In a text entitled „Punkva. Where is Marxism in Czech art history?“ Milena Bartlová explores the fate of Marxist methods in the Czech post-war history of art. In „Space for Differentiation“, Jan Wollner attempts to reconstruct the „discussion on space“ that took place in the 1960s around Jan Patočka. Martina Pachmanová focuses her attention on Chalupecký’s writings on women and femininity in art. There follows an interview with Rostislav Švácha on the development of the methodology of Czech art history after 1948. The magazine ends with a review by Tomáš Jirsa of the book Silent Revolutions in Ornament by Lada Hubatová-Vacková.
Milena Bartlová, “A Lost River: Where Is Marxism in Czech Art History?”
Abstract This essay seeks to answer whether there was a genuinely Marxist current in Czech art history writing in the second half of the twentieth century, and, if so, what form it took. The essay argues for the central importance of Jaromír Neumann’s methodological approach, which adapted a simplified version of Panofsky’s post-war iconology to the demands of the prevalent Marxist-Leninist ideology of Czechoslovak institutions. This approach was legitimized by its adopting Max Dvořák’s “art history as the history of the spirit” and purportedly translating it into materialist terms. In this way, Czech art history could both free itself from previous uncertainties regarding correct Marxist method and become officially acceptable, while remaining deeply entrenched in the tacitly tolerated practice of the elite cultural tradition of what was then called “bourgeois humanism”.
Keywords Marxism – art history – methodology – historiography – Czechoslovakia – iconology – Jaromír Neumann
Author Czech Republic, Department of Theory and History of Art, Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan Wollner, “Tracing Space”
Abstract In 1960, the philosopher Jan Patočka sent the art historian Václav Richter a birthday present. The present consisted of a treatise on space written especially for the occasion. Despite working in different fields, Patočka and Richter shared a long-standing interest in the nature of space, which was a common topic of their discussions. Since there was no convenient platform for an inter-disciplinary debate on the topic, their ruminations never developed into a public discussion, but instead assumed the private, even intimate, form of a birthday present. A similar pattern applied elsewhere, too. The subject of space had become a relevant topic of discussion in various fields of research in Czechoslovakia in the 1960s. These discussions did not lead to any conference, exhibition, or anthology, but lingered in the form of private conversations, diary entries, and birthday presents. The aim of this essay is to assemble these ephemeral fragments and to create a post-factum platform for a discussion of space, which could not take place openly at its proper time, yet has continued to have a kind of virtual existence.
Keywords philosophy – Phenomenology – Jan Patočka – space – sculpture – architecture – theory of architecture – art history
Author Czech Republic, Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, email@example.com
Martina Pachmanová, “Silence about Feminism and ‘Femininity’ as an Aesthetic Value: Czech Woman Artists through the Eyes of Jindřich Chalupecký”
Abstract In his article “The Framing of Central Europe”, Piotr Piotrowski wrote in the late 1990s: “The Art of Eastern and of Western Europe each speaks a similar language but in reality it communicates different meanings dictated by a ‘frame’ that we activate.” When we examine art history during the Cold War and the language in which visual art was written about, it is important to consider not only the differences of the concepts and terms used, but also the terms that were marginalized and obscured, and their social, cultural, and ideological “frames”. This article focuses on a key term of post-war Western art which was expelled from both official and unofficial discussions about visual art – namely, feminist art. It argues that ideological and gender prejudices rather than a lack of information caused Czech art historians and critics continuously to ignore the diversity of feminist art and feminism during the 1970s and 1980s. Taking a rare example of Jindřich Chalupecký’s writing about women artists, the article documents how the Western feminist art discourse was neutralized during “normalization” (the period that followed the defeat of the pro-reform movement of 1968), by using the much less radical, apolitical term “women’s art” or – even more significantly – by biologically determined “femininity” in art.
