All the published contributions are free to download (in original language and layout, minor changes are made in case of any errata needed) in a one year delay on Czech version of this website.
2021 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 30
The thirtieth issue of Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones contains texts on a wide variety of topics. First off, in an article entitled “Art and Democratisation”, Sabina Muchová analyses the concept of aesthetic synthesis in Albrecht Wellmer’s philosophy and, based on his ideas, considers how the creation and reception of artworks can reinforce democratic culture. In a long essay entitled “Cities at the Edge of Hospitals” Vojtěch Märc looks at so-called geopathogenic zones. Among other things he examines how period dissatisfaction with the late socialist approach to housing was reflected in this phenomenon, as well as the more general crisis of a certain type of modernity. The third and final reviewed study in Sešit 30/2021 sees Markéta Jonášová look back on the exhibition project Frisbee (2004–2006) and place this presentation of Czech video art within the context of globalisation. The text by Jozef Kovalčik entitled “Where do Contemporary Academies and Artistic Practice Collide?” takes the form of a discussion or polemic, in which the author reflects critically on a system of art education based on the tradition of “master classes”. This issue concludes with a review by Jiří Tourek of the book by Peter Eisenman and Elisa Iturbe Lateness, the theme of which is lateness as a tool of criticism in contemporary architecture.
Sabrina Muchová, Art and Democratization: On Some Aspects of Albrecht Wellmer´s Notion of Aesthetic Synthesis
Abstract: This paper focuses on the idea of the connection between the aesthetic experience of artworks and the democratization of society in several essays by Albrecht Wellmer, a philosopher of the Critical Theory tradition. Although Wellmer did not write a systematic aesthetic conception, he opens an important question regarding the character of art´s contribution to the process of establishing democracy in modern societies. Wellmer´s notion of aesthetic synthesis, i.e. the integration of heterogeneous experiences through an artwork, is used to explain on what basis Wellmer proposes that we should inderstand the aesthetic experience of arts as participating in the process of democratization. Wellmer argues that artwork´s aesthetic synthesis is open towards such aspects of reality, as well as of human experience, which are otherwise omitted or excluded by reason. Wellmer´s account of aesthetic synthesis and the effect it has on recipients is clarified in the first two parts of the paper; the conclusion then emphasizes the potential of Wellmer´s thoughts and suggests two possible ways of looking at the relationship of art and democracy.
Keywords: Albrecht Wellmer – aesthetic synthesis – aesthetic experience of art – democratization
Vojtěch Märc, Geo-Pathogenic Zones as Architectural and Urbanistic Phenomenon
Abstract: This paper focuses on the phenomenon called “geopathology”. It searches for the theory and praxis as well as development in this minor field in the 1980s and 1990s in Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic. The debate on geo-pathogenic zones under the so-called normalization, perestroika and transformation periods is framed by sociopolitical coincidences with the crisis of modernity. Vojtech Märc follows here a few different agents balancing on the unstable borders of medical, political or parapsychological discourses. The paper also focuses on key concepts of period debates on urbanism and architecture. The aim is to simultaneously explain the paranormal and the rational (scientific) discursive formations through the mutual connections between them. The author considers debates on geopathology to be a form of environmental critique (though not always fully developed at the theoretical level) while in collateral practical activities the identifies attempts to remedy the medical aspects of the built environment.
Markéta Jonášová, Globalized Landscapes of Czech Audiovisual Art: A Study on Frisbee Exhibitions
Abstract: The paper analyses tendencies in the field of Czech audiovisual art, based on the case study of the international exhibition project titled Frisbee: Contemporary Czech Videoart and New Media, which took place between 2004 and 2006. Anchored in the methodological framework of exhibition studies, it deploys the qualitative research methods of thematic data analysis and interviews. The paper sets out to clarify the relevance of the exhibition project Frisbee in comparison to other formats of audiovisual art presentation in the Czech Republic at the turn of new millennium. It argues that the exhibition presented both a locally and internationally significant overview of audiovisual art produced by a generation of artists, who became active in the Czech art scene after the change of the regime in 1989. To conceptualise the increasingly globalised character of the moving image in the given period, the paper deploys Arjun Appadurai´s theory of global cultural flows. Applying his notion of mediascapes to audiovisual art, it analyses the artworks presented within the exhibitionary complex of Frisbee in terms of its national and international situatedness. Based on a mutual comparison of represented artworks and their juxtaposition with an associated exhibition of Romanian audiovisual art, the complexity of representations and strategies is described, and the notion of “Czech” art questioned.
Keywords: audiovisual art – moving image – globalisation – national representation – exhibition history – Frisbee
Jozef Kovalčik, Where Contemporary Academies/Art Schools Collide with Artistic Praxis?
Abstract: Art schools are an integral part of the framework of institutions entering the formation of artistic practise and play one of the most important roles in the reproduction of so-called high culture. Nevertheless, academies have not undergone as radical criticism in recent decades as other art institutions. Studio teaching, which was introduced in art schools in the nineteenth century, continues to dominate. A few decades later, avant-garde artists also began to teach at art schools, but the method of teaching did not change in any significant way, while the ambition to create an individualistic work was further strengthened and persists to this day. In this essay, I will try to describe how the model of studio teaching came into being, what ideas it has been based on and what it is the bearer of. In the last part I will point out that the model of “masterclasses” is unsustainable for both traditional and (post) avant-garde artistic practices, but that it collides the most with the creation of participatory and environmental art projects.
Keywords: Art Schools (Academies) – Studio Teaching – Avant-Gardes – Participatory Art – Individualism
Jiří Tourek, a review of the book by Peter Eisenman and Elisa Iturbe Lateness
2020 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 29
The 29th issue of the Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones looks at the application of Marxist approaches to art and art history. The guest editor Milena Bartlová issued an open call for texts that examine the topic from a variety of different angles. Bartlová begins by summarising Marxist concepts of art history to date. Tomáš Hříbek then writes about Karel Teige and his original Marxist contribution to a theory of architecture. The third peer-reviewed essay is penned by the Polish art historian Agata Pietrasik and outlines the educational strategies of the Museum of Modern Art in Łódź, the director of which from 1935 to 1965 was Marian Minich; the text is published in the original English version. The final essay is a detailed analysis of the theory of the nude in Czechoslovak photography of the 1950s and 1960s by Marianna Placáková. The issue concludes with reviews of two books dealing with socialist realist art in Slovakia: Prerušená pieseň by Alexandra Kusá, and Súmrak doby by Bohunka Koklesová. They are reviewed by Johana Lomová and Hana Buddeus.
Milena Bartlová, Marxist art history: directive model or a radical inspiration?
Abstract: An attempt to define Marxism as an art historical methodology is specifically complicated by the post-communist predicament. The study aims at cleaning the way for a fresh analysis and provides a first ever survey of possible Marxist approaches that peaked between the 1940s and 1970s. It is based on the inherent materialist character of visual arts, “art history” cannot be confounded with aesthetics, philosophy and theory of art, and should also be set aside from the history of architecture. Marxist theory and methodology thus cannot be simply extended to art history from the texts by Marxs, Engels, Lenin and other theoreticians who dealt mainly with literature and general aesthetics. In this respect, Marxism proves to be largely incompatible with the history of art that is based on the Eurocentric tradition of “high quality art” inherently connected with the elites.
Keywords: Marxism – methodology of art history – 20th century art history – Max Raphael – Meyer Schapiro – Otto K. Werckmeister
Tomáš Hříbek, Ornament and Ideology. Karel Teige and the Theory of Architecture
Abstract: The purpuse of this paper is a charitable interpretation of Karel Teige´s architectural criticism which can be regarded as one of the few original contributions to the Marxist theory of art and culture to have come out of Czechoslovakia. Teige´s approach involves a dualism of architecture as art – which he rejects – and architecture as technology, or science – which he promotes. He based this preference on two theoretical elements of Marxism: the materialist theory of history – in particular the base/superstructure model – and the critique of ideology. For Teige, it was only under the conditions of industrial capitalism the the growth of forces of production caused the separation between the utilitarian and aesthetic functions of architecture. Hence, only at this point it became possible to classify architecture as an element of the economic base. Ornament, as an aesthetic aspect of architecture, is ideology in the original Marxist sense of “false consciousness” – which implies that ideology can acquire both propositional and plastic form. Ornament in architecture hides the transient and contradictory nature of the building types such as banks, factories and parliaments, or, rather, the institutions housed in them. The paper also compares Teige´s contributions with the ideas of some later Marxist theorists of architecture (Lefebvre, Tafuri, Jameson). It appears that Teige is perhaps more rudimentary, yet clearer and more coherent than the recent authors. These virtues also enable us to detect the limits of Marxism in the field of the theory of architecture.
