After several works dealing with the topics of manipulation and self-development (ex. Spiritual Fitness, 2016), my current ongoing episodic project Club of Opportunities reflects upon strategies of dark-side influencers, posing questions of hierarchical relationships and authority. Through mixed genres - from drama to absurdity - The Club thematise archetypal social topics and gradually uncovers the anatomy of mythology and storytelling. Over the course of the past six episodes, low forms elevate in status into the high ones and vice versa. Somewhere during that transformation, new opportunities were created.
Each episode of The Club (i.e. exhibition) introduces new characters and plot twists. Each exhibition creates an environment for situations which hover between reality and fiction, where the narrative is gradually revealed through video, various objects, and ongoing live action.
The main hero of the whole story is the overlooked vegetable - Celeriac. In the context of vegetable hierarchy Celeriac finds itself on very low position. In the supermarkets we can find Celeriac roots situated on the bottom shelves, Avocados are always highlighted in the center.
The main storyteller is Kami Nábělek, a fairly eccentric philosopher who makes live appearances at The Club’s openings and then on occasion during the run of the shows. He delivers speeches full of scientific and pseudoscientific concepts and reveals key moments in the current story.
In the first episode philosopher Kamil Nábělek undertook the underestimated vegetable. His lecture about the ontology of the celery root brought this vegetables to the center of a new narrative. This was followed by the character of Seer, fate with no vision of the future. later in the series The character of Red Herring, a hybrid creature between a human and a celery, is introduced. He is a rebellious dark side influencer, who is skilful in manipulating oral discussions in favour of right-wing propaganda. Later in the fourth episode, shocked Celeriacs come to life, seeking help in the archaic Britannicas. And Finally (ep.5), Red Herring‘s battle with his own conscience is seen on his way into higher veggiesiety to the neat Avocado Bar. To be continued…
Complete portfolio here
Video Links (Youtube):
CLUB OF OPPORTUNITIES Ep.2: April showers bring May flowers
CLUB OF OPPORTUNITIES Ep.3: My name is Red Herring
CLUB OF OPPORTUNITIES Ep.4: Britannica Bootcamp
CLUB OF OPPORTUNITIES Ep.5: Keeping in Line
CLUB OF OPPORTUNITIES Ep.6: Ten Years Night
To understand the context of Jakub Jansa's work, it is worth mentioning his former experience of professional athletics, thanks to which he had to learn to work with physical and mental self-control - the motives that are appearing in his later artistic work. Jansas' creative approach is also characterized by a collaboration with many other figures (not only) of Czech art, and he also appears in various cultural roles, such as exhibition architect, curator or academic teacher.
He has studied in a legendary Federíco Díaz ‘s Supermedia studio (which no longer exists) at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague.
His last extensive project The Club of Opportunities was launched in Prague, and the next chapters were presented, for example, at the Athens Biennale, Greece (2018), at CEAAC in Strasbourg, France (2018), at PAF Pioneer Works in New York, USA (2018) and at HEK, Basel, Swiss (2019). For the past two years he have been the head of the studio of Temporary Arts at Film Faculty at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He curated a series of exhibitions for the Czech Centre in New York (2016-17) and initiated collective project at Ausstellungsraum Klingental, Basel (2015-17). He currently runs a performance studio with a French artist Julie Béna at FAVU, Faculty of fine arts in Brno.
After several projects dealing with the topics of instant social relations, manipulation and self-development, Jansa’s current ongoing project Club of Opportunities reflects on the strategies of dark-side influencers, and poses questions of hierarchical relationships and authority. The Club (ongoing, 6 episodes) takes the form of a real-time epic by capturing the voices of engaging storytellers. It features the perspective of generally unassuming entities, such as a celery root, by giving them personality and voice. This complex story, developed through videos and multimedia installations, creates the universe of The Club. It draws from everyday culture in today‘s globalized world.
As a whole, the narrative grows organically and is reminiscent of a typical TV series. Each episode (i.e. exhibition) introduces new characters and plot twists. Each exhibition creates an environment with hidden inner dramaturgy, bringing the viewer into a playful field, full of straightforward emotions, absurd connections, subversive moves, and with the end running into the gentle mist. Unlike in films, I do not rely only on the one-dimensionality of screens. Instead, the narrative is gradually revealed through video, various objects, and ongoing live action.
Prior to Club of Opportunities, Jansa drew the most attention to his dissertation Spiritual Fitness (2016 -), where he used communication strategies and clichés of motivational tutorials for better personal productivity, balancing on the border between the self-ironic stylization of a guru of a parareligious sect and a sophisticated cult of personality and its own creative branding. Spiritual Fitness as a complex project in a number of exhibition forms or a narrative told by the avatar of a spiritual sorcerer who offers instant solutions to everything should be seen as a message about life in an environment where even religion exists as a product.