Keywords Women’s art – Feminism – Jindřich Chalupecký – Czech post-war art – East – West
Author Czech Republic, Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
2012 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 13
This edition of Notebook examines three ways in which theory and the practice of art interact: 1) the radical political statements of two artistic groups flirting with internal contradictions (Tereza Stejskalová, „The Ménage a trios of Theory, Art, and Politics“); 2) the attempts by art criticism to adapt an apparently apposite concept to a different context (Tomáš Pospěch, „Visualism and Its Notion of Photography as Photography“); 3) activity in the ambiguous zone of „recent“ art, in which the differences are blurred between criticism and the history of art (Milena Bartlová, „What Does It Mean to Write Art History?“). There is also a translation of an essay by Andreas Müller-Pohle entitled „Visualism“ that links up to the article by Pospěch, and a review of the monograph by Milena Bartlová entitled Genuine Presence.
Tereza Stejskalová, “The Ménage a trois of Theory, Art, and Politics: Claire Fontaine and Chto Delat?”
Abstract The essay focuses on leftist theorists and philosophers who participate in art collectives in order to pursue the practical dimension of philosophy (the transformation of subjects) through artistic practice. The activities of two art groups – the Paris-based Claire Fontaine and the Russian collective Chto Delat? – are examined for that purpose. Employing the written word to highlight the ways in which their art should be understood or acting paternalistically, both groups are considered part of the didactic tradition in art. In their theoretical writings and statements, however, these groups refuse the authority of the author (Claire Fontaine) or call for egalitarian pedagogies (Chto Delat?). The conflict between what these collectives explicitly claim and their didactic gesture is taken to reflect a deeper problem in radical-left discourse today.
Keywords Claire Fontaine – Chto Delat? – theory – politics – subject – didactic
Author Czech Republic, Department of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures, The Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague, email@example.com
Tomáš Pospěch, “Visualism and Its Notion of Photography as Photography”
Abstract The aim of this essay is to shed light on how the term “Visualism” as defined in the West has gradually become established in Eastern Europe, particularly in Czechoslovakia and Poland, and on the transformations it has undergone along the way. The essay considers the interpretations of the Visualist programme by Andreas Müller-Pohle in essays by Antonín Dufek, Bořek Sousedík, and Jerzy Olek. The point is not to redeem Visualism from its local misinterpretations, since what might appear to be a misunderstanding may more fruitfully be read as a strategy of adapting a conception to local conditions. One of the questions raised here is when and why the notions of live photography, the snapshot, the documentary photo, and subjective photography ceased to be convenient descriptions of a certain kind of photography and the urge for a new label emerged.
Keywords visualism – photography – Central Europe – Andreas Müller-Pohle – Antonín Dufek – Bořek Sousedík – Jerzy Olek
Author Czech Republic, The Institute of Creative Photography Silesian University in Opava, firstname.lastname@example.org
Milena Bartlová, “What Does It Mean to Write Art History?”
Abstract This essay seeks to offer to those who try to write the history of contemporary art an overview of the methodological debate that has been carried on in the historiography of art in recent decades. It charts the notions of historical representation, the nature of the subject, the object, and the narrative, as well as the role of conceptual models. Besides focusing on the discursive construction of (art) history, it also considers its construction by means of an exhibition in a given setting.
Keywords art history – methodology – historiography – writing art history – contemporary art
Author Czech Republic, Department of Theory and History of Art, Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, email@example.com
2012 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 12
The 12th issue of Sešit (Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones) contains four texts, each relating to a different sphere of visual culture. The essay on theoretical architecture by Martina Sedláková entitled „Between the Abstract and the Concrete. Tadao Andó and his Concept of Architectonic Space“ examines Andó’s thematisation of the relationship between the „abstract“ and the „concrete“ and the dialectic of emptiness and fullness, and considers his unique cultural position at the intersection of the influences of traditional Japanese and modern Western architecture. In her article „Public Privacy as a Model of Neo-conceptual Art“ Nina Vrbanová argues that a characteristic feature of neo-conceptualism is the selection of expressive resources on the basis of content, and that this is therefore not a style so much as a strategy. The text by Karel Císař entitled „The History of Contemporary Art within a Narrow Field“ is a critique of Czech theoretical reflections on postmodernism in the visual arts provoked by the anthology Czech Art 1980-2010. Finally, in his extensive essay „‚Marks of Indifference': Aspects of Photography in, or as, Conceptual Art“, Jeff Wall highlights the historical paradoxes involved in the search for the artistic status of photography.
