Svestka, Jiri Gallery 2006
A postconceptual diary. That was the characterization by a curator and todays director of Moravian Gallery in Brno, Marek Pokorný, of one of the mainstreams of the work of a Slovak universal author, Petra Feriancová (1977). He meant Petra s pictures and videoshots of the landscape and the everyday life, that stimulate the impression of being taken by chance, by the way. Under the same title By The Way, in the Prague gallery Jiří Švestka, the author introduces from 5. May to 3. June 2006 even the other aspects of her work from the last years. They are exhibited in form of pictures or videos, both the mentioned “diaries”, and the film stories created from the parts of authentic texts (personal letters), and the literary works.”The mixing of painting, photographs and videos is quite common for this generation”, asserts Jiří Švestka, the gallery keeper.” To Petra, does not matter which medium she uses. The message is always strong and convincing.” The guest of the show is a Norwegian multimedia artist, living in Prague, Jesper Alvaer. Although in the Jiří Švestka gallery there are presented works of Petra Feriancová from the years 2000 through 2006, the author refuses the statement that it is a retrospective. Apart from other reasons, her work still transforms itself and takes a different shape. The author enlarges new shots (and disposes of the old ones), prepares new selections, cuts her videos, recomposes whole cycles. Her attitude is not unlike the older story, that after years, we tell in a different way. “ I am not really talking about my own work, I talk about a selection. I am more of a spectator than a creator. And I would wish that my point of view was shared by other people, as well.” explains Petra.The centre of the show By The Way.. lies in videoinstallations and projections. In a whole, there will be five of them. Although it will be a premiere, great expectations are around the video To Whom It May Concern (2006) created by three parts- I Love My Mornings, Early Afternoons, 24 Can Be Good and Under Constable s Sky. In her work, Petra used authenthic texts between two related persons, that she cut and created a picture stylised story that addresses random people. The texts are in English, the audience will listen to a translation in headphones. In JIří Švestka Gallery there will be placed also the black boxes. In them there will be projected more videos. (the video Birds about the invasion of birds to Rome, that fits into Petra s more free cycle with the theme “ fear from the nature.”) The pictures shown at the exhibition By The Way are all connected to Great Britain. They are divided between Almost Blow Up cycle and Victorian Boredom. In the first series it is a free paraphrasis and quotations of the stilllives of the classical masters or a well known shots(affinity with Antonioni s opus is not coincidental). The second cycle thematically and very informally, also like an antithesis to still life painters (Gainsborough, Watteau, or Constable)works with the theme of London gardens and parks. “Petra is a typical author, who doesn t respect the boundries of states” says Jiří Švestka. “ She lived abroad for a long time, the Slovak nationality is not important for her at all. Petra s works are European and integrate the best from todays Europe. Even this is one of the common traits with the globetrotter Jesper Alvaer, The Graduate from the Academy of Fine Arts with M. Knížák. He introduces a video in the gallery, that was born during his voyage through Morocco, through the remaining berber tribes. Similarly like in Petra s works, he works with communication, concretely the fading dialects. This fits well into Jesper s longterm interest in communities. To his most famous projects belongs also the Chinese Whisper, dedicated to the Chinese and Vietnamese communities in the Czech Republic.
PetraFeriancová: The retrospectives are not for me.
Petra, you yourself are inhibited to mark the show By The Way as a retrospective. Why? Are there missing any of your best works from the last three or four years?
In my opinion, it is actually a thematic show, defined by the title itself. I introduce one totally new project- To Whom It May Concern, in which I work with the materials of the older date, born between 1998 and 2004. It is the only one retro moment. Otherwise, the exhibition is a totally unique premiere, as well as the works of my guest, Jesper Alvaer. It is not then a retrospective. And the idea of a retrospective scares me a little. I consider a retrospective a show of a serious and a well known author, who has his/her audience, but is a little bit after his/her best years. I would therefore feel as If I led my friends to an imaginary jukebox, and forced them to listen to flash songs – Best of... and that they must, poor them, pay for it.
A word storyboard, or a literary collage, belongs to the essential works of By the Way, To Whom It May Concern. In this shape, the projections will be introduced for the first time? And have you registered any reactions already?
I don t think that the term literary colage is appropriate for To Whom It May Concern. I work with the authentic texts in it, not with literature. Anyway, the project will be introduced to the audience for the first time in the gallery of Jiri Svestka. But I have spent so much time with the video, that I am afraid if I am not losing my judgment. I know it by heart, to the least detail. A work in itself is a Czech translation (by Marek Tomin) of the letters and their fragments, that the audience can listen to in the headphones. I dont want it to sound pretentious, but for this reason the video didn t begin to bore me: as I said, I know it to the very detail, but from time to time, something comes up that surprises me. A few people have seen To Whom It May Concern, whose opinion I appreciate and who have helped me a lot.
Quite substantial part of your older work is connected to the topography of places, to travelling, the countryside.... You document that with several projections on your exhibition. Is it somehow connected with the core of your work- that is, “on the way”?(motion in time and space as a basic motif and attitude to work...)
