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In Six Chapters

Faculty of Art and Design at Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem commemorates the 25th anniversary since the foundation of art degree studies at the university and in Ústí nad Labem as such to celebrate the anniversary, the faculty organises a creative project with an exhibition called Topography of a Mo(nu)ment which focuses on exploring various angles of the place of its origin – the city of Ústí nad Labem and the surrounding regions. The topic of an anniversary exhibition is usually a look into the past or a projection of a future vision. Teachers, students, graduates and guests attempt to do both in this extensive project – moreover, in an environment that lost its past – and they ask the question which of our current actions have the potential to become the history our descendants would build upon. The authors put neither themselves nor the organising institution in the spotlight. The focus is on the responsibility for the society around them. They want to look for various different types of work, to name and visualise significant and inspiring acts of their peers who attempt to contribute to acceleration in the lives of individuals and communities in and around Ústí nad Labem.
It is not necessary to focus on these large historical events. Seemingly small stories are often a much greater inspiration. Exhibiting artists try to alleviate and monumentalise simple gestures, particular activities focused around specific community, and simple decisions to make a change and bring a sacrifice to it. Because they “celebrate this place”, they look for stories that are a part of its past and present. They ask whether there are any “heroes” who we respect for their actions towards us and all the people around us.
Neither medium nor technique matter in this decision – the monument could be a statue or an on object in a gallery or at a square, a painting, a portrait picture, a video report, an intermedia installation, an internet application, a book, a comic book or a billboard, a vase, a piece of furniture, or internet content. What matters is the sensitivity towards one’s surroundings, willingness to look into the past, present and a possible future, the desire to find and meet the essence – the extraordinary neighbours obsessed with the desire to be engaged and to improve their surroundings to everyone’s benefit. This perspective allowed all the artists, designers and theorists from all departments of the Faculty of Art and Design at Jan Evanglista Purkyně University to be a part on the upcoming exhibitions. Specifically, in regards to initially just vaguely outlined topics, during 2018 ideas and creative visions of glass, ceramics and textile designers, drafts of interior and product realizations, visuals of graphic designers, photographic concepts and projects of new media, audio installations and other forms of unconventional, often interdisciplinary creative procedures began to emerge among all curating teams involved in this project.
Due to its breadth, the project exhibition Topography of a Mo(nu)ment spans across many different institutions in Ústí nad Labem, particular outputs of the project were prepared by different curating teams and it focused on diverse topics - that in a specific aspect or in a complex thought context always originate from the depths of this region and from the lives of its inhabitants. House of Arts in Ústí nad Labem, under the curation of one of the faculty’s teachers János Szoboszlai along with Master’s degree students in the Curatorial Studies, focused during the exhibition Topography of Hope – Crystallized on the current reflection of historical events of the year 1968 in the perspective of dramatic changes in society oscillating between hope and enthusiasm of one side, and disappointment and disillusion on the other while also asking the questions associated with today's attempts to weaken democratic society.
Emil Filla Gallery in Ústí nad Labem presented a project Shrouded Topography – Pilgrims above the Sea of Fog under the curation of lecturers Eva Mráziková and Anna Vartecká and a doctorate student Pavel Matoušek. The contents of the project are fog and blurriness that are viewed from diverse perspectives in the exhibition. These views include the perception of fog as a meteorological phenomenon since the foggy days are an inseparable part of Ústí nad Labem; or as a metaphor for romanticised life, blurring and covering individual or collective memory, and, last but not least, reinforcing manipulative stereotypes in the society.
In the city museum of Ústí nad Labem, two student presentations found their homes above all. A complex installation Topography of Redemption – Story of a Church allowed the author, Vendula Fremlová, a curator and faculty lecturer, to focus on a presentation of a long-term project aimed at reconstruction and revitalisation of the st. Nicholas church in Petrovice in cooperation with Interior Design Studio led by professor Jan Fišer. Long time faculty teacher a design theorist Jaroslav Polanecký presents the exhibition Topography of the Future – Design and Art on a Journey which outlines the faculty’s vision for the creative future and the possibilities to accelerate the development of society through the art that students and graduates could bring in with their creative efforts.
The exhibition Topography of Attention – Presence created by a teacher Lenka Sýkorová, doctorate student Viktor Čech and the faculty graduate Martina Johnová in the Hraničář Gallery in Ústí nad Labem aims to reflect dynamic changes in communication and social life among key technological shifts characterising current transformation of the globalised world. The concept of this exhibition approached these changes with understanding but it also asks questions about their limits and about our ability to eliminate some of the negative impacts.
Aside from institutional presentations, the project Topography of a Mo(nu)ment – In the Footsteps of the City also expands in nine art realisations to the public areas of the city of Ústí nad Labem where it focuses on topics related to anniversaries of the Eights represented by the years 1918, 1938, 1948, and 1968. The goal of this part of the project prepared by the lecturer Michal Koleček and a doctorate student Juraj Čarný is to restore the historical perspective between the origins of Czechoslovakia and the fall of communism in 1989 while individual works focus on the tension between the grand scheme of history and its local, even individual, manifestation – on the plans of the city of Ústí nad Labem and its immediate surroundings.
The Faculty of Art and Design at Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem with the wide engagement of teachers, students, graduates, and external exhibitors, and also with partners and supporters, on its 25th anniversary opens up to the locals to enrich the cultural life of the community in which it participates, and to outline its own creative potential and current existence in the context of a wider society. In the middle of these dynamic changes in society, politics, economy, and technology the Faculty demonstrates how open it is to the future development and how decisive it is in respecting the basic democratic principles in our society in order to confirm its respect to permanent values represented by the mission of the university – to respect the truth, respect knowledge, and be socially responsible.

Faculty of Art and Design at Jan Evangelista Purkyně University, photo by Jiří Dvořák