In my work, I mostly question sedimented norms, collective emotions and pre-defined social rules. I am interested in pointing at and blurring categories in which we think, judge, behave and feel. Even the emotions have their „genre“ categories. That is why I prefer working with different mediums in one project – to make uncertain what we see and experience: combining photography with text, sculpture or painting; film with performance, drawings or text; installation with context action. For this intermedia practice, I find inspiration in works from many areas of life, in science and from various artists (Helen Marten, Pierre Huyghe, Sol Calero, Ed Atkins, Rachel Rose, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Katharina Schmitt, Steven Zultanski and many others).
In my early works, I was interested in the normative power of language and imaginative models corroding its structure. Thus, the rules and methods themselves stood in the centre of my attention and experimental writing combined with spatial realization was dominant tendency of my practice. It is visible both in my artistic activities as well as in the theoretical ones [e.g. published artist Book Typos and Stumbless or theoretical book Sorting out Words. Literature and Conceptual Tendencies 1945-2015]).
During last years, representation of social (ab)normality mostly attracts my artistic interest, that which reveals its dangerous roots: schematic blindness, social inequality or binary thinking on a collective level (“normal” role of the women in a work and leisure environment, in common traditions, as a mother ; working conditions; the omnipresent demand of effectivity, profit, youth and novelty; recent strong collective emotions during refugee crisis and terrorist attacks).
I often use movement in many forms (visual, performative, imaginative, symbolic) as a tool of expression. I´ve created dance-literary film, worked with the form of yoga lesson, digitally manipulated photographs of moving sculptures and I plan to continue the search in this direction. I am also attracted to revealing the construction of a group dynamics and collective signs.
My very recent and on-going artistic projects are focusing at representation of gender in traditions. Festive aspect plays important emotional atmosphere in both. In the project United We Fall, I analyze the democratic all-age gymnastic movement called „The Falcon“ (Sokol), which was established as a nationalistic oriented organization in a former Austrian-Hungarian Empire. It played an important role in forming the independent Czechoslovakia state and later was “transformed” within the frame of communistic totalitarian regime. The “gathering” takes place once in every six years and it shows democratic unity of the Czech nation in mass-ornaments. Ultimately, beyond the democratic national tradition, they also create a “big picture” of certain age and gender, which I want to explore in my project.
In my other project Postponed Celebration, I am focusing at traditional sculpture representation combined with alive folk traditions. Most of the male sculptures in museums have names (thus are representation of significant persons), most of the female sculptures in museums are characterized by the fact that they are unknown women nice to look at). Similar approach lives in costumes and characters in folk festivals, songs and visuality. Joy of representation, joy of the gaze and joy of celebration are mixed together around the axis of rejected and oppressed gender.
More accurately, Magidová seems to be interested in bypassing these grids or saying differently, upsets norms. She focuses on asymmetries, abnormalities to better unveil the flaws of a simplistic binary system addicted to normalisation, efficiency, progress and growth, she (we) is living in.
She works with many different mediums: performances, videos, sculptures-montage, photographs or artists’ books, and associates them within exhibition-projects which work as whole sets or assemblies.
It is then not surprising that Magidová’s first projects focused on written and oral language which can be thought about here as a normalised system (thus able to be shared by several individuals) and at the same time the precise system which enables us to think norms themselves, or at least to organise our thoughts just like syntactic rigour.The artist has precisely foiled this rigidity – starting from the horizontal line and from the left to right direction of the writings which construct a rather linear way of thinking things (at least in Czech and English, the two languages Magidová is working with).
In 2011 for her installation The Area, short stories from her book Shapewalkers were inscribed on several tablets hanged in a circular manner to a tree, forcing readers to circle around similarly as the fictional creatures involved in a specific time ritual in the written narrative.
In Measuring (2012) the artist requested once again an active attitude from her visitors by dividing and printing excerpts from St Augustin’s Confessions about time on three measuring tapes hanged to an exhibition wall. After pulling the tapes, readers had to remember each fragment to obtain the text’s (and time’s) unity.
