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Ředění soust › 25/4–30/6/2019

Ředění soust
Ředění soust

David Helán, Lenka Kerdová, Ian Mikyska, Eliška Perglerová, Ladislav Železný

Curator: Lenka Dolanová


This exhibition by a quintet of artists transforms the gallery space into a locale of uninterrupted concentration. The format is compressed into a thirty-minute walk through the gallery accompanied by an audio guide. The authors create a situation of multi-sensorial experiencing – they work with sound; light and darkness; they invite the audience to work with their bodies in motion; they employ elements of language games and sound improvisation.

The installation is completed by the activity of the visitors themselves, who are thus afforded the opportunity to bite off thirty minutes of their time in a differently diluted rhythm. The concentric structure brings our attention to the space itself and our experience of it. The visitors, however, are also instructed to employ their imagination and transfer their perception outside this space. Carefully diluted concentration captures the visitors’ attention in a particular space-time and concurrently brings about a broadened mode of perception.

How can we best concentrate? How can we best concentrate on art? And how does our concentration change in the gallery? Concentration, or rather its felt absence, is an important theme of our times. A quick look at internet search engines produces a number of recipes: “How to find calm and simplicity in hectic times”, “How to train your concentration”, “Concentration – the philosophy of success”… If recipes don’t help, we can try “Medicine for memory and concentration”. When we find ourselves with a group of like-minded people in a different environment and situation, will this help our collective concentration?

These issues are also the long-term interest of five artists who decided to devote their exhibition to the topic. They strive to create an ideal situation for concentration. The exhibition is the sum of the relationships between the individual activities engaged in by the visitors. The exhibition concept is idealistic, utopian, and open to failure. Without visitors willing to follow the instructions, the desired situation does not take place – the exhibition is cancelled.

We concentrate differently on static and moving images. And differently still on performances – all the more differently if we are (forced to be) part of them. Differently with a sound work. Concentrating on a work that has a clear beginning and ending is different to a work with which we can spend as much time as we like. We concentrate differently on a statue we can admire from several angles. Working with various kind of concentration is central to this exhibition, which makes full use of the team’s rich variety of approaches, experiences, and skills. They work in performance, painting, language, art theory, music and sound, sculpture, poetry, and theatre… They use these varied tools to create an environment for concentration. How does a painter concentrate? And what about a sculptor, a theorist, a dramaturg, a composer, a performer? Do they concentrate on material, on space and gesture, on their own thought, on sound, on their own body? They concentrate on concentration.

The first idea for the exhibition came from Lenka Kerdová and Eliška Perglerová, who have worked together extensively in the past. They created the radiophonic experiment Soustředění ve středu (Concentration on Wednesday), broadcast as part of the Radiocustica cycle on Czech Radio Vltava. In a precise, cold, and scientific language, they describe the operation of the viscera of the human body. Lenka Kerdová is a painter and art theorist. Eliška Perglerová is a sculptor. Together with Iveta Čermáková, she created the Jedna hodina (One Hour) gallery, which was partly produced as part of a creative residency organised by Offcity in the autumn of 2016 in Pardubice. The gallery takes the form of a moveable nomadic space – we walk inside, sit down, and over the ensuing sixty minutes, the entire gallery rotates a full 360 degrees. Enough time for a concentrated experience of the presence.

Gallery visitors are used to freedom of movement. According to one study, visitors spend an average of eight seconds on each work and twenty minutes on the entire gallery, covering ninety square metres of space a minute. The paintings and statues demarcate the space within which the visitor can move – not too close, not too far, just close enough to recognise the message.

Here, however, the situation changes – it resists the usual galleristic mode of perception. It is not an exhibition in the full sense of the world – it is a gallery situation. Passing through the gallery takes thirty minutes. Voices speaking to the visitors through headphones instruct them to walk through the space, move, create sounds, gestures. The two artists mentioned above invited David Helán, a performer with a penchant for wordplay. One of the aims of his events is to search for the borders of comprehensibility. He is the author of a number of tongue twisters, which he uses – among other things – to describe his own serpentine works. Through distance from ordinary perception, through effort and the processing of unusual stimuli, our processing of information loses its automaticity. In the Pardubice gallery, we find ourselves in a situation one cannot simply abandon. Our activities and their sequencing are precisely determined. We are led to adopt unusual positions – lying on a tilted plane, painting, hammering a nail under difficult conditions.

Neuroscientist David Eagleman’s research focuses on the phenomenon of time perception. This takes place through all the senses simultaneously with the added import of emotions and memories. From all this, our brain focuses a particular narrative; an interpretation. Various kinds of sensory information (sonic, tactile, or visual) are processed at different rates using different nerve structures. In order to provide us with a unified representation of the outside world, our mind has to deal with these discrepancies in speed. Wait for the slowest information before issuing a verdict. (This takes about a tenth of a second, which is a time frame the brain can automatically synchronise.) Our consciousness, then, only brings us a retrospective interpretation of what took place. Multi-sensorial perception is accepted here too. Sight – the dominant sense – is suppressed, in part also by the fact that we find ourselves in the dark for a portion of the walk. The primary sense through which we find our bearings in the gallery space is sound. Sound in the form of instructions, but also a sound improvisation created by the visitors. How can this situation concentrate or dilute our perception of time?

For the final two invited artists, sound is a key medium. Ian Mikyska composes music, sonifies objects – in his own words, he explores the “edges of sound”. His works often relate to the concept of time. His installation Paper and Time in Jihlava’s OGV, for example, consisted of a series of interactive objects. Visitors could write on paper in the rhythm of their own breathing, listen to their own writing, recite mantras. The fifth member of the team is Ladislav Železný, who works as a sound designer in the Czech Radio and creates sound objects and installations. His works also have a meditative character.

The current exhibition has a mantra-like rhythm. Mantra as a tool for the mind – repeating a single word gets us to a meditative state. We can treat all words this way. Turn them into sonic vibrations. Rid them of their ordinary meaning. The very name was created from repetition – ředění soust ředění – soustředění (concentration). When we endlessly repeat a word until it loses meaning. Or rather, it becomes meaningful in another way, simply as a collection of sounds. A sound rid of its meaning. Until we get back to the sound of our own bodies. From ourselves back to ourselves. Inhale, exhale.

Walking through the exhibition invites us to concentrate on where we are. Through listening, however, it also diverts attention elsewhere. It leads us to switch our attention. Gestural painting is part of the physical activity of the visitors – they can leave a temporary visual trace. We can create a collective composition, to propel record players with our own hands to have them play back palindromes, and in the course of the collective palindromic DJ session, we find ourselves uchem v mechu (with our ear in the moss).

Ředění soust presents a wide range of concentration. But can we achieve ideal concentration? Can we achieve it for diverse groups of visitors, or are the ideal conditions different for everyone? How do children concentrate? How are we influenced by our experiences and expectations? Will it help if we give away our phone before entering the installation? The artists understand the exhibition as a certain form of a gift – we receive thirty minutes to concentrate. It is up to us whether and how we accept this gift.

Lenka Dolanová, curator of the exhibition



TZ_Ředění soust.docx

Photos from the exhibition

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