Fotograf Magazine

Daniela & Linda Dostálkovy

Together in Different Roles

Linda is a well-known graphic designer; Daniela is a professional
photographer specialising in photo-documentation. But in the world of
contemporary art, they are known primarily as a creative tandem, the
Dostálková sisters. They present their free art on one website and they
are often referred to as an inseparable, though not quite traditional duo of
artists: their online portfolio includes both individual and common projects
where sometimes one of the sisters has the role of the curator and the
other one is the exhibitor. These variations break the preconceived ideas
of a creative duo as two unchanging and equal halves of an indivisible
whole. The freedom in assuming various roles, crossing the borders of art
disciplines, and the (conceptual and factual) balancing between the sphere
of commercial orders and the symbolic “high art” exchange have been
characteristic for the Dostálková sisters for a long time. They systematically
do not submit to the unwritten rules that an artist assuming the role of
the curator should not present her own work or that the curator should
keep a professional distance from the exhibited artists on a personal level,
and blur even the very distinction between autonomous work and the
surrounding “apparatus” that enables its presentation and promotion.

In a number of projects, the Dostálková sisters could be seen
as curators, clients, editors or directors who are both members of
a creative and production team and independent artists. Linda and Daniel
complement each other, and the power and success of their artistic work
is based mainly on the interpersonal approach, on co-operation. They also
keep involving the same artists (in various roles) into their projects, for
example, Constant Dullaart, Nora Turato, Jungmyung Lee, Daniel Walwin,
Jana Plodková, and others, creating a group of allies, a kind of core they
can rely on and that helps them view the practice of art as a cooperative
activity. This way, the Dostálková sisters more or less explicitly deal with
issues such as authorship, hierarchy, functions of various roles, and
institutional structures and mechanisms.

It is therefore not surprising that one of the essential reference
frames of their work is the commercial sphere, which itself becomes
a theme (e.g. in the photo cycle The Process of Measuring, 2012–2015,
monitoring, among others, corporate team building and professional
coaching) and a resource for strategies and practices holding a mirror up
to arts (conceiving exhibitions as “products”, using marketing tools clearly
articulated as part of the final whole). Linda Dostálková commented on the
self-referential Exhibition (PLATO Ostrava, 2015), which helped explain the
reasoning of the two sisters, in the following way: “At a time when creativity
becomes a tendentious necessity, the world of art naturally accommodates
usefulness. It brings new concepts of social forms, using or paraphrasing
business strategies. The individual artistic capital is reflected in broader
social relationships, providing a common ground for the search for new
ways of art contextualization.” In their artworks, such as the film Perceiving
at a Low Speed, the Dostálková sisters use both the work of others and
their own as a kind of prop, calling them deliberately commodities and
drawing attention to the cultural dimension of general consumption,
particularly with regard to identity building. Thus, the fact that a guide
to their work is a figure of a young woman or girl (explicitly mentioned in
the curator project Preparatory Portrait of a Young Girl, 2017) has both
a symbolic and strategic dimension.

If we could summarize the focus on the economic functioning of the
world and the structures of generating and distributing the (symbolic) capital
and divide it into the category of the rational and the analytical, we should
not overlook another plane that runs through the work of the Dostálková
sisters like a red thread – their interest in emotions, the subconscious and
psychology, and their use of therapeutic and seduction techniques (integrally
related to the above-mentioned world of commerce and advertising). Their
projects deal with issues/phrases like hysteria, ASMR, or homoeopathy.
Thus, they create a certain tension between the cold perfection of forms, the
precision of execution and self-promotion, “calculated” aesthetics referring
to consumer utilitarianism and emotional energy, and a play with intuition,
emotions, and instincts. The workflow of the Dostálková sisters is based on
research and a wide range of (not only professional) literature and could be
briefly described as conceptual, intellectualist, “aesthetic”. The driving forces
of their art, however, are committed and personally experienced attitudes –
whether they deal with feminism, ecology, or identity.

Finally, we can ask a question in the spirit of the current issue’s theme:
is their free art work or non-work (principally different from their
commercial contracts that are probably the main source of their living)? In
the light of the so often articulated blurring of various expected borders,
such a question may seem more or less useless: their “non-utilitarian” and
reflexive work that falls into and is absorbed by contemporary art is both
part of the mosaic of their rich professional portfolio and a unique and nonreducible
way of reaching out to the world.

Tereza Jindrová