Keyword: Karel Teige – theory of architecture – Marxism – base and superstructure – ideology
Agata Pietrasik, People´s Museum: Marxism, Art History and Institutional Practise
This article looks at the question of how the reception of Marxism changed the way the institution of the museum was perceived, especially in relation to the public and public space. It takes the specific example of the Museum of Art (Muzeum Sztuki) in Łódź, Poland, and its director Marian Minich. Though Marxism as such was one of the intellectual sources of the avant-garde in the 20th century, during the period of Stalinism, on the contrary, the avant-garde was dismissed as a manifestation of formalism in countries of the Soviet Bloc and committed socialist realism became canonical. In spite of this, Minich, director of the museum in Łódź from 1935 to 1965, managed to retain a link to the radical theses of the avant-garde regarding the abolition of the boundary between art and life, even within the constraints defined by state ideologies and propaganda. Minich, who creatively combined Marxism with the ideas of Heinrich Wölfflin, came up with a concept of educating the lay public that emphasised the historically conditioned development of the art form as opposed to the official emphasis on an artwork having content that was easy to understand. The article looks at both Minich’s theoretical reflections, as well as the exhibition and popularising practice ensuing therefrom, which it places within the context of the time.
Keywords: Modern Art Museum – polish avantgarde – museum education department – exterior exhibitions – people´s museum
Marianna Placáková, The Socialist Nude, Marxism and Photography Theory in the 1960s
Abstract: After 1948, the visual representation of the naked female body was banned in socialist Czechoslovakia. According to the authorities, the female nude was inherently understood as “bourgeois” and “decadent”, contributing to the exploitation of women. As a result of the “thaw” after 1956, the nude was allowed again, first in the fine arts (sculpture, painting, graphics), later in the field of photography. Since then, interest in the nude grew so much that the representation of the naked female body became the most commont motif in Czechoslovak photography magazines during the 1960s. This development was accompanied by numerous discussions about how to represent the female body within the conditions of a socialist society. Contemporary theorists sought to formulate, on a Marxist basis, a specific, non-exploitative “socialist nude” which was to be distinguished from the nude emerging in Western capitalist countries. This article will analyse the contributions to the period discussion from photography theorists (Miloslav Kubeš, Ludvík Baran, Ján Šmok, Václav Zykmund) who dealt with the formulation of the nude on a theoretical and practical level. At the same time, it will place these theoretical concepts in the international context, both its progressive side (Marxist critique of the female nude as an object of market exchange) and its conservative, traditional thinking about the form of the nude based on normativity and ideal proportions.
Keywords: nude – female body – Marxism – photography theory – Ján Šmok
2020 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 28
The 28th issue of the peer-reviewed journal Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones offers a somewhat narrower range of essays and book reviews than is usual for non-thematic issues.
We kick off with a review of Networking the Bloc (2019) by Klara Kemp-Welch, in which Jan Wollner examines how the British researcher approaches the experimental art of the 1060s–80s. Johana Lomová then writes about the more serious side of the Golden Sixties and looks at how censorship operated in art journals of that time. The next three contributions think critically about the role of architecture. Michaela Janečková writes about the concept of energetism as understood by Karel Janů. Karolina Jirkalová discusses the significance and impact of Resolution 333/1982 on the construction industry, after which Klára Peloušková writes about the current boundaries and possibilities of architecture and design. This issue ends with a review by the Slovak theorist of architecture Marián Zervan of the anthology Euro-American Architectural Thinking (2018).
Jan Wollner, A review of of Networking the Bloc (2019) by Klara Kemp-Welch
Johana Lomová, Censorship of journals and newspapers specialised in visual arts. A case study on the relation between art and politics.
Abstract: The article discusses the act of censorship in texts on visual arts that were supposed
to be published in Czechoslovakia in the 1960s. We argue that the complex system of
censorship (diffused system) was not acting uniformly, however there were certain people
and events that were systematically pushed away from the public sphere. Nonetheless,
the argument that certain work is politically unacceptable is not to be found. Special
attention is paid to the exhibition Výstava D that took place in 1964 in Prague. The
research is built on the archive material from Hlavní správa tiskového dohledu (Main
office for press control) owned by the Archiv bezpečnostních služeb (Secret service
Keywords: censorship – artjournals – Czechoslovakia – Výstava D
Michaela Janečková, Energetism as a Means of Turning Architecture into Science
in Karel Janů´s book Socialistické budování
Abstract: In 1946, just after WWII Czech architect Karel Janů published his book Socialistické budování: oč půjde ve stavebnictví a architektuře [Socialist building: What´s at Stake in Construction and Architecture]. As a former member of leftist groups PAS (Working architectural group) and the Union of Socialist Architects he pointed out his belief in a future
socialist political system and the importance of and the role of architecture as a tool for
building socialism. What is of more interest – he proposed to quantify all actions within
architecture and the building industry on the basis of energetic loss. By this act architecture
could become a part of a wider system of national economy. This paper examines the
roots of such attempts and casts light on the interwar acceptance of technocratic ideas
not only within the Czechoslovakian interwar architectural avantgarde movement but also
within official state institutions, such as the Masaryk Academy of Labour. It suggests that
technocratic solutions were sought after within the whole political spectrum with little
critical reflection. Later, many of the promoters from both political camps became key figures
for postwar Czechoslovakian development and thus their standpoints further shaped
the organization and programme of many nationalized companies and industrial fields.
Karel Janů became one of the most influential figures in architecture who made an attempt
to make the dreams of former avantgarde young leftists come true. In this manner, such
key words of postwar architecture as industrialization, prefabrication and standardization,
merged into the Czechoslovakian architectural vocabulary and paved the way not only for
panelaks but also for quite recent Czech austerity.
Keywords: energetism – Karel Janů – technocratism – Czechoslovakian architecture – Masaryk Academy of Labour
Karolina Jirkalová, Architecture policy and crisis of socialist city
Abstract: This article deals with the relationships and conflicts between building
practices, architectural discourse, public opinion and politics in the
period of late socialism in Czechoslovakia, especially in the Czech part of
the federation. In the 1970s and 1980s, large scale prefabricated housing
estates were being built, but at the same time the resistance of experts
and the public to modernist, standardized and prefabricated construction
was increasing and the qualities of a traditional town were lauded. The
divide between professional discourse and, consequently, the demands of
society and the building reality was growing rapidly and undermined the
legitimacy of the regime. Political leaders were aware of this and officially
declared the necessary changes, but the principles of construction until
1989 have hardly changed. The causes can be found in the economic and
political problems of the late socialist state, in the strong position of
construction companies and also in the very industrial foundations of
state socialism, which would necessarily complicate the move away from
standardization and prefabrication.
Keywords: history of architecture and construction – late socialism – architecture
policy – Czechoslovakia
Klára Peloušková, Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Design between Service and Sustainability
Abstract: The article focuses on design in the context of the unsustainability of certain
philosophical and economic concepts on which modern industrialized civilization is built.
It addresses both problems of the excessive fragmentation of design as a discipline and
its problematic “servitude” to the dominant economic structures of the globalized world.
It follows the notion of “invisibility” in design to point to the insufficient reflection of
its infrastructural connections, implications that often lead to unsustainable practices.
The article argues that in order to better understand the significance and consequences
of design, it needs to be understood in a broader context of material production or
infrastructural planning. Therefore, it explores the issue of concrete as the ubiquitous
material shaping the modern urban environment and water infrastructures that rely on
vast amount of concrete to build the supporting construction. As a counterpart to the
massive structures, such as sophisticated dams and irrigation systems, it proposes an
example of the retrofitting of the existing traditional water infrastructure in Eastern
India. The article calls for a complex approach to design that takes into account social,
ecological and political circumstances, that is adaptable and resilient, and puts forward
several theoretical concepts of design for sustainability reaching beyond the current
political and economic status quo.
Keywords: design – sustainability – invisibility – metabolic rift – infrastructure – concrete –
agriculture – water management
2019 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 27
The 27th issue of the Notebook explores a variety of themes. It begins with a review by Jitka Šosová of the anthology Art and Theory of Post-1989, which contains translations of texts from the region of central and eastern Europe introduced by foreign researchers. This is followed by some reflections by Tomáš Pospiszyl on the tasks to be faced in processing the history of art of post-socialist countries. After two texts on the history of this region, Marianna Placáková examines the problematic concept of “women’s art” from the 1980s to the present day. The following texts relate to the theme of identity. Lenka Veselá examines the intervention of technology in the body in the form of hormonal design, while Tomáš Javůrek focuses on the cybernetisation of our identity via the data (and art) that we produce. Lucia Miklošková deals with the history and usage of the concept of inframince or infra-thin, which Marcel Duchamp introduced into the art sphere from pure mathematics. The final text in this diverse issue of the Notebook is by Šárka Lojdová, and reflects upon Arthur C. Danto’s well known idea of the end of art, specifically on the sources of Danto’s ideas.
