I hear dozens of voices. Stories from math class. Fresh gossip about the obnoxious classmate, - right before the skiing trip - who got drunk again last night on the third floor of the dorm. I see a long line of young people, faces full of pimples. Holding trays in their hands, moving to the canteen counter with slippers scuffing against the linoleum floor. Lunch vouchers laying peacefully in a pale blue plastic basket, curtains hanging in front of the windows. Aluminum cutlery scratch the plates when rice is picked or when roast meat is skeptically cut. Elbows resting at the table top. The voices mix with the sound of chairs and there is a quiet bubbling of boiling water in the background.
Barbora Zentková and Julia Gryboś's exhibition A dose of a shared after-taste in Nová Cervnovka's ex-dining room is not really about food. Neither it laments the nostalgia for collective dining or the culture of high school dormitories. It does, however, try to rethink the dynamics of these places where life and sharing happen, their slow and continuous decay - not only the natural material decay, but also their destruction due to human intervention, such as the occurrence of small and big histories, regime changes, plans for new buildings or dining rooms turned into temporary exhibition spaces. Zentková and Gryboś, starting from the specific setting of the dining room, explore the broadest contexts of material and psychological production. Why, how and how much food, buildings, machines, furniture, ideas, values, opinions, identities, or communities we produce, how we relate to them, how we use and consume them, how we let them go or how they expire. How we try to create, influence, dominate and own them. What trace we leave behind - both as individuals and as a society.
For the purpose of the show, Julia and Barbora have refurnished the dining area with chairs, tables, curtains and a included a sound installation. However, all of these elements are altered and deviate from their practical functions. They do not subscribe to the modernist idea of durability, and, although just like their practical predecessors they strive to be visually appealing, they do not keep silent about their origin. They do not cover their dysfunctions, rather, they point to them. They are not a clear and functional inventory that will, once again, be replaced by their new and better selves, more modern, more practical. Rather, they represent the constant failure of those ideas.
Curtains, therefore, do not create a natural transparent backdrop of a living and lived space, they separate us from the outside reality, they aim to create a compact interior space, an almost scenographic composition. You cannot sit on any of the chairs, nor can you cut your roast meat on these tables. All objects are made of edible starch and the uncertainty, the likelihood of them malfunctioning gains momentum during the exhibition. As they gradually rot, they become a wasteful aesthetic parasite, contradicting their product-design pre-images but at the same time becoming counterparts to their original beautiful selves before the rotting process began. Their gradual rotting emphasises temporality and fragility but the disintegration built into the very core of the objects gives them the power to become critical voices commenting on the infinite circle of becoming and decaying. In today’s accelerated society of production and consumption this often bears tragic connotations.
Water is boiling. Is that the final countdown? Are we all just running against unsustainability?
It is important to ask out loud and repeatedly about what it is we sacrifice for ideas of continuity and progress.
A dose of a shared after-taste is dangling over the white and ocherous horizon.
— Zuzana Jakalová