Dílna Mikulov - Art symposium
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Jiří Ptáček


On dual identity

Martin Dostál wrote his text on the Mikulov symposium first which saved me a lot of work. I no longer have to explain who we are, how we came to Mikulov, what the artists created here or even that the two of us spent less time in Mikulov than everybody else… and I can spare readers repetitions, adding just what I have to say on top of that.


Symposium and dílna

The name of the Mikulov Art Symposium "dílna" (meaning workshop) seems to contradict itself. The roots of the term symposium go back to the name of one of Plato’s dialogues where it refers to a feast, followed by a (philosophy-) themed discourse. Dílna, or workshop, however, evokes mostly workplace, work, and output.
So what is Mikulov all about? 
Judging from experience, the MAS "dílna" should be a feast, a discourse and a workplace. People tend to think that artists lead Bohemian lives. In Mikulov, it’s difficult to claim otherwise, with a glass of wine in your hand. But this year, I was surprised by how hard everyone worked. Was it because the artists who came had great professional experience to know only too well they had to work their way through to the result? Or did it have something to do with the fact that all of them were “returning”?


Symposium of return

In the symposium/workshop’s twenty editions, several guiding principles can be distinguished, one of them being the principle of return. Artists and curators come back not just for the anniversaries like this one. Every time new people arrive along with those who have been here before. One might say this is a clever strategy for building a collection which contains two or even three pieces by the same author, illustrating their development. This gives the collection depth while first-time guests add to its scope. Some might say that a relationship can only be built through repeated visits. When someone invites you for dinner to their home once and never again, they’ll hardly convince you the first time was so great that any other time could only be worse. They’ll convince you if they invite you again. Just like the symposium/workshop is a feast and a place of work, its principle of return is based on two kinds of logic which have a lot in common and do not contradict each other after all.
When you return

When you’re coming back to a place you know who those around you are, and they know the same about you. You don’t begin, you resume. I guess this could have also contributed to the fact that some of this year’s participants created sets that merit exhibiting on their own right. In fact, Margita Titlová Ylovsky and Jiří Sobotka have presented their works from Mikulov at their own exhibition in Prague and Brno.


Alone and with them

But let’s keep talking about the dual identities of the MAS "dílna". When I was coming to Mikulov for the first time, I only had a faint idea that people here become part of two worlds. One is the isolation of the studio but once the artists leave the chateau and descend to the town, they quickly became the property of its inhabitants. A small town is different from the anonymity of the city as well as from the village žere people know everything about each other. You can hide in a small town and you can also expose yourself to others. The Mikulov lifestyle has adapted to the region’s unique climatic conditions which means life goes in the streets much more than in other parts of our country. For an individual affected by vanishing links between society and the public space, it is immensely attractive to walk through the streets to be met by someone who wants to spend time with them. But this situation also inevitably brings about the necessity to determine exactly the situations and times when you need to be alone. Taking part in the Mikulov Art Symposium "dílna" means being a private person in the workshop and a public one at the symposium.


Symposium of the past and future

Every institution ages. In any case, the age of the Mikulov symposium/workshop gets talked about quite often. Aging becomes an issue. In a country where many cultural institutions die too young, old age is a value. But it can also be a threat whenever the mechanism of return transforms into the senile circle of repetition. This year, we all came back. A circle closed. I suppose some of old friends will come next year along with newcomers. The tradition will be interspersed with innovation. I amused the guests of the exhibition opening with an image of the symposium "dílna" in twenty and eighty years. But the humour (mostly at the expense of the event’s artistic director Libor Lípa) concealed a question to which we have no answers. We cannot imagine the future. The future is our uncertainty and each step forward brings a risk. But at the symposium/workshop, “relying” means accepting and transcending. We have so far focused on the dual identity of this event. We have not mentioned the responsibility of the organizers towards the participants, the local inhabitants and visitors of the town – responsibility towards art. Art is the main reason for holding the
symposium and the feast. And this is where the most difficult task comes from: seeking a balance between reliance and risk of stepping into the unknown. The 21st year of the Mikulov Art Symposium "dílna" looms ahead for us as a symbolic challenge.



Martin Dostál 

What flies through my head on this year’s symposium "dílna" in Mikulov, with consideration for what has stuck there since last year

This year is more or less the third time that I’ve been involved in this praise-, wine- and art-worthy event. I did not take part in 2011 when I only completed the catalogue after curator Jiří Ptáček quit. The following year I became the full-pledged curator, I chose the artists according to my own liking and called the final exhibition, along with the catalogue, A Great Year. The artists, art and wine honoured that name. Thank you very much indeed for having me. This year, the jubilee 20th symposium was held and I somehow automatically became part of it as the designated curator, Libor Lípa invited all curators from the past 9 years. Unlike artists-curators, Jiří Ptáček and I, i.e.
curators-curators, were only invited for a week’s stay which shrank into several days; moreover, I didn’t stay in Mikulov continuously but was coming and going, as permitted by my other activities. I therefore felt as a visiting writer as I and Jiří Ptáček
were tasked to provide interviews and a text for the catalogue, rather than a real participating artist. Hence the heading.


