Fotograf Magazine

Interview Tereza Rudolf with Jiří Žák

Weapons of Artistic Research

Your works from the past 3 years often return to similar themes in different contexts. These themes include the use of information, civic activism, military conflicts, and public interest in the events in the Middle East. Additionally, your videos, such as Czech ASMR Candy and International Relations, The Weapon…, Shattered Epistemologist, or Night of the Hunter show a strong interest in the human body and the movement and choreographies it experiences. Do you see the motion of an individual body as a metaphor or was it just a visual element that you were interested in at some point?

In general, I think that a common denominator of my works is that they strive to describe a relationship to the world, the society and their problems. This strife often takes on the form of a narration. I avoid calling it a story, because to me, a story implies something that has ended. But I’ve always found it important to show how historical topics relate to the present. In this sense, no story has an ending as it can impact our present in unexpected ways.

To come back to your question: if my art is rooted in narration, then logically, I think about its staging and presentation. In retrospect I see that several times, I’ve intuitively used a kind of a peripatetic principle in which walking is interpreted as the literal movement of a narrator who brings us from one place to another – both physically and within a narration. The place where this movement occurred also played a role (a museum in the case of Mother Town), the abandoned building of an unspecified public office in (Night of the Hunter). Therefore, the body – just like the voice – is a basic tool of the narration.

However, the Shattered Epistemologist was probably the greatest turning point in my understanding of the relationship of the body and motion to narration in a video. Originally, the script I wrote for the video included no dance or other choreography. I only embraced these somewhat by chance through my cooperation with actress, singer and performer Meïmouna Coffi. She identified herself as more of a dancer than an actress, although thanks to her great talent, she excels in all forms of performance art. It was an impulse to try something new, to think differently through collaboration. It gave the two layers: one rooted in the image and another one resting in the narration as such. Each layer is very different. They don’t illustrate each other, but together they create a tension, which I enjoy. To me, the intellectual and emotional aspects of the piece are equally important. 

To some extent, I followed up on the experimentation with movement choreography as seen in Shattered Epistemologist in my three-channel video installation entitled Neglect Syndrom Politics created for the The Conditions of Impossibility II/VII: (Im)mediate curated by Václav Magid at the Kurzor gallery. It was based on the medical diagnosis of the so-called displacement syndrome which causes the patient to lose awareness of the left half of his body and the left half of his field of vision. In its affect, the performers body represented the “body of the society”. A completely different perspective on the body and the voice can be found in the ASMR videos.

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#33 investigation

#33 investigation

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