Dílna Mikulov - Art symposium
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Symposium in Mikulov 2005

If you are coming to South Moravia in mid summer, you are astonished by beauty. Everything around you is a amazing scenery of colours, lit-up slopes, white limestone hills, ruins of medieval castles Baroque chateaus and gardens in such a perfect harmony that you think you are dreaming. You are dreaming that you are in Italy or southern France, in the land of olive trees, vine, cypresses and direct blinding sunlight that baffles your mind. No wonder that you find yourself at the chateau in Mikulov and every night you see the peaceful sea appear on the horizon next to the Holly Hill and you consciously plunge into the dream and wonder that you have travelled the world and yet this beautiful image has until now escaped your attention.

The chateau of Mikulov. Set on fire on the last days of the war; the cause of the fire never fully explained. Several years late, a new chateau was built out of the ruin with the enthusiasm of the local people and immigrants. It does not matter at all what is original and what is not. It is a precious dominant of the area and extraordinary because of its activities. Each year, the Mikulov Art Symposium “dílna“ takes place here under the warm support of Mikulov art fans.

It was the twelfth time this year that the chosen curator, together with the organizers, invited several artists, representatives of the current art scene, and they, during the month they stayed in Mikulov, created works which they left at the chateau to contribute to the unique collection of contemporary art. The people of Mikulov offer the artists to stay and to the public they offer the works created in their town. Presenting art which has not been reviewed by art critics or examined by the public taste is daring and exceptional in this country.

Seven artists, and one art historian, came into the summer atmosphere on 16th July. They occupied several rooms, made friends and worked here for a month, dreamed, laughed, baked cakes, drank wine, danced, listened to a beautiful Gypsy singing and enjoyed the beautiful place which they were so reluctant to leave in the end.

The curator of the 12th year of the Mikulov art encounter was Jiří Sobotka (CZ, 1956) and the invitees were Eva Eisler (USA, 1952), Christian Macketanz (GER, 1963), Tomáš Medek (CZ, 1969), Jan Stolín (CZ, 1966), Kateřina Vincourová (CZ, 1968); Michal Šmeral (CZ, 1976) was chosen as the technical assistant.

For four weeks, Eva Eisler, Christian Macketanz, Jiří Sobotka, Jan Stolín and Kateřina Vincourová created in the empty halls of the chateau that became their studios for the time, with romantic views of the Holly Hill, the roofs of the town, rows of houses with vineyards, domes of the churches and green hills stretching across the Austrian border. In front of the entrance to the chateau was the workplace for Tomáš Medek and Michal Šmeral, exposed to the burning sun and curious looks as well as encouraging comments of the visitors over their work.

Eva Eisler picked a studio with the view of the rounded Holly Hill with the almost minimalist building of the church – before moving to a room with a window so high that it had no access. In this room, full at first of various chateau properties, she created a working area close to her disciplined mentality. There were fewer and fewer things in the room until only two large tables were left with a functionalist coat hager that had been deposited here from other Moravian museums that use the Mikulov chateau as a depository. The art of Eva Eisler has a wide span. From jewellery making, where she is one of the best in the world, to architecture, design, sculpture and painting. At the Symposium, she was a tireless curator of social events and parties. You gave to live, to rejoice, to be able to create“. And she did create. Sculptures from wires and flat metal stripes whose common motto is the relationship. Infinite tapes from stainless steel have a form that only sticks together with the help of elastic bands. They can be loosened anytime and change their shape. Like a human relationship when two beings are voluntarily fixed to each other. All her works, jewels or sculptures, can be loosened from the captivity of stiffness. It is a game of approaching and repelling. A game of „courting“. A process of perpetual change in which the laws of human freedom are anchored. Eva Eisler left works at the Mikulov collection of contemporary art that permanently reflect the „universal“ love and aim at getting closer to it by „merging, wining up and wining through“.

Christian Macketanz came to the Mikulov Symposium from Berlin, a city where artistic influences of the Old Continent intersect in all artistic means of expression, including the latest architecture. At the chateau, he chose a room open to the magnificent landscape. With his back to the window, he painted six small-format paintings. A poetic realist in teh world of metaphysical problems! At first sight, his works look naive and clumsily painted. But that is only a skilful pretension covering up for its originality. In his paintings, he touches upon an important intersection of modernist ideals and postmodern, media-influenced culture. In Macketanz's paintings, the complexity of situations is reduced to simple scenes where figures in stiff gestures find themselves in undefined time and space.

