In 1998, Jiří Černický received the prestigious Jindřich Chalupecký Award, and his position on the art scene has been strong and distinct for a long time. The common basis of his often very disparate projects has been most aptly described as the creation of fictitious scenarios. Černický subsequently concentrates them in a variety of media, which he often combines not only within his complex exhibition constellations, but also by alternating masterfully between easel painting, objects, video and photography. He uses a strategy based on action art as well as the technology of new media. He does not avoid strong emotions, social criticism and predicting the future. By subverting the sharp dividing line between reality and fiction he sabotages and eliminates unbearable pathos through ironic humor. The equilibristic ability to balance all components has protected Černický’s projects from the threat of false morality, attempts to be witty and convoluted boredom.
Artistic and political avant-gardes of the early 20th century have become one of the most frequent topics of contemporary art over the last decade. One of the main reasons is seen in nostalgia for the radical social ethos which the protagonists of the avant-gardes programmatically claimed for themselves. In their simplified explication, art and life practice were to merge into one and become the cornerstone of a new society. This is in stark contrast with the current reality, where art has to define and defend its position primarily through itself. The primary non-utilitarian nature of contemporary art not only gives cause for questioning its sense from the standpoint of the majority society, but also creates great tension within the artistic community. Archaeological excavation of the ruins of avant-garde movements can be both downplayed as a tentative flirtation with the radical rhetoric of the beginnings of modern art, and taken seriously as a sincere search for a possible way out of the loop of contemporary artistic practice and operation.
At first glance, the thematic agenda of Jiří Černický’s exhibition fits into the above-mentioned context. However, be wary. All indicates that if you travel in that direction, you will fall into a trap artfully planted by the artist. Something here is not right. Suprematist elements laid out on the table change compositions by means of psychokinesis in the fashion of Nina Kulagina. The documentary film dates from 1967, when a paranormal experiment was carried out under the supervision of a team of Soviet scientists: engineering art, occultism and scientific materialism in a single shot. It is followed by a giant red curtain with reflective puzzle-like surfaces, which provides an ambiguous connotation to the primary meaning of theatricality and the national symbol of the USSR. The circle of reference disclosed by Černický is much broader, and typically it mixes references to experimental physics, natural structures in the form of cracks in the ground caused by extreme drought, corrida, a radical protest movement and American pop culture. The monumental object seems to possess the ambivalent potential to destroy mankind and save it at the same time. A bust of Generalissimo Stalin rotating in the microwave while being whipped by electrical discharges like visionary experiments by Nikola Tesla may appear as a visualization of Purgatory or toying with reviving the homunculus. Similarly, the hypnotism used in depth psychology in the form of the expressive acting style of a black-and-white Hollywood movie and projections through a crystal vase changes into a spooky mystery.
There can be no doubt that Jiří Černický is not sentimental about the era of the avant-gardes. But at the same time historical excursions in his rendering are not anti-avant-garde pamphlets either. Perhaps we can call it the construction of a parallel history which contrary to the prevailing narrative features the irrational, instinctive and occult roots of these movements. Fragments of the narrative evoke oppressive feelings and fear. Without irony, this can be likened to a visit to a House of Horrors where alongside laminated ghouls and ghosts one comes across a real corpse.