Jitka Šosová, Problematic contradictions
A review of an anthology: Art and Theory of Post-1989
Tomáš Pospiszyl, New Tasks for the History of Art of the Eastern Europe in the Socialist Period
Abstract: For the past twenty years, art historians have subjected Eastern European art to intense study. The way in which this art has been studied so far requires new impulses: From local neo-avant-garde we should re-orient our interest towards so-called official art. If Eastern Europe in the years 1945–1989 can be understood as a kind of lost civilization of socialism, then the author proposes calling that civilization’s cultural production ‘socialist art’. This term should above all describe an affiliation with a particular period in history and the specific social conditions under which this art was made, regardless of the artist’s style or ideological beliefs. Specific topics suggested for attention are, among others, institutional conditions of socialist art, economics of socialist art, the concept and social background of the socialist artist and the dynamics of the various layers of socialist art, from pro-regime to grey area to Underground.
Reworked from a presentation given at the conference ‘Situating Narratives’. Strategies of History Writing in Eastern European Art, Institutul prezentului, Bucharest, 2.–3. 11. 2018
Keywords: history of art – Eastern Europe – official art – socialist art
Author teaches at Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.
Marianna Placáková, Czechoslovak Experience as a Starting Point. Feminist Art in the Period of State Socialism
Abstract: In this article, the author formulates the category of feminist art in Czechoslovakia from the 1960s to the 1980s. She shows specific forms and contexts in which the artworks originated, based on the political, cultural-social and material situation, and defines female artists as active subjects that critically approached gender discourses in the period of state socialism. The article takes a critical approach to the post-socialist theoretical and artistic discourse and its relation to feminism and the position of female artists on the pre-1989 art scene.
Keywords: feminist art – ‘female art’ – feminism – feminist identity – state socialism – Czechoslovakia
Author is a PhD. candidate at Art History Institute of tha Philosophical Faculty of teh Charles University in Prague.
Lenka Veselá, Hormonal Design: Synthetic Sex Hormones and the Management of Living
Abstract: Sex hormones are a class of hormones linked to sexuality and procreation. They are biochemical messengers endowed with the capacity to regulate appearance as well as the thoughts, feelings and desires of living organisms — by affecting production of sex-specific traits and by exerting influence over the whole body, including the brain and its functions. The sex hormone network of a living body consists of hormones that it itself produces in a situated process of endogenous hormone production, and of exogenous hormones absorbed from the environment or as a part of a pharmaceutical intervention. The article examines the complex role that sex hormones perform in our lives and, in particular, how synthetic sex hormones have transformed our hormonal system into a matter of design. What is hormonal design and what does it have to offer us?
Keywords: hormonal design — synthetic sex hormones — management of living — gendered molecules — hormonal fascism — hormonal capitalism — hormonal labour — speculative design — critical fabulation — speculative feminism — material feminisms — hormonal justice — hormonal anthropocene
Author is a PhD. candidate at Faculty of Visual Arts of the Technical university in Brno.
Tomáš Javůrek, Dividuum, data, tatatata
Abstract: It has been more than a hundred years since the Foundational Crisis of Mathematics emerged and almost a hundred years since Alan Turing constructed the a-machine to disprove David Hilbert’s program. Since these events, the principles of computable theory have surrounded the world in the form of billions of interconnected digital machines whose inner logic determines our daily lives in an unprecedented way. The study of the inner logic of such ubiquitous medium as the digital medium could be seen as an appropriate tool for artists working on, within or through this complex digital environment. The following study reflects the historical events that have led to the emergence of digital phenomena and discusses the specific interaction between humans and digital machines in terms of dividuum. Finally, it also designs a model for an exploration of the dividuum. This designed model is later constructed on the top of the graph theory as a non-human, technologically determined agent whose computable logic can trigger autonomous events and thus be a part of a creation of reality.
Keywords: autopoiesis, complexity – digital art – digital environment – dividuum – data – emergence – technological determinism – warfare
Lucia Miklošková, Marcel Duchamp’s Idea of an Infinitely Thin Difference
Absctract: The paper explores the work of Marcel Duchamp, especially the enigmatic category of infra-mince. Duchamp mentioned this exclusively conceptual category, which by its very nature escapes any physical grasp, only in hints in his notes. It is known that Duchamp was interested in the theme of the fourth dimension, especially in regard to the study of the French mathematician Emil Pascal Jouffret and his treatise Traité élémentaire de géométrie à quatre dimensions from 1903, describing the way four-dimensional hyperbodies exist. He also adopted the idea of an ‘infinitely thin layer’, extending between our three-dimensional space and a four-dimensional continuum of Jouffret. The imaginative (conceptual, performative or otherwise transformative) basis of Duchamp’s work lies in the mathematical-geometric conception of the fourth dimension. Duchamp imagined a world we live in as one of shadows cast by four dimensional bodies. Although Joufferet did not believe in seeing the fourth dimension, as our senses have already adapted to three-dimensional physical space, Duchamp would try to display it in the form of an image of apparition. He would find an analogy for perceiving four-dimensionality in the principle of the mirror. The mirror image perfectly interprets the illusion of the third dimension in the plane. Several mirror reflections become an analogy for a part of the four-dimensional perspective. Duchamp notices inversion as the law of mirroring. The reality rotates around its axis and changes its orientation in this movement.
Therefore, Duchamp is interested in these mechanisms of change and transformation, or dissimilation, causing the movement inside a sign. Finally, infra-mince can be another name for concept, which appears to be the key to the methodological schedule of author’s work to be studied as advised by Duchamp.
Keywords: Marcel Duchamp – infra-mince – fourth dimension – dimension – continuum – shadow – mirror – hinge – allegory
Author is art historian and curator based in Bratislava.
Šárka Lojdová, On the Problem of the Origin of Arthur C. Danto’s End-of-Art Thesis
Abstract: In 1984 American philosopher Arthur C. Danto proclaimed that art had come to an end. This assertion is known as the end-of-art thesis. Although it has been more than thirty years since the original paper ‘The End of Art’ was published, philosophers have continued to be interested in analyses of the thesis and seek to provide new ways of its interpretation. However, the question of the origin of the thesis seems to be overshadowed by different topics. Danto’s thesis has still been identified with Hegel’s idea that ‘art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past’. Contrary to this interpretation, I shall argue that Danto’s claim that art came to an end was not inspired solely by Hegel but that the form of the thesis was a result of his reading of Thomas Kuhn, Alexandre Kojève and Josiah Royce. With regard to Hegel, this article shall demonstrate that Danto did not find the inspiration in Hegel’s Aesthetics but in his Phenomenology of Spirit. Moreover, as I shall show that Danto’s understanding of Hegel’s philosophy was shaped by Hegel’s interpreters rather than by a systematic research in idealist philosophy. In addition, a significant role was played by Danto’s own ideas on the philosophy of history, especially his conception of narrative. In consequence, I believe that Danto’s end-of-art thesis makes a more original contribution to the philosophy of art than is usually supposed.
Keywords: analytical aesthetics – Arthur Danto – the end of art – philosophy of history – narrative – Hegel – Thomas S. Kuhn
2019 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 26
The twenty-sixth issue of Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones revisits the history of exhibitions, which can be seen as a prism through which to look at art of the second half of the twentieth century. It contains an interview conducted by Terezie Nekvindová with the curator and critic Ludmila Vachtová, who used to draw up the programme not only for the gallery Na Karlově náměstí, but also for the Gallery Platýz, and participated in the preparation of a series of exhibitions in Liberec in the 1960s. There is also a text by Mária Orišková on two exhibitions of American art that took place in Czechoslovakia in 1947 and 1969. This is followed by a study of Jiří Valoch in which the author, Helena Musilová, examines an exhibition that Valoch prepared for the Brno House of Arts in 1980. Eva Skopalová and Marianna Placáková then focus on women in art from the 1950s–80s, both those that created and those that featured in their paintings. The issue closes with a text by Alise Tifentale on strategies of exhibiting photography at FIAP 1956.
“I was madly curious.” An Interview with Ludmila Vachtová
Abstract: Ludmila Vachtová, born in Czechoslovakia in 1933, is an art historian and critic. Since the late 1950s she has been an uncompromising curator and gallerist with precise ideas on the management of the institutions she was in charge of. She also gained international recognition as a specialist on František Kupka. After having emigrated to Zürich in 1972 she published in Neue Züricher Zeitung and Frankfurter Allgemenine Zeitung and curated many exhibitions in Switzerland.
