Fotograf Magazine

Dušan Šimánek


Dušan Šimánek is one of the personalities who have determined the new tendencies in Czech photography since the 1970s, whether by forming alternative communities, creating fashion and advertising photography, or using colours in his free work in an unusual way. Unlike other authors, Šimánek strictly separates this work from commercial projects, making his art series small and divided by long delays, but more concentrated.

Šimánek’s Herbarium builds on his earlier work of a subversive pop- art character, dealing with the appropriation of kitsch floral prints, but it processes them from the perspective of today’s globalized production and the Anthropocene. Artificial flowers from Asian markets represent a sort of primary basis of an entirely new civilization that replaced organic evolution with multiplied standardization. These “new flowers”, which will paradoxically live longer than us, are to serve as a symbol of our connectedness to and our admiration for nature. They substitute not only real flowers, but also our relationship to the Earth and its history, i.e. they are a symbol of our civilization insularity.

Šimánek’s Herbarium also directly quotes early modern images by Karl Blossfeldt from today’s post-historical perspective. Blossfeldt’s “primary forms” return to Šimánek a century later through factories producing plastic products of all kinds, so that he could deconstruct them in a relentless, but extremely elegant way. The new, artificial nature is presented as a building kit that lacks its original function and remains a mere 3D decoration. If a photograph is an artificial image, flowers are a 3D reproduction of real nature. Thus, Šimánek’s “herbarium for the 22nd century” raises questions not only about the current environmentalism, but also about the nature of the image and reality and their future.

Pavel Vančát