Gavulova, Lucia: INTERVIEW Profile of Contemporary Visual Art, 2011
You graduated in Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. Was there a period when you intentionally did painting? How did you get from painting to the conceptual production with the usage of different media and how long did it take?
Very important for me were studies at the department of propagational arts at the Secondary Art School under the lead of Milan Bočkay, Marián Meško and Vladimír Kordoš. There I understood how much I am, as for expression, free. At the Academy of Fine Arts, where I was accepted to the department of painting, I could not at first decide for the media and then could not at all in a concentrated way develop my work in the common studio. When I then left for Italy, I developed the capacity to work individually in full manner and the projects followed one after another, independently from the media. Their uniqueness was for me a challenge. The painting remains for me the strongest, however not the expression media. I am convinced, that a good painting should describe itself. It is an hermetic and interpretational thing, that is necessary to train every day like the playing the violin or tennis.I think that today painters could be masters, but with difficulty will they be artists. Bad painting of which there is plenty demotivates me. And I am also demotivated by its interpretational limits. If I chose painting I would be betraying myself, because it would be a decision excluding my basic need to create. And although I secretly still paint and draw ( and it is a satisfactory feeling, first because I am not depending on it). At the same time I admit, that a given thing of these practises is the fact, that they are born in secret and unintentionally ,that is, that they must be born.
In connection with your work the terms like appropriation and postproduction are being mentioned. Is there anything , that is not being mentioned in context with your work,, that you perceive as important?
Up to these days I haven’t really understood why I am connected with this terminology. I don’t think that appropriation is a method with which I would work or develop it. Similarly with postproduction/ I admit, I have never intentionally worked with it. The fact that I work with already existing material is a question of utility, saving, and the fact that it is much more likely that I will be fascinated by the work that I have not created. And that is my point and I enjoy it much more than suggesting my own art to people. The art has to have a reason to be, and besides the fact, for example that I get up in the morning, and the decision, that today I take a paper and a pen to my hands, it is well to know, that on the other side there is already some physical original already existing, that is interesting enough, that I want to work with it. As a very important fact connected to my work I would mention that I work with the archives of my relatives. My dad as well as my Grandpa were collecting interesting things, either in connection to their professison, or publications or teaching, or within the creation of a collection. My Grandpa collected knives, fossils, African masks. And therefore it is rather natural, that I work with collecting, cathegorizing, and evaluating and the continual cleaning. I enjoy it, I like museal work, to discover, to name and to make accessible. This is in short what I do.
In connection with your work you often don’t talk of your “work” rather than a “selection”. You are more of a viewer than a creator. You often emphasize the formal aspects of your works, the work with material, form, and the way of realization. I sometimes feel like as if all your methods and definitions of your own work should represent a subtle protective barrier. As if for you the appropriation of works of different artists or material of members of your family or acquaintances and postproductional interventions to your own works, represented a possibility/a necesssity of a certain distance that you evidently need to acquire, or a protection from the complete uncovering of your own self, although the choice of personal themes, experiences, work with family archives could lead to an emotion, that you are partly directed to it. You though are not uncovering yourself through your work. Sometimes you touch very personal matters (To whom it may concern), you do not provide a direct commentary. Is this your intentional strategy or am I thinking of something unimportant?
No, you are thinking exactly of what I should think, but I avoid it. Maybe it is a complicated theme for a commentary. My aim is morality in general, and I suppose that the most utilitary is to demonstrate it on the basis of formal thematization, and when the motif , I believe, remains clear. Sometimes it is personal and urgent up to a point that I myself can’t get over it. And neither I want to.And I don’ t want to lure the spectator to this level. I don’t want to confess neither I want to make commitments. It is evidently just my own interest, the uncovering(that I don’t want to explicitely evaluate), because it comes from my own experience, that a spectator is not present and I want it to stay this way. And when a viewer regards my work as personal, it is a matter of his/her own projection to it. Therefore I much rather concentrate on description of formal operation. To be short: in connection with the originals it is connected with the desire of owning them, and this relationship is very physical. During revising and the return to my own things I first leave them, and only when I stop hating them, that is, I don’t conceive of them as my own(many people have this feeling) I manage to come back to them.