Tomáš Medek came to Mikulov with an exact idea to realized his „Anuloid“ for which had made a model. For the whole time he worked in exterior in front of the chateau's gate. He measured, cut, planed and assembled segments from alder wood. Under the hot summer sun he measured and re-assembled. We al admired him and offered him help which he rejected, smiling, and he finished his „Anuloid“ just before the exhibition. Medek's work has two poles: scientific and artistic. They both mingle. Medek's mathematical project is a poetic work of art, an abstract image of a physical object in space. It is an intersection in the surface which rounds up into a compact object and thus multiplies itself. The infinity of space is poetic. Poetic is the exactness of the detail culminating towards chaos as well as chaos with its own, incomprehensible order.

To have some rest from working the stone, which is what he had been doing until coming to Mikulov, Jiří Sobotka went for „a summer impression of work“. For that, he chose a light material – polystyrene. In his studio, with the view of the closed courtyard, he slowly cut his material that rendered no resistance. For two years he had been painting with paints he pushed out of tubes; in Mikulov, he pushed a figurine out of one. Perhaps as a reminiscence of his childhood when he made figures out of plasticine and reduced the world to his own measure. Like Gulliver on his travels, when searching for truth he went from utopia to dystopia, from satire to metaphysics, from innocence to horror. Jiří Sobotka remained in his typical world of fine equivocal hints. He removed material, formed the shape of his statue from polystyrene to apply another matter and thus finish the moulding of the figure. It is movement from nowhere to nowhere, in a closed circle without aim. The sole meaning lies in the journey, a perpetual motion with a great deal of irony.

The youngest participant of this year's Symposium was Michal Šmeral, a fourth year student at Brno University of Technology. Like Tomáš Medek, he also worked in the hot, shadeless area in front of the chateau's gate. Into a trunk of wood he relentlessly carved a phallic symbol of the Holly Hill on top of which he later placed a wooden model of the church. Around the trunk he carved out recesses as shelves for things he received from the other artists and from the locals of Mikulov. Michal Šmeral is interested in the artefact as collective work in which he can involve the audience. When it becomes a global object accepted by as many people as possible despite being rejected by critics. He achieves a direct contact between the viewer and visual art that helps with its final shape and, at the same time, opens a new way of communication with people.

For almost the whole Symposium, Jan Stolín had to wait for material for his contemplative object. Just before the exhibition, aluminium piping arrived which Stolín installed on the eastern terrace of the chateau. „Silver pipes sprawling like snakes which lost all his heads in a quarrel with a brave knight.“ Several dozen metres of flexo pipes are rendered a different function and change the real space. A banal industrial object is transferred into a different situation in a duchampesque shift and thus into a new aesthetic evaluation. To the Mikulov collection of contemporary art Smolín also dedicated three digital photographs in which the certain naiveness of a young girl's pubescent body shifts away pornography which fades away from the photograph. Jan Stolín belongs to a generation of young artists who, with a clear concept, form views of the space and architecture as possible initial ideas of new art forms. He shifts his purist and even minimalist approach into an interactive play of the object with its environment. His works are purged of any narrative components and the viewer is offered space for free interpretation.

Kateřina Vincourová is definitely one of the most distinct personalities of young artistic generation. Her works attract the attention of the viewer, magically speak to him and attract himand are also capable of evoking negative emotions and perplexity. In Mikulov, she created her first „nest“ in the large studio above the chateau park before she found a room that would suit her intention – build nests on the ceiling of the room. The upper corners were hidden under cases made of partially transparent light textile. The object inserted into the space changed the geometry of the room and an independet story began to unwind. As if her nests hid some sort of a lost idyll and provoked the visitor who might only feel emptiness behind them and feels upset, his certainties are disturbed. They are also parasitical objects that intrigue the viewer. The nest is of a spiral shape and its conquers space by eroding the corner of the room, or it is just a compact web spun of dreams. The nests by Kateřina Vincourová are built upon imagination and the rich world of her own visions connected to the past like her allegoric vehicle pushing a cloud of wadding and wool riding in the quietness of the chateau and is a memory of the charm of this year's Symposium.

Helena Staub