This interview concentrates on the second half of the 1960s. At first, attention is payed to the joint curatorial activities of Vachtová and Hana Seifertová. The outcome of this collaboration was a series of exhibitions of sculpture by artists from Czechoslovakia and Austria. For the first time, contemporary sculpture was taken out of galleries and shown outdoors, in the urban and natural spaces of the city of Liberec.
At the same time Vachtová curated at two Prague galleries. One, which was more experimental, concentrated on contemporary trends and specifically on various forms of abstract art, was Galerie Na Karlově náměstí. At the other, Galerie Platýz, Vachtová tried to develop the concept of a commercial gallery with a rich accompanying programme. Associated with the liberalization tendencies of the 1960s, these activities ended with the dawn of the so-called normalization period after 1969.
The interview was conducted in the form of written letters during the period of 2015–2018.
Keywords: exhibition history – curating – 60. léta – sculpture
Ludmila Vachtová is art critic and curator, since 1972 living and working in Zurich.
Nekvindová is art historian, she works at Academic Research Centre of Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. The Interview is partal output of the grant „Médium výstavy v českém umění „1957–1997“ (GAČR 16-15446S).
US Modern Art Exhibitions in Communist Czechoslovakia and the Ambivalent Agenda of Cultural Diplomacy
Abstract: The paper examines the reception of American art exhibited in Czechoslovakia from the late 1940s tothe 1960s and reflects on the goals of US cultural diplomacy. This period was bookmarked by the two major, and only, exhibits, Advancing American Art (Prague, Brno, Bratislava, 1947) and The Disappearance and Reappearance of the Image: Painting in the United States since 1945 (Bratislava, Prague, 1969). Organized within the framework of ‚inter-state cultural agreements‘, these traveling exhibitions were official undertakings of the highest state interests. Implemented under strict state supervision, they played a specific role in the broader context of Cold-War ideological conflicts. At the same time, they were not generally seen as an instrument of US propaganda in Central Europe. On the contrary, both art critics and the general public welcomed these exhibitions as a genuine effort toward better understanding, cooperation, and the bringing together of the two nations. In retrospect, contradictions that textured much of these cultural diplomatic exhibitions came to be recognized. In the specific context of Czechoslovakia during communism, America officially functioned as an ideological Other. However, the anti-communist opposition gradually formed during the 1960s was constructed not by negation of the Western/US Other but rather by negation of the Soviet Other. At this juncture two narratives in relation to the USA and its political system, lifestyle, art and culture can be recognized: cultural diplomacy as a Trojan horse or foreign policy and/or an altruistic line of cultural diplomacy.
Keywords: US modern art exhibitions – cultural diplomacy exhibitions – travelling exhibitions – cold war – art as propaganda – altruistic line of cultural diplomacy – Czechoslovakia – exhibition Advancing American Art – exhibition The Disappearance and Reappearance of the Image: Paining in the United States since 1945
Author is art historian, she teaches at Trnava University, Slovakia.
Současná česká kresba / Contemporary Czech Drawing: Jiří Valoch and the Possibility of Organizing a Collective Exhibition during the so-called Normalization Period
Abstract: In 1972 Jiří Valoch was employed as a curator by the The Brno House of Arts – the only Kunsthalle-based institution in then Czechoslovakia. The director Adolf Kroupa and his colleagues were trying to combine the tradition of the interwar avant-garde with the finest foreign art and to give space to ongoing trends. Valoch had considerable curatorial experience already and a network of contacts abroad – but at the same time, he was only 26 years old, which made him one of the young, promising ‘cadres’, seemingly unburdened by the past. Thanks to his professional and personal partnership with Gerta Pospíšilová (the director of The Brno House of Arts until 1975), he had relatively substantial possibilities to organize exhibitions both at home and abroad, as well as exhibitions of his own work.
The theme of the paper is the preparation of the Současná česká kresba [Contemporary Czech Drawing] exhibition (The Brno House of Arts, 1980). Valoch’s original intention was to present a wide range of approaches to drawing, ranging from the traditional to project-based and conceptual art. It should also have included artists who could not exhibit in any other official exhibition places, mainly in Prague. The article describes the methods of curtailing the original intention, the work of the approval committee, and the exclusion of certain artists. In the end, the realization of the exhibition brought Valoch noticeable sanctions (a ban on publishing his texts in exhibition catalogues and newspapers for a few years and compulsory tasks at The House of Arts). The paper also shows that the possibilities of collective exhibitions varied a lot in the so-called Eastern bloc countries – some collective exhibition projects in which Valoch participated or which he conceived in Poland in the 1970s can be seen as a counterpart.
Keywords: curatorial activities – Jiří Valoch – exhibiton Contemporary Czech Drawing – The Brno House of Arts – artistic scene of 1970’s – exhibition Teksty wizualne
Author is a curator at Museum Kampa. The study is a partial output of the project “Jiří Valoch – kurátor, teoretik, sběratel 1972 – 2001” (GAČR 14-32510S).
Women Exhibiting, Women Exhibited. The Official Politics of Art Exhibitions during the So-Called Period of Normalization
Marianna Placáková, Eva Skopalová
Abstract: The authors of the present paper will focus on the official Czechoslovak politics of art exhibitions during the so-called period of normalization in the context of gender politics. Following several examples, they discuss the outcomes of gender politics based on the percentage contribution of women to art exhibitions and their involvement in art institutions. Simultaneously, they debate the phenomenon of the idea of gender equality promoted through art exhibition – annual shows to celebrate International Women’s Day, and the exhibitions dedicated to International Women’s Year, designated by the United Nations to 1975. The Czechoslovak socialist gender politics that in the 1970s and 1980s promoted a pro-family agenda, as well as essentialist discourse of the period, both of which deeply influenced art exhibition politics, art criticism and also art production will also be addressed.
Keywords: state socialism – official politics of art exhibitions – “normalization” – Interantional Women’s Day – International Women’s Year – gender politics – essentialist discourse
FIAP Biennial in Photokina 1956: A Revolt Againts the Unvesrsal Language of Photography
Abstract: Photography is a universal language, “understood on all five continents, irrespective of race, creed, culture or social level”—this announcement by Maurice van de Wyer, the president of the International Federation of Photographic Art (Fédération internationale de l’art photographique, FIAP), echoed numerous other assertions made at the opening of the fifth annual photography trade fair and exhibition complex Photokina 1956 in Cologne, West Germany, from September 29 to October 7, 1956. The leaders of the U.S. and West Germany, international organizations such as UN and UNESCO, photography industry, and transnational community of photographers united in FIAP all praised photography as a universal language. Photokina 1956, however, revealed two radically different understandings of such a language. On one hand, it denoted Western European and U.S. magazine photography whose success and popularity was driven by the market forces of the publishing and photo industries as well as by the support from politicians. On the other, it entailed numerous, idiosyncratic visual languages coming from photographers from thirty-six countries in Western and Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa represented in the fourth FIAP Biennial, which was included in the program of Photokina 1956. This article views the intervention of FIAP in the Photokina 1956 exhibition through a sociological lens that focuses on the contested social status of photographers and the power inequality in postwar photography.
Keywords: Photography history – Exhibition history – Photokina 1956 – FIAP – Sociology of Art
Author is a New York-based art and photography historian. She works at Graduate Centre CUNY, she is an author of Photography as Art in Latvia, 1960 – 1969 (2011).
2018 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 25
This issue of the magazine, guest edited by Pavlína Morganová, examines the history, format and role of exhibitions in contemporary cultural production. Since the nineteenth century, the medium of the exhibition has been a means of presenting artworks and an important mediator of communication between artist and viewer. The role of the exhibition grew in significance throughout the twentieth century, and at present it represents the main medium for the perception, legitimisation and institutionalisation of art. The individual texts contained in this edition will offer a comprehensive overview of the topic. Terezie Nekvindová examines the format and role of biennials during the 1960s, while Ana Bilbao attempts a definition of a new type of independent organisation. Pavlína Morganová writes about a phenomenon that has received little in the way of coverage, namely exhibitions held in private apartments during the seventies and eighties in Czechoslovakia. Against the backdrop of photographic exhibitions as such, Tereza Rudolf looks at the presentation of photography in Czechoslovakia outside the gallery space during the seventies and eighties. The figure of the curator as spiritus agens forms the subject of the essay by Jana Písaříková on the activities of Jiří Valoch at the Brno House of Arts during the late sixties and early seventies. The first of two thematic issues of Sešit devoted to the medium of the exhibition concludes with the translation of an inspiring text by Jan Verwoert entitled “’The Curious Case of Biennial Art”.
