text for expert media (published: Ateliér no. 12 / 95,
30. May 1995 , str. 6) to the exhibition Weird Games
20. 4. – 21. 5. 1995, Gallery of Václav Špála, Prague, March 1995
Do We Know What We Know?
Irena Jůzová's exhibition in the Gallery of Václav Špála from 20.4. to 21.5.1995 was the author's debut. Jůzová graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague in studio of Aleš Veselý in 1994.
To master rugged and sometimes unpleasantly disturbing space in Špála’s gallery is not easy – especially for the type of artist such as Irena Jůzová for whom space is an important part. Irena Jůzová is an artist of strong ideas and consistent vigorous act (although she never loses sensitivity), and so finally she has succeeded altogether in the difficult task. At the beginning of her work was the basic idea occurring rather long only in the imagination and feelings than on a paper: by the whole installation the artist wanted to cause as much feeling and sense of close physical contact between the viewer and the work, intensely involve into „game“ viewer’s psyche, but also intellect. The author forces the viewer to think about the meaning and significance of the whole matter. From the beginning it was clear that in her installation a very important role would play movement, but also texts, revealing the artist's attitude and view at life, which has matured for several years. Specific plan of the exhibition was created gradually and in many cases randomly.
In the entrance part a visitor passes through a fan gate among blade of knives while listening to crackling sounds of the sound of electric discharge, which dominates in the room and which enhances the feeling of tension. Having overcome a passage gate a visitor reads two exhibited texts – framed article xeroxs, and he is quite bluntly, „set“ to the reality of the world where he lives. On one part there is hung the article Terror of New Age, having read this we unmercifully realize without some humanistic embellishment that a human being is essentially a beast, though he assigns the role of the wisest and most humane beings on earth. On the other part there is hung the article Do We Know What We Know, which laughs at the naive arrogance of a human who think without a reason that before him there does not exist any secret and that everything in the universe can be identified and described to the latest particle. In another part of the exhibition, in a small corridor directly on the wall, there is quoted a short extract of the Marquis de Sade: ,In everyone's life may come a day when an accident or a kiss, a few drops of rain or a dream or a view of the night or indifferent conversation, snatches our whole being from the environment in which we have grown and plunges us into contradictions which we have despised yet." The text develops the previous texts: a human being, but the whole society must cope with the possibility that he has lived his whole life (maybe a whole historical period) in illusion. The next part of the exhibition is technical objects and apparatus. Most emotion awakens the object in the basement, in which she used the skeleton of a deckchair from discarded medical magnetic tunnel. The deckchair moves in an enclosed plexiglass box in which at the two sides there are adjusted enlarged photographs of places, relating to the author's personal experiences from childhood, and which are glued with small squares from damascus. As the motion of deckchair touches a raw nerve: in memories for a materialistic perceived world there are already indeed dead and got off, but in mind and imagination of a man there are still alive and present, even though elusive and changeable. The idea about the elusiveness of some phenomena and their transformations also evokes the artwork in the dark basement, where she enlarged her drawings from a sketchbook at a light- sensitive basis. The basement is a peaceful place where the pictures of hastily sketched line shapes flicker and after a moment when by a light of charged layers fade they completely disappear. Jůzová by her concept reacts at one of the dominant contradictions of today's era. Over the last few centuries, we (at least we, modern descendants of enlightened Western European civilization, determined by scientific material conception)used to a model of a human to the world which assumes the evolutionary development of society.
According to this conception, a human is an all governing being who is sure that all phenomena in the universe, including a human mind can be understood by scientific analysis and forever invariably described and archived. After some time, according to this optimistic vision a human would just sit at a table next to a pile of encyclopedias (or disks) and would have nothing to do, because everything will have been already measured and recorded. However the matter is not so simple. Thus, for example, though world renowned biologist and founder of sociobiology, Edward O. Wilson, stated that the myth of evolution and the scientific approach to the clarification of the world is for him above all, he notes that all the statement definitively cannot be proved and cannot be taken as generally valid. The consequence of this and similar considerations is a feeling of crisis, insecurity and helplessness from the human destiny. The root of trouble is in this case that, as stated for example French philosopher Paul Ricoer that "modern rationality has become instrumental rationality and thus exhausted its liberating potential. Modernity is thus identified with the Enlightenment and then a crisis arises from not kept promises of enlightment. Also here again a question of postmodernism arises, which is itself the crisis of modernity.
If we try to set Irena Jůzová’s work into a stream or label it by a sticker, it would be difficult to succeed. Her exhibition is intended for a person who is willing to enter into the work itself, to live through it or to think it out and draw (or not to draw) from it for himself a conclusion. It can be identified as postmodern in a broader historical context given that it reacts at the questions asked about the meaning of one large epoch.