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Josef Žáček Anticorps

The world is, perhaps, not condemned to freedom but to the everyday. The everyday is, as the word expresses, what takes place every day.

It is, above all, the space of the ordinary, a place of repetition, routine and rituals; of the standard course of behaviour, dealings and mechanised actions. The everyday is the experience of an eternal return of the same thing in an ordinary form: get up, wash oneself, clean one’s teeth, have a coffee, go to work, to the office. How are you? Fine thanks. Switch on the computer, go to lunch, go home, watch the TV, a brief reminder of sex, go to sleep. According to a specific place, age, social standing, family and work situation one can outline innumerable variations of the course of the day that, despite all differences, will always have the same constants in common.

The everyday is the ordinary and customary; every day we experience it as the everyday, ordinariness without any great surprises. We can’t escape the everyday.
Konrad Paul Liessmann, The Universe of Things

 

The exibition was called “Anticorps”, which is the French word (very powerful in sound) meaning antibody, such as a protein, which can, as a part of the immunity system, identify and kill foreign bacteria and viruses in the body. The name itself was inspired by a text written by K. P. Liessmann on the stifling power of the everyday.1   The philosopher describes the everyday mechanism of human acts as a room of what is ordinary, the room of routine, repetition and standard tasks. The world as everyday is, on one hand, the sediment of tried-and-tested practices and operative attitudes and, as such, perhaps the most important inspirational source for common and major human decisions. If we satisfy ourselves with the certainty of its verifiability, we close ourselves into passive acceptance of the world, into the immanence of our own asocial relation to ourselves, we give up the opportunity to respond to opinions of others, different life experience, we give up imagination, invention and active reflection, and thus our share of the dynamics of the changing world.

The large five-part painting “Untitled” (2014-2015) is possibly the only work by Žáček which has the character of a black contrast drawing on a rather immaculate background. This seems to me as a significant expression of the critical character of everydayness. While other examples of Žáček’s figurative compositions are characteristic by the fact that the relation between the figure and the background is not just a relation between two self-referential dialogues of two different realities when both partners cross the border and merge one into another, here the main role is taken by emptiness. The figure is significant in all of its details, albeit not descriptive. Huge flies are painted here in five variations. I take the message of the painting as information on something rather definite, but insignificant, something which has no relevance to its surrounding. A spontaneous expression of authoritative meaning of some banal and useless thing which, moreover is not the object of a closer interest, demonstrates a social model in which everydayness rules.

One of the principles of everydayness is the seeming objectivity which has the form of a feeling that this “is the way things are” and must be accepted as such. To transform the openness of the living world of mutually dependent human beings into a closed mechanism of everydayness, which gradually loses the human dimension designed to tolerate difference from the other and solidarity with the potential suffering of others. And it is through the repression of the troublesome care for the other that everydayness closes us into ourselves.

The painting “Numbers”(2015) makes us aware that the effort to manage the massive inflow of immigrants into Europe made those in charge give every immigrant a number written on his arm. This seemingly banal means of organisation reminds one of the numbering of Jews in concentration camps.

The task of the artist is not to find a suitable system of evidence but he can draw attention – and the pictorial language of the artistic message is capable of such drawing of attention – to the horrible differences between an identity expressed by a number and human life.

The painting “Untitled” (2015-2016; the original title “The Banality of Compassion” was refused by the artist as too obvious) consists of five black monochrome pictures with a hardly discernible figure with an outstretched hand, as if for greeting, more or less hidden behind later interventions of various kind. Figures are accompanied by fragments of sentences from social networks and partially covered words: “#JE SUIS”, “#PRAY FOR”, “#STOP REFUGEE”, “#NOT IN MY NAME”, etc. These traces are to emphasise the negative aspect of language.2

Words are what connects human beings but, at the same time, they are the “technical means”, which live their own independent life of signs usable at each new event, independent signs representing reality which happened as a consequence of opaque human decisions.

The artistic language uses its relative freedom to disrespect set rules and strives to undermine the presupposed correspondence between word and reality.

Paintings “Picture Of The Day“ (2013) and “Image” (2015) brings a message about the hidden side of intermediation, this time in pictorial language. The first is a reproduction of a picture of Syrian children killed after a chemical attack in Ghouta on August 21, 2013, which was distributed online by newswires. In both paintings Žáček presents the cynicism of news media that contribute to the establishment of public opinion.  […]
Ludvík Hlaváček
In: Anticorps, GHMP, Colloredo-Mansfeld palace, Prague 2017; extract from the text  Žáček’s Stubborn Uncertainty.
 

1  K.P.Liessmann, Universum věcí. K estetice každodennosti. Academia Praha 2012
2  Revealing and hiding role of the word was the topic of the American Deconstructivist Paul de Man, Resistance to Theory, Google Books



Josef Žáček

26. 5. 1951

Born 26 Mai 1951 in Prague. During the period 1977–1983 studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague under professor Oldřich Oplt. In 1993 he received a scholarship and participated in the Project ARTEST, Sant Abbondio – Ticino. His works are in collections worldwide. Revolver Revue Prize Laureate in the 2014.
 

