Prague

View of “Esther Stocker and Jan Šerých,” 2011–12.

View of “Esther Stocker and Jan Šerých,” 2011–12.

Esther Stocker and Jan Šerých

View of “Esther Stocker and Jan Šerých,” 2011–12.

The point of departure of the exhibition “Lies and Layers: Esther Stocker and Jan Šerých” was an attempt to question the human predisposition to interpret perceived reality through an existing body of knowledge. The rational component of the human mind—its need for classification and, most importantly, its inability to avoid using its pre-existing systems of categorization when encountering new situations—frequently leads to reductive and superficial understandings of reality. Czech artist Šerých and his Italian-born, Vienna-based counterpart Stocker reject the idea of reality as a predefined, hermeneutically enclosed space. Opposing the conception of a universal body of knowledge that could serve as an adequate means of categorizing the world, they focus instead on the sensory apparatus and on intuition, which may contribute to a multilayered, heterogeneous perception of one’s environment.

In this exhibition, even the most basic characteristics of reality, time, and space became blurred, as did the boundary between truth and fiction. Resolution (all works 2011), an eight-minute video projection by Šerých, serves as a fitting example of this. In it, the spectator is confronted with a black screen with light dots continuously scintillating on it—actually a rapid succession of individual dots that, because of the afterimages they leave, give the illusion of being multiple. The voice-over may at first evoke a sense of continuity, but it has been stripped of any clear narrative, so that after a few moments, rational comprehension seems impossible. What at first appeared as a linear flow suddenly dissolves into discordant and fragmented information. Time seems to be passing forward and backward simultaneously, as does the countdown heard on the voice-over. Our understanding of time as a unidirectional path suddenly becomes inapplicable, and the feeling of control over space vanishes and is transformed into feelings of doubt and cognitive inadequacy.

For Stocker, best known for her spatial installations, space is a mental scenario and the medium that best enables her to articulate the emotional and the nonlinguistic. Her minimalistic interventions in space are thus frequently ambiguous in form as well as content. Alienation, uncertainty, confusion, and disorientation are the feelings typically evoked by her earlier, more radical work. Stocker continues to explore the field of the nonrepresentational; yet she seems more cautious than in the past, at best merely reiterating the formal earmarks of her earlier, more radical work. In comparison with Šerých’s, Stocker’s work here seemed timid. Rather than substantially transforming the space by means of her intervention, her work Open Form appeared to operate on a formal and decorative level. In it, squares and rectangles made of black foam board coming from and spreading in all directions covered various parts of the space. Yet these did not work to adjust the spectator’s perception of the familiar or show the difficulty of cognizing it adequately, thus resulting in a rather tepid aesthetic contemplation. The process of stimulating an alternative experience of reality might have begun in this work, but its completion is still yet to come.

Markéta Stará