Eva Krátká: In what connections – or in what contrasts – does your work appear at the Venice Biennale? What is your perception of the immediate context in which it is set?
Eva Koťátková: It’s exhibited in the main pavilion at Giardini in The Encyclopedic Palace, curated by Massimilian Gioni. Even though I’ve had the opportunity to take part in several interesting exhibitions of the biennale type in the last two or three years, The Encyclopedic Palace is special in many respects and up to now perhaps closest to me in its orientation – an orientation towards the confrontation of inner and outer images, building their own often impenetrable systems, personal cosmologies… What seems to me most important is the abundant participation of art brut artists whose work is confronted with works by contemporary artists. Since we are talking about the biennale before it’s actually started and everything is just taking shape, I can only guess and project my own possibly mistaken reading, but what seems to me exciting about The Encyclopedic Palace is its oddly complete, incomplete nature, and equally the impossibility of fully comprehending or grasping it. It is an attempt to put together an encyclopedic building comprised of other personal, pictorial archives and databases which, however, like its independent parts, can never be complete. Just like the imaginary never realised museum of all human knowledge planned by Marino Auriti. This feeling of continuous leafing through, sticking in new pages, and the permanent transformation of the encyclopedic book is perhaps only apparent; nevertheless for me it gives the exhibition a specific dimension without visible borders, without a firm, staticform.More over, my work is installed very close to Anna Zemánková’s drawings, and I value her work very much.
EKR: You’ve prepared a corpus of inner states for the exhibition. But as an exhibited work it is a little different from your preceding work, not only in its dimensions. What is it all put together from?
EKO: Dimensionally it is rather subtle and worked out in relative detail. It forms a kind of spread-out model which concentrates in itself a database of every kind of fear, phobia, terrifying or phantasmagorical vision, state of tension, hallucination, dream and ideas playing around in our heads. The work takes the shape of a fragmentary, spread-out body in which bodily parts, constructions or boxes mix with segments of wall, small structures, texts and drawings. Fears, phobias and other inner states are presented on the one hand through textual description or recording, on the other transferred into pictorial form or a special shape. Nightmares and daymares, demons and anxieties, thus acquire more concrete physical contours and every possible portrayal, including prickly metal structures or figures.
EKR: How did you conceive your project for the exhibition?
EKO: It took shape gradually like some kind of puzzle whose separated parts don’t quite fit together. As though we were putting together a body, but there were too many limbs, or they didn’t quite connect, and in places we had to improvise with various substitutes, with shapes only distantly reminiscent of body segments and so on. I worked on the installation for several months, but I’d been collecting the motifs for it a long time in advance. I think it was in the second third of the work that it finally came to me, that if the work really was to function as an encounter of inner images and of those coming from outside, it was essential to emphasise the role of the body as a mediator and creator of images, its active but subordinate role in the whole process. I included a live element in the installation – two people will loan the model parts of their bodies. One person will “lend” his eyes to the wall, the other an arm which pokes out of the table on which the whole model is spread and confined by a metal cage. It isn’t intended to be in any way a performance, but rather some sort of living statue, living figure or organism –the participants are not the centre of attention, but only a part of the whole; they do not carry out any major activity, just passively place parts of their body in static poses.
EKR: Where did you findy our inspiration?
EKO: I worked with the biographies of psychiatric patients, of creators of art brut and outsider art, with books on psychology, with various more or less known psychological and sociological experiments, with books about children’s anxieties and pentup traumas, deciphered by the psychologist through their drawings.
EKR: What gives you your greatest feeling of terror?
EKO: Public appearances, giant spiders from horror movies, school exams, the natural system, and loss of sensitivity towards our immediate surroundings precisely because of its great immediacy.
EKR: What would you add if you had more space? Do you think you would ever be able to close your “archive”?
EKO: I have no wish for a bigger space – my imagination doesn’t move in that direction. The more intimate space suits me, I have to say, and for this work it’s more exact than some great impressive installation. Everything takes place on a table top and the viewer is close to all the objects. What mattered to me was to create the impression of looking at the inside and outside of a body at the same time, at inner states and their archetypes outside. What mattered was not that the viewer noticed the individual objects, drawings or texts, but the motifs and the often very uncertain shapes, stimulating the subconscious rather than leading to rational reflections. But those are things I’ve been trying for a long time and I still have the feeling that it’s not it, that I haven’t found the right form… So we’ll see, once I’ve put the installation together in Venice and actually see it as a whole for the first time.
Eva Koťátková (*1982) is a visual artist who lives and works in Prague. This year she has held independent exhibitions in, for example, the Kunstverein Braunschweig and the Meyer Riegger Berlin; at present she is exhibiting at the 55th Venice Biennale in the context of The Encyclopedic Palace.
Eva Krátká is an art historian.
EVA KOŤÁTKOVÁ, Asylum, 2013, detail of the mixed media installation at The Encyclopedic Palace, 55thVenice Biennale, courtesy the artist and hunt kastner, photo: author‘s archive.