Exhibitions

The longevity of the following words will be even more ephemeral than is usual with texts of this type. They will exist only for a couple of minutes or hours at the most.

Shortly after the opening of the exhibition they will be removed from the panel. Simultaneously the displayed artefacts will be removed and the plasterboard panels will be dismantled. Only a limited number of people – visitors to the opening of the exhibition and a couple of latecomers – will become the only readers of the text. In the concept of Milan Salák the opening of the exhibition means at the same time the beginning of the liquidation of the physical substance of the exhibition. This will not be a spontaneous or uncontrolled act of destruction but a professional, standard process of deinstallation, usual after the end of every exhibition. Visitors to the opening of the exhibition will neither be asked to help nor to leave the exhibition premises but they are expected to behave as they normally do – they should hang abound, drink and chat. The following days the empty space will be open to visitors during the gallery’s opening hours until the last day of the exhibition.

For better understanding of this art gesture or exhibition strategy we should recall at least some events and circumstances which stood at its origin. The gallery was sentenced last May to organize an exhibition of Salák´s work after being found guilty in a staged court trial called in line with Kafka „The Trial“ in which Milan Salák took the part of the prosecutor. Besides other things he succeeded in convincing the jury that the accused gallery does not fulfil the goals it declared since „it does not give equal encouragement to specific types or art and exhibition activities which results in academicizing establishment of post-conceptual installation minimalism on the Czech art scene.“ The verdict of the jury, with the wisdom of Salomon, had an impact also on the work of Milan Salák who was offered an opportunity to exhibit his work within a context which he had criticized for a very long time and, what is more, not on the basis of a spontaneous invitation but de facto compelled by circumstances. This certainly was not a favourable departure point. From this perspective Salák’s decision to organise an exhibition – non
exhibition may seem as alibi of a smart, wise guy. Elements of similar suspicion cannot be perhaps completely eliminated; however what seems to be more interesting is to search for the artist’s motivation through his activities developed continually since the 1990s.
With view to the current non-exhibition let us recall the proclamation „Do not exhibit in 2001“ which represented a culmination point and simultaneously a zero point of Salák´s offensive at that time. Provided we wanted to find some kind of unifying elements or overall characteristics of his activities perhaps we should consider the term institutional criticism. At that time the Czech art scene aimed at a new analysis of art activity. Milan Salák openly and critically defined for the first time the role and influence of curators and art institutions on art and careers of artists. The language used played a key role, since it was easy to understand and devoid of pseudo-intellectualism. What was new was the constructive criticism which immediately turned into active practice. We should not expect that a remedy for a dysfunctional environment will be provided by contemporary institutions which in fact caused that pitiful state of affairs but we have to change it through our own independent activity. Simultaneously there was a tendency to find and define a platform for a joint advance of contemporaries. Most exhibitions lacked good documentation and that is why it might be useful to mention at least their titles: BOYSTORY, SPORT GALLERY, Green, 99CZ, Sources of a new style, Enclave and the samizdat critical journal Artur. This activity run into limits, however thanks to it most of the contemporary DIY initiatives and off-space have now both consciously and unconsciously something to follow up with. The scenario chosen for this exhibition breaks the traditional format of presentation of art. A part of the scenario is a reference to the artist’s own art mythology – a new arrangement of the cycle XXXX displayed for the first time at the legendary exhibition “What remains” (1993), organized by Ševčíks. However, the majority of visitors to this gallery expect similar strategies or even require them. At first sight the attitude of Milan Salák plays into the hands of the gallery’s exhibition programme. To put on a pair of non-spectacular army camouflage trousers means to both merge in and underline the stereotypes of a given environment.

 

Ondřej Chrobák

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