Shrouded Topography – Pilgrims above the Sea of Fog

Emil Filla Gallery
Jateční 1588/49

The concept of the fog is the base of this exhibition and demonstrates the space between visible and invisible, thought and substance, logos and chaos. It is remotely connected to spirits and thoughts of the romantics of the 18th and 19th century who had to cope with changes in culture, society, economy and politics. The art of modern times was based on an authentic experience with this existential change that was perceived as a dramatic event and a bearer of a crisis. It also functions as a starting point to question the previous ideals and goals for art. Aesthetic programme or the German romanticism originated in the crisis at the dawn of the modern era associated with the Age of Enlightenment. As a result, the mankind adapted: with individuality, the right for equality and liberty even at the cost of losing reciprocity and general meaning of life. Gradual departure from spiritual and metaphysical beliefs was replaced with enlightened enthusiasm caused by progress and rational, taxonomic approach to natural and physical processes. The confrontation between spiritualised and mythicised nature on one side and progressive industrialisation on the other is represented by fog which is fleeting by nature and can destabilise our view, perception, and even knowledge. Shroud of fog softens sharp edges, covers clear horizons in the landscape, covers and blurs facts. It could become an impenetrable filter covering thoughts and specific material world, the suspected and the seen.
Certain works touch on specific aspects loosely bound to reopening this old dispute in the area of the Ore Mountains, Central Bohemian Upland and Northern Czech and German border that inspired and encouraged creative muses of many significant artists (Caspar D. Friedrich, J. W. Goethe, Ludwig van Beethoven, F. Chopin, K. H. Mácha). Curating concept also considers current, more sophisticated aspects of fog related to visual smog, information noise, or mental blurring of posthumanism and later post-facutal age.
The inner dispute between everyday melancholy and fascination with the laws of nature or the artificial human environments still seems to be topical. The desire to describe things in a different way, other than the obvious, reasonable and inevitable, the constant search for the other side of things and its metaphysical qualities resonate in a monumental, yet sober desaturated drawing by Jitka Svobodová. Likewise, Silvie Milková in her photography cycles attempts to capture the fleeting reality and instability in the meanings. Uneasiness, dynamic drama of light and shadow, animality in the gestures of a dark painting are the means Jakub Špaňhel uses to sacralise the age of technology, digitalisation and virtualisation. Gilded petrol station, an enigmatic, subversive symbol of the modern times, or the essential instability of progress forces: “a person in this time (…) to meditate about an age-old topic: time is money”.[1] The indifference of post-modernism towards time manifests there, in a way. Time is no longer a prized commodity, the past is not “outlived and irrelevant” any more, and heading towards a bright future suddenly does not seem that important. Time is perceived from a distance, taken lightly, unburdened from drama and the artists deal with their own past and history in general through their individual experience: Bo Yang freezes time fragments in a photography and even physically in an ice cube to materialise the flow of time. Natalie Witkin models and destroys levels of houses which we can read as a therapeutic attempts at demeaning the constant need for change, or as an attempt at a synergy of the deconstruction and reconstruction of personal and collective memories. Tereza Kabůrková disturbs the topographic precision in vedutas of Ústí nad Labem with a foggy shroud of memories, her photography is a record of a return to certain places in her heart, not in a map.
Shrouded Topography presents a view clouded with an individualistic denial to take things for what they seem, rationally and logically. The same applies to Frank Malina, an artist, scientist and engineer in American rocket research, who takes his experiments inspired by modern science and astronomy to a supremely imaginative, light-kinetic system called Lumidyne. Glass clouds by Lada Semecká are a testament to low frequency vibrations and their visualisation refer to the way waves travel in space, but on the other hand, they reflect the attempts to capture infinitely transformative clouds as an extraordinarily transcendent natural experience. The youngest generation of the authors presented at the exhibition take a look at the topic through the lens of the most recent technological media and explore fog as a light smog (light object by Poš siblings, an interactive computer simulation by Klára Míčková, or a video installation by Ondřej Plachý). A popular technique of videomapping can be found in the project of Štěpán Kovář who projects a digitally generated smoke at the chimneys that have long been out of order to emphasize these monoliths of industrial architecture in the Emil Filla Gallery. The clash of stories from the history and the present can be explored in a photography installation by Michaela Thelenová, exclusive objects by Miroslav Hašek (both of them work with the historical subtext of the Sudetenland) or in a multi layered installation by a group a students (Petr Kubáč, Anna Minářová, Alexandra Naušová and Václav Nosek); the installation used an original painting of an almost forgotten painter from the early 20th century, Ernest Neuschul, and explores not only relations between current art and its history, but also the relations of an original and a quote, or the perception of a piece of art by the viewer and their position in the society.
Additionally, all these aspects are taken into consideration in the concept of the exhibition that intentionally works with the entire gallery space so that the viewer could discover each place on the map of the exhibition concept similarly to fog dispersing over the landscape. The prioritised topic is in correlation with the transgenerational representation of the authors from the Faculty of Art and Design in Ústí nad Labem – students, graduates, teachers. The selection has been enriched with overlaps into the current Czech art scene to create an autonomous collection related to the space we live in, our imagination and perception, or our history and future.

h Klára Míčková, Soundscape, 2017, interactive video installation, author’s archive