Critics’ Picks

View of “Adam Vačkář: Citizen Archivist,” 2015.

View of “Adam Vačkář: Citizen Archivist,” 2015.


Adam Vačkář

Counter Space
Laternengasse 5
May 30–July 11, 2015

Adam Vačkář’s current solo exhibition, “Citizen Archivist,” features four tables presenting several objects, framed pictures on the walls, and a video projection—media and narrative into which the observer plunges with growing curiosity. On the tables, tall military boots catch one’s eye, as do an old globe, a teak elephant, musical supplies, and old pieces of sheet music, arranged neatly side by side. These are compositions by Václav, Dalibor, and Thomás Vačkář, the great-grandfather, grandfather, and uncle of the artist, respectively. The minimal arrangement corresponds to the aesthetic of the family treasures’ profane source: Adam Vačkář acquired all of these things on the Internet. Memory materializes from the World Wide Web.

In contrast, the four-part Risograph-print series on the wall—collages of official photographs of the artist’s maternal grandparents—seems a long way off. Václav and Claudia, 2015, shows the highly decorated grandfather, who was a hero of the resistance in the World War II, and the grandmother in operetta costume. Does the viewer need to know that they lived in the Czech community in the multiethnic city of Kiev in today’s Ukraine? Their fate takes on a topical dimension by dint of the war in the Eastern European country today. But the absurdity of European history can be experienced directly through the narrative of the objects. Their interplay receives a striking image in the video Uncle Tom’s Anamnesis, 2013–15. Vačkář sets a modernist flute concerto by his uncle Thomás, who committed suicide at age eighteen in 1963, to tracking shots over highways, through street canyons and subway tunnels, interrupted again and again by harsh cuts, interference that hinders and drives forward Vačkář’s story.

Translated from German by Diana Reese.