Martina Sedláková, “Between Abstract and Real: Ando’s Concept of Architectonic Space”
Abstract This article is concerned with the Japanese architect Tadao Ando’s concept of architectural space. Ando’s work holds a specific place in the architecture of recent decades. His formal vocabulary is deeply rooted in Modernism, while simultaneously providing a critical approach to the modernist pattern of thinking and mainly its “by-product of homogenized space”. Starting from the topic of the “wall”, and continuing with “natural features”, the first of which is light, Ando arrives at the problem of architectural space. He returns to the theme of the wall as the main architectural element which delineates an architectural space, but he emphasizes the presence of space within the walls. The delineation of architectural space is manifested by employing pure geometric forms and focusing on “materiality” in a special way. His oscillating between the “abstract” (“architectural reason” – geometry) and the “real” (“representation” – corporeality, natural features, people and places, geographical and cultural contexts) points to the core of his concept. Ando’s approach to architecture is a kind of dialogue between East and West, between traditional local culture and modern architectural culture. His early concept presents a challenge to contemporary architecture because of his radical stands as well as his thought-provoking theoretical views of space (his reverse perspective, influenced by Western architecture), while continuing with the spatial tradition of Japanese culture, which from the very beginning influenced the new concept of space in Western modern architecture. Ando’s conception of space, as it emerges in his writings, could reasonably be understood in more general terms as a contribution to the ontology of space in architecture.
Keywords space – wall – light – architecture
Author Czech Republic, Department of Theory and History of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture CTU in Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nina Vrbanová, “Public Privacy as a Model of Neoconceptual Art”
Abstract This essay treats Neo-conceptual art as a specific strategy within visual arts, which goes beyond its being customarily understood as a clear-cut formal style. The essay outlines new possibilities for interpreting it this way, while considering the mutual conditionality of the visual and ideological bases of this segment of contemporary art. It describes how ideas behind it determine its form, freeing it from stylistic and media restrictions and making it dependent on strategies employed. Neo-conceptual art becomes an open platform, drawing from a reservoir of the possible visual forms on offer in today’s world. The essay compares the radical (dematerialized) Conceptualism of the 1960s to the current Neo-conceptual wave, which shows a limited return to the traditional (modernist) understanding of art forms, while staying true to the crucial postulates of the original Conceptualist movement. The second part examines Neo-conceptual artistic strategies, using the example of the paradoxical notion of public privacy, which is identified as one of the dominant ideological lines of Neo-conceptualism in Slovakia since the mid- 1990s. In conclusion, the author notes that the analysis of Neo-conceptual art as practised by art historians today would not be complete without considering the hybridity of themes and ideas. This would substantially reverse the methodological discourse of Neo-conceptualism in Slovakia.
