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'Spectators Disease', a Group Show at Polansky Gallery, Prague

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JJ: I can’t imagine us not referencing at least one end-of-the-90s hit. The song “You Get What You Give” by New Radicals played in my head many times when I visited the gallery. I wonder who really observes their paintings nowa- days when all of us constantly share memes and underwear pictures? Right there in the first verse of the aforementioned tune we hear: “Wake up kids, We’ve got the dreamers disease”. This sentence, as striking as a slogan on a 90s T-shirt, calls for a slight correction today: “Wake up kids, We’ve got the spectators disease”. Under the onslaught of demand, everything “fast“ is changing into “slow”. Burning eyes, digital dementia, 256 million display colours and monochrome thoughts. A desire for slow observation is in the air. But,howtodoit? Perhapsweneedtocommitasmallmanipulation,justlike Dan Deacon -the persevering caretaker of the indie fire - performing in front of crowd-individualised xanax teenagers...

KN: On average, we only look at a painting for a few seconds. At the same time, we know that its sensory, emotional and ideological content consists of two components - the meaning that is revealed in the image and the meaning that is inherent to the viewer. During a careful observation, a moment of atten- tive visual “examination of the surface of the painting”, the intention of the au- thor, or better, the intention of the work on the one hand and the intention of the viewer on the other, become interconnected. The energy that connects the tension between the two poles is the intrinsic meaning of the work.

That’s how we look at this if our perception is based on experience with tradi- tional hanging paintings. Nowadays, however, we need to include the influ- ence of moving images. It is this situation that is shaping our experience with paintings to a great extent. The visual movement that guides us keeps our at- tention, but at the same time it doesn’t allow our imagination to fully take root in the ever-changing appearance and develop all the expressive and mean- ingful possibilities of the image - and thereby develop all our visual skills as spectators. Above all the ability to tune into complex, and sometimes very subtle, stimuli that we experience when we observe the painting in a focused but relaxed way.

In some way, we feel that there is nothing going on in classical paintings. But if that is the case, it is like saying that nothing happens in the forest. Of course there is no performance. The performance should take place in our mind, not outside or in front of it. Thus happens the usual - we do not receive any gifts because we do not give any gifts.

The Spectators Disease exhibition is an effort to explore the situation and to make it part of the scene. But it won’t work without a bit of manipulation - first we need to stop the images that are running in the viewers’ heads and prom- ise them something in return. A spiritual experience would be the best - to construct, for instance, a “visual spiritual session” with a “deeper meaning” (whatever this ultimately means). And then it is necessary to some- how lure the viewers to the exhibition, which means to “pull them” - with the help of other, preferably moving, images - to the exhibition. This means creat- ing an environment based on “visual strategies”, on design-advertising ap- proaches rather than on visual contemplation.

To achieve all this, you need two galleries, screens, cameras, candles, incense, of course paintings and artists allowed by curatorial intentions; not to be afraid to go to the edge of irony, of emotion, maybe even kitsch; to have at the end what was supposed to be at beginning: a calm and focused view of the still image.

16.10.19 — 30.10.19

Adrian Altman, Markéta Bábková, Matěj Čech, Dávid Čerťanský, Beatrice Dandová, Kristina Fingerland, Stanislava Franců, Markéta Kolářová, Anna Langová, Laura Limbourg, Ivana Mrázková, Marie Paterová, Adam Rada, Alžběta Rajchlová, Markéta Soukupová, Adam Soukup, Jan Soumar, Samuel Stano, Barbora Šemberová, Adina Šulcová, Moemi Yamamoto

Curated by Jakub Jansa, Kamil Nábělek

Polansky Gallery

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