It is cheaper to create a new WORD than to keep it

Interview with Dušan ZahoranskýKarina Pfeiffer Kottová

KPK: What does a “word” mean to you?

DZ: It is a mysterious, yet everyday experience tool. Perhaps the simplest institute for sense. Cinemas, social networks or popular music are complex systems, within which we mirror, share or trade our visions and dreams. Words, on the other hand, are economical, pleasantly immaterial, cheap. Yet you may read just a few of those, ordered by someone, and your mind will be physically hit – changed forever.

KPK: How do you address the relation of visual and verbal language through your work?

DZ: One of the layers is formal. I have learnd techniques we use in order to make materials, colors and shapes “do something” for us since my childhood. I cannot get rid of those skills. One learns that these inanimate substances can be smart and kind, even smarter than you are. That is a pleasant discovery. To translate one’s own opinion through visual language is an adventure, where imagination and chance play a central role. For me those are crucial qualities, as opposed to more rational ways of understanding life, such as science or trade. I am interested in confronting words and concepts, defined by certain accuracy, with an unpredictable form.

KPK: Which text has had an influence on you recently?

DZ: Speaking of fiction, I had an intensive experience with Die Ausgesperrten by Elfriede Jelinek. It is a civil, yet poetic text about pathological social behavior. This probably partly drew my attention to the rising neo-Nazi movements in Central Europe. I also found a text by an avant-garde writer from Peru, José Carlos Mariátegui, in a paperback called 100 Artists’ Manifestos. It is a compelling and sharp summary of the roles art can play in a social revival. The author quotes G.B. Shaw, who states „art cannot be great unless it provides an iconography for a living religion, but it cannot be completely objectionable either except when it imitates the iconography of a religion which has become superstition“.

KPK: In your metal works, you shift from the word itself towards more complex, less neutral figures – sentence, slogan, antithesis… Do these stand for a certain interstate between your investigations of linguistic phenomena and the more engaged projects?

DZ: That’s quite precise. Slogans or antitheses are terms related more to the public than private sphere. I grew up in a totalitarian regime, which valued mediocrity over exceptionality or activity. No wonder that it failed in both economic and cultural terms. A society based on individual freedom and responsibility, which altered normalization in the 90s, was supposed to lead to general prosperity. However, the mistakes of the transforming economies warped the remains of the post revolutionary optimism and today the young generation once again has a rightful feeling that they are growing up in a distorted society. Manifests, slogans, declarations or visions are verbal tools, through which we define our goals. However idealistic or realistic they may be, it’s not always easy to fulfill them. The politicians become accustomed to that it might be cheaper to come up with a new phrase, instead of keeping their WORD. Those growing up here and now face an uneasy task to carefully watch the goals of their public representatives and evaluate their practical implementation. It’s not an entertaining homework from Civics, but I still look forward to it. This is definitely more hopeful than to fill your youth with news about the Communist party, with its humble goal to assure global piece, winning the elections yet again.

KPK: You also create neologisms, such as ‘metaspective’. How do you construct them and what kind of meaning do you assign to them?

DZ: METASPECTIVE is an original construct, which helps me to somewhat frame my creative attempts. It is a way of looking, which is aware of its focus and its limitations. We inhabit one Earth, possibly one universe. Nevertheless, we are capable of creating complex mental structures within this single, complete reality, assessing what “is” and what isn’t real.

KPK: Why do you use words in spatial objects and the medium of metal? Does it give them different weight, different dimension?

DZ: At the first glance the contrast of the robust form and the ephemeral term contributes to the creation of the overall expression of the object. I make deliberate references to the avant-garde discourse through my use of materials or compositions. In the beginning of the 20th century, sculpture was released from the tradition of monuments and equestrian statues and regained its role of a bearer of the author’s attitude. A form and material stripped of everything unnecessary is my homage to the straightforwardness of modernity.

KPK: In the Storch Heinar project you work with an acronym, which transforms the name of a clothes label popular among neo-Nazi sympathizers into its parody. You have infiltrated an object carrying a name of this ‘antibrand’ into a shop in Prague, which sells the original brand. What was your intention and how did you interpret the way the representatives of this store accepted the object?

DZ: I see neo-Nazism as unforgivable, asocial excess. I found a store, where they sell fashion associated with this movement without any hesitation. What I find especially perverse is that several brands can actually make a profit from the frustration of aggressive parties. So I have created an advertising dummy for them, which, however, held a name of an anti-fascist campaign. I brought this object to the store and asked the unaware shop assistants to sign the transfer protocol. The shop assistants did not reveal my message, and so they use this dummy as advertisement hoarding up to the present day, without acknowledging what is written on it. I understand the shop as a scene for parody and the fist made of polystyrene played a role of the Trojan horse within this scene. The viewer in the gallery can decipher the code encrypted in this artwork and become a imagery soldier hidden inside the horse.

KPK: Besides words you also work with visual signs, which can bear similarly ambiguous messages. For instance the object Gaskoil is a fusion of two logos of the companies Lukoil and Gasprom…

DZ: Regarding this installation, I am interested in the moment of the viewer’s suspicion. I have roughly derived the visuals from the logos of these firms. Their role in the local context is quite evident. What is crucial here is a principle of depth hidden in such signs. Two years ago, in the House of Arts in Brno, I worked with similarly scenographic methods in order to create an opening through one of the gallery walls. The initial visual information received by the viewer when entering the exhibition was destroyed through his motion, and only then the entire meaning of the work revealed itself. The viewer was pushed to reinterpret the entire situation and perhaps smile a bit about his primary fast judgment. Spoken in the language of my unfinished manifesto, the projects Grand Prix (2011) and Gaskoil (2013) became the first formally pure METASPECTIVE works.

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