Žáček’s Stubborn Uncertainty
What pictures of evangelists, dogs and lemmings have in common with portraits of those who are called terrorists might be expressed with the word uncertainty. This term, however, loses its negativity once we realise that everything to which we ascribe the character of certainty is such thanks to the firm coherence of human cognitive constructs. Their certainty is proved by the fact that the construction fits together and works. What kind of proof is that, however? The symbolic value of the sign of the cross unlocks the door to the secret of human co-existence, but also serves as a neutral sign, which can be used for the benefit of this or that arbitrariness. How can a cross be painted so that it is a key to the secret of the human world and not just a tool for someone’s power? The court sentenced the R.A.F. members as terrorists on the basis of certain legal constructions. Doubts about these constructions are raised by the circumstances of arrest, imprisonment and the very process itself, as well as by the causes of the whole “terrorist” activity, which lie in the opaque reality of institutionalized violence. A “higher” justice that would draw aside the veil of human constructs is not available to man. What we are left with is an uncertainty justifying deep tolerance and the desire for truth. It is this uncertainty that Josef Žáček paints.  […]

Žáček’s artistic stance is that of a resolute but rather complex relation towards the current artistic world. In fact he does not differ much from contemporary painters on the world stage. Rather the contrary: his radicalness is nothing else than the basic tendency of the development of art in the last two centuries, to provide an alternative to thinking, whose main, if not only, goal is to control reality so that it serves our needs and set goals, which immediately raises the question who is included under “our”. The radicalness of Žáček’s painting is not reflected in the way of painting as it is in its total lack of care about what institutions should do about his works. Žáček not only does not care about current trends, as Jirous pointed out, he does not care where his paintings end up. The distribution of Žáček’s work will no doubt meet serious problems due to scale, numerous cycles and even socially controversial issues (Who will put upon their walls a picture of R.A.F. members, of Seaside partisans). “The paintings of Josef Žáček are not of this world” (M. I. Jirous) and there is no place ready for them in this world.

This fact, however, is significant for the character of Žáček’s work: its social and political contexts, paradoxically, leads to the fact that these works are not acceptable by social institutions. The content of the concept of art goes far beyond the “world of art”, as it was understood by Arthur Danto1. If we call it the “art industry” today, then Žáček’s work does not belong into this context, not just because of the above mentioned “problems” (scale and topics), but in principle. Art as industry is, in a way, a justifiable unity of individual and institutional activities, while Žáček’s work focuses on problematizing the institution as such. Not that institutions are his enemies. He just sees too clearly that any institution created by man approaches the sensitive events of human cohabitation inadequately and abstracts them into a form required by the technical means of communication. If institutions are characterised by being controlled by generally set rules, then even the language is an institution. Even the language, if it is to be communicated, must have its rules, albeit these rules will always be in opposition to the uniqueness of the artist’s intention and invention.

Žáček’s painting language is a pronounced expression of this tension that casts doubt on any formation, any effort to incarnate the signified into a generally acceptable form of the signifier, to transform a live idea into a sign bound with the content. It is the vibrating adventure in the background of his paintings that by repeated washing of the traces of the brush and new drawing interventions creates a field of signs that are not yet born – the painter uses the word “foetus”. Similarly, the figures of his paintings that refer to cultural contexts and, at the same time, undermine their institutionalized form or draw attention to social events, by implicitly demonstrating the tragic lack of maturity in people who appear in them on both sides. 
Ludvík Hlaváček
In: Anticorps, GHMP, Colloredo-Mansfeld palace, Prague 2017; extract from the text  Žáček’s Stubborn Uncertainty.

1Arthur Danto, Artworld. Journal of Philosophy 1964, no. 61, p. 541, Czech transl. Aluze 2009, no. 1

Selected artworks




The world is, perhaps, not condemned to freedom but to the everyday. The everyday is, as the word expresses, what takes place every day. It is, above all, the space of the ordinary, a place of repetition, routine and rituals; of the standard course of behaviour, dealings and mechanised actions. ... more

Magdaléna Juříková Anticorps

Magdaléna Juříková Anticorps

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Picture Of The Day, 2013

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Self-portrait, 2016

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no. C121280, 2016

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no. E947645, 2016

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Untitled, 2015–2016

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Untitled, 2015–2016

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Untitled, 2015–2016

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Untitled, 2015–2016

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Untitled, 2015–2016

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Untitled, 2015–2016

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Image, 2015

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Untitled, 2014–2015

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Untitled, 2014–2015

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Untitled, 2014–2015

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Untitled, 2014–2015

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Untitled, 2014–2015

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Untitled, 2014–2015

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Numbers, 2015

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Numbers, 2015

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