Keywords contemporary aesthetics – visual arts – neoconceptualism – public privacy
Author Slovakia, Department of Communication The Faculty of Arts at Konstantin Filozof University in Nitra, email@example.com
Karel Císař, “The History of Contemporary Art in a Narrowed Field”
Abstract This article, originally presented at the symposium “Creating the History of Contemporary Art” organized by the Research Centre of the Academy of Fine Arts, Prague, deals with what proves to be a symptomatic omission from the anthology České umění 1980–2010 ([Czech art, 1980–2010] Prague: VVP AVU, 2011) – namely, the failure to take into account Rosalind Krauss’s “Sculpture in the Expanded Field”. This silence is no accident; the works of Krauss had previously received almost no attention in the Czech milieu, and their impact became palpable in Czech art-historical writing only recently. It has been Krauss who, ever since The Originality of the Avant-garde and Other Modernist Myths (1986), has interpreted postmodernism not as a “farewell to modernism”, but as a perspective that allows us to seek the terms and conditions for topics like the copy and reproduction, the reproducibility of sign, and textual production in modernity. What is symptomatic of the omission is not just that it betrays the hidden assumptions of the editors and their notions of the relationship between modernity and postmodernism, but also, indeed what is more important, that it is a sign of a deeper regression of Czech theory, turning its inability to deal with relevant foreign sources into a virtue that either leads to a productive misunderstanding of art manifestos or, worse, to a quasi-theoretical discovery of the already discovered.
Keywords Rosalind Krauss – postmodernism – modernism – Jana Ševčíková – Jiří Ševčík – art history – Czech art
Author Czech Republic, The Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, firstname.lastname@example.org
2011 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 11
The eleventh issue of Sešit features another three texts that were originally contributions at this year’s annual AVU Research Centre conference „The Consequences of Conceptualism“. In his essay „Photography after Conceptual Art“, Karel Císař compares two ways of interpreting the impact of conceptualism on photography; one outlined by Jeff Wall in his influential text „Marks of Indifference“ and the second prepared by Rosalind Krauss in works from the past decade. In his article „Breakpoint. In Search of a Social Change in Czech Art“ Jan Zálešák focuses on exhibitions from 1997 to 1999, which in his view represent an essential milestone in the legitimisation process of overtly socially and politically engaged art projects. Daniel Grúň writes on different ways of working with the medium of the artist archive in Central and Eastern Europe in his text „The Artist Archive – A Parallel Institution or the Means for Self-Historicisation?“ The issue concludes with a translation of a text written by a Parisian collective of artist using the pseudonym Claire Fontaine that critically analyses changes in artistic subjectivity through the influence of market conditions of the worldwide art business.
2011 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 10
In this year’s first Notebook there’s an increased emphasis on the „related zones“ mentioned in its title. This issue opens with Karel Stibral’s take on BioArt. Another „related zone“ is represented by two texts from the theory or philosophy of literature. Petr Koťátko’s study, which finds in literature approaches akin to conceptual art, is derived from the contribution that the author gave at the „Consequences of Conceptualism“ conference organized by the AVU Research Center in the spring of that year. Tomáš Koblízek’s essay „Testimony and Singularity“ elaborates on a vision of the study of literature, drawn from the concept of testimony developed by Émile Benveniste, but also takes into consideration the concept of a unique sign formulated in Barthes‘ Camera Lucida. By including a translation of Nicolas Bourriaud’s „Altermodern“ we continue to publish recent programmatic curatorial writings. Václav Magid’s review is on the anthology What Is Art? published last year and mapping the discussion of possibilities for defining art in the Anglo-American philosophy of the latter half of the twentieth century.
2010 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 9
The theme of reflection upon the history and the present state of the relationship between Czech visual arts and society passes like a red thread through the ninth issue of Sešit. In his essay Czech Art around 1980 as a Field of Cultural Production Josef Ledvina draws from French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s work Rules of Art (Brno: Host 2010) as a methodological manual, through which he presents an institutional analysis of the Czech art scene circa 1980. In her overview Czech Art During the Transformation Period. The Relations of Art and ‚Engagement‘ she interprets the development of the Czech art scene from the 1980s to the end or the century through the prism of art engagé. Martin Škabraha’s essay What the Eye Doesn’t See. Aesthetic Politics and the Politics of Aesthetics in the Planetary Age presents an attempt to apply a question regarding the possibilities of and reasons for a state’s subsidizing of art to the context of dramatic changes which the traditional post-Westphalian concept of a sovereign national state is undergoing in globalization. Milena Bartlová’s contribution Cultural Politics and the Politics of Culture. Czech Republic 2010, a Questionnaire assesses the current state of Czech cultural policies against the backdrop of changes that Czech society has undergone over the past twenty years. In his review of Dorothea von Hantelmann’s book How to Do Things with Art, Jakub Stejskal analyzes the author’s attempt to join art’s social function with its performance aspects.
