Curated by Stella Toonen
November 18, 2022 - January 14, 2023
In Gedankenexperiment, Czech artist Krištof Kintera presents his newest work in the form of an experiment that looks at the process of artistic creation. Through metaphors, poignant commentary and his characteristic sarcastic humour, Kintera offers an exploration of the questions, challenges and uncertainties that go into making art. The exhibition offers an experimental physical juxtaposition of a gallery space and a studio space, which leads to striking paradoxes between the current and the past, technology and art, and the presence and the absence of the artist in his works. Throughout both sides of the exhibition, Kintera’s fascination for electricity and industrial materials helps him test the limits of taking artistic control over natural forces, while the disarming characters in his Drawings test the boundaries of the artist’s agency in shaping the viewer’s experience.
The first part of the exhibition shows Kintera’s works in a traditional sterile white cube space, which celebrates artworks for their form against its stark bright walls. The Memorials of Past Light, gleamingly white at the centre of the room, embody a light – or even an enlightenment – that has been, now defined by the remnants of the tubes it has passed through. It raises questions of to what extent artworks are the traces left after the creative act, the relics of artistic ideas. The glass sculptures, of which other renderings were previously placed outside in forests, equally show the fragility of such traces, as well as suggest they might sometimes manifest themselves in the most unexpected of places.
The series of Drawings in this room complement this enquiry by looking at artistic creation from different angles. I’m Your Mother plays with the ‘mother as creator’ trope, while I’m Not Who I Look Like emphasises the disparity between intent and final presentation. How Do You Like Me? and Let Me Be Your Personal Advisor highlight how meaning is derived from the relationship between artwork and viewer, to which Kintera’s ambiguous characters add a certain level of absurdity or even unease. Release Me From Thinking adds a final cynical note to this discourse, with a sense of satire that so much typifies Kintera’s oeuvre.
The second part of the exhibition goes beyond the white cube walls and into the heart of where creation happens: the artist studio. Kintera gives us a rare insight into his process, which is often informed by contrasting nature with the man-made. Reminiscent of Dr Frankenstein’s laboratory, Kintera shows us his electrical Lichtenberg generator, which forces electricity through his materials to create Drawings that look natural and artificial in equal measures. While the neuron-like patterns it creates mirror powers that can be destructive, such as lightning bolts, Kintera prefers to use their power for creation instead, using the Lichtenberg technique to invent new species of electrical flowers, trees and root systems. They seem to sit in the same plant family as the sculptural work Astra Anthropocena, which sees fragile flowers bloom from a brusquely man-made tank base, similar to how creative ideas may find a way to mushroom from discarded conceptual waste.
Other works in this room, however, show that the artist’s process does not just build on the unwavering power of a determined artist-inventor. In fact, Kintera shows creation to be a much more meandering journey, influenced by emotions such as anxiety, courage and introspection. They form the intangible elements of artistic creation, perhaps the soul of it, which inhabits the art object that gives it a body. Next to Soul Without Body, the artwork Give Me A Chance (You Also Have a Chance) invites viewers to think about their own perceptions of the world and challenges them to conceptualise art as a complex discourse with multiple – sometimes contradictory – perspectives.
Throughout his work in this exhibition, Kintera also plays with the simultaneous presence and absence of the artist. Where in the white cube space the artworks have necessarily come to stand by themselves, albeit with visible traces from the artist’s mind and hands, the studio space gives the sense that Kintera has only just stood up and left the room and may return at any moment. While the space seems in temporary stillness, the seated figure in the window still creates the sense of a human presence, a shadow of the artist’s mind that never fully leaves the room.
Kintera’s artistic critical commentaries on contemporary issues often help viewers distance themselves from the familiar to consider new perspectives. Indeed, the exhibition provokes with bold statements, defies genres (his Drawings feature neither paper nor pencil) and gives a rare peek into what actually happens on the usually hidden artist’s workbench. As a result, Gedankenexperiment renegotiates the relationship between art and the artist, as well as with the viewer and the world outside.
Krištof Kintera (born 1973, Prague) is a major name among Czech artists working today. His work has been exhibited throughout the world, including in La Galleria Nazionale in Rome, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, Museum Tinguely in Basel, Haus der Kunst in Munich and in galleries and museums in New York, Sydney, Prague and Berlin. Recently, Kintera delivered a major public art commission for Kunsthalle Praha (opened November 2022) and was also chosen to provide a major public art installation for the new Dvorecký bridge in Prague, which started construction this summer.
The exhibition is curated by Stella Toonen, who works with Tate Modern and King’s College London as a researcher. She has also recently been appointed as director of World on our Doorstep, a new place-based arts programme in East London.
Supported by the Czech Centre Munich