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Theoretician of the Year

Being in the landscape and painting it after a photo

Describing the Mikulov Art Symposium “dílna” for the oldest Czech art publication inevitably means that some facts have to be repeated. The symposium has been held for 18 years and each year, the even is similar in certain ways. The invited artists come to Mikulov where they work in their studios for about a month. Their works are then presented to the public at the final exhibition; some of them are included in the town’s art collection which is still stored in the depository and sometimes exhibited (this year at an exhibit in Prague’s Malostranská beseda), waiting for the planned permanent exhibition of contemporary art at the Mikulov chateau. A closer look however reveals that the symposium’s history since 1994 until today is in fact a rich story about efforts of a surprisingly big group of local people and their friends to make Mikulov a place which would exceed its actual size on the map of contemporary Czech art. These efforts include a decision to appoint, for the first time, an art theoretician instead of an artist, the symposium’s curator, and ask them to organize in the coming years a productive encounter of the youngest (upcoming) and oldest (established) generations. The six available studios were therefore provided to three authors under 30 years of age and another three to authors over 60 which meant a 30-year-long gap between them. Such an arrangement brought different approaches to art, a different degree of experience as well as varied work habits of the participants including mutual shyness. At the same time, the symposium under such dispositions was not meant under any circumstances to inhibit the development of individual artistic plans which represent one of the event’s greatest assets: offering peaceful creative environment with assistance and service provided of the kind an artist cannot usually enjoy. The least forcible yet at the same time risky approach was to rely on the participants’ desire to interact and engage in restraint-removing dialogues which would enable all sides to learn about the legitimacy of various artistic approaches.

This attitude proved to be the right choice in the course of the symposium. The three older authors – Inge Kosková, Otis Laubert and Václav Stratil, became partners for the younger authors – Vladimír Houdek, Matyáš Chochola and Katarína Hládeková while Vendula Pucharová Kramářová became the final participant in the dual role of participant and assistant.

The Mikulov Art Symposium “dílna” concluded with the exhibition entitled “Being in the landscape and painting it after a photo” whose name did not refer to the genre employed by the participating artists but rather to the recognition that the wonderful historic town of Mikulov on the back.

Given the inward focus of the studio work and the mutual communication within the group of artists, I as the curator decided to accompany the symposium’s programme with one-day presentations of artists who were not invited but expressed a wish to visit the participants. Their goal was not only to enrich the participants’ stay but also to engage the town’s inhabitants in the visual art that was being created. A series of exhibitions and projections entitled “Second Tact” therefore took place at various spots around the town. Tomáš Bárta exhibited his drawings at the back yard of one of the houses while Václav Stratil and Jan Šrámek presented their visual confrontation called Together Again at the Town Gallery which also served as a studio during the symposium. Matěj Smetana projected his animations entitled Tired Joy in the street and Klára Nejezchlebová, a fresh graduate of Prague’s Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, presented her video called Jein at the yard of Café Petit.


Jiří Ptáček, curator of MAS “dílna“

Published in the Ateliér magazine n. 20; December 5, 2011

I only stopped for a while

Coming back from Vienna and Klosterneuburg on a summer trip with several paitners, I only stopped for a while at the Mikulov symposium 2011. I talked mainly to Václav Stratil and saw some of the studios. Then I went on to Prague. I had no idea back then that in 2012, I would become the designated “surrogate” curator of the symposium and would be overseeing the completion of the previous event’s review. Half way through my work on this publication I spoke to Jiří Ptáček but his life and work are leading him along different paths. The concept of the book remained unchanged from its original draft but the interviews and notes on the artists are authored either by me or Jiří Ptáček. I wish everyone a happy return to Mikulov of 2011.

Martin Dostál