Somewhere Something Is Happening

Pavla Gajdošíková & Jan Pfeiffer

01.06. – 23.06.17

Is seeing something like reading? In what sense can we understand both terms and what are their limits? Both artists work on assumptions concerning visual literacy which they apply on their own perceptions of environment around them – the city and urban cultural landscape.

Pavla Gajdošíková describes her personal relationship to specific places and she uses the sieve of her memory as a tool to reduce unimportant information. She uses drawing as a medium that records the residual information that turns out to be significant. The author tries to record the reality with precision and she strictly works with her own experience. If she records the space, i.e. she tries to see from where to where it expands and what are its boarders, she tries to experience it, remember it and then draw it. The five houses she used to live in are described by a method based on a contrast of empty and full areas. She develops this work in video installations where she transforms it into inversion and thus reveals grey areas in the space between.

Jan Pfeiffer is interested in layers of historical memory that gluts the city (or any other specific place). Black colour has more meaning in Pfeiffer’s work: it literally covers, erases, absorbs the surface of objects. Black colour has been perceived and used in many ways in the context of art history. It can be said that it is a form that is burdened by historical connotations and references. Like the sculpture formats the author refers to: monument, memorial, flag, drapery. Jan analyses them and reduces the meaning to minimum, he dissolves them to elementary particles to question their meaning so he can reassemble them into a new different form.

The installation in the Entrance Gallery is a result of a long-standing cooperation of these two artists. The gallery space became the determining factor for them. The title of the installation refers to shared presumptions of their work: space, activity, event. The exhibition opens with a video they created together. In it, they gradually demarcate themselves, space and historical context. This video is placed at the beginning of the exhibition but it also shields the vision and prevents from an easy passage to the inner space.

Both artists use similar method as W. J. T. Mitchell* who described a characteristic of seeing on an example of a boy who was born blind. They both describe their visual experience by describing what they cannot see or do not regard as wort-seeing. Whether it is Jan Pfeiffer’s black surfaces or blank, omitted spaces on Pavla Gajdošíková’s drawings, they build their language on contrasts of black and white, an object and emptiness. In the context of thinking of these artists, the dichotomy might relate to the problem of pure visual impression and impression stained by experience, dual language of seeing and reading, or the difference between the work of art and its content, or between media and information.

One question remains, and that is, whether to understand the mentioned terms as being the opposites. In other words: the media is already information; the images are read and the empty space is part of the objects. Just like in the resulting installation.

Text: Tereza Severová

Project is part of Pavla Gajdošíková PhD program and supported by GA UK 250357, Faculty of Education, Charles University, Prague.