Reports

The inexact Czech translation pinboard of wishes and dreamsmay seem rather unscientific at first glance, contrary to the English vision board. Visualization of life goals through drawings, photographs or handwritten notes is a popular technique employed in various personal development courses, whatever personal development means. The difference between esotericism and psychology as known from lifestyle magazines becomes almost invisible. Since the second half of the 20th century the border of what we can still consider serious research of human mind shifted towards harder to capture, for Western civilisation extraordinary concepts. The sixties introduced Eastern philosophy and shamanistic techniques into psychology. Altered perception achieved through the use of hallucinogens was researched in laboratory settings and altered state of consciousness became a scientifically acceptable term. One of the propagators of the alternative view of human psychic was writer Carlos Castaneda. In 1968 he published his first book called The Teachings of Don Juan through University of California Press. The work posed as an anthropology field study mapping the use of hallucinogenic substances during shamanistic rituals of the Indian tribe Yaqui. The book saw an unusual success for its time and became a hit not only in the field of cultural anthropology, but mainly amongst people who sought a nonconformist view of life and surrounding reality. Terms such as separated reality or internal dialogue became a crucial equipment for New Age seekers. After the successful bestseller followed several sequels for which Castaneda even received an academic title. Doubts about scientific validity of those works first emerged at the end of the seventies, and the doubts gradually turned into conclusive proofs. Meanwhile the author withdrew from public life, refused to be photographed or to give any interviews. Later it turned out he had created a fanatic cult around himself based on manipulation and indoctrination of his followers. After his death, five women who lived with him disappeared without any trace. The remains of one of them were found years later in a desert. Before Castaneda took interested in anthropology, he had studied sculpting and had attended creative writing courses. His first, never published manuscript was called Dial Operator.
Painter Ludmila Smejkalová regularly listens to music or spoken word while working in her studio. While listening to one of the famed Castaneda’s books she was captivated by a familiar voice of a famous actor. The same actor provided his voice to a guide for a mobile network operator. In her paintings, Smejkalová often combines concrete motives with abstract decor and writing. In her older drawings, figures of girls intertwine with repetitive geometrical shapes and handwritten messages. The figures are no longer present in the most recent works. Instead there are leaves, flowers, parts of cosmetic tools and fashion accessories. Fascination by fashion is almost ubiquitous in her work. In the past she used to have her own fashion brand Gaivota for which she designed silkscreen prints of textiles then used to make women’s clothes. Photographs cut out from fashion magazines and catalogues, mostly drawn on, function as visual notes, journals capturing thoughts too volatile. The wall painting made for the space of the gallery works with basic symbolics of geometric shapes- a line, a circle, a triangle. Simple stylisation can remind of the art of native peoples (or more precisely, its modernistic remixes), other times it refers to textile prints. Fragments of visual information spread out on a black space of the wall like windows into other dimensions. All we can see, though, is a tangle of lines, parts of patterns, stains and a sentence written as in mirror reflection – The number you have dialled cannot be reached. Fragmentarization instead of a comprehensive view of reality. Reality quietly penetrated the looking-glass world.

Jiří Havlíček

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