Dangerous Little Railing

Strom Art Gallery, Brno, 31. 3.–13. 5. 2016

From all the shows in the Strom Art Gallery so far presents the exhibition of Daniela Baráčková substantially homogenous and closed authorial project that actually does not require neither allows other curatorial interventions. The author – like in the case of some of her previous exhibitions – creates a configuration of messages and references that have an impact precisely and only in interdependence, which she herself invents and directs. The installation is therefore an autonomous conceptual project leaving only up to the knowledge or susceptibility of audience what “constellations” can be read out of this complex.

The author does not comment in the exhibition Dangerous Little Railing – as it is otherwise typical for her – the “big social issues” such as municipal policy, institutional critique of gallery practice, impact of globalization, the quality of public space or urban thinking, but concentrates instead on “personal world”. This time, however, with no definite urgency characteristic of her previous work, especially for videos with staged performances, which often feature her family members.

By the contradictory words dangerous little railing she refers to the traditional gallery inventory, which should – with emphasis on the privileged value and integrity – protect the exhibits from undesired contact with the audience. We know these vertical metal posts with ropes, which command the viewers not to enter, from the museum or castle installations. Here they are, however, inclined at different angles and fitted with luxurious ropes of bold colours. Daniela Baráčková removes them through this deformation and material solution from their original function and converts them to a superior mode in which they become piece-exhibit. This stepping out of a standard museum setting she suggests the theme of perception of art, with which she worked for example in projects 400 g of medium ground flour… (with Petra Herotová, 2008) or Death, Czech smallness and contemporary museology (2013).

Also in her new paintings, in which she “portrays” children’s theatre or house for dolls made of cardboard, we find echoes of the museum theme. Let’s remember attractive expositions of “applied arts” and current trends-exhibitions of historical clothing or toys. Or more general: Decorative Arts Museum in contemporary jacket. The starting point for her paintings are models and installations, which the author puts together with her children and then converts into standard genres of visual art with a “professional look”. Possible ephemerality of these objects is then fixed in the surface of surprisingly realistically conceived image (she also worked with model or maquette in other projects, albeit in a different context – for example in shows I Wanted to Paint how 40 Jews Are Praying Before the Flight Departure, 2007, or On the Street 74 , 2010). Her paintings can be correlated also to the tradition of painting and its presentation, as they evoke glimpses into the fictitious interiors of artists’ studios, and collectors’ galleries. In her collage drawings, the author combines different approaches: using scraps of drawings of real world objects, which find themselves in specific constellations together with drawings borrowed from the children. Their conciseness contrasts with professional drawings of the author and brings into the picture the moment of suddenness as well as impropriety (figural motifs in the form of figures of knights and princesses, castles fragments).

In the installation Plumlov she works with architecture – which is by the way the author’s other professional domain – and figuratively with public space as well. Daniela Baráčková operates here with a bizarre structure by non-professional architect and author of a treatise Work on Architecture, Karl Eusebius, Prince of Liechtenstein (1611–1684), who himself drafted the plans of his own residence. However, he put his perfect idea of a castle substantiated by knowledge about architecture and architectural art into a marvellous result of inappropriate scale, which represents at the same time a generous, but never completed project. Plumlov metaphorically represents “a dangerous little railing” in relation of builder and his son, whom the prince confided the completion of the project. Objections to son’s pragmatism and his not following of father’s dogmatic demands led to Jan Adam’s refusal to finish his father’s project and a planned four-wing chateau remained a mere torso. The story of the building nevertheless remains etched into its final form. Daniela Baráčková combines this special icon, that seems to have “fallen from space” into the landscape and still feels curious at least, with settlement below represented by industrially manufactured carpet featuring a town in unreal perspective, which is typical for each children’s playground in a shopping mall. The author thus comments on the second level the history of art and architecture, but also subversively points out the directness of her own approach.

The exhibition features also a video, in which she focuses on the theme of “desecrating the sacred box” – the magic box made by her father, whose hobby was magic, and with which she played as a child. Out of context, time and specific situations in which the author played with it as a child, or when after her father’s death she cherished it as a precious relic, the box in the hands of another child in another time becomes a completely normal thing. The child need not fear, need not know and knows not any history: the precious box is appropriated with crystal-like commonplace by cheap stickers featuring motif of tiny skeletons and skulls, and thus is simultaneously and without a question dragged into another world.

Daniela Baráčková in the present installation deliberately avoids any comments on “big policy issues”, but focuses instead on the movements of ideological and expressive modes between the personal and the public, intuitive and informed, deliberate and accidental. The world of a child unburdened by artistic or other academic training transforms in conjunction with the cultural and ideological education of the author into an authentic combination of personal message and general experience.

Markéta Žáčková

Photo: Michaela Dvořáková