“The World Wants Biennials“: Czech and Slovak Art at Large-Scale Exhibitions between 1965–1970
Abstract: This paper examines the participation of Czechoslovakia at the huge art shows held during the latter half of the 1960s. In particular it looks at the Venice Biennale, the Sao Paolo Biennial and the Biennale de Paris, at which Czechoslovakia often featured by means of national pavilions or areas, and compares these shows with the selection of Czechoslovak artists by foreign curators for the fourth documenta in Kassel in 1968. The text focuses on how the exhibits were presented at these exhibitions, the mechanisms for conceiving of these occasions, and the position of the curators or commissioners. The form and content of the Czechoslovak expositions, which were created by a relatively small circle of people, were relatively conservative, both within the framework of the exhibitions as a whole and in relation to the domestic art scene (especially in the case of the Venice and Sao Paolo biennales). Nevertheless, compared with both earlier and later presentations at the same events, Czechoslovak participation during the latter half of the sixties was progressive in character and featured good quality exhibits. At the end of the decade this was manifest in the selection of a smaller number of artists, a greater emphasis placed on the work of younger artists, and a broadening out of the media represented (which now included environmental and light-kinetic work). On rare occasions, poorly connected national exhibitions were replaced by an exhibition conceived of as an integrated whole. I argue that the politically and socially turbulent period around 1968 (both in Czechoslovakia and around the world), which was manifest in the organisation and form of the biennales examined, was not reflected in the Czechoslovak presentations. It was biennale-style events that allowed Czechoslovak artists to see how they fared within an international context and mediated information on current trends for both artists and curators. In contrast, the discussions just starting in the West on the very concept of the biennale did not yet feature on the Czechoslovak art scene.
Key words: Venice Biennale – Sao Paolo Biennial – Biennale de Paris – documenta – Czechoslovak pavilion – large-scale exhibitions – exhibition history
Author is art historian at Academic Research Centre of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.
Invisible Sculpture, Transcendent Exhibition and Programmed Art: The Curatorial Activities of Jiří Valoch during the Sixties and Seventies
Abstract: This paper examines the curatorial activities of Jiří Valoch through an analysis of the exhibitions Computer Graphics (1968) and White Space in a White Space (1974). It also looks at his curatorial work between 1967–1974 as a member of the association Young Friends of Fine Arts. The exhibition of computer graphics was the first of its kind in the Eastern bloc and took place six months before the famous Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition in London. White Space in a White Space was the joint project of three artists, Miloš Laky, Stano Filko and Ján Zavarský, and took the form of a one-day exhibition at the Brno House of Arts on 18 February 1974. Jiří Valoch not only wrote the theoretical text published in the exhibition catalogue along with a manifesto, but also, along with Gerta Pospíšilova, gallery director, secretly made it possible for the three artists to exhibition in the interstice between two other events. The association Young Friends of Fine Arts was founded in 1960 at the Brno House of Arts. On the pretext of teaching, Valoch was permitted to organise exhibitions and put together publications focusing on land art and action art, which it would have otherwise been difficult to arrange at a time when the grip of normalisation was hardening. As far back as seventies, Jiří Valoch had realised that the global reach of conceptual art was associated with a new type of distribution and presentation of works, and that documentation was a crucial tool, by means of which such art could enter collections and institutional operations.
Keywords: the curatorial activities of Jiří Valoch – Computer graphics – Cybernetic Serendipity – New Tendencies – White Space in a White Space – Young Friends of Visual Art – the Brno House of Arts – documentation – conceptual art – invisible sculpture by Joseph Beuys
Author is a curator in Moravian gallery in Brno. The study is a partial output of elaborating on Jiří Valoch Archive in Moravian gallery in Brno.
Private Home Exhibitions: A Medium of Unofficial Art during the Seventies and Eighties.
Abstract: Until recently, ideal home exhibitions tended to be overlooked by Czech art historians. In fact, during the normalisation period of the seventies and eighties in particular, such events played an important role on the unofficial art scene. By reconstructing previously almost unheard of ideal home exhibitions by Karel Miler, Václav Stratil, Milan Kozelka, Václav Skrepl, Martin John and others, the author analyses the development of this medium.
Keywords: home exhibitions – normalisation – unofficial art – Czech art – seventies – eighties
Author is art historian and head of Academic Research Centre of Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. The research for this study was supported by grant “Médium výstavy v českém umění 1957–1997” (GAČR 16-5446S).
The Second Plan: Ruins and Photography Exhibitions in the Eighties
Abstract: This paper examines the possibilities of photography’s presentation in non-gallery venues during the 1980s and 90s in Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic. It examines the relationship between venue and medium and connects photography’s theoretical framework in the latter half of the 20th century with the Czech art scene. It offers new ways of interpreting photography through the exhibitions analysed and highlights a shift in the way we understand photography within a particular time frame depending on its installation and presentation. This shift is from photography as document to photography as artistic artefact. Exhibitions serve to institutionalise the medium, offering photography a new aura and originality. These categories encounter the reality of decaying places, which function as a metaphor for the fragmentation and the multiplicity of thinking. This paradox is significant within the period under examination. This text is based on a diploma thesis dealing with the same topic.
Keywords: exhibition – photography – installation – framework – ruin – eighties and nineties – postmodernity – genius loci – unofficial art – public art
Author is curator and art critic, she is participating on Fotograf Festival, Prague.
Micro-Curating: The Role of SVAOs (Small Visual Arts Organisations) in the History of Exhibition-Making
Abstract: The present paper discusses the emergence and development of Small Visual Arts Organisations (SVAOs) in various parts of the world from the 1990s to the present. SVAOs are structurally small, non-profit spaces that are dedicated both to the production and to the dissemination of contemporary art. They are characterised by their interest in the local community in which they are located, as well as in diverse urban issues ranging from new technologies to the social art practices in their cities. In spite of the potential practical and ideological similarities with artist-run spaces, community arts organisations, and New Institutions, I argue that SVAOs are a curatorial phenomenon in their own right and, as such, represent a missing piece in the recent history of exhibition making.
Keywords: Small Visual Arts Organisations – exhibition-making – contemporary curating – art institutions – collectivity – community
Author is an editor of Afterall Journal and a Research Fellow at the Afterall Research Centre at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. Her research focuses on the history of exhibition-making and she specialises in the emergence and proliferation of SVAOs (Small Visual Arts Organisations) from the nineties to present in different parts of the world.
The Curious Case of Biennial Art
Abstract: This is a translation of a text by the critic, curator and occasional artist Jan Verwoert. Verwoert both defines biennial art, i.e. the works most frequently on show at the large contemporary art festivals held every two years, and then describes the approach taken by artists to such work. He discerns three main archetypal figures: the joker, the thief and the Girl/Boy Scout. Finally, Verwoert addresses the question of what type of communication is possible through the medium of the biennale, i.e. by what means can the organisation of and participation at large expositions be productive in light of the current state of the globalised world linked with (neo)liberal (late) capitalism. In conclusion Verwoert writes that, if we are to understand communication not as a means of delivering content but more as an environment in which limits can be declared, then we can view the biennale (and similar global exhibitions) as a suitable place for such communication.
Keywords: biennale – contemporary art – globalisation – communication
This essay was originally published as “The Curious Case of Biennial Art”, in: Elena FILIPOVIC – Marieke VAN HAL – Solveig ØVSTEBØ (eds.), The Biennial Reader: An Anthology on Large-Scale Perennial Exhibitions of Contemporary Art, Berlin: Hatje Cantz 2010, pp 184–197.
Jan Verwoert is Berlin-based art critic and curator.
2018 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 24
The 24th issue of Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones examines the question of what we deem new in art and why. Five authors offer answers, each from a different perspective. The philosophy and art theorist Kamil Nábělek looks at how we might think of the artwork as an exemplar. He searches for parallels between Giorgio Agamben’s exemplary paradigm and Walter Benjamin’s concept of the dialectical image. The film theorist Sylva Poláková looks at light-kineticism in the work of Zdeněk Pešánek. Alexandra Moralesová investigates the contemporary phenomenon of art film laboratories as a platform for experimental filmmaking in which traditional film material receives a new lease of life after the digital transformation of the industrial production of moving images. The last article in this issue is by Adam Franc and looks at the history of software art. Like the previous two texts it attempts to move away from the history of a specific medium and instead to reflect upon the general assumptions behind one of the spheres of art production at present. The issue ends with Josef Vojvodík’s review of a monograph written by Rey Michalová on Karel Teige. While the new inevitably ages, the return of the old is never simply repetition.
