THE DISAPPEARANCE OF JARMILA B.
Why did Jarmila B. disappear? And why should we be interested in it? Jarmila B. was a ceramist, who did not leave any interesting art work behind, only many rather messed up projects and involuntary, unexceptional compromises. What really matters is what she did not create – her radical visions, which are captured in her diaries (and which bear a striking resemblance to projects of some radical conceptual artists and performances of contemporary artists). In a way she was ahead of her time. Never mind that those designs were doomed to failure from the start, perhaps it was her uncompromising extremeness that made Jarmila B. fulfill the concept of a romantic, misunderstood artist. But it was an extremeness of a ceramist, which sounds a bit absurd and not really sexy.
Jarmila B. might have become another Eva Kmentová or Běla Kolářová. But she grew up in the period of normalization, she did not live in a big city and did not know Jindřich Chalupecký. Moreover, as mentioned above, she devoted herself to applied arts – to ceramics. She designed ceramic decoration for large spas and all final designs had to be approved by various committees and architects. She did not lack courage and imagination, but the bureaucracy of the past regime literally killed her unusual concepts. The committees did not understand properly her designs of mosaics made of old stove tiles or a column on which the visitors to the spa could hang their belongings. Some of her ideas, that were found in her notebook, clearly show her disdain for the entire system – this applies to her idea of a ceramic object, which she wanted to smash against the head of an architect who would not agree with her designs. Or her theatrical performance, in which she wanted to imprint her body into clay, hoping it would infuriate the committee to such an extent that she would get no more job orders. Jarmila B. was a somewhat rebel. After the revolution in 1989 she was hit by the same fate as many other pro-regime artists – there was a complete lack of interest in her work and the single post-revolution commission was so ridiculous that all she could do was to spoil it the same as the previous, normalization ones. We are talking about a fountain in the form of a female body, instead of which Jarmila B. made a sculpture from soap.
Why did Jarmila B. disappear then? Was she sick and tired of her constant lack of success and the fact that what she created was not made public. We can hardly compare her disappearance with radical gestures of artists such as Lee Lozano or Charlotte Poseneske who terminated their careers since they no longer believed that art would fulfill their expectations and cause a revolution in society. First of all, Jarmila B. unlike them disappeared completely, and secondly, she disappeared after she had retired and at that age nobody was really interested in her. Thirdly, it is not clear whether she felt such utopian tension: Did she want to change the world through ceramics? What is then the message of her disappearance? Was there no room under the communist regime for women with crazy ideas who found it difficult to adjust. The present art environment does not favour elderly women ceramists who are not willing to play according to the rules either? Art history preserves only a small number of those who devoted their lives to art and their stars shine only thanks to the darkness in which all those who failed are hiding. That talent does not exist and everything is simply the result of personal adjustment, social preconditions, contacts and opportunities?
ARCHITECTURE AS AN OPPORTUNITY