In the course of collecting some information to write this bio, we let out one of the Black beauty stick insects, Peruphasma schultei. Pinny legs, one by one, up his Kenzo sweater, juice-pink vestigial wings. As if to propose an axiom to start speaking about the work again, he says, “It looks so nice on the sweater. But we could always say that – ‘this sweater looks nice on you’ or ‘you look nice on that sweater.’”
Lukas Hofmann (22.2.1993), was born in Prague; as a child he bounced through the Czech education system, switching to more established schools every 2 or 3 years. It was not until he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague that he began receiving any kind of formal art education. As his lexicon is that of the sandbox – “oozing,” “association,” and “texture” may come to mind, as well as his moniker “Saliva” – he is thankful for this lack of aesthetic taxonomy in his learning. It has allowed him to do things like present a fashion show before knowing how to sew, instead choosing to retool garments stolen from the wardrobes of a multinational Swedish furniture brand.
At this point, Hofmann’s work grows from the delta bordered by sculpture, performance, and styling. Though even this metaphor isn’t truly suited to his practice, as the sludge sometimes looks like tulle, and vice-versa. Being a DJ sometimes, being a model sometimes, using the Internet as the ludic medium we’d all like it to be, it is more useful to talk of Hofmann as an artist of sensibility or alchemy rather than any set discipline. His styled garment enters the intimate space, becomes it – the same could be said of a spectator to his performance, his sculpture to a room, a follower to his feed.
It follows that Hofmann’s philosophic stance is really a straddle, more of a swaying. As a skeptic, he will affirm that most of his identity-work and work-identity is performative, self-built, and discounts the possibility of truth or holding possession of one’s opinion. He’s a brand, ably navigating promotional channels and the gyres of networking. When he uses Google Maps to direct him somewhere, arriving precisely at the time it predicted, he feels he is the mediator or a piece of data for the app rather than the app being an instrument he utilises. Nevertheless, his art is laced with a trenchant lyricism – call it poetry or “nostalgia for something I don’t even know, being a cool eco-child or something.” He’s a romantic, stringing flowers through bridal-seeming construction site netting, singing “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas, holding his breath. Hofmann’s truth is mobile, existing in a community (no matter how curated), an aura (no matter how much of a currency it has become), and the existence of documentation (no matter how distended or divorced from “the real”).
Works of note include Phantom Limb performance at Danish National Gallery (Copenhagen, DK), Enzyme at Galerie Frangulyan (Paris, FR), Dry Me a River at a 5000 sqm cleared out Bauhaus hobby market for Plato (Ostrava, CZ), Retrospective performance at the National Gallery (Prague, CZ), classic arrangement of four white roses in collaboration with Dan Bodan at the Schinkel Pavillion (Berlin, DE), big bag with Barbara Klawitter and Nico Arauner at Moderna Museet (Stockholm, SE), IKEA Made Fashion, hosted at Galerie AVU (Prague, CZ), and l’eau des algues with Nils Lange at Cabaret Voltaire, for the closing of Manifesta 11 (Zurich, CH). Each shows a different side to Hofmann’s focus on ritualised play, open collaboration, and the styling of a vigorous resistance to today’s sensory autopilotism.
Insect back in the box and the monstrous orchids on the windowsill watch me pack my things. In turn, I glance at his bedsheets – he sleeps on part of the textile installed for classic arrangement of four white roses. Whether it’s documentation or reuse of materials, he has a steady love of the life and afterlife-as-life of his work. I’m moved by it. I look at the diaphanous cloth strung over the glass case of Black beauties. I don’t recognize it from anywhere.
Text by Nat Marcus