The Artwork as Exemplary Paradigm and Dialectical Image: An Analogy between the Concepts of Giorgio Agamben and Walter Benjamin
Abstract: The consideration relates to the concept of paradigm in its dimension of a system and its dimension of an exemplum. In this context, Giorgio Agamben’s interpretation of paradigm in the sense of an exemplum is mentioned. It is understood as a specific kind of analogical knowledge that avoids dichotomous categories. Every work of art, whether historical (i.e., “canonized”) or contemporary, actually works in terms of the paradigmatic exemplum. Contemporary works of art could be shown as a paradigm or an exemplum, whose “value” or “meaning” cannot be given by an identifiable rule, but by its own exemplification, its own expression. Historical works of art can be interpreted not only in their dimension of the system, but they can be also reinterpreted as the paradigmatic exemplum. To the notion of exemplary paradigm, I add the concept of the dialectical image of Walter Benjamin. I try to find similarities and analogies in both approaches. Their comparison allowed me to reflect the nature of the work of art and its relation to the interpretative and historical context.
Keywords: exemplary paradigm – dialectical image – analogical thinking – aesthetic judgment – narrative
The author teaches at the Faculty of Art and Architecture at Technical University in Liberec.
The Resonance of Czech Luminokinetism
Abstract: In this study I focus on Czech luminokinetism as a practice integrating a moving image whose media automatisms resonate in the Czech audiovisual sphere across generations. Because this is an interdisciplinary practice whose forms and operations are influenced by a host of dynamics, the initial film perspective is supplemented by related themes from the spheres of architecture, public municipal space, and the organisation of culture and the applied arts, including advertising. In this study I underline links to previous working methods, historical situations and specific personalities, whose legacy resonates in contemporary manifestations of film/architectonic convergence. As well as following the relocation of certain automatisms of individual media practices, this study anchors itself locally by examining possible intergenerational relationships, of which the legacy of Zdeněk Pešánek is especially important. The bridging of different period methods and themes (across the entire gamut of cultural informational references) might these days seem new. However, rather than a new form of art we can speak of the lumino kinetic interventions more as an unstable visual practice within the framework of which the requirements of the applied and free arts were asserted. Location became demonstrably crucial for their analysis. Location is itself part of a certain cultural practice, whose technical and aesthetic customs and conventions the organisers of these events had to come to terms with, and the relocated moving image helped them, inter alia, as a generally intelligible communication system.
Keywords: luminokinetism – Zdeněk Pešánek – film – art – videoart – architecture – advertisement
The author is a curator at Czech National Film Archive.
Experimental Film: Entering the Film Laboratory and Meeting the Body
Abstract: Over the two past decades experimental filmmaking found its base more than ever in the photo-chemical laboratory. The filmmaker as producer enters different roles and gets his hands into the whole process of filmmaking. The artistic gesture is expanded from the area of conceptualization, filming and editing to the very hand-crafted approach towards the material of the celluloid and thus allows it to open the blackbox sometimes labelled Kodak. It seems that the transformation of the film industry and its infrastructure over the last twenty years represents a paradigmatic turn and the most important moment for film as art. The film laboratory as an indispensable part of the making of the photochemical film is being recognized as a creative tool in experimental and art films. Artist-run film labs allow for the development of creation in the medium of film and create a platform for the convergence of traditional knowledge and skills with contemporary experience of digital awareness. Regarding those new working conditions in experimental filmmaking we face the transformation of the relationship between the artist and the medium of the film which acquires a new bodyness as a “body of the film”.
Keywords: experimental film – photo-chemical film – bodyness – cinephilia – creative collective – technology – machine – participation – sharing
The author is an independent curator, theoretician, she is part of the film lab Labodoble.
The essay was supported by PhD. project ARTIST-RUN FILM LABS: Experimenting in classical film medium in the age of post-industrial cinematography.
firstname.lastname@example.org // http://labodoble.org/
The History of Software Art: Several Beginnings, Several Histories
Abstract: This paper introduces an artistic movement known as software art that was born almost twenty years ago. The art movement doesn’t just use software as a mere tool for creating art but also works with software itself as an artistic material and fully-fledged means of expression. This paper describes the complex history of the art movement and its various historical roots. Although at first glance, it may seem that software art is a completely new art praxis, we can find several historical predecessors of software art in the world of art. The first art movement that deeply influenced software art was conceptual art. Conceptual art shares several fundamental characteristics with software art such as the shift from the physical object to an abstract idea or the creation of instructions for the realization of artworks. Software art is also inspired by destructive tendencies in art (for example Dadaism, destructive performances, Body Art) because the destruction is one of its most important strategies, realized through the performance of computer viruses. However, the historical roots of software art don’t come exclusively from widely recognized art movements but can also be identified in some artworks of early digital art. In the last section of the paper, we describe a revisionist approach to the writing of software art history. In this case, software art is not put into art history as a continuation of the coherent story of art but takes on the role of active participant in the creation of our present. Software art is seen as a new opportunity for the critical reflection of contemporary art and society which are deeply influenced by ubiquitous software.
Keywords: software art – conceptual art – digital art – software – computer virus – destruction – instructions
Author is a PhD. candidate at Dept. of Art Education at Pedagogical Faculty Masaryk University in Brno.
2017 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 23
The 23rd issue of the Notebook looks at environmentalism, BioArt, restoration, and computer games. Ondřej Navrátil examines the way environmental issues were reflected in 1990s Czech art. A striking feature of the particular projects he discusses is that they were either never implemented or had to make compromises during the process of realisation. Navrátil explains the failure of these (predominantly imported) environmental interventions by pointing to the general hostility of the Czech art scene at the time to activist art. In her text BioArt and SciArt: the Interweaving of Things, Bodies and Technology, Eva Šlesingerová offers a scholarly insight into theoretical discussions prompted by artistic experiments on the boundary of the animate and inanimate, the human and inhuman. She is critical of this tendency, which she perceives as being similar in form to biopower, which reduces mankind and other organisms to their biological component, thus rendering them subject to strict scientific and technological control. Matěj Strnad reviews two recently published books on conservation and restoration. He offers a broad overview of the theoretical questions arising and indicates what stage the debate has reached in the CR. In his review of the essay The Art of Computer Games by Helena Bendová, Adam Franc examines the way this theme is handled in the CR and analyses the arguments used by Bendová to uphold the artistic status of computer games.
Art in the Age of Environmentalism. The Czech Nineties
Abstract: This text examines environmental issues present in the work of Czech artists during the last decade of the 20th century. Particular attention is paid to four art projects that share a sense of engagement, ambition and complexity of implementation. Although none of the projects was completed, they are the most significant examples of their kind during the period in question. The collaboration of Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison, and the project pursued by Thomas Büsch and Jaroslav Kabilka, are imports and represent the intervention of foreign environmental oriented activism on the local art scene. Conversely, works by Lukáš Gavlovský and Federico Díaz can be seen as representing the emergent engagement of local artists in green issues. Gavlovský’s project is moving in the direction of a more practical activism. Díaz’s project is unusual in that it intertwines techno-optimism with holistic and spiritual visions. Taken as a whole, these examples offer a compact image of green trends in Czech art during the nineties. They also indicate that the way that environmental issues are represented replicates more general trends in Czech art, i.e. a distrust of engaged art that is gradually disappearing, as well as certain romantic and transcendental elements.
Keywords: art – environmental issues – commitment – nineties – Newton & Helen Mayer Harrison – Thomas Büsch – Lukáš Gavlovský – Federico Díaz – Jiří Zemánek
The author teaches at the Dept. of Art Education at Pedagogical Faculty of the Masaryk University in Brno.
BioArt and SciArt: Entanglements of Things, Bodies and Technologies
Abstract: We are witnessing profound changes in our societies, changes mediated by and manifesting themselves through the emergence of various biotechnological, digital, and techno-scapes. This paper examines BioArt or biotechnological art, a term used to describe the work of artists who are often also scientists, geneticists, and biologists, and who are intrigued by working with living or semi-living tissues using cutting-edge biotechnologies. Many artists and performers use living cells, tissues, and genes to create, perform, and reprogram living things, and work with the specific imagination of the body and embodiment. BioArtists and BioArt laboratories question and challenge existing approaches to concepts of the human body, embodiment, and the asymmetries between subject and object, life and non-life, human and non-human. Drawing on works by François-Joseph Lapointe and Rachel Mayeri, the text analyses current forms and manifestations of power over life, or biopower, and the specific techno-rationality which imagines, classifies, and governs our societies today.
Keywords: BioArt – Sci Art – neo-materialism – entanglement – body and embodiment
The author is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Institute of Sociology of the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main and teaches at the Institute of Sociology / Dept. of Social Anthropology at Faculty of Social Studies of the Masaryk University in Brno. The text was supported from Project “EU Horizon 2020 Marie Curie Grant Nr. 750088 (Artificial Life / Anthropological and Sociological Analysis of Life Engineering).