In your work there is present the parametre of time on different levels. You affirm that time is important for you from the “physicality” point of view, therefore its real flow in the process of the origin of a work- from the idea in author’s head to presentation of its final image. On the other hand there is present the dimension of time when we think of ruptures in it, when you work with images of the past and images of the present at the same time, you connect them, you combine. How and in what the time and its reflection is attractive and important in your work?
For me an important function of my work is the ability to measure time in general, and also measure my own time. And concretely, material function of a work, that becomes the means of measuring time, just like stopwatch (like for example in the videos Backward Forward (2006)), when it was a compression, a record of a winding tape and its deformed image, Insomnia (2008) or 5 minutes (2009),where it was editing respecting one second as a length of a shot. Or when time becomes a building material, just like in Play (2009), where an A4 format, one following another in space, becomes measure building up to a point, that even white printed dialogues we don’t perceive as an emptiness. The installation creating a certain static axis, because also the beginning and the end are happening in one space and it is possible to confront it in whatever the place, is also measure building. The place indicates time and the latter identifies the previous. As another example I can mention Film (2009), where I carried the Zenit 1977 with me and took shots, that I later classified according to numbers on the film, creating pairs. Some depicted a completely different places and situations, some where just a shift, dividing a couple of seconds from each other. The nature of the picture was secondary, when we take into consideration the importance of its shape and a line, dividing shots, representing time.What and how I work in general, is not just in concrete projects, how I subconsciously return to the older things, I recompose them, there will be a continual necessity to balance, create a new resume. These works are divided by years, they verify my relationship to them and changes in it. I test the feebleness, the impossibility of things to totalize, although each one try has this ambition( minimally in time that belongs to it). Another thing that I consider important is the fact that I avoid present time(and I must admit not only in my work).I work with the material that was born for a different aim backwards or on the other hand I identify certain rules- a method I will follow. In the moment of the origin of a basis of a work I am, as the author in fact not present.In both cases.
What are your plans and visions of a future working with super 8, the 16mm film?
Both to super 8 and 16mm film you need either a lot of money or Martin Ježek, who is a fanatic and technically smart, and can bring something that lost its function again to light. And in a very original way. And it is this bringing to function or spoiling and destroying things that interests me the most, and therefore I will work with these techniques in cooperation with him. I don’t see a sense in overbudgeting the exhibition production just because the 16mm and super 8 are going through revival and experience great success in exhibition spaces.
To the cooperation with different artists ( Ježek, Alvaer): it is possible to conceive of it as of a team work. What does teamwork mean to you? What does it give you?
I initiated the cooperation with Jesper Alvaer at my first solo exhibition in the Jiří Švestka gallery in Prague (By the Way 2006), where I besides our mutual project presented three channels video To Whom It May Concern (2006)- an edit of love letters from my ex-partner. I turned to Jesper with a concrete proposal to give him my records. (Hi 8), that he can do whatever he likes. I did not know Jesper up to that time, I only knew one of his works, on the basis of which I have made this decision. The material on tapes was of absolutely private character, without any evident ambition to become an artwork, just like in case of my materials, photographs.
I first asked Martin Ježek for technical advice. And since then I have been thinking how to drag him in further cooperation. It stroke me to build it on the instructions, that is a way of work, that we share. The collective project was based on a day spent in Bratislava and the rules, that you do not control as the author. The story of the activity was given by time. We had stopwatch and each hour Martin made one twosecond shot and I did one slide. We spent the day wandering around the city talking sometimes together and sometimes each alone, but we always respected the time, regardless of what we were doing. I did not at all concentrate on the character of a picture, I wanted just to catch the reality. My responsibility was also the logistics, the programme, and good mood. Martin besides of this also dedicated to the sound, therefore he recorded everything that we were talking about for the whole 24 hours, that he later decided to comprime to the few minutes the film is long.
