We care for moving image art

Ostentatious Events

Art events are ephemeral occurrences, existing only for their duration at a particular moment. To capture them, artists often use the medium of the moving image to create image and sound documentation. In socialist Czechoslovakia, conditions were difficult for artists wishing to work with film so often they documented their performances using the medium of photography. A remarkable insight into the activities of the Czech underground scene of the 1960s and ’70s is provided by the work of photographer Jan Ságl, whose films also document the events of artist Zorka Ságlová.

The artist Lumír Hladík also used film to record his events. In most cases, his works were created without an audience, with the participation of his friend and amateur filmmaker Petr Soukup. Artists are usually not satisfied with merely using the moving image as a tool of documentation, instead opting to experiment with the possibilities of cinematic language. The artist Miloš Šejn, for instance, makes significant use of cinematic narration, filming his journeys through the landscape first on 8 mm film and later also on video.

The use of available analogue video cameras became commonplace during the course of the 1990s, when the end of artistic censorship contributed to the broadening of action art beyond Prague to also include the art scenes in Brno and Ostrava, where artists active in this field included Tomáš Ruller, Petr Váša, Marian Palla, Jiří Surůvka, and Petr Lysáček. The development of digital technology and intermedia approaches in the early 2000s further contributed to an interest in experiments with the production and post-production of art performances through the moving image, and artists such as Eva Jiřička, Marek Ther, Ondřej Brody, Pavla Sceranková, Radim Labuda, and Tomáš Hrůza created performative events intended directly for the lens of the camera.

Jan Ságl: Pocta Fafejtovi [Homage to Fafejta]

20 min., 1972
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Pocta Fafejtovi [Homage to Fafejta] captures one of Zorka Ságlová’s last land art events, which took place in October 1972 in an abandoned fortress, Vřísek, in Zahrádky near the north Bohemian town of Česká Lípa. The central motif of the event was the release of hundreds of inflated condoms from the first floor of the castle. The title is a reference to one of the advertising slogans used by the Prague pharmacist Fafejta: “There was no need for you to fall to the ground, your lot might well have been more sound, if your darling had only worn, a Primeros from Fafejta on his horn”. Participants of the event included mostly musicians and friends from the circles surrounding the music group The Plastic People of the Universe. The film captures the arrival in Zahrádky, the journey to the fortress, the preparations, and the event itself, the detailed shapes of the blown-up condoms, and, at the end of the film, some spontaneous events, such as a staging of the Stalin monument in Prague or an improvised concert in a nearby cave.

Miloš Šejn: Psychodrama

13 min., 1970
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Psychodrama is the first film to record Miloš Šejn’s wandering through the landscape. It contains some elements typical of the artist’s other films, such as a sensitivity to the luminous presentation of materials and surfaces, work with darkness and dimness, a search for contrasting views, and, particularly, a special sensitivity to the atmosphere of the landscape.

Lumír Hladík: Už nikdy tenhle balvan [The Never Boulder]

2.5 min., 1978
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Už nikdy tenhle balvan [The Never Boulder] is one of Lumír Hladík’s cinematic documentations of live events filmed on 8 mm colour film. In the second half of the 1970s, Lumír Hladík realised several events in the Central Bohemian Region, where he grew up. In retrospect, however, he claimed that his choice of landscape was a mere tool, as when one picks up a piece of paper to draw on. In the case of this film, Hladík decided to “put an end” to a boulder that had provoked him since childhood. During the course of three days, he approached a boulder atop a peak called Klepec, near the village of Úvaly, in order to get as close as possible without touching it in any way. The chronology of this three-day event, which took place on the 12th, 22nd, and 25th of November 1978, is marked out in the film with the use of titles, inserted into the recording by Hladík’s friend Petr Soukup.

Eva Jiřička: Jízda [The Ride]

3 min., 2004
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In her performance Jízda [The Ride], which sees Eva Jiřička playing the part of a girl, driving naked through the streets of Prague in a convertible sports car, the artist provocatively blurs the boundaries between public and private, thematising the issue of the gaze. The film begins in a garage wallpapered with posters of naked models at whom the artist directs a gentle smile, as she does at the shiny parked car. Detailed examination reveals that shots of surprised passers-by alternate with shots of the naked artist in the driver’s seat. The voyeurism of the passers-by enters into dialogue with exhibitionism, as does the viewer’s imagination, with established, stereotypical gender mechanisms playing a significant role. As with other events that could not be filmed with a static camera, Eva Jiřička collaborated with another artist, in this case Sylva Málová, who acted as a camera operator.

Pavla Sceranková: Úkryt [Shelter]

1 min., 2006
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The audiovisual work Úkryt [Shelter] consists of short performative actions by Pavla Sceránková in which the artist works with the notion of covering, bringing together the media of sculpture, performance, and the moving image in an original gesture. While in Sáčkování [Bagging], the artist is hidden in a paper bag on a field, in Úkryt, she covers herself during intimate activities in the private spaces of her student accommodation. The work was created during the artist’s study exchange at the Gray School of Art in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Radim Labuda: Bez názvu [Untitled]

2 min., 2003
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This video, which shows two men – one wearing a suit, the other naked – going about their everyday morning rituals in a shared bathroom, was Radim Labuda’s first video performance. Labuda’s early work is marked by an interest in the dynamics of relationships, both intimate and more broadly societal, including the depiction of power relations such as dominance and submission, but also subversion. Depictions of corporeality, including nudity, might imply – based on the context – self-acceptance, honesty, decisiveness, or, at other times, insufficiency or a loss of certainty.

Tomáš Hrůza: Turista [The Tourist]

8 min., 2007
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The short video performance titled Turista [The Tourist] captures a simple action effected by the artist in the landscape: he turns on the camera, walks a little further towards a forest, and stands still for several minutes until he looks at his phone and turns off the camera. The film was conceived as part of a photographic series, Turisti [Tourists], which Hrůza began developing during his study exchange at the University of Derby in the United Kingdom, and which became part of his master’s thesis. His stay in Great Britain was significant for the work, as limited possibilities for moving freely in nature led the artist to the question of the temporality that modern, urban people experience in relation to the landscape.

Alžběta Bačíková: Věž I., Věž II. [The Tower I, The Tower II]

7 min., 2013
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Věž [The Tower] is a work composed of two films that refer to Vladimir Tatlin’s project for the Monument to the Third International from the early 1920s. The films capture a performance by Alžběta Bačíková in which she tries to set fire to models of Tatlin’s iconic tower in a snowy garden. While the large model burns up to ashes in Věž I. [The Tower I], the ignition of the small Věž II. [The Tower II] is doomed from the start, as the artist intentionally selected an inadequate method. The work reflects the position of the individual in relation to a monument whose aim is to mediate utopian ideals.

Image: Ostentatious Events
Věž II (Alžběta Bačíková, 2013)