It's hard to describe my artistic experience in just a few paragraphs. A lot has changed during the past twenty years. I re-evaluated my views on art many times along with my reasons for being an artist.
After long consideration, I decided to divide the following text into three time periods. At the same time, I also try to speak of the influence that participatory art and conceptual writing had on my work, and I likewise focus on the topic of work and its transformation during the past 40 years.
These three issues are continually present in my practical work. I return to them repeatedly; initially this was done unconsciously, but during the past decade consciously.
During the first five years (2000-2005), I attempted to build on the traditions of conceptual and minimalist art of the 1960s and 1970s and on the legacy of post-conceptual art from the 1980s and 1990s. I tried to understand the term, contemporary art, which was interesting to me, as well as being an incomprehensible expression. During the following decade, I made that specific human activity my own. I convinced myself that this type of artistic practice best reflects and exposes the internal and external structures of our society. Later, I pulled away from that opinion and creative arts became for me employment instead, i.e. work with a specific set of rules that need to be reviewed repeatedly and explored with thoughtful criticism.
During those years, I focused on state and corporate systems and also the subjective control of people and things. For example, I was fascinated with the history of the metric system. Meanwhile, during a visit to the Parisian Arts de Métiers museum, I had the chance to see the elongated, platinum cylinder, the original version of the meter. This was a life-changing moment for me.
At the start, I only played with those systems: changed or adjusted their initial purposes. In the project Rulers (2000), I changed the length of one millimeter: it was either too long or too short. In the case of Flags (2002), I layered national symbols turning them into abstract images. Then, on the contrary, in my work The Volume of Every Member of my Family (2002), I tried to reduce the bodies of all my loved-ones to the scale of a white cardboard box; using my knowledge of the metric system and the laws of nature.
Realization of this work and its subsequent self-reflection led me to the topic of language. A deciding factor in this change was my year-long residence at Le Pavillon in Paris from 2002-2003. There, I encountered not only a completely new means of looking at artistic works, but also I was mainly confronted with role of these activities in Western Europe: this contradicted my Prague experience.
Out of the need to verbalize this, I developed an interest in language during my stay in Paris. This culminated in the creation of the computer font Helvetica Concentrated (2003). I created it based on a discussion with a pair of Brazilian graphic designers: Angela Detanico and Rafael Lain.
After 2006, language became the central theme of the majority of my work. This dating is very imprecise, for both verbal and written expression remain one of the important elements in my artistic work experience. The participatory event Exchange of Handwriting (2006) could serve as an example from this period.
What at first appeared to be a formal game referencing the tradition of conceptual writing, and as an attempt at deconstruction of internal linguistic structures (some examples could be the videos Naming and Father's Mouth from 2009), gradually turned into a series of artistic activities focused on language's emancipating potential.
Between 2011 and 2014 I organized several dozen public readings which developed into an artistic method called Confrontational reading. The foundation thereof lies not only in a very personal relationship to language, but also to several historical traditions. The first of these is the workers' recitation clubs from the 1920s and 1930s. Then I also took inspiration from the tradition of performative lectures. I mainly tried to build on the tradition of the Collective Reading reader groups.
An example thereof could be the public readings of Foreign Bodies (2011); and in part the projects, Third Family of Objects (2011-2012), Montage 6 and Montage 7 (2013) and the Litany of Precariat dating from 2014.
During the last four years, I ceased to be satisfied with events focused on the topics of language and emancipation. So I began to make use of this specific communications tool to tell stories and formulate critical opinions.
This tendency fully developed itself in my work around 2010 with the realization of the video-installation series You are the object, I am the impulse.
The reason for this change was primarily the topic of work and the question of transformation of working conditions over the past forty years. This interest has accompanied me in a certain way over the last two decades. It never left me. On the contrary, it only grew stronger during the past decade. Meanwhile it is verbal and written expression that help develop and define this type of interest.
One of my first works was an artistic project in the DOS public space in 2004. However, my interest in work developed more fully during the realization of the project Two Families of Objects. The latter, three years later, led to the book One Family of Objects. In these two works, I focused on the relationship between the worker and the means of production. I focused specifically on the situation wherein some of the former employees at the Škoda Factory in Klatovy decided to buy the machines that they had worked with for several decades. My interest in the means of production culminated in the following project Third Family of Objects. In it, I focused on contemporary industrial machines such as computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. During the past decade, my interest moved away from reflection upon the individual and his/her means of production to the typology of the time-space we live and act in. This relates to my projects from 2015-2017 such as Between the Agora and the Arena, Playfield. Documents of Leisure Time, Unpaid Work, Recreation and Laziness, Genres of Everydayness and Art Practice and Other Activities.
Our social space and time have transformed over the past years. An increasingly larger part of our society no longer works, relaxes nor sleeps in precisely-defined blocks of time. We are slowly getting used to an era in which we can work, relax, consume and create all in one space with a single tool that is a derivative of a computing device, i.e. a laptop or a smartphone.
In my recent work, I have also begun to address new types of human activities and the remnants of past ones. This involves a probe of human behavior in which I try to see our future and find new possibilities for telling stories about our society; for understanding it. I focus primarily on the topic of free-time. I am interested in how this term was first defined during the 1960s and how, today, it influences our thoughts on paid and unpaid work.