Profiles

The paintings of Daniel Vlček are of an undeniably ritualistic nature. Line after line is etched into fresh, still wet layers of paint. His endlessly patient meditations may acquire a multiple meanings just as we might endlessly meditate upon the meaning of the sacred syllable “Om.” One groove at a time in austere black or white, he stores time spent seemingly in vain, labour seemingly unproductive, and information seemingly meaningless. Vlček’s paintings in their ambivalence tell tales of our global society, of industrialization and automation, of modernity and its ruins, of progress and transformation. They do not abound in much optimism, they are rather a nostalgic look back on the era of faith in grand ideals for humanity and a Utopia at the end of time. These paintings do not aspire to make history anymore. In humility they patiently account for all the damage done. The iconic black in Vlček’s work all too often seems to hint at the blackness of fossil fuels – what once was a blessing has become a curse for our species. White then is the ashes of forgiveness and forgetting, settling upon the debris.
If art has the power to mediate between incommensurable perspectives of human and non-human actors, we cannot help but take note of how often he empathizes with objects and devices of human making which are extensions of our bodies and minds. Vinyl records, synthesizers, gramophones or printers that appear in his installations and in the processes that give rise to his paintings, as well as instruments of making music, Vlček is attuned to the wavelengths of their existence in communication with full respect to their peculiarities. It is known that South American and other shamans attribute souls to manmade objects such as airplanes, cars and computers. Anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro (Cannibal Metaphysics, 2014) calls such mediation “perspectivism,” and Vlček does exactly that when he pays homage to a dying printer or gives a vinyl record one final elegiac spin prior to re-purposing the LP as a stencil for carving grooves into fresh oil paint on stretched canvas. Error is not on the side of those shamans; it was the regrettable error on the side of modern society that tended to deny a soul’s entitlement to objects, plants and animals in addition to various occasions for other individuals of their own species. We only find out too painfully today that even if the soul is a mere cultural fiction, such a fiction is an irreplaceable adaptation to the symbiotic coexistence of human on the planet.
Daniel Vlček constantly shifts between the territory of fine art and that of music, conveying impulses from one side to the other. He surfs upon a wide register from experimental sound art to pop, time and again translating between sound and image. He often speaks of waves, frequencies and interferences and uses them as metaphors that aid leaps of the imagination. Interference arises when waves intersect. Metaphorically, interference can also mean engagement in dialogical exchange, and Daniel Vlček seems to resonate at frequencies that are particularly friendly and open to co-operations. He was or is part of many collaborative projects: one activist art and music group Guma Guar, two galleries (Berlinskej model, Ferdinand Baumann Gallery) and three other musical groups (Reverend Dick, Střešovická kramle, Ba:zel) to list just the longer term collective activities. He has also taken up curating role (eg. 16 – 20 000 Hz, MeetFactory, 2013) or the role of a festival organizer (Lost Shaman festival, Prachovské skály, 2013 – 2016). In the breadth of his activities, he reminds us that no man is ever an island, and that one needs to participate in communities and societies in order for creative exchange to take place.

Radim Labuda

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