Poetic of Identities

With the year 2022, we are launching a new, long-term cycle of curated Issues. Members of the Artyčok.TV editorial board, together with invited personalities from artistic and art-related fields, will present cycles of selected audiovisual works related to the focus of a specific Issue. The works will be selected from the extensive Artyčok.TV archive, newly commisioned works within the Open Call, combined with curatorially assigned or temporarily hired artworks for the given topic.

František Fekete is the first curator of the Issue Poetic of Identities , and his selection works only with audiovisual materials from the archive and the last Artyčok.TV open call of 2021.

František Fekete: Ohne Titel (2019-2021) ,  collage series/manipulated found photographies

František Fekete: From the politics of identities to the poetics of their invention

Identity politics is based on an inclination towards the possibility of identity as something fixed and unmistakable, something by which we shape our present. Only in this way can it be the basis for subsequent political action, for the effort to win equality for marginalized identities, for the emancipation of the whole through its parts. Its problems arise the moment that the original emancipatory strategies are appropriated by identities that do not aim at equality, but that assume a definite attitude against the possibility of freedom for others, by identities of nationalist and xenophobic politics, fundamentalist forms of religion, or under the scrutiny of the internet community of incels, but also TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists). These groups do not aim towards a vision of a whole as coherence, but towards fragments of self-limiting opposites. They see the emancipation of others as a threat to themselves – and, dangerously – they consider themselves to be victims. (This ambivalence between the mutual possibility of emancipation and discrimination has led some political scientists to propose a shift from a particularist politics of identities to a universal politics of solidarity.)

 The relationship between identity politics and artistic operation raises other problems, such as the tokenization of identities or their commodification. Moreover, we always speak of identity politics from a particular position. How determining is this position and what is my position? Who am I to speak about identity politics? I am myself an intersection and field of intersectionality of identities that come from both historically lower-class groups and privileged identities. They influence me irrepressibly, but at the same time I am afraid of them, and they are a conscious object of displacement. It’s hard to make sense of it. A person becomes their own battlefield.

 I’m standing in the middle of the river and trying not to drown.

The intersection I have become is subject to certain expectations and demands. Whether internalized or externalized. A curator approached to respond to the topic of identity politics, is a predetermined field of expectations emanating from the current form of artistic traffic. However, the risks that Minh Thang Pham points out in the important text Zajímá vás naše práce nebo naše kůže ?   (Are You Interested in Our Work or Our Skin) are clear. To meet these expectations is to simplify and promote stereotypes, to tokenize and commodify certain themes. What position am I speaking from? From a position of privilege. How do we desensitize this privilege, and is it even possible? Perhaps it is enough to expose this position. What can become more authentic - and this is what I want to emphasize - is the position of the doubting subject. The latter tries, albeit in vain, to get rid of identities. It wants to speak from a position that is asynchronous with respect to the expected categories, to find loopholes.

Probably no position from which we speak can be innocent. I can, however, make at least some effort to approach the moment of becoming a floating subjectivity through curating and writing. Therefore, I would like to take a kind of curatorial step back, and instead of thematizing the politics of identities, turn to the poetics of their invention . It is another possibility of making identity conscious. Not as something fixed that predetermines our behavior, but rather as something that only reveals itself through our actions, that transforms, that consolidates and loses its contours at the same time. The poetics of identities has always shaped me much more than political or social behavior, linked to the features of my anchored identity. For it is precisely because of this anchoring that poetics sometimes cannot breathe.

In the poetics of identities, it is important to return to a certain point of zero, which is also a breaking point. My self is breaking through certain limitations and constantly fighting against itself. It is always in the process of becoming, and this process is always accompanied by a certain disjointedness. I am nobody and at the same time I am everybody. I belong to the anywheres , to those who are at home everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I don’t know if that is a reason to be sad.

If I am drowning in the river, I will at least let it sing

Art has a fascinating ability to reveal and document this inventing and becoming without finding it necessary to define it. The basic building block here, then, is not political action, but creative action (although the political context always accompanies it in an inevitable way). The personal takes a step back from the relationship “personal is political” and becomes poetic.

The thing that has always fascinated me about the work is how it shapes the artist itself. How the process of creation transforms, how the process is two-sided, and you can’t really tell where the subject ends and the object begins. Neither the work nor its authors need to be separate from each other. The following selection of videos seeks to show some of the ways in which artists, protagonists, or viewers reinvent themselves through creation. In art, these processes always have an added value and that is creativity itself - poetic action. The works are arranged in order to form a certain narrative line, a constantly renewed story.

Lizaveta Hrydziushka: Lolex Crucio (2022)

In her short film Lolex Crucio, Lizaveta Hrydziushka lyrically explores the identity of a character who traverses a dreamscape and encounters various symbolic attributes. The process of how the artist identifies herself through the narrative in her work takes place through fantasy.

Fantasy can be considered a kind of avant-garde of reality, its vanguard. It allows us to talk about things that we do not yet see or do not want to see in reality, and yet are contained in it. Lizaveta’s story takes place on the borderline between fragile yet ambivalent introspection and the symbols of consumerism. In her work, the author also questions the line between what we sometimes consider natural, pure, or innocent and what is artificial and infected by civilization. In fact, these boundaries are themselves artificial and man-made. But Lizaveta aestheticizes these themes with means of expression that can be associated with a broader current of artistic strategy often referred to as emo-romanticism. The character, who seems melancholically detached from reality, walks aimlessly through the landscape, ingenuously accepting everything that is offered to her on her way.

