CO-LABORATION, an exhibition of 51 artists in residency, curated by Petr Vanous at  Pragovka Gallery in Prague. 

Artists: Kateřina Adamová, Karíma Al-Mukhtarová, Jana Babincová, Filip Černý, Eva Fajčíková, Eliška Fialová, Daniel Hanzlík, Matouš Háša, David Helán, Anežka Hošková, Matěj Hrbek, Anna Hulačová, Martina Chloupa, Jakub Janovský, Martin Káňa, Kryštof Kaplan, Daniela Klimešová, Terezie Kusbach Kolářová, Tomáš Košťák, Tadeáš Kotrba, Veronika Landa, Zbyněk Linhart, Matouš Lipus, Václav Litvan, Jiří Matějů, Martin Matoušek, Vladimír Merta, Michaela Munzarová, Petra Navrátilová, Richard Nestler, Lucie Nováčková, Pasta Oner, Robo Palúch, David Pešat, Jana Preková, Tomáš Prchal, Veronika Přikrylová, Ondřej Roubík, Marcel Rozhoň, Zuzana Růžičková, David Strauzz, Alessandra Svatek, Martin Šilhán, Pavel Šimíček, Adam Štech, Pavel Tichoň, Pavel Trnka, Hynek Vacek, Pavla Vachunová, Martin Vlček, Ladislav Vlna, Helena Volejníková, Lawrence Wells, Pavla Zábranská
Curator: Petr Vaňous
May 9  - August 6, 2021
Pragovka Gallery, Prague

While collaboration in English is a standard term for cooperation, the meaning in Czech is inconsistent, with rather negative connotation. Even though “collaboration” really means cooperation, it is historically associated with treacherous acts and activities, or even with betrayal (admitted or hidden). Connotation of the title “itself” is therefore subversive. The meaning has ambiguous power of a different strength for everyone. The title both unifies and assimilates various interpretations; it depends on the context and its changes. That is why the Czech language is dangerous

– it is creative and at the same time misleading. Anyway, KO-LABORACE enables to grasp the topic of collaboration variously in authorial, curatorial, and in mutually opposite ways. The topic could be perceived as effective collective effort, or as forced reductive violence done to the individual and individuality; it could be taken deadly seriously, happily, ironically, or sarcastically. However, in all cases, the topic is irritating because of its variability and ambiguity. As the KOLBEN OPEN project is a presentation of artists-residents


of Pragovka, it follows artworks of large number of different authorial approaches. In order to leave the space for the diversity and at the same time to maintain the unifying shape of the exhibition, the curator chose the method of internal movement between authors who can act as themselves or as associated identities, or as differently focused or pragmatically associated collectives. This curatorial approach is also included in the title of the 8th volume:

KO-LABORACE can be both collaboration and separate “laboration” that creates separate worlds within a dynamic, ever-changing unit. Curatorial contribution on the “collaborative” level of the project is a “project within the project” called Studený buffet (The Cold Buffet), located in a former Pragovka canteen. Based on submitted portfolios and visits to the ateliers, some residents have been invited to participate in the project.

Why collaboration? The eighth volume of KOLBEN OPEN is taking place during a pandemic time full of chaos, crises, unexpected changes, and unclear future horizons. We all share a new experience of something different, strange, an experience of a problem situation we lack experience to solve. We gain experience as we go, operatively. The immediate present can be described as an inverse transformation that cause fear and cast shadow over the future. As if we were trapped in some kind of present happenings that gradually beat our yet valid values and the resulting certainties. Time is acquired by anxiety and the resulting negation. Tolerance and solidarity are needed, encouraged even to overcome the current situation, but it is still anyhow corrected by the reality of practice. We find ourselves in a time that tests not only human natures but also the ability/inability to collaborate. Warning question hanging in the air is whether the development horizon of the coming days will be a real, meaningful collaboration or not. As long as the happenings are in motion, we do not see the impact of change because of the unsettled dust; we only feel the presence of its vague outlines. Once the dust settles, the new reality may shock us. In any case, it can be the new challenge towards the meaningful change.

