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DOX looks at the tenuous relationship Czechs have to their home
Posted: October 16, 2013
Courtesy Photo: © DOX
An image from Daniel Pešta's "I Was Born in Your Bed"shows what seems to be a class photo.
A new exhibition as DOX Center for Contemporary Art called "Where is my home?" attempts to deal with Czech cultural identity by mapping its permutations through time. More than a simple exhibition, it attempts to throw in a healthy dose of public initiative and urban empowerment.
The project started in July, with an appeal to the general public for art that would explore the idea of Czech identity by answering the simple question posed in the show's title. The organizers wanted to point out that Czech people have a general tendency toward "hiding out in privacy and ceasing to take part in public issues - ceasing to create a broader, communal home in their cities, districts and regions." More than 400 artists responded by sending in 1,300 works. DOX also proceeded to create an initiative called "We're making places better," which consists of a web application where people can voice their ideas for the betterment of the public spaces in and around their home.
For those unfamiliar with the Czech anthem, the very first words are "Kde domov můj?" which translate to "Where is my home?" This idea of rootlessness, this constant insecurity about what one may call his or her own, is one of the fundamental themes of this show. It attempts to show this age-old characteristic of the Czech psyche in a contemporary light.
Only 62 works of the1,300 submitted works are being exhibited. The rest are older works by other Czech authors that are centered on similar themes, such as the relationship between public and private space, or political, as opposed to personal, identity.
Kde domov muj?
When: To Jan. 13, 2014
Where: Dox Center for Contemporary Art
The exhibition offers a wonderful showcase of the Czech cultural landscape from the Velvet Revolution up to today. A small photo series from 1989 entitled "Czech Men" by photographers Jasanský and Polák aptly and humorously shows the basic male archetypes that walked the streets during the Velvet Revolution.
The scope of the exhibition spans from the pedestrian, personal level all the way to addressing major political issues, such as the Czech Republic's tenuous relationship with Russia in "The Big Zip" by Alexander Lyakhovich, the complicated political situation in post-war Sudetenland in Zdena Kolečková's "BF = Best Friend," or the changing role of international immigrants, documented in the photo series "We Are From the Same Planet."
One of the most powerful art pieces is Daniel Pešta's video installation "I Was Born in Your Bed," which deals with the complicated issue of the Roma minority. The two looped videos show a class of school children and teenagers of Roma descent standing as if for a school photo. A man off camera calls the children one by one by their names, upon which the called youngster pulls a burlap sack over his or her face. The effect of seeing the children in this way completely robbed of their identity is disturbing, and Pešta manages to point at Czech society's creeping tendency toward racism and its latent taste for segregation.
After one strolls through the exhibition, the title question remains unanswered. The art pieces simply succeed in mirroring the issues that Czech society faces. Sometimes, this picture is not pretty, but it is necessary to face it.
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