Markéta Magidová upsets the grids

Text written by
Gauthier Lesturgie

With an artist
Markéta Magidová

The artist talk at the Czech Center in Berlin this year with the artist Markéta Magidová was named “A look behind the grid”. The grid, considered at once as a mental model, a template of a community or a society and a visual motif might underlie the corpus of the artist living in Prague.

More accurately, Magidová seems to be interested in bypassing these grids or saying differently, upsets norms. She focuses on asymmetries, abnormalities to better unveil the flaws of a simplistic binary system addicted to normalisation, efficiency, progress and growth, she (we) is living in.
She works with many different mediums: performances, videos, sculptures-montage, photographs or artists’ books, and associates them within exhibition-projects which work as whole sets or assemblies.

It is then not surprising that Magidová’s first projects focused on written and oral language which can be thought about here as a normalised system (thus able to be shared by several individuals) and at the same time the precise system which enables us to think norms themselves, or at least to organise our thoughts just like syntactic rigour.The artist has precisely foiled this rigidity – starting from the horizontal line and from the left to right direction of the writings which construct a rather linear way of thinking things (at least in Czech and English, the two languages Magidová is working with).

Markéta Magidová artist in residence in partnership with AIR Futura Prague
The Area, installation, 2011

In 2011 for her installation The Area, short stories from her book Shapewalkers were inscribed on several tablets hanged in a circular manner to a tree, forcing readers to circle around similarly as the fictional creatures involved in a specific time ritual in the written narrative.

In Measuring (2012) the artist requested once again an active attitude from her visitors by dividing and printing excerpts from St Augustin’s Confessions about time on three measuring tapes hanged to an exhibition wall. After pulling the tapes, readers had to remember each fragment to obtain the text’s (and time’s) unity.

The passage from the two-dimensional materiality of the page or the screen towards the three-dimensionality of the object (a recurrent transition in the artist’s work, on a visual/material level but also a symbolic one) is going much forward with her exhibition Unreturned Plan (2013) where the narrative strictly becomes an architecture to be stride across. The story literally unfolds on the edge of the wall of an apartment’s model. A fiction written by the artist about an unhappy man, powerless face to his own resignation.

Markéta Magidová artist in residence in partnership with AIR Futura Prague
Unreturned plan, installation, 2013

With Home Vocabulary (2013), an installation and an artists’ book, Magidová focused on the meaning of words removed from their presence in a narrative. Once again, language fails to fit its requested rigour: Home Vocabulary is a one of a kind dictionary, a family’s one. She asked several members from different generations of her own family to define, in their own words, numerous terms (in Czech language). Words and their semantics appear within their changes and as companions of one’s individual. The differences between these subjective definitions place them outside of a preconceived language system which would be equally shared by everyone speaking the same language.

Home Vocabulary is also a precious and intimate archive of these persons, a playful ode to individual plurality. To look into subjectivity is a powerful way to defuse norms, to frustrate predefined definitions which do not match the complexities and movements of one’s mind.

By using humour and theatricality in her work, Magidová refutes against all odds assumed facts and unsettles a binary system on which many of our organisations and convictions rest upon. Amongst others, one or the other sex, one or the other gender, left or right, East or West, good or bad, true or false and so on until the two-legged human being.

Markéta Magidová artist in residence in partnership with AIR Futura Prague
Tertium non datur, video still, 6:00 min, 2016

In the video-recorded performance titled Tertium non datur (2016), a man wearing a third leg meanders around Prague. This grotesque appearance works as a metaphor of what is considered abnormal, and so, unidentifiable within our standardised system, the idea of a body which simply does not fit definition.

Following this ‘’third’’ as a symbolic attack against our true-false binary mode of understanding, the artist realized an installation for an exhibition in Brno in 2016 bearing the same title as the farcical performance, which materializes the passage from 2D to 3D. A collection of pictures (both found and made by the artist) sharing the theme of the third in a very broad spectrum, are suspended in the air in the shape of an arrowhead. The “third” is the excluded, the fringe element, the Third Estate, the Third World, the deviant, the left out.

Very eclectic found objects progressively appear toward its end until a three-legged stuffed pigeon, winged reminiscence of our uncanny walker.

Markéta Magidová artist in residence in partnership with AIR Futura Prague
Tertium non datur, installation, 2016

The illusionist passage from a supposed 2D to 3D (a printed photograph is already in itself a three-dimensional object) is repeated through different mediums by the artist. The photographic images become sculptures and mistreat our perception. It is difficult to identify what we are looking at. This artist’s game with our capacity to recognise might be once again thought about symbolically as an assault against normalised mindset.

Indeed, our aptitude to identify things corresponds to our faculty to gather categories and learned definitions in order to match them with what we are looking at. Somehow to recognize is to use a common set of signs, only effective if categories are clearly defined beforehand.

Markéta Magidová artist in residence in partnership with AIR Futura Prague
Soft Target, object, 2017

Thus, the artist often plays with subterfuges, opposites and oxymorons. As the titled of one of her recent exhibition in Prague perfectly illustrates, “Soft Target” (2017) deals with the seductive illusion of violence. A gas mask cut into sections becomes a curve collection of abstract rings on a wall; blue and red feathers are stuck like darts in a beekeeping hood; an appealing sky blue wallpaper bearing repeated shadow-like patterns which turn out to be ducks and rats silhouettes, calls to mind targets shooting. In front of this terribly familiar wallpaper, an odd bird rather in a bad shape stand on a pedestal, in fact we are staring at a dismembered umbrella, a destroyed shield and a freezing manifestation of the behind targets-preys.

Markéta Magidová artist in residence in partnership with AIR Futura Prague
3 seconds, 10 shots, installation, 2017.From the exhibition Soft Target.

Markéta Magidová’s favoured subjects of the oppressed, the failure, the deficiency, the violence, etc. does not make her work oppressive or depressive. On the contrary, she uses humour and clownish modes of representation, be it for her fictive writings (letters, dialogues, theatre plays, short stories), the performances and even her way of directing actors and actresses. In her video Typos and Stumbless (2015), we follow three characters (played by only one actress) who apply for a job position in an international corporation. The disorienting complexity of administrative procedures, the stress and difficulty to fit the requirements appear through overacted behaviour, absurd attitudes (running gags, exaggerations). In the same titled artists’ book which follows the progressive steps of stress disorders and its affects on one’s performance, the artist wrote fictional cover letters, CV’s and email correspondences sprinkled with typographic mistakes. The spellings mistakes can be seen as marks of the individual.

Markéta Magidová artist in residence in partnership with AIR Futura Prague
Typos and Stumbless, artist book, 2015

Magidová reflects once again on one’s incapacity to reach a required and unique standard. She upsets the discipline and conventions space, embodied here by the corporate world. Against homogenisation, she proposed a laughter.

Text by Gauthier Lesturgie


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