Silva Rerum (August 2020)
The translation means “Forest full of things.” It is an old Polish name for a type of farmer’s diary. The farmer kept logs on harvests, profits, weather, natural phenomena or the political situation, as well as their familial
situation. It is an expression of understanding the world as one whole comprised of particulars. I read such a diary as a great example for an art of living. In fact, I knew a person who kept a similar diary from his childhood until
his death. He said that it never taught him to be a better manager and that he didn’t become a better person on its account. He said he never re-read his entries. He was too modest. Today, his entries are being read by his children.
They see in them anonymous logs which lack the usual feature of their world-view – in other words, they lack a theme. From this experience, I extrapolate my own approach to art. Before I try to explain to you what I mean by that, I
must speak a bit about my relationship to life themes.
I understand life themes as what lies ahead of us, as something we know to exist, and which is related to our lives, while being distinguished by name from other things. Or we at least think so. Life themes are an abbreviation, a
metaphor for a problem. Themes help us sort our world into smaller, more organized wholes which we are then able to communicate to other people. Themes can be prefabbed, and they are also subject to rules of polite conduct. All so
that they may better be used for resolving problems. They help us become fearless of the endless Silva Rerum of our lives. By thematizing our life problems, living becomes more fluid, predictable and perhaps even safer. It is thus
understandable that we have a tendency to thematize all aspects of our lives, including culture and its art. But isn’t that which we have invested in the Silva Rerum, our souvenirs of the world in which everything is related to
everything else and where there are no clear distinctions between items, also a form of art? Isn’t the retention of this distinctive boundary a fundamental condition for staying in touch with reality?
I am surprised that so many creative people working in the art world use their craft to change the nature of Silva Rerum into a flat plain full of small thematic islands of greenery. Adopting themes for art depletes it of its
playfulness and imaginative potential, and positions the audience into the role of students exposed to full frontal education. To adopt themes in art is a crime. They are a tool which allows spineless individuals to appropriate the
audience’s good will. Themes are a way to draw attention to oneself in order to better sneak one’s way into an artist clique under the banner of common goals, and such artists are indeed very apt at seeing the birth and death of new
themes. The themes give them a soapbox to be heard and foster the assumption that the artist is commensurate with his or her work, and that their work exists through them. Such conduct carries a tremendous dose of insolence, as these
artists understand nothing apart from their themes. When outside their themes, they are tired and exhausted, as they lack nature – they have lost their Silva Rerum.
It is difficult to not be seduced by this path, as it can help carry the voice of an artist and allows it to reach the ears of their audience. Rather than understanding, it is necessary to feel and care for the nature of Silva
Rerum, to patiently learn to perceive it in all its diversity, and to carefully note everything which grows and is born within it. The Forma Rerum is the subject for accepting the world as a complex network of relationships.
The Paradigm of the Monkey Grasp (May 2020)
An artwork is a paradigm for an ungraspable object, one of the few things which keeps evading us in this world, like water running between our fingers. That is what we have learned. The galleries situate the audience in a
determined space, so that they may have proper distance from the exhibited work; in church the works are carried aloft, beyond the touch of hands, or they are protected by the paradigm of sanctity. It is a paradox. For me, as a
creator, the limits imposed on the haptic nature of the work constitute a loss of one communication channel with the audience. My sculptures are created in my hands, and I recognize a proper shape when I can grasp it in my palms.
That is the paradigm of the monkey grasp. I ask myself how the history of Christianity would have panned out if Jesus hadn’t asked Thomas, who did not want to believe that it is really the messiah resurrected standing before him, to
place his fingers in the wound on his side. If Thomas hadn’t overcome his sacred fear, today we might not have known about Jesus at all. To grasp things as a primate would is part of our evolutionary toolbox.
In Prague, there is a place which is called The Invisible Exhibition and apart from being a museum of darkness, it also functions as a community center for the blind. For the duration of an hour, a seeing visitor can try what it is
like to not be able to process their surroundings on the basis of its visual qualities. I think that for our era, which is very weighted towards the visual image or visual smog, this is a worthy space for repose. I myself spent a few
hours there, including two moments when we were supposed to identify copies of well-known sculptures just by touching them. This experience led me to start working with paper. It is a material which we today, apart from skin, touch
the most. Paper is stretched over my sculptures much like skin is stretched over muscle. I attempt to create an organic sculpture whose inner tension reflects the surface material and whose characteristics create in the audience a
desire to touch the sculpture, to understand its principle with their hands. After all, I can imagine that one day, gallery institutions might offer low-brow, primate art, next to the fine art they currently present. Or even
education programs focused on manually working with matter.
