The exhibition builds on the concepts of work and production perceived as a basis for the current human development, which is being imagined in multiple instantiations in the dialogue between Martin Zet and the artistic duo Mona Vatamanu & Florin Tudor. The show presents different perspectives which complement each other despite the apparent distinctive means of representation and processes of work of the artists.
Mona Vatamanu & Florin Tudor’s contribution insists on the notion of production overwriting the social and political narratives as well as the role and status of the worker. Their new installation ‘Bearings in Space’ (2019) departs from a motif – object, the bearing, a component largely used in different technologies including space exploration. The notion of production is being depicted by multiple associations that relate to work and labour, industrial processes and, as well, to the production of images, including the high-cost technologies employed to explore and create images of cosmos nowadays. An industrial mould used for producing bearings in the seventies, conceived here as a mark for production, will be presented in the installation, the earlier metal cast technology being resurrected in the current additive manufacturing technology.
While the duo showcases a detached view, Martin Zet is following this complexity by his personal experience of his father’s sculptural production through the film ‘My Father´s Studio’ (1995) he recorded shortly after Miloš Zet’s death. The intimate journey of Martin Zet’s can be understood and seen as the moment when production stops and we, as witnesses, can feel the consequences of what decay and uselessness feel and look like. Film is accompanied by an essay ‘My Father obsessed with sculpture’ (2018) written when the video initial material was digitized from an old S-VHS cassette from the mid-1990s. Author’s installation is completed by four sculptures: little head of Jan Hus by František Bílek, Russian beggar woman with a bowl (1905) by Ernst Barlach, Josef Václav Myslbek’s Devotion (1880-84) and A head from the sculpture of cardinal Bedřich Schwarzenberg (1892-95) which also appear in the film as a part of the father’s collection of the references. These iconic artworks functioned as sort of work tool.
Vatamanu & Tudor’s banner ‘No art without work, no work without art!’ (2019) alludes to the old slogan “Nici muncă fără pâine, nici pâine fără muncă!’ (No work without bread, no bread without work!),” which, regardless to its declared intentions of social justice, was and is in fact reproducing more inequality as a consequence of its threatening, conflictual content. Nowadays, the original motto is used by the populist parties as a verbal punishment or humiliation against those who live in poverty with social aids, against those beeing in a state of dependency on the state. The exhibition also includes the most recent films ‘Grivita ‘33’ (2018) and ‘Gagarin’s Tree’ (2016), based on interviews with social anthropologist Florin Poenaru and philosopher Ovidiu Țichindeleanu. Their discourse engage issues of disappearance of the working class consciousness, space exploration, imagination and propaganda during the socialist times and the post-communist condition as liberal colonisation.
Zet’s iron ‘Space objects’ (2019) particularly made for this exhibition are originally hand tools with some parts flattened by power hammer so that the strict straight shapes got adjusted to curved character of the universe. When Martin discovered that one of the Vatamanu & Tudor’s film and object refer to bearing and lead casting, he screamed that ‘I can also make it!’ which will be performed during the opening reception as: ‘Casting, live metallurgical ritual’.
Martin Zet (born in 1959) is an artist, sculptor and performance artist. He studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague in 1979–1985. In his work he deals with social memory in art, the political format of human behaviour and the contact of idealistic visions with everydayness. In 2010 – 2016 he worked as a head of the Video Art Studio at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Brno. As a sculptor and performer he takes part in many exhibitions and events in the Czech Republic as well as abroad. In his PhD thesis in the Studio of Sculpture at the Prague Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design he deals with the work of his father, sculptor Miloš Zet (1920–1995).
Mona Vatamanu (born 1968) and Florin Tudor (born 1974) work together since 2000. They studied painting at the National University of Arts in Bucharest in 1992–1998. Their artistic practice spans diverse media including video, installation, painting, performance. The common denominator of their focus is on substantial issues with a transformative potential in the society such as public space, precariousness, postsocialist transformation, colonisation.