Radio has been a major interest and source of inspiration for Roman Štětina since the beginning of his artistic career. In his audiovisual works, he brings to light disappearing technologies and the hidden art of radio professionals. He is interested in the things that precede our encounter with broadcast sound – what exists in the “fore-word.” Over time, Štětina turned radio from an object of study and artistic creation into his second artistic medium, for which he created several radio shows. Štětina returns to the subject of radio broadcasts in his most recent work, the audiovisual Předmluva (Foreword), which he created for the dance hall at the Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace. Through several interconnected storylines, this installation consisting of physical objects, textile samples, and a sound recording refers to various physical aspects of radio work.
One part of the exhibition consists of an experimental composition for male and female voice/breath, exploring the genesis of sound within the human body, the point when breath becomes word – the moment of the “fore-word.” This audio installation is set against an architectural backdrop reminiscent of the scenography of radio broadcasting. The architecture and the sections of sound-proof studio systems are a reference to the autonomous “radio dimension” of recording studios, which are removed from their natural physical relationships to their immediate surrounding. This dimension creates a closer relationship with the space defined by broadcast signals – i.e., with the places and people connected to this space through radio receivers.
Within the narrative of his story, Štětina and fashion designer Mia Jadrná present remarkable textile designs used to cover historical radio speakers, into which the radio broadcast is thus “dressed.” These fabrics are highly diverse but they also possess a very specific character reflecting their functional design: they are solid but also permeable, and they possess an aesthetic quality based on the unusual nature of their patters, which usually contain a certain level of irregularity. One source of inspiration for Foreword was the ancient Greek literary form known as the cento – a poem that is sewn or woven together using verses or passages from classical authors, most frequently Homer and Virgil. The creation of the literary cento highlights the shared foundation (and principles) of the words text and textile, which is the Latin word texere – to weave.
Like the authors of Antiquity, Roman Štětina masterfully weaves motifs, texts, sounds, and objects borrowed from various different contexts into complex structures resembling woven textiles that take on new meanings and forms in his videos. The interweaving of previously existing elements of metalanguage helps us to understand the cento – and thus also Štětina’s work – as a kind of “textile text” or a “text to the second degree.” Roman Štětina (*1986) is a multimedia artist and teacher at the Academy of Art, Architecture, and Design in Prague. After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in 2015, he spent two years studying under Judith Hopf and Douglas Gordon at the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main. He is one of the youngest recipients of the Jindřich Chalupecký Award (Ztracený případ / Lost Case, video, 2014), and his work has been shown at various exhibitions, including Manifesta 11 in Zurich (curator Christian Jankowski, 2016).