Artforum / article / Ivan Svoboda, Ondrej Brody & Kristofer Paetau, Martin Kohout, Mark Ther

When the Neighbor Came to Make a Phone Call
GALERIE PETRA VANKOVA
Schönleinstraße 32
February 5–March 12

25-02-2011 08:00 | Travis Jeppesen

A quiet resentment has been evident in relations between Czechs and Germans for much of the past century. Among other events, the expulsion by force of more than three million ethnic Germans residing in the Czech Sudetenland following World War II has left an unhealed scar that forms the symbolic border dividing the two nations. A new short film work by Mark Ther, Pflaumen (Plums), 2011, poignantly examines this affair through the simple story of a young Sudeten German boy and his mother. Alongside a new work by Ondrej Brody and Kristofer Paetau, it is one of the highlights in this group exhibition, which also includes pieces by Martin Kohout and Ivan Svoboda, gathering bold new statements in young Czech art.

It could be said that the goal of Brody and Paetau’s ongoing collaborative project is to test the permissive limits of the “contemporary.” While it might be true that “anything goes” in contemporary art (as long, presumably, as one can sell it), effectively signaling the death of the avant-garde, these artists still manage to find novel ways to shock, disgust, and offend in their interventionist actions, which in the past have included vomiting at art fairs, making carpets out of dog fur, and performing uninvited analingus on a male curator at an opening. In their latest video, Ein lebendiger Gartenzwerg in Bad Ems (Live Garden Gnome in Bad Ems), 2010, the pair hired Josef Zeman, a Czech actor of small stature, to embody a garden gnome––that universal symbol of rural German kitsch––in the Rhineland village of Bad Ems. The action not only furthers the artists’ excavation of bad taste but characteristically serves as a sociopolitical provocation, as a narrator in the work points out (in absurdly German-accented English): “A recent problem was the production of cheap garden gnomes by plagiarism, which came . . . from Eastern Europe. Accordingly, the Live Garden Gnome in Bad Ems also comes from Eastern Europe since it was cheaper than a German one.”

source: Artforum International Magazine
author: Travis Jeppesen

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