What about your relationship to literature/text?
My relationship to literature is reflected in work Ad Vocem Ad Spectatores 2009, to which you wrote a very good text. On a wooden board I placed two A4 sheets, one vertically, one horizontally.One represents text – has a format of a book, the horizontal one represents picture. All of my photographs are horizontal. A picture has a nature of a horizon, just like canvas in the cinema, monitor and most of children’s pictures. It is mostly landscape, it spreads. This simple operation can be therefore understood as a critique of a picture. The text has a tendency to save space, it is a reduction after all, also in scripture itself. The text therefore for me means explicity, maximum usability and functionality of space.
I personally can’t avoid the impression that in Slovakia your work as if it haven’t found enough admireres, or enthusiasts, as if it resonated still more „abroad“. Also slovak critics are reserved as for the reflection, whereas abroad it is perceived in a very positive way. It is not a secret that your work is admired by personalities like Jiří Švestka, who represents you at the same time, and who during his lecture in October 2010, to a question who belongs to his favourite contemporary artist openly mentioned your name. How do you perceive this difference between reflection of your work here in Slovakia and abroad?
I don’t take amiss to anybody, when they don’t have a relationship to my work. Rather the other way around. I am grateful, that since my return to Slovakia I managed to meet the right people (including you), whose work and opinion I appreciate. In general I think ( and it will be because we talk of a small city, that is at the same time the capital)that here are the lack of information and orientation. Even for the people from the branch it is not common to relate daily to contemporary art. The local offer is opinionmaking, just like anywhere else. And therefore people perceive and think of art on the basis of what is presented to them mainly in our periferial capital. You cannot blame anybody. In Vienna we know MuMOk and Boesner, some only know Boesner. And it is a pity. I appreciate the fact that in Czech Republic someone has confidence in me. People there verbalize and create their opinions not only to what is imminently touching them- and here I see the main difference. Discussion is very necessary and here in Bratislava it is totally absent. I see the problem also in the perception itself. As if we expected of a visual work the completeness of an opera with the manual. Sometimes I am surprised, when I hear what the audience searches for and is not finding it.
Your relationship to a viewer is a continual subject of your search and you prefer not to make opinion of the opinions of the others. Accommodation or not towards the viewer becomes a criteria itself in your work The criteria of what?
First of all the criteria of knowing myself. My point is, that I in confrontation with the viewer coud think and be headed somewhere. Unfortunately, I sometimes feel like I grow more when I sit in bed for a month and scribble to a drawer. Therefore I still have existential talk as for the work being. Because there are few reasons for it “to be”. And as for the closure production, I still haven’t reached a moment, when I would be professional enough, that I would let the work go with a fact that I will not and I do not want to be present during its presentation. I am still curious about the image of a viewer,who stands in front of my work and feels the way I feel, or something similar, or he/she is totally helpless. For me it makes sense to exhibit when I create a space for discussion, when I learn.
You often recall or express to a relationship author(that is you) and your work. Is the readability of your work in relationship to a viewer important? Is it not important mainly the fact that an artist should exhibit his work in the most possible congruence with his/her conviction up to the perfection and let it live its own life?
It is important for me that I myself can read the work, and that there is what to read. That a work is interesting and foreign to me ( also if it is my own piece) up to the point that I am not revising it, but I watch it together with the viewer (and here my relationship to the viewer probably begins and ends). There is why I enjoy losing things or putting my own things away, I work with the works of others, or I state my own limits, rules, that limit my own creative capability. I am aware that I create situations that are not welcoming to a viewer. It is not my intention to put traps in relationship to him/her/- therefore to myself. I only try to reduce my own control in my work. It is not bad to realize that the author’s intentions connected to messages are totally useless. I cannot influence the life, as you call it, or survival of a work, and neither I want to, also if it seems that by returns and the continual throwing older things into plenus I am doing so. But in such case it is not my point to revive them, but rather to reevaluate them. In general for me it is important my own capacity to be a viewer, that is, a possibility to share, given by creating or stating a situation, when I as the author have not the origin or the birth of a work under control. It is in forestating of rules or their subsidiary codification.
