Sláva Sobotovičová (*1973), a video, video-performance and video-installation artist, draws on the natural, rough quality of the medium in its direct relationship to reality, in all its unpredictability and randomness. At the center of her wide take are cyclical processes, corporeality, nature, culture and folklore and, to a lesser extent, gender, the media and politics. Her distinctive exhibition projects have included Nutritively (in collaboration with Patricie Fexová, A.M.180 gallery, Prague, 2005), Champagne (Mind the Glasses, Jelení Gallery, Prague, 2005), recordings of a performance with rising bread dough and a performance with Lenka Vítková titled Promise me (Place and Formula, GASK, Kutná Hora, 2009).
Crucial to Sobotovičová’s work is the combining of the topical and the archaic, the natural and the civilized and the verbal and the visual, and the way in which she polarizes the world of contemporary art and humanity and relativizes the emotional contexts of these principles. The primary determining factors are authentic experience and the roots of a strong family background. The artist creates a consistent universe of overlapping motifs: her father’s vineyards, her sisters, folk songs, work and rituals, rusticality, domestic animals and plants. Her series of pieces shot in the domestic environment (Anthem of UnfulfilledLove, Safes, AVU Gallery, Prague, 1999; Search, 2003–2006; I invited some friends to come and watch, Galerija Nova / Galerija M. Kraljevič, Zagreb, Croatia, 2006; Green Valtellina, Preproduction, Berlin, 2004 and Day After, Punctum, Futura Gallery, Prague, 2005) overstep the boundaries of personal mythology and become a more universal essence of the cycle of human life, experience and the mundane.
With the same obviousness with which she referred to the cycle of human life by means of the metaphor of rising dough and fermentation or updated the timelessness of folklore themes (in love songs or ceremonial songs and audio-recordings), she now turns to nature – an eternal, ever attractive theme. In recent years she has concentrated mainly on urban nature. Post-production and installation of the images are more fundamental than the depiction of events. Her firstprojects characterized by the polarity of the urban landscape and the presence of indoor plants were the exhibitions Ten Minutes (Entrance, Prague, 2010) and A Model of That (Galerie 207, Prague, 2011). Sobotovičová presented her as yet most extensive working of this in the exhibition Minimal Shift (Moravian Gallery in Brno, 2011).
These last works in effect signal a distinct shift. They stand out formally, using parallel video-projections in combination with an illusionary play of shadows and real objects, by means of which the aesthetic of the multilayered whole approaches abstraction. We can also find similar formal solutions in the exhibitions Sclera (with V. Houdek, Karlin Studios, Prague, 2012), Unwelcome Guest (Chodov Fortress Gallery, Prague, 2012) and The Beast Is Back (Video NoD, Prague, 2013). Nature here does not so much filltherole of a symbol of environmental engagement (although a certain eco-psychological attitude is not at all foreign to the artist); the pieces primarily express concealed emotions. The recordings of nature in the new pieces are fragmentary, similarly to our perception of urban nature. Is it at all possible to think of nature pressed into the role of a backdrop without experiencing a strange, conflicting mixture of emotions ranging from excitement, through consciousness of restriction and desire for freedom, the necessity for makeshifts, vulnerability and the feeling of guilt over destruction? The fauna and flora represented here mediate the elementary world of emotions and instincts, they manifest themselves unexpectedly like something from the subconscious, something intimate and universal simultaneously. If the videos were formerly closer to the script, limited in time and content, these present ones are somewhat more abstract and more open to mystery.
Untitled, 2012, marker pen drawings, foils on windows, installation view of the exhibition Nezvaný host (Uninvited guest), Chodovská tvrz gallery, Prague; A Model of That, 2011, installation (video projection and plant), Galerie 207, Prague;
Untitled, 2012, video projection and objects, installation view from the exhibition Bělmo (Sclera), Karlin Studios, Prague. Photo: author‘s archive..