Chimerism (January 2020)
Until the 19th century, the history of figurative sculpture has been the history of the idea that man is what he considers himself to be – a rationally feeling being. Throughout the following sixty years, sculpture realizes
that the human is most probably not what he thinks he is. This is the outcome of the horrors experienced during two world wars which destroyed all our beautiful ideals. Our current history of figurative art is no longer a
history of ideas, but of facts. These are crowned by the scientific discovery of cellular chimerism. As I will try to elucidate in this essay, Chimerism has however been a part of the history of sculpture since its very
beginnings, and I personally consider it to provide the fundamental content and form of my work.
The most well-known conception of the Chimera is provided by Greek mythology, where it appears as the offspring of giants, and is considered to be villainous. Or the story of Circe the witch who would transform her victims,
meaning men, into swine as a form of punishment. These two examples represent the way in which people have used to visualize their fears of the unknown, the way in which they learned to understand their characteristics. They
faced their fear by giving it a more believable form and imitated it by what they knew.
Another form of the Chimera which is very important to me comes from the Middle Ages. The Divine Comedy starts with the journey towards the gate to the Underworld. The Chimera which guards the entrance represents not only
dangerous nature, but the individual animals are also references to a particular Christian iconography. The animals represent human flaws. The motif of the Chimera is thus applied to the human to express its character traits,
to draw attention to the schizophrenic nature of the human and to express a fear of one’s own self. This can most clearly be seen in Gothic art. As example, I mention the late paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. They depict
animals, nature, man and things as one whole in which individual differences are erased. They are an expression of a world-view in which everything is related to everything else, just as our rationality is connected to our
emotions, our spirituality to lechery. The paintings thus depict chimeras for their contemporary audience which understood pagan mythologies, and as such are reflections of the contemporary understanding of the unity of God’s
creation. The emphasis on the role of objects in the world is also interesting, and I consider it to be a certain model for modern phenomenology. This understanding is very much reflected in my work, and I apply it in both
form and content, which I use to demonstrate a moral message. The Gothic era heralds the end of understanding the world as a single whole in which everything is related to everything else. The irruption of reason bestows
reason on man alone, and thus disrupts the Gothic egality of plants, animals and things, considered to be equal to the human. I find it important to draw attention to this ideational threshold. Today, when human existence is
understood through myriad scientific disciplines, we again turn to this unity with the hope that it might help us resolve the social and ecological problems which plague us.
I would now like to briefly mention cellular chimerism. I once attended a lecture on evolutionary biology which began with the sentence that we are all mutants and chimeras. This statement, despite it being normative, was
based on scientific discoveries in the field of genetics which helped elucidate the situation where, for example, the father of a child was affirmed, but not the mother. The mother’s offspring carried the genetic makeup of
her unborn sister. I thus come back to the witch Circe who transformed people into swine. It seems absurd, but today we place our highest aspirations in pigs for the growing of artificial organs for people. I do not want to
go into the details here, and so I will mention two admirable people who are competent in this regard. These are the evolutionary biologist Jan Černý and the biologist, priest and physician Marek Vácha.
The aim of this short, chimerically-conceived essay was to show that the world is a type of incorporation of tradition and fact. I wanted to allude to the fact that a person is not who they think they are, but that their
position should be oriented towards co-habiting with the surrounding world. I wished to communicate my conviction that just like religiosity, humanism and existentialism formed the understanding of figurative sculpture, so
should sculpture today be oriented toward a world which is understood as being chimerical. In this understanding of the world, the human becomes an equal component which is spiritual and material at the same time, his
emotions and rationality are not separable and his attempts at endless self-understanding leads one to improve oneself. I see in this a form of sculpture which, apart from playfulness, also offers a form of moral edification,
one which is not merely critical and flat, but most importantly timeless.