What works did you exhibit at the last shows that you participated-concretely at Loophole to happiness in Trafo gallery in Budapest and Tales and Poems in White Fish Tank in the italian Ancona?
Loophole to Happiness is a group exhibition curated by Maya and Reuben Fowkes. They have chosen a series of originally sixteen photographs from the cycle Playgrounds, depicting public spaces, precisely playgrounds in Bratislava at the beginning of seventies. Playgrounds are originally black and white slides, that have been photographed by my dad. I am not familiar with the original aim of their origin, they have been born before my birth. Most probably it was a documentation within the presentation about spaces to spend free time in. I very much like this cathegory. In slides I got to know places that I visited a long time ago, and where I lately accompanied my daughter. In my pictures as if by mistake remain romantic ruins of originally playgrounds, that for sure had ambitious aesthetic aspirations, they after all were practically the only apolitical work in our public space. All playgrounds were original, at the expense of safety ( I believe, that most of them were designed by childless males). I enlarged and adjusted the pictures on plates leant against a ruler of my father, that created a sort of support, a shelf.
In Ancona I had a great space at disposition that was full of technical defects. I decided for a discursive thing, in which I return to text and its verbal and written forms. I processed the disposed envelopes, that I have found at my friends’ cottage, where we were about to use them to make fire. One pile aspirated on the Story 2010, and another, a little smaller pile on the Poem 2010. It was a visual bomb that I processed as a measure. Another new project at this exhibition were pictures of afterwar manual about modern living. They were furnished flat spaces without the presence of a man, that I conceived of as if of theatrical scenes ( shortly before starting or shortly before the end of a theatrical piece). I added passages of direct speech to the pictures, parts of dramatic scena, however pathetic, but at the same time within the environment of our everyday living – not impossible. I exhibited also a series with the title Tools (2010)- a collection of tables (desks and kitchen tables), understood as platform for words/communication. Written and verbal.
One of your New Year’s resolutions is a renewal of writing a diary. What do scriptures like this mean to you? Do you potentially count on them as with a part of some of your future work?
I write a diary because of the continual feeling of my own futility and boredom such as I hear the leaves grow. That leads me to a conviction that this will change, when I evaluate or shorten the time, and reduce it to an A5 page in a moleskin. From time to time I sit to write in a diary and retroactively reconstruct my week. I don’t, however, reread my diaries. But they exist, and they are a monument of the reconstruction of my past being. I have panic attacks from the thinking of the future, and I conceive of the quality of the present, that in a moment it will be gone and becomes worth a record.
What are your favourite contemporary artists?
There is a lot of them and also I have favourite single pieces by different artist.Alice Neel have come to my mind in connection to your first question. If I were to paint then I would like to paint like her. I am at this time also interested in David Conroy, with whom I spent a couple of intensive talks within his exhibition in amt(amt_ project gallery in Bratislava and the exhibition She has the sense of limited time, exhibiting artists: Cyril Blažo, David Conroy and Martin Vongrej, curator: Petra Feriancová). Lately in London I have been caught by Otolyth Group (Anjalica Sagar and Kodwo Eshun) and on the basis of my own image from the description by Daniel Grúň, Zbyněk Beltrán and Tomáš Vaněk, I very much like the project of Erik Beltrán at the Manifesto 8 in Murcia.
What are your nearest creative plans, or internal vision of the year 2011?
Ideally, I would like if people needed something from me all the time, because I do need to be useful. And also this feeling of uselessness of visual art in general... it is really not pleasant. It is also perceived as an extra thing, which is not necessary for life. And I do want it to be necessary. Or otherwise I will go to bake bread in a bakery.
PS: I just got to know that after nearly a month I will have a solo exhibition in ISCP in New York. I am really excited!