Spaces of Narration

Text accompanying the exhibition

NoD Gallery, Prague, 12.6.-4.7.2014

Exhibiting artists: Susanne Kass, Arnaud Maïsetti, Milan Mazur, Jan Pfeiffer, Ivan Svoboda, Tomáš Svoboda, Jan Šerých, Miroslava Večeřová a Vladimíra Večeřová, Lenka Vítková

Curators: Viktor Čech and Caroline Krzyszton

The mode which the academic language has come to refer to as “narration”, has played a specific role in each of the many fields of art. In the area of fine arts, it doubtless also entails a negative connotation: indeed, in pejorative references to “narrativeness”, it has been subjectively labelled as an attribute weakening the impact of the visual essence of a work´s message. The traditional classification of arts into those centered around the element of time, and others, working with space, with its simplified approach to the phenomenon of the story as something taking place along a time-line, actually only adds to the relevance of the above argument. At the same time however, it remains true that the process of communicating a quality by means of telling a story in a different way, i.e., by visual means, involving the condensation of a given situation along the classical lines of unity of place, time, and plot, remains arguably the most firmly established mode of figurative painting. There, a story is not told merely as a sequence of events and acts of their protagonists, but rather as a constellation of situations and discourses taking place in a specific place, time and space. Consequently, fine art as a creative endeavour related to the formal handling of a given situation, this structural web defining a story assumes crucial import.

Contemporary artists have grappled with the challenges of narration in the many different forms under which it confronts them, in various mutually overlapping spheres of visual yet by virtue of principle narrative cinematic language, or in associations with literary production where it has likewise long transmuted into an instrument of experimentation. Thus the intermedial context of contemporary art provides an exciting field of action within which to scrutinize the various specific qualities of dominant narrative discourses relevant to present-time society, and to ponder projections of diverse creative statements structured on an individualized basis. Of an equally essential import there, though, is the awareness of the fact that the structure of a message alone determines its content. Hence also the presence here of more than a few works elaborating the theme of a play with the phenomenon of a story, where they themselves eventually come to serve as narrative structures.The present show aims at setting these tendencies within the framework of the current art production. It involves both overlaps into the areas of literary experimentation and verbal communication, specific elements of visual narration, and instances of conceptual play with context-bound information.

Scene of action: the framework within which the narrator steers the development of their plot, where they build up the imaginary stage scenery for the world of their story. For many readers, finding themselves exactly within this world happens to be a key impulse for immersion into the given story. The scene of action, its atmosphere, its history, plus plenty of other circumstances, together make up a world which they enter, along the narrative line, and round which they let themselves be guided.

Context: the ambition alone to define a given context, however, inevitably calls for its alignment as the complete list of facts, places, characters and other elements to be found in the story. In fact, though, to define its borders is a highly complex task. To the reader, as well as to the systematic explorer, every story is the scene of multiple links and associations which spread out far beyond the limits set by the pages of a book, the surface of a painting, the footage of a video, or the length of the narrator´s verbal statement.

Non-linearity: although a story is essentially an action that develops along a line from causes to effects, there still exist diverse external determiners, as well as instances of the actual context overlapping the borders of the author´s description, and even the latter´s aspiration to an innovative approach, which together can offer the artist at work on it some truly fascinating material, by virtue of its formal structure alone.

Form: the narrative form itself can in the process of continuous application to different stories progressively evolve into an autonomous mechanism; something that carries its emotive pathos along by its very essence. For instance, the language of film, or rhetorical figures present in public communication, have gradually turned to an interesting source of material for purely formal work of more than a few artists.

Combinatorics: the context of a story offers to the narrator a wealth of data and figures to rearrange into diverse combinations in the process of their formal play. The wide-ranging potential of these combinations definitely provide them with ample creative space, while at the same time offering an opportunity for passing on a part of the creative role to the spectator whom a specific alignment of facts can position in the role of a detective in charge of reconstructing the story, drawing on the various particular bits of information at their disposal.

Viktor Čech

Translation: Ivan Vomáčka