“We Believe We Are So Good that We Are Above Debate”
Abstract: This is an extended review of two books that have extended the still limited range of contemporary literature on art conservation on offer in the Czech Republic. The first book is a new translation of Contemporary Theory of Conservation by Salvador Muñoz Viñas (London, 2005; Czech translation: Pardubice, 2015). The review outlines the framework proposed by Muñoz Viñas within which contemporary theories of conservation operate and rehearses some of the specific arguments being conducted. It then examines the relation of these debates to contemporary art forms. The review ends by placing the new book within the Czech context and discussing its editorial and linguistic shortcomings. The second review is of the doctoral dissertation now published in book form by Zuzana Bauerová entitled Proti času, Konzervovanie-reštaurovanie v Československu 1918–1971 (Praha, 2015), which recounts a compelling and at times critical story of the so-called “school of Czech/Czechoslovak restoration” and its meta-narratives. Bauerová’s book is a dense historical study that elegantly exposes many of the roots of current controversies in the sphere of art conservation and restoration in the Czech Republic, e.g. how the idea of “restorer as artist” came to be so prevalent and dominant. This idea, while perhaps no longer so rigid, could be a major obstacle to the adoption of more contemporary theories (and practices) of art conservation, such as those discussed by Muñoz Viñas.
Keywords: Conservation – restoration – conservation theory – Czech restoration school
The author is a Collection development manager at the Czech National Film Archive.
2017 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 22
The latest issue of the Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones links objects of interest with the methodologies of art history and film criticism. Over recent years both of these disciplines have drawn valuable inspiration from visual studies, media archaeology and other interdisciplinary approaches, and this is reflected in the individual contributions. In Beyond the Epistemology of Montage, François Albera examines montage not as a specific film technique but as a broader, disparately structured period discourse. Matěj Strnad looks at the different versions of the film Anémic Cinéma by Marcel Duchamp, concluding by posing questions of the character of the film work and the creation of a film canon. In his text, Tomáš Pospiszyl examines the early collages of Jiří Kolář, asking to what extent they were mediated by filmic procedures. The essay by Václav Krůček looks at the concept of the movement of time or lack thereof in Antonioni’s Blow-Up. Kateřina Svatoňová surveys the work of the contemporary Czech artists Zbyněk Baladrán, Barbora Kleinhamplová, Tomáš Svoboda and Adéla Babanová through the prism of German philosophy and media theory. This issue of the Notebook ends with reviews of Artificial Darkness: An Obscure History of Modern Art and Media by Noam M. Elcott and the anthology Medienwissenschaft compiled by Kateřina Krtilová and Kateřina Svatoňová
For an Epistemography of Montage: Preliminaries
Abstract: This is a Czech translation of an essay by Swiss cinema-historian Francois Albera. Through a reassessment of the topic of editing, based on its fields of application described in the episteme of the late twentieth century – invoking the diverse phenomena associated with the successive and animated image –, this article proposes surmounting the constraints of a field such as cinématographe, which has “specificity” at its disposal, or otherwise works deliberately or surreptitiously to create it. It recommends differentiating between the techno-aesthetic discourse on editing and the “prescriptive” discourse of the critic or the film theorist, in order to construct an epistemographic category that consistently classifies the fields used in applying the concepts, as well as the usage rules related to editing, their transformations and their variations. The aim is to align them with the conditions of their possibility. This initial analysis is appended to certain ideas from the operative dimension of montage: “machinability”, discontinuity, and superimposition.
Keywords: montage – editing – history of cinema – technology of editing – Georges Méliès – Gustave Le Gray
The author is a historian of the cinematography, teaches at the Lausanne University.
The text was originally published in: Cinémas, vol. 13 / 2002, Nr. 1–2, p. 11–32.
Anémic Cinéma: Assorted Histories
Abstract: In 1967, Marcel Duchamp declared Anémic Cinéma (1926) to be the only film he had ever made. Yet the accounts of his endeavours during the 1920s, as attested both by his diaries and by his contemporaries, and also rare fragmentary artefacts, point to a much broader field of Duchamp’s filmic work. By focusing on the reception and distribution history of Anémic Cinéma, the article offers an explanation for Duchamp’s later dismissal of any other cinematic activities beyond this film. In a chronological account the article traces the lineage of reading Anémic Cinéma and also looks at its unauthorized version to investigate the mechanisms of its reception, canon-formation, and, in the bigger picture, writing about film and other communications media. The unauthorized version serves as a tool to distinguish and understand first-hand and secondary accounts in the context of Anémic Cinéma’s circulation. Lastly, based on the above, the author illustrates the need for a more material reading of the film and for simultaneous acknowledgement of its temporal and performative qualities, which appear whenever the film as an object comes into full being. This combination should then help us not only to understand other accounts and statements, but also to form our own.
Keywords: film – version – distribution – reception – Marcel Duchamp
The author is Collection development manager at The Czech National Film Archive.
Cinematographic Montage and the Montage Principle outside Cinema: Jiří Kolář’s Early Collages as a Case Study
Abstract: The paper considers the relationship between, on the one hand, non-cinematic works of art whose structure appears to apply principles of film montage and, on the other, cinematographic works. Examples of this are the collages of Jiří Kolář from the late 1940s and early 1950s, in which he created pictorial sequences using cuttings from illustrated magazines. Montage is not, however, a technique pursued only in the film industry; it is also associated with methods of cultural production as such, for example, by Walter Benjamin or Aby Warburg even in their forms of theoretical reflection. Outside cinema, however, the term “montage” generally suggests a mere comparison or a loose reference. In attempting to describe and interpret Kolář’s early work, a direct connection with film cannot be proved. Rather than by cinematic methods and theories, Kolář was influenced by popular culture, in particular the layouts of illustrated magazines, and then, only secondarily, by the methods of film composition that had penetrated those magazines.
Keywords: montage – Jiří Kolář – collage – cinematography – Arnold Hauser – graphic design – interdisciplinary methodology – remediation – post-medium condition
The author teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.
Abstract: Maryon Park in London is the site of key scenes in Antonioni’s cult movie Blow-Up (1966). Static shots taken in the park by the photographer character Thomas, which are wedged into the narrative, present a process indicating a turn to an inner structure of “immobility” in the moving images. This essay focuses on the analysis of the “immobile takes” phenomena associated with the initiation of specific “time-image” in the historical context of modernist film. Throughout this essay, the author investigates the nature of two continuous structures – the external structure of the film narrative, existing as a necessary milieu to be “broken into” by immobile takes and, secondly, the internal structure of graininess in the immobile takes. In Antonioni’s film this particular structure is subjected to subtle modulation revealed by the method of re-photography. The author considers the expressive and semantic effects of “moving immobility” in film (given by re-presentation) as secondary, “masking” the profound presentation of the structural and differential state of graininess within its repetition. The essay is intended to provide support for the author’s claim that the momentary transcendental thoughts triggered by the “suspended time” of the immobile take may have its source in the immediate repetition of “the Same” within the immanent structure of the film image.
Keywords: film – time – movement – immobility – grain – modulation – differentiation – immanence
The author is a PhD candidate at the Film Studies Dept. at Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of the Charles University in Prague.
The Dislocating Vision and a Life in Pictures: Reflections on the Media Condition of Moving Images in the Light of Medienwissenschaft
Abstract: This article explores the state of the media today and the expanded field of visual culture, in particular, the relationship between cinema and art, especially through the prism of German media philosophy and theory. It focuses on instances of possible dislocation and translocation, which enable a film to “think” differently and enable different ways of thinking about film. The article investigates the media condition where intermediality is the norm and medium specificity is derivative. Furthermore, the article examines instances of conceptual transposition, and seeks to demonstrate that the transfer along the art–cinema axis offers a different view of cinema’s basic media techniques and uncovers its reflexivity and performativity. Examining specific works of four artists and their media practices, the article focuses on the various ways of seeing through film (in the works of Zbyněk Baladrán and Barbora Kleinhamplová), film consciousness and thinking through film (Tomáš Svoboda), and film’s labour of memory (Adéla Babanová).
Keywords: media theory and philosophy – media archeology – intermediality – visual art and film – Adéla Babanová – Zbyněk Baladrán – Barbora Kleinhamplová – Tomáš Svoboda
The author is a Head of the Film Studies Dept. at Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of the Charles University in Prague.
2016 / Notebook for Art, Theory and Related Zones 21
The twenty-first edition of the Notebook For Art, Theory and Related Zones is devoted to “Speculation and Art”. It examines the aesthetic and critical implications of what is known as the speculative turn in continental philosophy, represented by currents such as speculative realism, new materialism, objectively oriented ontology and accelerationism. The essays forming the backbone of this edition are the first specialist publications in Czech. They are not limited to documenting the basic trends, but develop these ideas in original ways.
