Organized under the motto of “Come Closer,” the first edition of Bienále Ve věci umění / Matter of Art explores questions of co-existence in a society in which people no longer speak the same language. It looks at instances in which language has failed, exploring contempt, irritation, fear, frustration, anger, aggression, and fatigue. Sensing the need to find a common groundwork and conditions for empathy, the exhibition focuses on searching for the causes of the mood in today’s society. It seeks these causes in the past and the present, and also views them from the perspective of possible future scenarios, trying to identify how the intimate space of interpersonal relations and emotional life relates to broader social, political, and economic conditions.
The exhibition’s title, “Come Closer,” which was initially meant to call attention to the connection between art and empathy and the contradictory nature of intimate relations among people, has taken on an unexpected number of new meanings as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its impact on our lives. Something as matter-of-fact as physical closeness has suddenly become a traumatic, burning issue. We yearn for closeness because we are not getting it, but at the same time we fear it as well. Today, we express that we care for others not through closeness, physical touch, but through distance – specifically, more than two meters. Physical closeness to a work of art in a gallery takes on new meaning after months during which contemporary art and feelings of closeness could be shared only through virtual platforms. The biennial is thus an opportunity for thinking about and experiencing our relationship to closeness, caring, and art differently than before. In the end, it is art that can help us to find a new language of intimacy and closeness for life in this new (post)corona world.