Nonetheless, it is up to each of us whether the change is really going to happen. Who else than artists and what else than art have the power to anticipate inevitable changes in this socially anxious time, no matter whether the changes are beneficial or catastrophic? Art can trigger a warning signal in time. And while doing so, it also reaches one of its essential goals – to express oneself directly and freely.

The exhibition installation is divided into two parts – the gallery on the ground floor and authentic industrial spaces on the first floor. The gallery serves as traditional gallery – it presents the artworks which need this kind of space. The selection of work focuses mainly on paintings, drawings, objects, sculptures, and installations. Each gallery space (Foyer, Pop Up, Rear, Entry) offers different atmosphere and tension.

In the Rear gallery space, the motive of collaboration is shown as a cooperation between two authors on one piece of work (Ondřej Roubík and Martin Matoušek), remake or upgrade of childish motive (Pavel Tichoň), declaration of generational lineage (Tadeáš Kotrba), but it is also shown purely motivically – Gustav Husák’s portrait (Zbyněk Linhart), Miloš Zeman’s portrait (Adam Štech), or double-portrait of controversial figures of contemporary culture – philosopher Slavoj Žižek and writer Michel Houellebecq (Adam Štech). Anna Hulačová’s sculptural Dialogue is also expressive, as well as abstractly pictorial installation with a bench by Martina Chloupa. The Entry gallery space is imaginarily divided into two hemispheres – the symbolic inner “processual body” of an individual (Kateřina Adamová) with a trip to the evocation of the motion of consciousness or its ritualization (Kryštof Kaplan), and the “view” from the body, the reflection of its surrounding which is perceived as free, open space for us to move (Martin Šilhán, Pave Trnka).

The Pop Up space brings together works reflecting different degrees of alienation (Richard Nestler), arranged carnival disguises (Eva Fajčíková), reworked historical mimicry (Veronika Landa), opinion resistances (Karíma Al- Mukhtarová), and also questions associated with borderline of death and immortality (Matouš Háša).

The Foyer entrance space declares the diversity and width of the Pragovka residents’ different works of the whole exhibition by a sample of dialectically very contradictory works based on systemic methods (Daniel Hanzlík, Jiří Matějů), emancipation from materiality (Filip Černý), and on method of Dadaist contextual time-lapse enclosed in the final output, which is an image-object (Vladimír Merta).

The second part of the Ko-laborace exhibition is situated in authentic spaces of a former canteen, kitchen and surrounding operating rooms and transit corridors. Here, the interconnection of authors is more spontaneous. In addition to the paintings (Matěj Hrbek, Ladislav Vlna), sculptures (Martin Káňa, Alessandra Svatek) and objects (Pasta Oner), there are also site-specific installations to a greater extent (Jana Preková; Michaela Munzarová - Marcel Rozhoň; Anežka Hošková; Martin Vlček, Lucie Nováčková), video-installations (Jakub Janovský), audio-visual installations (Jana Babincová Babincová – Pavla Zábranská; Daniel Hanzlík) and artistic interventions (David Helán, Pavel Šimíček). In its own way, Tomáš Prchala’s presentation of paintings with the themes of slaughtered animals in the space of a former kitchen is also a site-specific installation, as well as works of street art by David Strauzz located in the corridor in front of the canteen. The curatorial contribution to the topic of collaboration are two projects “within the exhibition” located in the canteen and in one of the adjacent spaces. The project in the canteen is called Studený buffet (The Cold Buffet) – a long dining table with a white tablecloth across the whole hall, on which the works of the invited residents are displayed. Whether it is an evocation of a plenary corporate meeting leading to collective collaborative conclusions, or the last supper on the eve of the fatal betrayal is up to each visitor. The second project is a site-specific installation with the working title “classroom”, where the composition of the interior gives the impression of an empty schoolroom. There are authorial and documentary videos placed on individual school desks for visitors. The abandonment of the space is intensified by the repeated movement of time media.

Photo: Marcel Rozhon