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Rays


The works of artists Anetta Mona Chisa and Lucia Tkacova have developed along a succinct trajectory - a path from subject to object - that mirrors a shift from works that deal with the micro problems of the 'art world' to works that encounter the problems of the world more generally. Early works, which attached and ridiculed gender and cultural stereotypes have made way for works that increasingly draw our attention and give space to the thing. Jiri Wolker refers to things as "silent comrades" and it would seem that in recent years our understanding of this proposition has deepened. This is not because things have ceased being shy and have begun to speak to us, but rather because we ourselves have begun to resemble things. And like those things that we long for, the things that we produce, things we consume and throw away, we too are conditioned by the abstract calculations of costs and profits. We submit, alongside our things, to the unsustainable but extremely lively doctrine of economic growth.

Despite these developments Anetta and Lucia have maintained their shared fascination with beauty and a longing for revolution. At first glance, the quality of beauty - linked with pointlessness and a lack of interest - could be said to fit comfortably within any bourgeois system of values. Understood in this way, beauty is positioned in direct contrast to revolution. However, beauty, in granting access to an intense experience, allows the mind to transgress the space of everyday purveyance. Beauty contains, within itself, the potential to transform the world. This power has fascinated artists throughout the course of Modernity and has disquieted those that held, or wanted to hold, the power in their hands. Modernists, inspired by the rapid tempo of industrialization and the onset of the machine age created an abstract language which was supposed to herald a society which did not yet exist. And although the future imagined by Russian Constructivists never eventuated, certain elements of abstract language developed in the departments of Agitprop became a permanent part of the visual coding of the "Socialist Revolution."

One of the elements of this abstract language was the motif of luminous coloured rays or glare. These were often used in the construction of abstract backgrounds over which concrete messages appeared in text form. Posters, banners and draped speaker's desks are parts of the past which we might have wished to forget (or should have) post 1989. For various reasons, this past does not want to disappear and in fact often returns in surprising forms. Banska Stiavnica railway station, the site for the artists' latest work, is the final stop of The Railway of Youth, built at the end of the 1940s by almost fifty thousand volunteers, not only from Czechoslovakia but also from the lands of former Yugoslavia, France, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, etc. Here, the fan-shaped, graded spectrum of coloured rays that radiate from prophecy of things, obtains a specific, local connotation without the abstract picture having to be supplemented in any way.

History, briefly dealt with here, resists simplistic interpretation. On the one hand, the construction of The Railway of Youth, was used as propaganda for the Communist regime, which in the initial years after the February Coup of 1948 cruelly trampled human rights and destroyed the lives of thousands of people. On the other hand, the idea of collective work in the name of a (revolutionary) ideal is becoming a pressing consideration in the individualized and cynical society of the present day. Anetta and Lucia's composition - a luminous gradient of coloured textiles - invites viewers, random visitors and travelers to experience the disturbing and contradictory character of the exuberant abstract nature of coloured textiles.It hangs without mottos, invoking and simultaneously subverting historical interpretations.

The emotional power of the visual language employed here is irrefutable and the monumental scale at which the artists are working serves to further enhance the power of the motif. The pleated cones of coloured fabric are what initially draws our attention upon entering the hall, but they are only one part of the compositional whole, the interpretative potential of which is not only linked to its site but equally to the relation of its two connected parts. The second, markedly smaller, but truly essential part of the composition is a digital print covering a door in the left corner of the northern wall of the station hall. The image is the broken screen of a mobile telephone and although it occupies only part of the overall surface, it is this image that defines the colour scheme and rhythm of the entire composition.

Although they may have lost their importance for their owners, broken telephones, specifically their displays, can generate fascinating images. Without the presence of controlling software the pixels liberate themselves. Within the forming grids defined by factory production and then "hacked" by falls, collisions and blows from various objects, the broken displays generate their own imagery. The screen no longer functions as an interface, as a heteronomous boundary, whose only mission is to accelerate capitalist abstraction by way of accelerating the destruction of any direct, unmediated experience of time and space. Rather, the screen becomes an autonomous creator; the liberated pixels of the broken telephones enchant with their beautiful images, seducing viewers to read it as a projection of a machinic unconscious. Similar imaginative interpretations might lead us to speculate on the ability of inanimate things to act, or push us towards a strongly materialistic understanding of how the screen - stripped of its software, the touch of our fingers, its intended duties - might allow us to see. Reminiscent of the search for the unconscious in artificial intelligence, we descend in to wonder at the chemical composition of screens and telephones which contain not only plastic and glass but dozens of different metals and rare minerals.

Lucia Tkacova and Anetta Mona Chisa's prophecy of things for the Banska St a nica Cultural Centre is resonant with the potential for associative thought. One wonders about the present relations between places such as the Coltan mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the sleeping deposits of lithium under the Ore Mountains, assembly lines in China where workers labor in an environment doused in chemicals, and even of Banska Stiavnica where rare metals have been mined for more than a thousand years... and although this chapter of local history seems to have been definitively brought to a close, a rise in the price of commodities on the world market could change everything.

Mines, and everything extracted from them, contribute to the destruction of both time and space. I am nevertheless right here, right now, there is no question of this when faced with this coloured, shining wall. This is a unique, site-specific quality of this work - its inevitable setting in the space of a railway station, doomed to extinction and postponed by the existence of the cultural center. Recently it was decided that tickets would only be sold on trains and that the railway station would definitively become a gallery. The space will become a coulisse for viewers who do not arrive here naturally, who must come here. One must overcome the natural barrier which prevented the completion of the railway for so long, one has to find her way over the hills. One has to wait for the trees along the way to thin out gradually and finally, a picturesque horizon appears, framed by the spires of the Baroque buildings. I have come here and I contemplate the mood that always overcomes me here - a familiar slowing of time and the ceremonial character of this particular place.

The broken screen might be a truly sad thing, but through it, we might recall a world which still exists, which can be perceived unmediated (although it disturbingly blends with the virtual reality hidden "behind" the smartphone's screen). For a moment there is only the here and now and joy and energy and red dresses and laughter.


August, 2017
Jan Zalesak


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