Film and video recording of painting in action
Prague, Nuselský Bridge
1. Recording of the event / video 8
2. The installation of the image on the AVU building / VHS-C video
3. Recording of the event / 16 mm film
assistance and camera: Robert Hlůže (16 mm) and Franz X. Huber (Video 8)
original editor: Štěpán Rak (lost)
digitalization and edit Slava Sobotovičová, VVP AVU, 2014
The intermedia artist Markéta Vaňková (* 1970) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, in the years 1992-1999 where she participated in the studios guided by Milan Knížák, Vladimír Skrepl, Jiří David, Jindřich Zeithamml and Michael Bielický. In the ’90s she worked mainly with painting, where she often used non-traditional pads (such as military sleeping bags, pieces of velvet, bubble sheets, mattresses, etc.) and she also experimented with materials and painterly gestures (airbrush, spray, adhesive films, decolorizer, phosphorus, etc.). Here you can see a recording that has been lost for a long time presenting her first year’s final exams when she quite radically dealt with a school assignment called “Nuselský bridge”. With hindsight, this place has been historically significant because for many years it has been the symbol of those who voluntarily ended their lives (its role has been shown in a film called Šeptej, 1996). Without direct reference to this fact, which has nonetheless emerged as a subtext of the whole work, Markéta Vaňková threw bags with acrylic paint off the bridge onto a giant canvas (600 x 800 cm) located below in the Nusle Valley. With the help of her assistants the whole process could be shot with some cameras, which resulted in a monumental abstract painting and the documentary of the event.
Later on, Markéta Vaňková’s “extreme and manly strong gesture” (E. Šimera) inspired five artists of the younger generation to a kind of re-enactment, which included an important performativity in relation to painting as a gender controversy. At the gallery NoD in Prague in 2005, during the exhibition titled Markéta Vaňková, this group of artists presented their own, more subtle variations of her painting in action, as it was described by Evžen Šimera on his website: “Ondřej Brody made projections showing the fall of the colors from a height of 55 meters. Viktor Frešo threw the whole painting off the bridge. Jiří Skála copied the artist’s original version, however, he threw balloons filled with mineral water. Marek Ther tried to hit a box full of wafers with liquid caramel from the height of the bridge, I tried to make my signature on a 40 x 40 cm canvas with a brush dipped in paint and attached to a fishing line with a fishing rod”. It was one of the last group works of a group of classmates from Vladimír Skrepl’s studio who were still studying at, or had just completed, the Academy of Fine Arts. Although they never established themselves as artists’ group, this time they carried out a series of exhibition projects, which often reflect relationships within the local art scene. Not only because of the thematic focus, but also because of the way they work, today they are interpreted through the prism of Bourriaudov’s relational aesthetics (J. Zálešák). Their work is not only based on cooperation, it also comments on the work of another author, and it also deals with the theme of the painting itself. This, out of the authors mentioned above, is closest to Evžen Šimera, who had already at that time elaborated his concept of action painting and dripping. The reaction of the younger generation of artists can be seen as a conscious search for predecessors in the recent history of Czech art.
In the second semester of the first year at the Academy of Fine Arts when I studied under prof. Knížák I was given the task called Nuselský Bridge. I suggested three solutions: an aesthetic -conceptual senseless imagination, “funny” object from the buffet table and toy train tracks, and Action Bridge. The plenum of the intermediate school naturally chose the action since all of them wondered how it would turn out. I got the canvas from the National Theatre, thanks to our technical assistant Jiří Vrzba. The canvas had a trapezoidal shape, blue-gray color and I can no longer remember in which play it had been used. I mixed 30 kg of acrylic paint of pastel shades and divided it into plastic bags weighing about a half kilo each. We started in the morning. Robert Hlůže and Franz X. Huber helped me. We came under Nuselský Bridge from the Congress Centre to a small dirty place with bushes, where most people ended their life by jumping off. We spread the canvas and Robert stayed there with a 8 mm video and a 16 mm camera. Franz and I, we went to the Forum and through the subway to the metro station. We had all the paint with us and by the time we climbed up on the bridge we were exhausted. In that very place a paver had just interrupted his work and was about to leave for a snack. He willingly lent us a wheelbarrow with which we transported the paint a few meters away. Franz Robert took care of the camera and also of the safety, because people used to cut their way from the tram station through those bushes. We didn’t have any mobile phones or transmitters so we communicated through gestures. I didn’t have much room, I could just put my hand through holding the paint and the camera, but I could not see through the viewfinder. The whole time I was afraid of the police and I tried to calm myself down by the fact that even the police couldn’t suddenly pull over in the middle of the bridge. I was throwing down the paint bombs, pausing only to let the people under me to pass through. The sound effect was surprisingly monstrous. Eventually, I realized that my camera had been set in the mode “pause” all the time, so I at least took a photo of the final image, and went down. We waited until the evening for the canvas to dry a little so that we could transport it folded on the roof of our car to Žižkov. Then it was left to dry for about a week in the garden of RIAPS, an assistance center for people in despair – what a coincidence. The result did not look bad, the power of the impact of the paint on the canvas was visible, but in the end it was rather useless. For the final exams, we had to install it on the facade of the Academy of Fine Arts hanging from the first floor. Ten classmates and our studio assistant Jan Mária Mach helped me to install it. The painting does not exist anymore, and I had only in fact seen it during those final exams.
For me it is something I had done at school – I would not overestimate it and, regarding the genre, it is something like a “spiritualistic action with a psychedelic result”.
Markéta Vaňková, 2014
In “Window to the VVP AVU Video Archive,” 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.