The legendary “Na Bidýlku” gallery, which was housed in the small attic space of an apartment building in Brno, was the private initiative of collector Karel Tutsch (1941–2008). In the mid-1980s, the gallery became a place for the unofficial Czech and Slovak art scene to meet and exhibit. It opened in March 1986 with an exhibition by Jiří Načeradský and ended its activities in early 2008 after Tutsch’s death. His collecting and exhibiting activities have been loosely continued by Kabinet T. in Zlín, which is run by Tutsch’s niece Lenka Tutschová.
Karel Tutsch was a perceptive observer of art with a keen eye for anything new, a driving force on the art scene, and a promoter and supporter of artists. From the beginning, he focused not only on established unofficial artists but also on members of the youngest generation. In the late ‘80s, this meant the members of the Tvrdohlaví group, later it included as-yet unestablished artists such as Ján Mančuška and Eva Koťátková. Already by the late ‘80s, he began to systematically collect and exhibit the work of Jiří Kovanda. In the ‘90s, his interest expanded to include foreign artists, primarily German and Austrian, with a particular focus on young artists living in Berlin (e.g., Heretic & Co., Brno House of Arts 2006 / Jiří Švestka Gallery, Prague 2007). Other “underground” activities during Normalization included the samizdat periodical Výběr zajímavostí z domova i ciziny (Selected Matters of Interest from Home and Abroad, 1987–1989).
The video by Aleš Záboj, who began systematically documenting Brno’s art scene in the mid-1980s, is not only a unique exhibition record but also gives us a more detailed picture of the gallery space itself. In fact, it shows two exhibition at once – for his installation in April 1990, Jiří Kovanda appropriated works by Jiří David that had remained in the gallery from the previous exhibition.
I remember that I could get my hands on some old stencils from the Barrandov studios that I had previously used in the art design for Tomáš Vorel’s film Smoke (for those who want to check them out in the movie, they were used for the chemical lab). I was quite interested in stencils at the time, and I enjoyed using them on paintings or similar installations, including foreign ones. At the time, they were still not being used much in (domestic) art. In terms of both form and content, the same thing goes for foam rubber, which appears in the documentary. It was as if I wanted to intuitively fulfill some of my considerations from the text Totální distance v období sociální vybledlosti (Total Distance at a Time of Social Pallor, 1988) – as also reflected by the somewhat unclear nature of the painting on the gallery walls. Looking back at it all in a historically undistorted manner, it was an exhibition that determined much of my thinking.
Jirka had held an exhibition before me. I don’t remember the circumstances, but I probably did see it. Or maybe the idea only occurred to me when I arrived to install mine? I don’t know. In any case, I decided to leave Jirka’s entire exhibition as it was, with the addition of just a few of my things. And because there was a painting hanging by the entrance with an image of Mělník taken from a box of sugar cubes, I used only “building blocks” of sugar cubes for my installation – of course, partially as a reference to my Sugar Tower from the early ‘80s. But the painting of Mělník was the only thing not in my exhibit. I don’t remember if Jirka needed it and took it down, or whether Karel Tutsch was doing something with it. In its place was only a Xerox copy (or whatever it’s called), and next to that was an unfolded box of sugar cubes with the same image. That is all I know. But already some time before (three or four years earlier), I had used a motif from a painting of Jirka’s for mine – a little mole that says: “They say the New Wave is dead!” So it was actually a kind of appropriation to the second degree and our “collaboration” at Na bidýlku was not the first.
Digitization: VVP AVU. Acknowledgments: Jiří David, Jiří Kovanda, Lenka Tutschová, Aleš Záboj
In the “Window to the Archives” section, the AVU Research Center (VVP AVU) collaborates with Artyčok.tv to regularly release works from the VVP AVU video archives. The selection for Artyčok.tv focuses on older works (from the late 20th century), works that straddle the line between video art, film and documentation, and purely documentary material related to recent developments in Czech and Slovak visual art.