Jansas' interest in manipulation has shifted from Spiritual Fitness to the subliminal instrument in the Club of Opportunities, which is available to celery or commentator Kamil Nábělek, and easily distracted by an inattentive viewer. However, both series remain based on a sophisticated approach to (non)gallery presentation and transfer of individual elements and meanings, whether it be the corporate world (minimalist shelves or start-up aesthetics of the John Reed fitness center at the Britannica Bootcamp exhibition (Strasbourg, 2018)) with identity in the digital society of late capitalism.
Jakub Jansa has collaborated on Club with cinematographers Kryštof Hlůže and Kryštof Melka, philosopher Kamil Nábělek, performers Jan Kostiha, Patrik Petr and Ester Geislerová. The second episode “April showers bring May flowers” created together with artist and fashion designer Karolína Juříková.
Text by Tina Poliačková, Art&Antique 06/19
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2018, Spiritual Fitness, Hot Dock Gallery, Bratislava, SK
2017, Look at this fern, Berlinskej Model, Prague, CZ
2016, Spiritual Fitness, AM180, Prague, CZ
2014, Engstligenalp, StartUp, GHMP, Prague, CZ
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2019, Healing 2.0, Meet Factory Gallery, Prague, CZ
2019, Soft objects - Real feelings, House of Arts, Ústí nad Labem, CZ
2018, Supernova, NTK Gallery, Prague
2018, Healing, Czech Center Berlin, D
2017, In a Landscape, Dům Umění, Brno,CZ
2016, Better Ideas for Life 2, Karlin Studios, Prague, CZ
2016, In a Landscape, EA Gallery, Prague, CZ
2016, Teseract, AMU Gallery, Prague, CZ
2016, Better Ideas for Life 1, A. Klingental, Basel, CH
2016, Name of the project is project itself, CC, NY, US
2016, It looked different in a dream, Klementinum, Prg, CZ
Prague has always been a city of the most absurd stories, from the tale of the golem - an animated anthropomorphic creature made of clay by Rabbi Loew in the sixteenth century - to Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorpbosis (1915), in which a human being turns into an insect. Storytelling and transformation are also key elements in “Club of Opportunities,” a series of performance environments the young Czech artist Jakub Jansa has been producing since 2017. To date, there have been five episodes, which have been presented in Prague, in Athens during last year’s Biennale, at Pioneer Works in New York and most recently again in Prague, at the gallery NoD, where Jansa’s exhibition bore the subtitle “Ep. 5: Keeping in Line.
One of the recurrent storytellers in these performances is a human being named Red Herring, who gradually transforms into a gnarly celeriac root.
A few similar roots have previously sprouted on his fore-head. He utters mainly nonsense, but now and then there are flashes of insight, for example in episode three (My name is Red Herring, 2018) when he lists the ten rules for arguing with leftists without getting talked into a corner. In Keeping
in Line, the topic under consideration is what advantages turning into an avocado instead of a celeriac root might have. He ponders the alternatives in a riveting dialogue with his alter ego, an individual who looks a bit like him. But Red Herring appears only on-screen during these performances never live. The same applies to his alter ego, who appears on a separat screen of his own. Jansa puts a great deal of thought into the environment in which these screens are placed. For the show at NoD, the two screen faced one another in a long, narrow space along with a white-lacquere table or shelf that looked heavily designed but had no discernible function On one of the walls hung an intricately shaped mirror cutout reflectin the screen on which Herring’s interlocutor held forth. Futuristic barstool invited visitors to take
a seat. Everything looked uncluttered, stylish and almost antiseptically clean, evoking consummate modern design. The main storyteller during all these performances is Kami Nábělek, a fairly eccentric Prague philosopher who makes live appearances at Jansa’s openings and then on occasion during the run of the shows. He delivers speeches full of scientific and pseudoscientific concepts concerning “the ontology and genealogy of celeriac.” Impressive nonsense keeps audiences spellbound thanks to the compelling suggestiveness of his words. While speaking, he holds up cleriac roots, lectures about the characteristics of the plant, and finally offers his
listeners a glass of its freshly pressed juice. And they drink. That’s what’s
so astonishing: Even though the performance is stunningly absurd, the audience is drawn in. And that’s the point: Jansa, with Nábělek’s help, is demonstrating the power of suggestion exerted on us by stories, which have lost none of their ability to hypnotize in the digital age-as demonstrated by the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories on social media. After all, the story is an art form that’s been keeping listeners under its spell since long before The Thousand and One Nights.
Text by Noemi Smolik, Artforum review 9/2019