Navigation – the name of the object from which the title of Tomáš Hlavina’s exhibition is derived. It looks like a wire cage into which wooden sticks have been inserted along with knotted plastic laces. What is this object trying to tell us? Is it a globe that will lead the initiated to new countries? Is the arrangement of the sticks an aid to divination? Or is it something more: after all, to be in the world means being able to decide on a direction, to navigate in space and time. Is this about a literal form of navigation that opens up maritime routes to new worlds? Or is it more cultural navigation, conceptual orientation? Might it even be existential navigation? When it comes to Hlavina’s work we don’t know nor can we know.

Retrospectively, as far as the “nautical” possibility is concerned, we know that navigation opens up the world, makes it a globe and perhaps navigable, and converts its immensity and immeasurability into comprehensible dimensions. This is an attractive yet misleading idea. The navigable world is not real, it is simply a symbol of the world diminished by the pragmatism of our objectives. The diffculty and treachery of navigation is even more pronounced in the case of cultural navigation, let alone existential. Navigating the waves of the cultural memory or even the subject is far more diffcult than sailing the oceans of the world. If we remain with literal navigation, one more thing becomes clear: nautical reason is not philosophical. It does not want to touch base (the seabed), since only those who folat on the surface are successful. The maritime spirit needs no bases, fixed fundamentals, but instead needs to know the tides, waves, wind, the elements that move and change ceaselessly.

So what is navigation and why should we examine Hlavina’s work in the light of this concept? Literal and metaphorical navigation must combine two elements: a formal system that is stable and permanent, similar to the celestial constellations beneath which sailors guide their vessels. However, an ability to chart, measure and formalise things does not suffce. Provision must be made for what is protean and mobile. And perhaps it is this fexibility and openness to the transient that makes for successful navigation. It is openness not only to distances but to uncertainty. It is from this ability that the work of art draws its emotional force and semantic complexity.

Transferred to a visual language this means knowing how to work with a range of creative forms, discovering new organisational possibilities and the rules thereof, being able to recognise fxed structural relationships while also intuiting that which still lacks name and form, that which is simply a feeting movement on the surface of events that hints at the presence of deeper currents but that might also be simply shallow ripples. Above all it is knowing how to relate these elements to each other. The classifcation of clear, conventionalised systems must be constantly corrected, principally by other inputs in which only now does articulation take place. Creative ability does not usually develop within a single methodologically clear given plan or system, but more where the customary dividing lines or traditional methods of classifcation are transcended.

Hlavina sometimes refers to his objects and installations as spatial models or charts of the mind. Philosophically speaking, these charts and models enable him to link up concepts with an opinion commensurate to them, they allow for the embodiment of said concepts. But how does this work in the case of charts and models that are already concrete objects, embodied artworks? They motivate us to carry out sensory thought operations, to produce emotional and semantic context for them. Since these are artworks, they are suggestive models endowed with an innovative dynamic. They have their own internal order that, despite its precision, is versatile and fexible. Their forms and organisation are clear though we are unable to defne the rules by which they emerge, and the direction of their innovative dynamic is only hinted at by the artist. We experience their visual forms, refection and emotional content within the same work. Where this suggestive navigation will lead us, whether we will lose our way and be carried by currents to unknown shores, or, guided by the charts and symbols correctly read or
intuitively understood symptoms and hints, we fnd our isles of the blessed, depends (sort of) on us.

Kamil Nábělek

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