Prague gallery offers up a Brave New World


A new exhibition entitled a Brave New World – deliberately evoking the title of Aldous Huxley’s famous dystopian novel – has just opened in Prague’s DOX Centre for Contemporary Art. Running until mid-January next year, the exhibition is presenting the works of countless artists tasked with bringing to life various dark social themes such as surveillance, consumerism and totalitarian oppression. I spoke with the museum’s director and exhibition curator Leoš Válka and began by asking him to explain the idea behind the presentation.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK “The exhibition is based on a comparison of three famous dystopic visions: Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’, George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’. The exhibition essentially compares these with the current social situation in our society.”

What kind of artworks are bringing to life this dystopian examination?

“The exhibition is divided into four sections. The first is: ‘Life in a Cage’, which looks at Orwellian dark visions. Secondly there is ‘Freedom in the Bubble’, which looks at the present day civilization – consumption and entertainment. Then there is a section called ‘Disconnected’ about people, unable to cope, who have removed themselves from contemporary society. Japan is a prime example of this phenomenon with about one million people in this category. The last section is called ‘Absolute Happiness’ which is a satirical comment on pseudo-scientific technical and moral tinkering by social engineers.”

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK What are you hoping to achieve with this exhibition?

“The message is that since the time described in Orwell’s ‘1984’, we can see that in today’s world enormous databases exist collecting information about consumers and citizens. And the monitoring and surveillance of ordinary citizens is extremely disturbing. We have a metaphor installation for this in the exhibition – a huge bubble created from bubble-wrap in the main hall inside which people can actually climb. It’s a great design and very aesthetically pleasing. It’s like a nice prison, basically. That is what we are saying…”

Could you describe some of the other installations?

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK “There is a confrontation of four enormous four-metre tall sculptures of the most infamous dictators like Mao Zedong, Stalin, Hitler, Lenin. Facing them directly is a work by Macedonian sculptor Zarko Baseski – a hyper-realistic sculpture of an ordinary man breaking through the floor. Then we have an installation by Petr Motyčka featuring fifty large television screens playing a mixture of advertising and images which are part of our everyday life. And each screen is showing the same thing, so the message is kind of impossible to escape. That is a comment on today’s advertising industry.”