Preview: The Earth Turns and All Things Slip Away
Examining the noise of nihility, the weight of whiteness
Posted: February 27, 2013
It's all white at the Hunt Kastner Artworks, where this show is drawing a large crowd.
By Siegfried Mortkowitz
FOR THE POST
Holešovice is slowly being gentrified, which is good news if you're part of the gentry, enjoy Italian food and like your art edgy and contemporary.
Over the years, a number of galleries have sprouted around Veletržní Palace, home to the National Gallery's collection of modern and contemporary art, as if that large, indispensable eyesore were tossing off seeds like a dandelion. The best of these galleries in Prague 7 is also one of the smallest, Hunt Kastner Artworks on Kamenická street, and it almost never disappoints. Hunt Kastner is 10 minutes on foot from the museum and close to several other galleries and some terrific Italian eateries should you wish to make a day of feasting your eyes, mind and taste buds.
at Hunt Kastner Artworks Ends March 16. Kamenická 22, Prague 7-Holešovice. Open Tues.-Fri. 1-6 p.m., Sat. 2-6 p.m.
The current exhibition, "The Earth Turns and All Things Slip Away," curated by Edith Jeřábková and Jiří Kovanda, is as interesting and entertaining a group show as you are likely to see in Prague this year.
The high jinks of contemporary art are often justified, by its creators and curators, in the most ponderous terminology. For example, the Hunt Kastner press release describes the show as an "examination of space-time metaphysics, the conceptual universe, negative turned into positive, absence reversed into presence, all sinking into a landscape of melancholy, eternal frost and diffused light, where we vainly search for the horizon and a point of reference" - which doesn't make it sound like a barrel of laughs.
The show is really a lot of fun, though, beginning with the white smoke that rises from the floor and envelopes you when you walk through the door. It's a kind of slapstick introduction to what else is to come (like getting a pie in the face as you enter, say, the Laurel and Hardy Museum). The smoke was, in fact, Ryan Gander's Only Really Applicable to Those That Can Visualize It, so not that far off. But it also serves as an introduction to the themes of the show, which include whiteness and evanescence.
Lengthy titles (such as Gander's) are an important part of some of these works, such as Guido van der Werve's marvelous video installation Nummer Twee. Just Because I'm Standing Here Doesn't Mean I Want To. The video includes a hit-and-run accident and five ballerinas, dressed in white tutus, emerging from a police van and dancing to Corelli's "Christmas Concerto," with the body of the victim, van der Werve himself, lying in the background.
The theme of the disappearing artist is one of the subtexts of the show's main theme, which the press release describes variously as "the emptiness of the white universe," "the dematerialization of art," "being absent" and "White as everyday life. White as a universe. White as a journey." Put another way, it's about the many forms of nothingness.
The artist also vanishes in two works by the 86-year-old Romanian artist Geta Brătescu, who in her 1975 photo series "Towards White - Self-Portrait" disappears behind some transparent plastic wrap and at the end of her long video The Studio is seen dancing headless. And disappearance is the theme of the Slovak artist Stano Filko's pieces from the 1970s, in which faces are cut out or simply whited out of otherwise banal photographs.
Never has nothingness made so much noise, which is the subject of three fascinating works, titled "Whiteout," by the prolific Belgian artist Geert Goiris. Images are presented here at their vanishing point, just before they disappear into the whiteness of the canvas. But because they - or, rather, their very faint shadows - can still be seen, the viewer is forced to look closely and deeply, intensifying his or her relationship to the work.
Also worth a mention are Jiří Kovanda's aptly titled Two Little White Slats and Three Little White Slats and Two Little White Piles, which illustrate the weight of whiteness; Barbora Kleinhamplová's Dirt, in which the artist appears to be on the verge of disappearing into her work-to-be; and Zbyněk Baladrán's clever video All for No Reason, in which the artist's reading of an absurdist dialogue about identity is often interrupted by the sound of construction workers in the background.
Apparently, the show has been very popular, and when I was there a number of elderly neighborhood residents came in and toured it with interest, which says more about its quality than I can. So, three loud cheers for the curators for assembling so many witty and fascinating works. And three more cheers for the gallery for displaying them in such a way that they neither crowd nor distract from one another. That may not sound like much, but it's not nothing.
Siegfried Mortkowitz can be reached at email@example.com