“By studying its internal conflicts, we can fully understand the artist’s sense for cyclical innovative shifts, his way of discovering and connecting hidden and invisible phenomena and relationships (both individual and social), his approach to art as an experiencing of events, the constant need for contact, and – last but not least – his sense of humour. Our chronological journey also allows us to see parallels with international developments and, through the specific example of one artist, helps to disprove the myth of a totally isolated artistic “East” during the socialist era.”
– From Jiří Kovanda by Edith Jeřábková (ed.), 2010
Seeing that “East” her likely refers to Eastern Europe, what if it were to engage the aforementioned humour and exchange some geography, perhaps flirting with the idea that East extends further East toward his Tokyo exhibition spread across two distinct locations; Aoyama Meguro gallery in Nakameguro and the Czech Centre Tokyo in Hiroo.
Coincidentally, Japan has its own socialist history. The end of the Cold War in 1989 is marked by the now familiar image of the Berlin Wall being toppled at night. But 1989 was the year the second largest political party in Japan, the Japan Socialist Party, rose to prominence at Upper House elections. It was the first time in 40 years that a Socialist party had any say in the day to day running of the country. Still, this didn’t prevent the JSP from failing to influence the uniquely more powerful Lower House and persuade that a Socialist Prime Minister be elected. As Berliners clambered over either side of a wall, Japanese politics were rooted in the consolidation of power and money not liberation. Socialism, as it turned out, was far from the mind of the JSP, to such an extent its members could never agree on what Socialism meant to a *then* booming economy.
Interestingly, Kovanda’s work mirrors the current cultural landscape especially in Japan where personal space almost always overrides anything social. We live in an age of the individual, at a time of silent revolution. And as the JSP have shown, this also means the terms used to define our system of governance have been turned upside to the extent that no one is really sure what they mean anymore. Kovanda cuts a hole in one window of Aoyama Meguro gallery, inviting wildlife in and blowing fresh-air through proceedings; a reminder that the personal mindset is not always that most productive.
“The personal aspect was always predominant over the social aspect.… There was no political subtext, absolutely not. I worked on the borders with a group of given possibilities and I didn’t feel as if I were rebelling against something.”
– From “Action! The Silent Revolution of Jiří Kovanda” by Simone Menegoi http://moussemagazine.it/jiri-kovanda-simone-menegoi-2007/
NB: Jiří Kovanda: Action and Installation 2005-1976
Dec 19, 2020 – Feb 14, 2021
Jan 18 – Feb 12, 2021
Czech Centre Tokyo