interview: ATELIER – KLASSE / KLASSE – ATELIER
Radek Horáček – questions:
1. Independent creative activity or the fulfillment of a task?
The Brno House of Art, by definition – an institution dedicated to the presentation of current trends in contemporary art – is naturally inclined to long term collaboration with fine art schools. Students‘ presentations generally take on various forms, so first and foremost we are searching for an exhibition that defines two specialized studios from two schools from different countries. Is it more of a school presentation? Or is it rather the demonstration of pedagogical methods – of studio mentors? Or is the exhibition characterized by the presentation of young independent personalities, who „just by coincidence“ – happen to belong to the same studio?
2. Ensuing question:
Are the works of university students studying fine art an independent creative activity or just preparation, training, or the fulfillment of a given task?
3. How do you as artists pedagogues cope with the fundamental contradicition of heading a studio – is it specialized, defined specifically by „craft“, meaning technology and work principles, or is it rather an open dialogue you carry on with the students creative personalities, in which their affiliation with a particular studio defines the framework of craft and technology, a framework which by default becomes necessary to transgress?
4. Let’s move from technique to meaning – the exhibited work obviously displays a remarkable divergence (a remarkably attractive variance) between studios. The medium of photography or video is predetermined for use as documentation, for objective observation of the world. At the same time, however, video in particular has a long standing relationship with performance art, that is to say with a profound personal cast in the form of the artist – the author. Is it possible to perceive this spectrum – from objective document to subjective performance – as a particularity specific to your studio or field?
5. Concerning school in general – has the position of similarly oriented studios at various universities become stabilized – I’m thinking of, for example, film animation at FAMU, work with film and video at AVU and FaVU VUT, digitalization and computer manipulation of photography at different universities etc.? Or does the fluctuating momentum that brought so many changes in the 90’s still exist?
6. To follow up – do you feel today – in spring 2004 – a tendency towards the particularization and deliniation of particular fields or, on the contrary, a tendency towards gradual overlapping? We are still discussing the situation at art schools, but the question applies to the art world in general.
7. Can your studios be considered the outcome of your personal efforts to establish them or are they concurrently the result of the atmosphere, situation or conditions and assumptions that existed in the given locations (in Mainz and Brno)?
8. As artists and pedagogues, you both have numerous experiences with your own exhibitions as well as „studio“ exhibitions. Can the presentation in Brno be characterized as something that is irreplaceable or that hasn’t yet been achieved? Or is it just another step within the existing efforts?
9. And a last prognosis – of all artistic fields, your specialization has the closest relationship to digitalization and „virtualization “ – aren’t you concerned about the gradual insignificance of exhibiting? Isn’t a virtual on-line global gallery sufficient enough?
Tomáš Ruller – answers:
1. The public presentation of student work, in all available media, from the Internet through the gallery, are an integral part of the performance studio curriculum of which I am the head of. Even this exhibition, is in the end, like any other extensive project, the outcome of an ongoing process. Various impulses and motivations were imprinted in its formation. On the one hand it is, of course, the fulfilment of my resolution to present the results of a decade of my continual pedagogical activity in my home town. The exhibition we see here today was originally held at Gallery Médium in Bratislava (in collaboration with Bohunka Koklesova) and then presented at Gallery Kritiku in Prague (in collaboration with Vlasta Čiháková-Noshiro) and the Academy in Mainz; a result of my presence as visiting professor at VVU and Gutenberg University, thanks to my position in the art scene and interest in developing a collaborative partnership on behalf of prof. pačka’s studio, the obliging directors at Dům umění (Pavel Lika and Radek Horáček) concerning the development of new exciting projects, the openness of curator Jana Vranová’s concept which focuses on contemporary photography which overlaps with video and new media, and the lucky coincidence that allowed us to take advantage of a free term in Dům umění’s exhibition schedule. And certainly it represents the schools, faculties, studios, pedogogues, students – young authors, as well as being a lively confrontation of educational principles and various artistic approaches, formal strategies and technological solutions in addition to financial situations and political associations.
2. Student work which is based on an assignment projects various moments, impulses and motivations covering a wide spectrum of emphasis in the same way as spontaneous creation, which is based on personal inspiration rather than based on a particular theme. Generally, one could say that each individual creative act is simultaneously preparation for the next realization and the resulting fulfillment of a task – exercise can outdo unrestricted creation in the same way as a draft or a project. The criteria which the selected work was based on was chiefly quality, but also the representation of a wide spectrum of aspects.
3. Also every activity arises in a context – generational, departmental, etc. Each student – artist has their own limits, whether they be inner or outer, physical or mental, material or ideological. Individual work therefore consists of fulfilling the given possibilities, in identifying boundaries and overcoming them. Pedagogy is an interactive activity, wherein my point of departure is a method consisting of open dialogue, nonverbal as well, it is the development of creativity and independent expression. At the same time, however, each specialization has its craft, which also expresses its discipline. The content and the form, like the discipline and the artistic freedom, are inseparably related. Obtaining a balance in the dynamic process is a significant theme.
4. I believe that affiliation with a particular studio is visible through a specific spiritual association. The „esprit“ – atmosphere – creative pulse of a studio is created by its mentor as well as the community of students that it is made up of, for that reason its overall character and intrinsic diversity is recognizable, over time continuity and variability become apparent. It’s obvious that both studios, although represented by work more or less employing similar media and expressing similar themes, are in character markedly distinct – whether it’s the manner in which the objectivity of a viewpoint is accentuated as opposed to a subjective approach, or the emphasis on formal purity in consideration of an active emotional charge.
5. The creative programs of the individual studios are dependent on the character of their artistic personalities and their pedagogical methods, as well as on the development strategy concepts and material capacity of the universities they belong to. From this perspective it is unfortunate that FaVU hasn’t yet fulfilled it’s aim of founding a photography studio. VUT allowed itself to be surpassed in the area of digital, technical and manipulated imagery (a new studio was opened at AVU in Prague after plans with Veronika Bromova in Brno were abandoned). We believe that the healthy inertia towards transformation hasn’t stagnated permanently and that the faculty will regain it’s natural dynamic character.
6. In our case, it seems to me that the tendency toward elaborating a program based on methodology and means is currently in balance with the interdepartmental strategy based on approach and content, and that is positive.
7. Every result is a point of intersection of all (even personal) potential and invested energy, historical conditions and circumstances as well as destined chances and coincidences. Even Brno has it’s positive aspects and progressive possibilities, it is possible to relate to the post-WWI modern tradition, to the remarkable Bauhaus influence and the strong conceptual inclination; it has a unique infrastructure for photography and good conditions for experimentation in the field of new media.
8. The group presentation in Brno is unique in that it is a retrospective of 10 years of activity simultaneously capturing current trends that are accented by the medium of photographic image, while remaining open to overlapping (from video to computer animation and internet projects through installation events). Conceptually it is presented in basic thematic blocks (light and space, body and act, media strategy, social and political context) although it is flexible, playful, and is installed in a compositionally unusual manner revealing similarities as well as contrasts, compares as well as confronts it, is built upon principles of partnership and healthy competition.
9. In spite of the fact that a significant part of the presentation takes place in „virtual“ space, I’m not concerned about losing „the earth under foot“. That holds true in general as well.
Brno, April 2004