It seems so. But I don t occupy myself by it on purpose, I am like that. That is my reality. But only one work was connected purely with travelling, that is, Gran Tour 01, when I travelled through whole Italy with a disposable camera. The last period of my life is quite athypical: I am settled in Bratislava and I am trying to work in a more conventional way, regularly and concentrated. And I can say that I liked better the dynamics and obstacles. I compensate it with the fact, that my little daughter is sitting on my knees most of the time.
The daughter Lota... she was the central character of the works that were exhibited last year on the Bienal in the Trade Fair Palace in Prague, her picture is also on the invitation to By The Way. Are you a part of that group of authors, that ostentatively show what motherhood means to them, and what influence it had on their work?You lived in Italy for seven years, and for some time in London. Can you therefore confirm that art is in its core international? Can you overcome linguistic and cultural barriers without any troubles? And can your audience do so?
Well, I am myself very curious of the reactions of the audience, I am quite excited. For all of the exhibited videos and pictures, their active attitude is essential. And cultural barriers? I think that there are some, and it is good that they exist. It is concerning also the language, I myself call it a “conservation of pride”, that is also manifested by a fact, that I hitherto haven t learned appropriate English.
It seems to me, that the world of art and artists is everywhere local and small, divided into little groups of people. From time to time the best ones manage to penetrate to a different group. Otherwise the world of artists is small, ridiculously small. On the other hand it is big enough so that the artists are more sympathetic and generous to each other and so that there is enough space for self-realization. Still better, than sitting at home all the time.
When I quickly scan your current show, I find works with literary text, pictorial travel diaries, and transmutation of the artistic originals, works that cover with the ideas memory - experience- imagination, almost blasphemic attitudes from the point of view of the classical stilllife artists... Would you try to find a common element within the broad spectrum of expressions and themes?
I am the glue element, although it may sound quite awkward. I am interested in a whole lot of things, and it doesn t have to be any program interest. I don t want to bore and underestimate my audience, and therefore I believe, that they can identify lots of meanings and messages in fragments and don t need any clues or retrospectives. I judge it from my own behavior- sometimes I intentionally refuse complete information about my colleagues, the artists. And I also part from the fact, that I admire people, who are interested and curious.
The videoprojection To Whom It May Concern actually touches the motif of communication- the crisis of communication. Because you work with the authenthic texts, it is possible to perceive your work as a personal expression, or you also address more general problems? And could you expand a little bit on the idiom “ the crisis of communication”, that is used so often, that we perceive apathically of it?
I touched it a little bit, when I mentioned the incompleteness of information about the author and his/her work. For me it is a prerequisite and a way towards a positive end- a successful communication. I don t really speak about my own work, I talk about my own selection. I am actually more of an audience than an author. And I wish that my point of view was shared by more people. It is shown on the To Whom It May Concern: it is not the texts written by myself, but only my selection, just that somebody else could do the same thing. We have drawn this principle to an end with Jesper Alvaer, when we mutually interchanged the videos and we cut them by ourselves.
But I have to come back to To Whom It May Concern. When it was being created I put attention to time, situation and space, that a spectator can imagine. Just like we imagine a lot of things in our lives. Although the letters were addressed to me, I tried to underestimate my person to maximum. I spared the picture, because words are a lot stronger, and yet they allow the selection. I noticed that the audience is interested in the development and the crisis, therefore I have chosen the narrative form in To Whom It May Concern.
Do you feel, that the lesser ability to communicate, in the broadest sense, lies in an inaccurate and misleading description of one s mood, the lower sense of empathy, or in the fact that feelings and emotions are still more further from a person?
The crisis of communication... On the other hand I think that it happens because we are totally emotionally informed, but there is a missing will to share. In my work, at least, that s what happens. I think that I am not to create something with the intention for somebody else to live through it.
Do you admit, that similarly to your guest of your show Jesper Alvaer, you consume a whole lot of material or memory- in a videocamera and the camera. What is the essence of your work: shooting and picturetaking, or a retro edition, and synthesis of the pictures and the shots?
I would almost say, that I greatly enjoy when I watch the taken pictures and shots. The following edition, and choice is a matter of a chance, work of a given mood. But to be precise- I don t cut a lot, or I dispose of everything. Maybe I once make a show of all of the disposed shots and never enlarged photos. The fact that they were born, that they exist, entitles them to something.
Do you think a lot in advance, about your films? For example the last year s movie Prague Spring that was connected to the river Vltava and random objects floating in the water, seemed that it was born by a complete chance.
Yes, it was born by chance. There was a bag caught in the water, and the current was playing with it. I went to shoot it every day, for the whole week. At the end I presented shots from just one day. Not because they would be better or worse, or more special than the others. Simply, throughout the week the weather, the depth of the water and its colour were changing, and actually the state of the poor bag, too. Then I just showed one day, and it was enough.