Reports

From the modernity point of view animism is always considered as either negative – such as the barbaric absence of civilization, or positive – the utopic paradise condition in which the painful separations and dualities that constitutes modernity do not exist. Although the Cartesian subject was conceived as the active figure facing a passive world of matter we must deal with the fact that we do not only make, but are also fundamentally made. With the words of Hito Steyerl – the subject is always already subjected. Though the position of a subject apriori suggests a degree of control, its reality is rather one of being subjected to power relations.
However even if assuming this, stepping away from the Cartesian subject-object duality might be simply a step to the same duality but inversed. As Anselm Franke mentioned – for now we can only imagine ourselves as annulled, in the role of the inert, passive stuff that was previously the thing-like “matter” out there.

Lucy Lippard’s book Six Years, a famous pamhplet of conceptual art was first published in 1973, the year of the Nixon Shock, a culmination of a series of measures that unilaterally canceled the direct convertibility of the US dollar to gold. As Joshua Simon states – in this reality of unfixed exchange rates, it was claimed that capital itself was dematerialized. Yet, in fact, through the annulment of the direct dollar-gold link, a symbol (money) itself became the material. Today brands and labels are regarded as material objects, as material objects brands can be real or fake and have value above the actual characteristics of the product itself. Labor shifted from production to consumption, the focus of economy shifted on tourism, shopping, entertainment, watching television, advertisements, and social networks.

Similarly as conceptual art cherished tardily rather the Cartesian dominance of language over the reality, than the materialisation of symbols, the term relational aesthetics which appears in 90s claimed by Nicolas Bourriaud preferred the human relationships forgetting that we live in a world in which there is nothing outside of the relations that constitute it. What connects the work of Martin Lukáč and Peggy Pehl is this actual relational aesthetics. The interest in the boundaries and relations between objects, stating that by objects we have to understand all the actors on the social field including commodities, images and persons. In the work of both of the young artists we may find the mechanisms of contradiction, inverse and consequent constant reversibility helping to overcome the heavy heritage of static modernity and its divided definitions. At both we may also the find the abuse of definitions, materials and images going together with the internet experience and problematic relation between fiction and reality.

Martin Lukáč presents the reduced face profiles known in their geometrical versions from the works of famous Bauhaus architects. Those originally architectonical elements, were re-appropriated by the Slovak late modernity, their lines lyrically smoothened and despite the usually trajectory from fine to applied art became a part of that time beaux-arts canon. Accompanied by cut out vegetables Martin Lukáč humiliates the definition of art as a commodity and therefore also a sum of human relations and desires, but also comments on the sole existence of art as an image, where cucumber or zucchini became rather then actual vegetables the cliché of the freshness in corporate communication. 
Lukáčs brick and cobblestone are loosing with their physical and conceptual transmission to the gallery their original functional function, as in the case of Duchampian ready-made. The deprived function is however given and the objects becomes paper weight or fruit bowl. However the trajectory isn’t obviously one of a return to the original state as much re-acceptation isn’t ever the coming back to the original pre-revolutionary state we are here presented with an un-ready-made.

The mythological, idolatry aspect of Peggy Pehl works relates to our relation with the commodity. Similarly to the archaic societies, we don’t own the objects, which are in our property, but we are owned by those. As much as the totem, we relate our physical and mental states to our technological gadgets, we give our lives to the hands of their magical powers, which requests constant care and attention for us to be feeling good. The juxtaposition of artificial and natural materials similar to the work of Martin can be read in the relation to the duality of civilisation and nature, or rather a second nature, manipulated surround, which substituted the idea of nature as something natural. The presence of the fan, powering the wind in the hair of this magical sculpture remind us of the fact, that also the constant flow of the virtual reality is powered from outside, and despite the claimed immateriality, the internet is actually pretty material and can be switched off.
Pehl’s primitivism is not stated only on the obvious level, but also on the level of the use of new primary forms and materials, which however shifted from the Platonical modernistic geometry, do presents associations and feelings as such. It is also this need for declaration of those materials and forms of what they really are, which is in its performativity shamanistic.




Michal Novotný

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