„I always think about the subconscious of the city or something like that…“ P.T.
Today we know that there is no real future, merely colliding (even surprising) versions of the past and present. And this applies to artists as well. When Philip Topolovac arrived in Prague last spring for a three-month residency at MeetFactory, one of his biggest areas of interest was the city’s modernist and brutalist architecture, which reminded him of his current home, Berlin, or the Croatian relics of Tito’s utopia. Generally speaking, Philip is an archaeologist. In Berlin he obsessively and successfully excavated the remains of the Second World War to make impressive museums of disaster, or exploited the aesthetics of science fiction and outer space in his free sculptures. In Prague, he naturally dug into the nearly forgotten (or just subconsciously omitted) parts of the underground transport systems. The ventilation shafts of Prague’s metro are sculptures par excellence, at least from the point of view of late modernism. Philip calls these shafts a “baroque modernism”, and is interested in the “irrational aspect of functionalist aesthetics”. To him, these strange aboveground forms are just a springboard for his freely creative fantasies, playing around with inherited and naturally generational forms that mix architecture with science fiction, but also a critical approach with a hint of romanticism and nostalgia. While most Czechs are still unable to consider communist modernism a fairy-tale architecture, since they inevitably sense its politically accented aesthetics, the thin line between official and unofficial, communist modernism and modernism in general, needs to be shown in much greater detail. It is obvious that we consider something important when we start dreaming about it. That is the case with these concrete menhirs, which are in fact tombstones for much bigger ideas that must be exhumed so that we may understand not only the past and the present a little better, but so that we can learn about our own yesterday’s future. Modernism has become an ornament, but it is still capable of blowing our minds.
PS: Philip’s interest in brutalist forms naturally resonates with the zeitgeist of contemporary Czech artists. After a lively bohemian encounter with Pavel Karous, whose devotion to totalitarian sculpture is famously infinite, the two began to plan a joint exhibition. So far, however, the only result has been – like an abandoned unexpected child – Pavel’s appropriation of Philip’s appropriation of the shaft form, that materialized in designing “Zlaty pruduch”, the award of this year’s Street For Art festival. Although the fetish has thus become a symbol of honour, the friendly plans remain.
The exhibition and the artist’s talk are supported by the Goethe-Institute Prag.