Pokorný, Marek: See you in Weikendorf 2012
Art and artworks always relate, although in quite a vicarious way, to something beyond themselves, beyond the world of art. The lie of autonomy consists in conscious displacement of the founding act – the work becomes art especially and solely due to the fact that it has preserved (even within an institution that defines it as a work of art) its relation to what is not art yet (or any more). Works that do not show this relation, or in which such a relation cannot be traced, are not art or do not allow to be perceived as art. Anything else, though looking like art, is not art. More precisely, it is not art any more (or yet). The modus operandi is not decisive. If art does not bring you back to yourself, to your practice (no matter how vicarious or unprompted its ways may be), then it fails as art.
I have seen Petra Feriancová’s first individual exhibition, consisting of large-scale photographs installed under the ceiling of an exhibition hall, not only as a fascinating, personal statement on the relationship between the figure and the site or as an utterly subjective appropriation and reworking of
the landscape genre, but also as a reflection of the paradigm of the artwork’s presence in
the institutionalised space of its presentation. I found this double aspect in the work of the artist, then completely unknown to me, i.e. the purely intimate, spontaneous origin and dimension of the artistic gesture and its precise, sophisticated setting in the context of exhibition practice, very surprising and unexpected. On the one side there were photographs, each of them telling its specific story and showing something impossible to grasp no matter how familiar it may be; on the other side there was an excellent example of the fact that the artist is very well aware of the possibilities and limits of the traditional exhibition hall in which any subtle, lyrical or personal confession immediately becomes factualised and transformed in the object of various interests.
I still do not know to what extent the decision to make the installation above the eye level had been rational and to what extent it was an intuitive understanding of the situation – Petra Feriancová was then certainly referring to the documentation of 19th century exhibitions, however the consequences of this choice for the interpretation and the overall meaning of the project were most probably slightly outof control. Also on my side, I have discovered only retrospectively in this first individual performance of Petra Feriancová a certain code that would later become symptomatic for all
her subsequent projects and exhibitions. Since then, I have always done my best to follow them and in some cases to even help their coming into existence – in Prague or in Brno.
In any case, on that hot day in Rome I had become a witness, completely by chance, of a kind of coming out, of an extremely young artist owning up to the basic principles of her future work. To put it plainly, her work and exhibitions are always set on two poles – structure and narrative, image and text, intimacy and publicity, memory and immediate experience, the medium and meaning, appropriation and intervention, discovery and searching. Nevertheless, Petra Feriancová has never aimed to bring two different conflicting concepts to a head, but on the contrary to visualize the continuum flowing in both senses between them. It is as if you found yourselves in a power field in which you can feel the tension, but without being able to precisely localise its source. As a matter of fact, it is all quite simple, almost physiologically present, even if you do not see or understand how it happens.
In fact, so little will often do. For instance to make a photo of what anyone can see and what is more or less repeated every day as a variation on the given theme, and to replace this familiar reality with an image. The dispositive exhibition hall thus turns into a positive and
the unperceived routine becomes obvious fact; the rational analysis of an institutional situation structure is transformed into a story; private illumination is getting visualised and publicised; the record changes into a monument and the artwork for public space into a fully subjective, vulnerable gesture. This strategy can be compared to the sophisticated transparency
of Dan Graham’s pavilions, which multiplies, questions and debates the position of the viewers by means of relativisation of their view, or to the black-and-white light-boxes of Jeff Wall as highly intelligible constructions of immediacy, not racking anyone’s brain in the case of photographic record.
From this point of view, the work of Petra Feriancová for Weikendorf is in fact ingenuous, without being naïve, since it consciously deals with well-known strategies as a subject (thus distracting their alienating effect and drawing one’s attention to what makes the agent of the work itself, and not its precondition). The whole precarious situation of the site-specific project is established through her restrained, but at the same time dictating presence (it is her who pressed the shutter release “right there”), and defined as a “friendly alien”: She therefore only adds something that has disappeared. And she only takes in what wishes to be included. She is showing the work of art as a subjectively constituted, but objectively functioning construction, making it possible to return to the everyday, where it has been used merely as a visual aid to show something that everybody knows. At the end of the day, what is left from
the work of art is only what has been here before, but even the locals suddenly recognize it: the place where you have never been before.