The 20th symposium brought together various artists as well as two curators who, under the leadership of the guarantor, L. L., celebrated the best-known symposium-type event in the Czech Republic with their presence, their activities and the ensuing
catalogue. Honour and glory to you, Mikulov. The Holly Hill rises over the town which buzzes in its own rhythm, basting in wine of unsual quality. The local artistic and intellectual capacities, whose core consists of three or four families, open their minds and hearts. In unity and exhilaration with the visiting artists, they coformed a unique atmosphere of the summertime south Moravian town where everything gets closer to the archetypal substance of the Renaissance community; the town below the Pálava Hills comes in any case closest to the Italian existential experience of all our places. I like the feeling of driving along the winding road up to the core of the Mikulov chateau, the central point of the symposium, and I can enjoy this entertainment of the
Dietrichsteins who owned this dominant feature of the local landscape for centuries before they lost it in the post-war settlement of eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, guilt for guilt. Filip, who works in the museum at the castle and is member of one of the patrician Bohemian families of Mikulov, and likes to walk barefoot in summer, shows me the orderly depository of all those things created at the symposiums and left behind as a collection which grows in its significance as well as the number of works. If the collection ever gets permanently displayed, or temporarily according to various moods and contents, it would another reason to stop at this place, naturally stuck between Brno and the artistic metropolis of Vienna, at least for artloving nomads.


To set the record straight, however,     and without hiding behind the vagueness, those families that from Mikulov’s “backbone” as I see it (and let me stress it is my personal opinion so that no one gets offended) are the Vrbkas, the Brichtas (including the porcelain and rock music figure Piršč) and the Kapičáks as well as František Šíla and his wife whose wine shop or wine bar with quickly opened bottles of their own production as well as those from Mlýnek and Volařík is a like a beacon in the centre of the town where things happen that make time jump through the night as it pleases, and does not constraint until it blurs the sharpness of judgments, while the walls display several originals left there by the wineful artists of the symposium. I should also include the Závodný Gallery in the Mikulov family hyperbolae but I will not go further than that.


The symposium as well as its final exhibition featured a various collection of artistic strategies, disparate but with an evident degree of attractiveness. It would be unwise to look for a common denominator besides the fact perhaps that all of them had previous experience as participants and curators. But it’s difficult for me, and I guess for the ramified Jiří Ptáček, too, to take a stand on the artists and the exhibition that I have practically nothing to do with, yet being listed as one of the participants I cannot fully get into it, and out of it, either. But this is how I saw it this year:


Jiří David created a Davidian collection developing topics he uses to feel the dimensions of the meaning of art and the artist in it, the responsibility of each and every one in a world united by the media yet semantically unglued, as well as the relevance of contemporary painting in formal and content synthesis, in fragmented rhythm, with the sustaining certainty of drawing techniques, soft and even subdued colour schemes and assemblage extraordinariness. He worked in separation from the chateau studios, in a gallery in the middle of the town where he was also staying,
like an active hermit in his own world which I personally really liked. Milena Dopitová – an artist endowed with a sense for social gentleness and a wide media register through which she comments, in a gender-reverse way, on the female presence in the world abounding in nostalgias and soft structures of the existence. Her conceptuality is natural and creative which is something one cannot ascribe to post-concept in general (but what can you ascribe to anything, really). Inspired by the popular folk song about clover by the stream, she ventured into an acoustically accompanied image-object in the intentions of her creative thinking where women’s
handicrafts play a role. Margita Titlová, whose career, I have to admit, I don’t systematically follow, revived in her own way to the effect of her large, gestically structured drawings although in Mikulov, she focused on the media of transparent colour stains, dramatically spread on hanging translucent textiles and canvasses some which she accented with bent CDs that refracted the added light into a strip of spectral colours.


Brno’s Jiří Sobotka surprised me, or rather broke my superficial notion of him; in Mikulov, he constructed clever and smartly-pointed objects, playing on the limits of art-design products. Photographer Antonín Kratochvíl has without doubt mastered his creative medium, and in Mikulov he explored the limits of staged photography with a narrative content and striking visuality. His game with “hardbound” models developed, with a different approach, the principle of bound girls as we know it from the photography of Nobuyoshi Araki. Eva Eisler contextualized her object-jewel approach, taking into account the dimensions of the Mikulov chateau and the local thrash objects which she endowed with new life.


Libor Lípa continues his work exploring the limits of abstracting visual strategies. I was personally curious in what one of the former members of the Pondělí group, Petr
Zoubek would come up with (Milena Dopitová was also a member of this group). He lives in Germany and works with new media, video, objects, photography. In south Moravia, he made rhythmical drawings crammed with black strokes which did not lack their existential suggestiveness. And young student Kristýna Kašparová could see what it’s worth, in a good way, to be in touch not only with other artists, but also in the sense of her own work. And one other great contribution – documentary photos from the symposium scattered on the floor in the room where Antonín Kratochvíl’s photos. They were taken by his assistant – damn, what was his name?