Profiles

Sláva Sobotovičová´s work should be described in verses interlaced by chorus lines – because in most of her work (whether in her audio-visual recordings or live performances) she likes singing. However, rhythm is the most important for her – periodical return of a motif, which temporarily gives ground to the main stream of the narrative. This is true of folk songs, which have been pushed into open-air folk museums by our contemporary lifestyle as relics of the now historical desire for something to be shared and/or something symbolically significant. This is also true of the feeling of being uprooted that this Slovak artist resident in Prague may have or of the feeling of being a social outcast that a contemporary artist may have. But this may also apply in general to the feeling of loss that comes whenever we become witnesses of something growing old, going out, disappearing in the motion of time.
Rhythm of repression and return of the excluded, whatever appearance they may have, is of fundamental importance for Sláva. Ants, that return through a narrow crack in the window to a place which used to belong to them. Visiting parents is in fact traveling back through time and involves above all rituals, carefully carried out across generations. Work and rest, common and festive, significant and banal, particular and universal – these polarities have in course of time come so close together that we often find them difficult to distinguish. This fact together with the artist´s nature and aims determine to a certain extent the circumstances and final form of her projects.
As for her videos, her style of recording is impulsive, the format of her performances is rather intuitive (a deeper meaning is revealed through the similarity with a ritual, usually a randomly and she sees the target more clearly only later in the course of Christian one). The form of installations is based on the same key.
Common, well-known situations are framed as Strange – in case of the videos first through the lens of the camera and then – during the projection – through the gallery. This includes snapshots, such as a goat picking apples as a Biblical parable, palimpsests of news bulletins and popular songs, as well as “re-runs” during which parents and sisters “play” themselves during everyday activities such as doing different household chores, cooking of singing in a car. When performing during her exhibition openings Sobotovičová achieves the effect of Strangeness by rituals connected with Christian symbolism, in the secular world outmoded but generally comprehensible: baptism by water, apotheosis of bread and wine.

By the way, exhibitions of contemporary art represent transitional rituals with all the inappropriateness and insecurity that arise from this. They have a meaning only for the knowledgeable. Embarrassment is present not only as a common risk of every performance in front of the public, but also as an enzyme aiding fermentation and change. Sláva Sobotovičová is possessed by the process of fermentation similarly as by singing. Fermentation of grapes during the process of wine production, transformation of one´s urine into a plant fertilizer or proofing dough form a parallel canon of her work. The budding yeasts may evoke Surrealist aesthetics, Breton´s spoon-shoe – a replication of a motif and allusions of the good old days of hand-made products, but above all a dialectically perceived return.
The behavior of yeasts which gradually take over all the space and thus ruin their own living environment may serve as a dystopic model of the end of history. Dissolving in the surrounding environment, i.e. the role of the disappearing intermediary in the process of transformation, offers a Utopian version of the same model. As Sláva Sobotovičová says: “Even trivial things may be of fundamental importance, but we need to know why.”

Michaela Ivaniškinová

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