The poetic voice-over narrative is rooted in an introspective examination of her own identity and relating to the fascinating reality around her. We are unsure whether the words spoken are a monologue or a dialogue. And actually, it probably doesn’t matter much. Sometimes we are telling someone something and we are actually saying it more to ourselves. The other person acts as a mirror, a mere part of the process in which we reveal ourselves to ourselves in a new form. The difference between monologue and dialogue is blurred.

Šimon Kadlčák: What I Dream About When I Happen to Fall Asleep (2018)

Šimon Kadlčák’s exhibition What I Dream About When I Happen to Fall Asleep probably refers most directly to the process of inventing identity. Using the example of activist Rachel Dolezal, who appropriated the cultural identity of PoC and caused a scandal when her whiteness was revealed, it opens up the interesting issue of whether racial identity can be a choice. Thus, alongside transgender people, there are suddenly “transracial people”. To what extent can nature be bent? And has it not been exhausted at the expense of cultural identities? Or did no nature ever exist? In light of the world of cyborgs and advanced biotechnology, the question of emancipation through the alienation of nature is more pressing than ever.

Zach Blas (2019)

 

Zach Blas’ work, on the other hand, shows how becoming an identity can be a tool of power, especially through its algorithmization by technological apparatuses. Identity here is not what we want to become, but what we are thrown into. In the cycle, Blas presents identity as something undesirable, as an unpleasant mask that is imposed on us. His art projects not only reflect these processes, but also challenge them in a hacker-like way.

 

Alex Sihelská: Nekoušu / I Don’t Bite (2022)

In Nekoušu (I Don’t Bite), Alex Sihelská presents a view on the poetics/politics of identities through (self-)alienation. Tracing the xenofeminist idea to the rejection of any naturalness, she builds a hybrid character of a vampire and a cyborg in the genre of introspective vampire drama. Inspired by expressionist films, Alex updates their aesthetic and thematic aspects. She appropriates vampire clichés and subversively uses them for her own purposes.

The imagery is fluid, the narrative jumps from classical chronology towards the past to expositions of the main character’s “live” social media entries, while the cartoon animations loosely reference Instagram filters and augmented reality. The resulting format of the video and its central narrative line reflect the ambivalence of the heroine and the volatility of the fluid world of social networks, which the heroine uses as a medium of emancipation and communication with the world. The challenges of fourth-wave feminism, shared through the interface of social media, alternate in rapid succession with the heroine’s escapes through the night city, rave parties and one-off intimate trysts.

Predatory behavior and its limits are also an important theme of the work. Especially the ones we set for ourselves. The work explores the internalization of toxic structures and (self)victimization. Through her feminist vampirism, the heroine of the film illuminates the relationship between patriarchy and its strategy of ostracizing the Other, which emancipates itself outside its structures and thus poses a danger to it. In a tik-tok contribution, she speaks in this context, for example, about the demonized Countess Bathory.

Alex constructs and, in turn, deconstructs a fluid identity that defines itself through ephemeral contributions, the power and anxiety inherent in the possibility of breaking down the boundaries between subject and object. Bold yet light-hearted, we trust the work unreservedly for its emotion and the vulnerability of the artist’s personal input.

Lörinc Borsos (2015)

By rejecting the gender binarity, Lörinc Borsos has created an entity whose artistic activity is a constant deconstruction of conventional thought structures. In their more recent work, they trace the process of separation (male and female, good and evil) and show a return to the original state of unity through their installations. Traditional categories of identification such as nation or religious affiliation are problematized as the root of human suffering. The search for identity in their work is done through merging. Afterall, the branching of ideas and bottomless categories can be the real hell.

 

Radim Labuda: Somebody (2009)

Elen Řádová: Magnety (1994)

Radim Labuda and Elena Řádová’s videos are the poetic epilogue of this cycle. The minimalist performing of corporeality in both videos, however, breaks free from the individual and emphasizes correlation. Between the two subjects in both Labuda and Řádová, it is not so much a shared finding of identity, but rather the materialization of a certain tension that mutually shapes identities. We are simultaneously them, they are simultaneously us. The process of becoming is like a boomerang. It flies from us to others who interact with it in order to then send it back to us. This process is a constant oscillation, especially when that becoming someone is happening through social networks, where we consume and instantly forget fragments of ourselves and those we could become.

Authors and Collaborators

Curator: František Fekete is a cultural worker and artist.

In 2020, he completed a master's degree at the Center for Audiovisual Studies at FAMU in Prague. He also completed an internship at Aalto University in Helsinki. Since 2015, he has been one of the curators of the artist-run gallery 35m2. He has worked as a curator with other art institutions, such as the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (2019-2020), GAMU in Prague (2019), the House of Arts Brno (2017) and others. His artistic work is often based on a self-portrait and deals with the topic of fluid identity. He works mainly with movies, photographs, collages, and installations.

Podcast: Ondřej Trhoň

Translation: Nathan Fields

Editor: Janek Rous

 

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