2010 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 8
This issue features three original reviewed specialised studies. Sylva Poláková’s text focuses on the convergences of film and architecture that she follows, for instance, in works on the streets of Prague in recent years. In his study on „critical curatorship“ Jan Zálešák writes on the transformations of roles of the artist and of the curator in the era following institutional criticism. Tereza Stejskalová analyses the situation of three female artists and their departure from the art scene, as well as the attention that is given to it within this sphere. Her text refers to Hal Foster’s well known article „What’s Neo about the Neo Avant-Garde“, whose Czech translation immediately follows. A manifesto by the curators of this year’s Manifesta is printed as a document of contemporary art and curatorial practices. The issue concludes with a review of the exhibition Gender Check that was held at the beginning of this year at Vienna’s MUMOK.
2009 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 6-7
The double issue 6-7 of Notebook focuses on aesthetics and its complicated relationship to contemporary visual art and culture in general. Aesthetics professes the conviction that there exists a specific mode of a man’s relationship to the world that artists strive to mediate. Expressions such as detachment, beauty, purposiveness without a purpose, aesthetic experience and aesthetic judgement have been traditionally linked to this relationship. Over the past fifty years these terms have been exposed to harsh criticism in the area of art theory. The history of Western art, as it were, charged aesthetic theory with being obsolete. But an unavoidable choice awaited art theory, which wanted to free itself from aesthetics. either defend the existence of its subject in radically new terms, or resign itself to the fact that its subject is something specific that requires its own category. Both possibilities offered both promises and pitfalls. Attempts at giving new responses to „What is art?“ proved extremely unsatisfactory. And the increasingly apparent limitations of such responses led some to go back and rethink the configuration of modern art and the aesthetics line of discourse in which this configuration was formulated. The intellectual frame of modernist art is actually created by modern aesthetics. Therefore, if we want to understand what it means to be modern in art and whether it is good or bad, we must consider the vocabulary that is created in thinking through problems that may seem to us today to be beyond the realm of relevance. That is, at least the view shared by most of the authors represented in this issue of Notebook.
2008 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 4-5
The subject of the double-issue, Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zone 4-5 for 2008 is the legacy of the Situationist International art-political movement (1957-1972) and its relevance for today. The issue contains one primary and three secondary texts on the subject (one original and two translations). The issue also contains articles (four original and three translated) that expand on several motifs related to the subject (the issue of representation, intervention in everyday life, the political involvement of art), both in the context of the reflection of art and everyday life in real socialism and within the framework of criticism of certain manifestations of contemporary Czech art.
2007 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 3
The Notebook N. 3 is dedicated to the three questions comprising leitmotifs of the twelfth documenta exhibition in Kassel: „Is modernity our antiquity?“ „What is bare life?“ and „What is to be done?“. These three questions were put to selected Czech thinkers and publicists for their thoughts who are active outside the sphere of contemporary art. Along with the original contributions by Michael Hauser, Martin Škabraha and Tomáš Samek, we are including several translated texts from the documenta 12 magazines project, selected to illuminate, deepen or problematize the three leitmotifs.
2007 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 1-2
The theme of the first double issue of the Notebook is collaboration and participation in current socially engaged art. Inside you will find the translations of texts by art critics Claire Bishop, Maria Lind, Christian Kravagna and Grant Kester, the presentations of artists Jan Mlčoch, Thomas Hirschhorn, Alfredo Jaar, Kateřina Šedá and of Ládví art group, an academic text by Peter Bürger and an interview with a philosopher Jacques Ranciere.