Current Affairs Artistry and appliances: exploring meaning in consumer objects

23-03-2005 15:24 | Kate L. Barrette

When you enter the Jiri Svestka Gallery, a warehouse art space at the end of a quiet Prague street, you have the feeling you've escaped into a peaceful, light-filled oasis. And usually it is just that. But, ever since the opening of a young Czech artist's exhibit - which the staff has to "turn on" - the art work has taken on a deafening life of its own.

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'Conflict of Interest''Conflict of Interest' That's the whirring and gurgling of an electric drill burrowing up and down into a yellow vacuum cleaner - one brand attacking the other. It's called "Conflict of Interest" and it's one of the noisy pieces made from everyday household appliances in Kristof Kintera's latest exhibit. Kristof just returned from a scholarship year at Amsterdam's prestigious Rijksakademie, where he came up with the idea for the project.

The very first piece in the show is called "It's Beginning." It could actually be called "It's the end," as it's a plugged-in, electrical cord attached to nothing that surges with power every few seconds and could paralyse you if you touch it.

'In Natura (Coitus bizzarus)''In Natura (Coitus bizzarus)' Kristof Kintera: "It's a bit about the energy which is all around in the city, brought to us by an amazing grid of wires. We take it as something natural or normal. But in fact, for me it's an amazing thing, because all around there is hidden power, and extreme power in a way. And we take it for granted, so I just wanted to pick up this moment of the energy hidden in the walls, in the city, and try to demonstrate it in a sort of dangerous way. It is 50,000 volts, so if you touch it, you would probably get paralyzed."

Another piece in the exhibit is: "In Natura (Coitus bizzarus)." It's an electric knife fitted with a plastic phallus that plunges in and out of a replica watermelon.

'Something Electric''Something Electric' And there's "Something Electric," a coconut with a motor inside that bounces around the gallery's concrete floor.

Gallery owner Jiri Svestka told me some of the reasons Kristof's work is so important.

"I really like the connection of his art with experimental theatre. You know, this is a little bit unusual today, because he's very active in the experimental theatre scene, and this of course influences his artwork. So, you see they are moving, they are loud, and they are kind of performing, using electricity. So this is also a kind of art that has a unique position in Europe, and a significant position in world art."

Kristof, who doesn't turn his pieces on at home because they are too loud - talked about the reasons for the cacophony.

"Well, I wanted to make a sort of irritating show - because art doesn't have to be beautiful all the time; I really wanted to make a show that would make you nervous, so that's why there is a lot of noise. But you know if you go outside you get also a lot of noise. This is what we live in; this is the vibration of our daily lives."

The exhibit runs until April 2.

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