Micro Narration by Jiří Černický
With micro realistic preciseness covering the minutest detail, wall figures by Jiří Černický confront us – in a seemingly simple, childlike, fairy-tale way – with concealed and hidden soft narration, which can be understood in connection with sincere interest in questions we ask ourselves every day. Questions about our direction, understanding, connections and links, human relations and outlooks. The first surprise at looking at the small characters is humor, with which individual situations are presented. We enjoy small details of their formation, typical gestures and body positions, items in their surroundings. The virtuoso and ironic macro realism gives the figures a human touch with ease and humor, creating a world of memories, experiences, comments, feelings. At the same time, this first merry encounter leaves behind also another, unclear feeling: something unsettling, slightly melancholic, which cannot be so easily laughed at.
Slightly three-dimensional (almost relief) figures, made of various pieces of color fabric, feature well-known roles of characters of everyday life. They are highly expressive, accompanied by humoristic standardized narration. For example, they represent an alcoholic, lying in a drunken state among empty bottles, a clerk hurrying up to the office with a briefcase in hand, a housewife hanging out her washing, a shopper standing by the cash register in a supermarket, an obese man next door who goes jogging in the morning with his dog in order to lose weight, etc.
All these types are well known, they are our neighbors, they are connected with our mundane, monotonously repeated activities of the everyday ritual of contemporary life in town. They are identical with their roles, while Černický has managed at the same time to provide them with a personal character, i.e, lend them something private. These figures could also be compared to antique terracotta sculptures which caricature the antique society. They exist in their familiar, limited context. They are an integral part of these connections, which came into being from their undistinguished one-dimensionality without a possibility of distance from oneself.
Tendentious, tender exaggeration of external features in description of individual figures in their banal roles, i.e., the pointed exaggeration of the typical, produces both alienation and approximation. Typical features are so overdone that the result looks more like a caricature than a real portrayal, which leads to their alienation. These cartoon figures evoke certain emotional reactions, while the characters unilaterally and with concentration show off their unconscious banality and transient nature, human fragility and limitation, their non-pathetic lack of dimension or rather one-dimensionality. They are victim to their own roles in life, their own identification with their given roles, while they are totally unaware of their limitation. And this is exactly what forms the confusing emotional wholeness of the Tragicomic.
Like in a circus, the Tragicomic is mixed with a kind of mischievousness, manipulating the public. The viewer is in the comfortable position of a clown, from which he is able to observe dangerous situations and events from the outside, and that is why he feels safe on his protected seat. He can smile at this feeling of seeing all and knowing all, but at the same time there he is in the precisely defined position of the clown, cast out from the society, alone with his pain, empathy, compassion and solidarity.
The essence of Jiří Černický’s approach consists of getting close in a totally matter-of-fact way to spontaneous, banal and small facts, which do not have a major perspective, in which we will not see any decisive, important events, pathetic discords or dramatic conflicts and which are left at the mercy of banal circumstances. His direct and humble tendency toward a quiet, restrained need for explanation is without pathos and has come into being without any universal benchmarks and ostentatious declarations. In this vacuum he creates with tender insight and poetry his micro narration or rather non-narration, in which the lack of events and stories is embodied by small figures.
In minuscule, almost imperceptible inconspicuous differences of micro structures, which occur around the figures, Černický reveals hidden human reserves for a real world without pathos, hierarchy, which is humble and tolerant. His message is quiet and ironic, tender and still a bit subversive: he works with Micro Narration, which tears down the established ideas.
Director of the Museum of Modern Art in Saint Etienne
Formerly Director of the 20th Century Museum in Vienna