In his introductory essay, Václav Janoščík uses the metaphor of the map and the territory from the novel of that name by Michel Houellebecq to examine the philosophy of Quentin Meillassoux and his demand that we leave our comfort zone for the “great outdoors” that lies beyond the boundaries of thinking and object. Tomáš Hříbek offers a critique of speculative realism and new materialism from the position of the analytical philosophical tradition and looks in detail at the ontology of Graham Harman and its implications for aesthetics. The contribution by Martin Kaplický compares Harman’s thinking with that of Alfred North Whitehead and examines in detail the status of aesthetics in the philosophical systems of both thinkers. Lukáš Likavčan draws on the term “xenorationality” to enrich our understanding of the place of aesthetics within the ideological framework of speculative realism. He looks at the problematic of stepping beyond the boundary of anthropocentrism, which on the one hand is creating an ecological crisis and on the other the development of artificial intelligence.
These four original essays are joined by the translation of a text by Suhail Malik that promotes the liberation of artistic creativity from the correlationism anchored in aesthetic experience, a demand that leads inexorably to the need to destroy contemporary art. This thematic block includes a review by Tereza Stejskalová of the anthology Object, published by Václav Janoščík last year on the occasion of the exhibition of the same name at the Kvalitář Gallery. In a second review Milena Bartlová examines the question of the pathos of the link between research activities with the existential situation of the researcher in the book by Josef Vojvodík and Marie Langerová Pathos in Czech Art, Poetry and Aesthetics in the 1940s.
The Territory and the Map: Speculative Thinking and the Problem of the ‘Great Outdoors’
Abstract: Speculative realism remains a highly discussed and indeed contested tendency in contemporary thought. Rather than a direct confrontation between its various strands and the post-Kantian or correlationist philosophy, the present article intends to provide a more nuanced and open reading of some of its elements in order to foster dialogue rather than extrapolation. I draw on the work of Quentin Meillassoux, namely on his inaugural essay After Finitude as well as on an extension of his attack on correlationism on to subjectalism, confirming his more explicit engagement with poststructuralism. In such course I aim to show not only some critical or controversial aspects of his theory, but also its point of conjunction with the critical tradition in philosophy. The whole text is intertwined with an exposition of Michel Houellebecq’s The Map and the Territory to illustrate the potential of literary fiction to contribute to philosophy, namely in respect to its ambition to reach out to the “Great Outdoors” of a world independent from our anthropocentric imports.
Keywords: speculative realism – poststructuralism – Quentin Meillassoux – Michel Houellebecq – correlationism – grand dehors
The author teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.
Realism, Materialism, Art
Abstract: Recent years have seen the ascendance of a new trend in continental philosophy called “the speculative turn”, “speculative realism”, “continental materialism”, or “object-oriented ontology” (OOO). I focus on the work of one of the proponents of this new trend, Graham Harman, in particular his recent attempt to extend his “object-oriented” approach to art and aesthetics. In part 1, I start with a brief characterization of the new trend in terms of the shared opposition of all its proponents to what Quentin Meillassoux calls “correlationism”, which is, roughly, anti-realism. However, there is a split among the new realists as to whether they accept materialism. As I explain in an exposition of OOO in part 2, Harman does not accept it, but he has an inadequate view of materialism. This affects his defense of the Greenbergian formalism as an alternative to materialism, which I outline in part 3. I believe Harman’s favorite formalism is quite unfit for understanding the art of the period that interests him, that is, post-1960s art. I close with a few notes on an alternative, namely a certain branch of materialism which, however, has as its source psychoanalysis rather than the metaphysical doctrine which usually goes by this name.
Keywords: Graham Harman – Clement Greenberg – realism – materialism – OOO – formalism
The author is a researcher at Institute of Philosophy of The Czech Academy of Science and teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.
Graham Harman and Alfred North Whitehead: On Philosophy, Aesthetics and Art
Abstract: The main aim of the article is to compare Alfred North Whitehead’s speculative philosophy and Graham Harman’s object-oriented ontology, and to consider Harman’s claim that Whitehead can be described as an object-oriented philosopher. The text is divided into two parts. The first part introduces Whitehead’s philosophical method of imaginative generalization, and shows how this method leads Whitehead to extend the meaning of the traditional philosophical terms behind their established use. In this method, metaphor is seen as an indispensable tool of philosophy. This extension of the terms and Whitehead’s explanatory scheme is highly appreciated by Harman. Harman sees this extension as one of the rare examples of overcoming the so-called correlationism and relates it to his own model of objectoriented ontology. It is demonstrated that however similar these two philosophical schemes may seem, they differ radically in their main aim. While Whitehead looks for a scheme which could successfully interlink final and efficient causality, Harman is trying to develop a theory of objects based on a new version of formal causality. The second part of the article is devoted to the role of aesthetics and art theory in the schemes of both philosophers. In both cases, aesthetics is located at the base of the whole philosophical system. In Harman’s case, the key aesthetic notion is allure, which is described as a way to overcome the crust of sensual objects and meet the hidden nonrelational real object, while Whitehead supports the notion of beauty conceived as the process of harmonization of diverse data. The key problems of Harman’s aesthetic theory are suggested, along with the possible aid of Whitehead’s solutio.
Keywords: Graham Harman – Alfred North Whitehead – speculative realism – aesthetics – art
This text was supported by project „Proces a estetika: Explicitní a implikovaná estetika v procesuální filosofii Alfreda North Whiteheada“ (GAČR 16-13208S) at Philosophical Faculty of the Charles University in Prague and Philosophical Faculty of the South Bohemian University in České Budějovice.
Abstract: This paper presents a blueprint for a new aesthetic theory which is informed by recent developments in the philosophy of speculative realism on the one hand, and capable of addressing issues arising from the ecological crisis and the emergence of artificial intelligence on the other. The primary point of departure here is the philosophy of Quentin Meillassoux and Immanuel Kant. Aesthetics is understood as a speculative investigation of the realm of possible assemblages (or compositions) of entities. Such assemblages manifest xenorationality – that is, non-human principles of association and composition. Drawing on the work of Alfred North Whitehead and Steven Shaviro, I define rationality as the investment of external objects into the human mind, rather than an autonomous subjective faculty. General genetics of xenorationality uncovers the original exteriority and ancestrality of rational principles vis-à-vis the human subject. Furthermore, xenorational aesthetics is demonstrated on the example of Google AI AlphaGo program’s surprising move in the 2nd match against the world’s top Go player, Lee Sedol. This move was described by viewers as “inhuman” yet “beautiful”, and it will be argued that it was a manifestation of AlphaGo’s xenorationality. Lastly, the argument can be generalised to planetary ecosystem processes, leading to an assessment of the aesthetic experience of xenorationality in the process of cognitive mapping as the major driver of socio-political practices in the Anthropocene.
Keywords: aesthetics – rationality – speculative realism – Quentin Meillassoux – Anthropocene – artificial intelligence
The author is a PhD candidate at the Department of Environmental Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Masaryk University, Brno. This paper was written in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Masaryk University. Work on this paper has been supported by the project MUNI/A/1004/2015 “Contemporary Approaches to the Study of Environmental Phenomena II – Specific Research at Masaryk University”.
Reason to Destroy Contemporary Art
Abstract: This is a Czech translation of an essay by the London-based critic and theorist Suhail Malik. The essay draws on the rationalist strand of speculative realism to claim that contemporary art – so long as it remains dependent on the subject of aesthetic experience – remains a branch of correlationism as defined by Quentin Meillassoux. The meaning and value of contemporary art springs from the mutual constitution of the art object and the perceiving subject in the event of aesthetic experience. This process presupposes and further reproduces the principles of correlationism. Any thorough-going realism that opposes correlationism must undermine the very foundations of contemporary art and by so doing hint at the possibility of another art practice. Such an art would not be co-constituted by its audience; instead, it would be a rational practice outside of the realm of aesthetics.
Keywords: contemporary art – speculative realism – correlationism – rationalism
The author is a critic and theoretian, teaches at the Goldsmiths, University of London. This essay was originally published as “Reason to Destroy Contemporary Art”, in: Christoph COX – Jenny JASKEY – Suhail MALIK (eds.), Realism Materialism Art, New York: Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College 2015, pp. 185–191.
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.
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 https://vvp.avu.cz/sesit/.
Keywords art criticism – social networks – social media – contemporary art – internet
Author Germany (Berlin), curator
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 https://vvp.avu.cz/sesit/.
Keywords art criticism – social networks – contemporary art – gallery – museum
Author United Kingdom (London), curator, email@example.com
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 https://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.
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.
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
On the Concept of Medium Specificityand the Kantian Interpretation of Conceptual Art
Abstract: This 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.
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
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
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.
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
‘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
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.