Sculpture – Marionette (March 2020)
The material possibilities of our era and their accessibility have changed the relationship of sculpture to the surface and have made of sculptures actors which have finished playing their allotted role. Or rather,
they have gained the ability to play differently.
The sculpture becomes a marionette through being dressed
Firstly, I must say that I do not consider a sculpture’s drapery as a form of dress. Drapery is in today’s day and age a sort of strange sculptural ornament. However last year, during a school trip to Spain, I
encountered for the first time the phenomenon of dressing a sculpture. It was in a Catholic church, where they dressed the Madonna with child in a strange decorative costume. During the Easter holidays, they gradually
dressed all the sculptures in the church. This dressing has a tradition dating back to the Gothic era when the sculptures were dressed up for various Christian holidays. Some of them even had moving limbs, so they
functioned a bit like marionettes. When we look at it from the perspective of a then-contemporaneous believer who knew these particular statues in their static positions, their change of posture must have seemed very
expressive. Furthermore, the costumes were made from luxurious materials which certainly were not accessible to just anyone.
I consider the marionette a sculpture which reflects change. As opposed to a live actor, the sculpture-marionette exists even after its role during a performance has finished. The existence of the sculpture-marionette
does not depend on the audience. Its advantage also lies in its own scale and materials. As opposed to a live actor, it is naturally iconic, a fact which is aided by its already-mentioned scale. I consider the scale as
one of the key characteristics of the marionette which, in comparison to a live-action theater performance, offers a different perspective and distance. A can of pork, a spoon or a peg can all become marionettes. I
think that through marionettes we are able to express a more complex relationship of the human to things and to nature, or to describe their mutual mechanisms by disrupting the stereotypical ways of their perception.
Imagine, for example, that a can of pork would play the role of a butcher’s apprentice.
What distinguishes the marionette from a static or kinetic sculpture is its story-role. A sculpture which is not a marionette presents its own self. This is how I understand my experience in Spain – they are
marionettes which have their attributes and which play certain roles in a Christian story. To understand a sculpture, it is necessary to re-evaluate the stereotype of movement as a visible, physical change of state. The
movement of the sculpture, and here I don’t mean a marionette, unfolds at the level of content or context, which is also a presentation of its own self.
The garment is connected to how we experience ourselves. The garment stands between the body and the bodily experience, between the intimate and the public. The garment is a reflection of cultural identity and
subjective taste. It tells us information about its owner. The garment is a condition to entering into society as well as a mask. The garment makes the body semiotic, it gives it meaning. Dressed, we depart the private
sphere for the social, and we thus make an appearance. We let others know that we are alive. We connect the public sphere with life. It is a social consensus. The garment has become something through which we present
our dissatisfaction with the society we live in. It is a reflection of our personal micro-worlds, both the successful and the failed. It is a tool of visual culture, just like it is a partially-used means to enrich
those artistic disciplines which are not merely biased towards profit. That is how I understand a garment.
I consider it extremely important to learn to understand the human garment as an ideational model for a sculpture’s surface. Both in its material and its characteristics, as much as in its historico-cultural meanings.
To realize that the surface of the sculpture is not its skin, but a garment, is fundamental. The sculpture’s surface allows one to demonstrate the work’s wider content differently than by means of a conceptual
installation. The sculpture can thus become a concept of its own. This understanding led me to start working with paper. It is a material with which we are nowadays in constant physical and mental contact. For me
personally, it is interesting not only because it can naturally contain raw information or photographs which can then be arranged in the form of a collage, but most importantly because we are used to touching it every
day, and we thus generate certain haptic preferences towards it. To work with haptic materials is for me a way to mediate to the audience my interest in my work’s morphology. Because paper is on the one hand a carrier
of information, but it also has a very haptic feel, it becomes a material which is at the same time a skin, as much as a garment in one. The paper creates the body of my Corpuses, while at the same time dressing them.
I consider the historical tradition of dressing sculptures as providing an unavoidable precondition for understanding the contemporary tendencies in sculpture, but also as an impetus for a critical reappraisal of
contemporary tendencies. I think, and I am myself headed in this direction, that because of the new available materials and their accessibility, the field of sculpture can become a type of literature. I believe that by
rethinking the idea of a surface/skin into surface/garment, as well as the termination of the boundary between a sculpture and a marionette into a sculpture-marionette, can lead to developing what I call a Spatial