The Czech Republic is represented at La Biennale di Venezia 56th International Art Exhibition in 2015 by Jiří David‘s site-specific installation Apotheosis in the Czech and Slovak Pavilion. The concept of the piece is based on the Czech Secessionist artist Alphonse Mucha‘s monumental painting Apotheosis of the Slavs: Slavs for Humanity (1926) from his romantic series The Slav Epic (1911–1926) in which Mucha thematized the heroic saga of the history of the Czechs and the Slavic nations.
David approaches Mucha’s painting from the position of a contemporary artist with an analytical-critical point of view and an ambivalent stance. David’s gesture of appropriation and reinterpretation of Mucha’s work, represented by a black and white reworking of the original image, simultaneously constitutes an act of deconstruction enhanced by his subtle intervention in the individual parts of the composition in the form of apocrypha. The point of the installation with intertextual crossovers is the active spectator, whom David provides with a whole range of interesting mental, emotional and visual experiences via participation in an empty space and a cramped one with the key focal point of a corridor, which presents the spectator with the challenge of submerging into the “archaeology of knowledge and memories”. Here the viewer/participant encounters the reinterpreted Apotheosis, reflected in a mirror wall of identical dimensions, and becomes an ephemeral part of it. The mirror is an important metaphor in the context of this work, because it offers the spectator the possibility of self-reflection and introspection. The installation based on meditation as well as playfulness motivates the recipients to consider geopolitical and socio-cultural issues in a timeline of more than a century and asks them questions relating to the re-evaluation of concepts such as home, country, nation, state, the history of the Czechs and the Slavic ethnic group. In this way, Apotheosis also becomes a time-specific installation that is a stimulus to critical thinking about a number of serious political, economic, socio-cultural, philosophical and sociological issues that reference the past and the present of the world in the broader relationships in which local and global issues intersect.
The exhibition is accompanied by issuing a book – a reader titled Apotheosis, Apocalypse, Apocryphon: Deified Nations, Deified Art consisting of five essay reprints. The essays have been written by significant European and American philosophers, sociologists and historians, such as Jacques Rancière, Zygmunt Bauman, Peter Sloterdijk, Timothy Snyder and Susan Buck-Morss. The reader also includes seven new essays by relevant Czech, Macedonian and Slovak philosophers, sociologists and art historians, such as Jiří Přibáň, Václav Bělohradský, Miroslav Petříček, Karel Srp, Milena Slavická, Suzana Milevska and Katarína Rusnáková. The collection of diverse contributions resonates with the key connotations of Jiří David´s oeuvre, which focuses on historical, philosophical, aesthetic, artistic, social and political topics and introduces them into ambiguous correlations.
Jiří David (1956) is one of the most prominent representatives of contemporary Czech art who, thanks to his rich and diverse work, has gained a reputation not only at home, but also in an international context. His areas of creativity consist of painting and intermedia art – primarily photography, installation and public space projects. David’s original approach is distinguished by a high level of personal engagement and an ambition to present important messages about the pressing socio-cultural and political issues of the day.
He is the kind of artist who persistently seeks inventive, innovative visual solutions and by means of his work continually poses critical questions that help the spectators to orient themselves better in the complicated world of today. David exhibits regularly in the Czech Republic and abroad and his works are represented in the collections of many prestigious institutions (e.g. The National Gallery in Prague, City Gallery Prague, Ludwig Múzeum – Museum of Contemporary Art in Budapest, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, The Art Institute of Chicago and others).
The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery in Prague under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic in cooperation with the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic.
- Courtesy of the Czech Republic & Slovak Republic Pavilions