Dominik Lang’s (*1980) exhibition project The Sleeping City links two different sculptural approaches with various historical contexts against the background of an intimate family relationship.

The presentation connects the works of two authors linked by a personal association, father and son, and thus creates a basis for developing a fictitious intergeneration dialogue. One of the project’s starting points is the fact that the works of Dominik Lang’s father, Jiři Lang (1927–1996), were “short-circuited“ by the absurdity of the times, i.e. of the forced uniformity of the 1950s society in the Soviet Block, and have remained – in spite of the initial laudatory epithets: „a good start“, „promising“ – deposited in the author’s studio, „incarcerated“ in its own times. The stifling atmosphere of a studio crowded with „sleeping“ statues, the social insulation, resignation, and apathy, but also one particular 1960 relief, called „The Sleeping City“: these are the sources for the title of D. Lang’s multi-layered project.

In his site-specific installation, he puts forth a hypothetical model of a never-realized exhibition: he handles the works of the generationally antecedent artist as a material for formative activity, torn out of its historical context, as phantoms of times gone, inset within new scenes and constellations. In doing this he stages an uncompromising image of the „impossibility“ enforced by the given circumstances. Another reason why the presentation is defined as a „model of an exhibition“ is that the author reverses and shatters in it the very format of an exhibition. D. Lang purposefully borrows standard exhibiting procedures and patterns in order to demonstrate their dysfunctionality and pushes this incommensurability to the very limit, towards a „violation“ of the exhibited works. Together with the impossibility of breaking out of the shackles of historical circumstances, D. Lang uncovers and lets us feel another impossibility – that of handling a material which is both historical and purely personal in an authentic and coherent manner. The resulting exhibition is a spatial biography, a visualisation of the relationship between the two artists as well as a portrait of the specific situation of the Czechs both before the fall of Communism and afterwards; and by its manner of fulfilling these functions it refers to the limits of a balanced, non-tendentious attitude towards one’s own personal and social past.

The architectonic setting of the pavilion, works of art, documents and characteristic objects of the times, personal items as well as pieces of the habitat and the work-space as his father’s immediate surroundings, documentary photographs and exhibition patterns and principles taken both from the past and the present: these are the elements intuitively inset within a complex collage of relationships that permeate and criss-cross various historical and ideological contexts. In his artistic work thus far, D. Lang has typically presented himself in the double role of author/architect, a role that includes manipulating already-finished material and composing new wholes out of it.

In the Sleeping City project, D. Lang pushes this basic pattern towards greater complexity, a larger scope as well as a radical strengthening of personal and emotional engagement. D. Lang’s working method has thus become more effective but also more risky, as the material is no longer some object or the interior of an artistic institution, as it was before, but rather the work of another artist, and moreover one that is intimately known to him. By means of assorted objects, artistic works and assembled documents, D. Lang allows us to both enter the past and to uncover the volatile intimacy of moments opening „beyond time“. As the author says: „The Sleeping City is a visualised meditation on the manner of how we create our own personal history by taking over and yet modifying the established ways of perceiving and assessing the past. The project opens up an autonomous space for raising the question of all that can turn into a cause of failures, incomprehension, and dreams never come true. It makes us wonder how profoundly a given social and political situation can influence and determine an individual’s life and affect his or her work that then survives in a sort of vacuum, an airless space in between the past to which it is bound by the time of its creation and the present that has not yet found a place for it.“


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