The passage from the two-dimensional materiality of the page or the screen towards the three-dimensionality of the object (a recurrent transition in the artist’s work, on a visual/material level but also a symbolic one) is going much forward with her exhibition Unreturned Plan (2013) where the narrative strictly becomes an architecture to be stride across. The story literally unfolds on the edge of the wall of an apartment’s model. A fiction written by the artist about an unhappy man, powerless face to his own resignation.
With Home Vocabulary (2013), an installation and an artists’ book, Magidová focused on the meaning of words removed from their presence in a narrative. Once again, language fails to fit its requested rigour: Home Vocabulary is a one of a kind dictionary, a family’s one. She asked several members from different generations of her own family to define, in their own words, numerous terms (in Czech language). Words and their semantics appear within their changes and as companions of one’s individual. The differences between these subjective definitions place them outside of a preconceived language system which would be equally shared by everyone speaking the same language.
Home Vocabulary is also a precious and intimate archive of these persons, a playful ode to individual plurality. To look into subjectivity is a powerful way to defuse norms, to frustrate predefined definitions which do not match the complexities and movements of one’s mind.
By using humour and theatricality in her work, Magidová refutes against all odds assumed facts and unsettles a binary system on which many of our organisations and convictions rest upon. Amongst others, one or the other sex, one or the other gender, left or right, East or West, good or bad, true or false and so on until the two-legged human being.
In the video-recorded performance titled Tertium non datur (2016), a man wearing a third leg meanders around Prague. This grotesque appearance works as a metaphor of what is considered abnormal, and so, unidentifiable within our standardised system, the idea of a body which simply does not fit definition.
Following this ‘’third’’ as a symbolic attack against our true-false binary mode of understanding, the artist realized an installation for an exhibition in Brno in 2016 bearing the same title as the farcical performance, which materializes the passage from 2D to 3D. A collection of pictures (both found and made by the artist) sharing the theme of the third in a very broad spectrum, are suspended in the air in the shape of an arrowhead. The “third” is the excluded, the fringe element, the Third Estate, the Third World, the deviant, the left out.
Very eclectic found objects progressively appear toward its end until a three-legged stuffed pigeon, winged reminiscence of our uncanny walker.
The illusionist passage from a supposed 2D to 3D (a printed photograph is already in itself a three-dimensional object) is repeated through different mediums by the artist. The photographic images become sculptures and mistreat our perception. It is difficult to identify what we are looking at. This artist’s game with our capacity to recognise might be once again thought about symbolically as an assault against normalised mindset.
Indeed, our aptitude to identify things corresponds to our faculty to gather categories and learned definitions in order to match them with what we are looking at. Somehow to recognize is to use a common set of signs, only effective if categories are clearly defined beforehand.
Thus, the artist often plays with subterfuges, opposites and oxymorons. As the titled of one of her recent exhibition in Prague perfectly illustrates, “Soft Target” (2017) deals with the seductive illusion of violence. A gas mask cut into sections becomes a curve collection of abstract rings on a wall; blue and red feathers are stuck like darts in a beekeeping hood; an appealing sky blue wallpaper bearing repeated shadow-like patterns which turn out to be ducks and rats silhouettes, calls to mind targets shooting. In front of this terribly familiar wallpaper, an odd bird rather in a bad shape stand on a pedestal, in fact we are staring at a dismembered umbrella, a destroyed shield and a freezing manifestation of the behind targets-preys.
Markéta Magidová’s favoured subjects of the oppressed, the failure, the deficiency, the violence, etc. does not make her work oppressive or depressive. On the contrary, she uses humour and clownish modes of representation, be it for her fictive writings (letters, dialogues, theatre plays, short stories), the performances and even her way of directing actors and actresses. In her video Typos and Stumbless (2015), we follow three characters (played by only one actress) who apply for a job position in an international corporation. The disorienting complexity of administrative procedures, the stress and difficulty to fit the requirements appear through overacted behaviour, absurd attitudes (running gags, exaggerations). In the same titled artists’ book which follows the progressive steps of stress disorders and its affects on one’s performance, the artist wrote fictional cover letters, CV’s and email correspondences sprinkled with typographic mistakes. The spellings mistakes can be seen as marks of the individual.
Magidová reflects once again on one’s incapacity to reach a required and unique standard. She upsets the discipline and conventions space, embodied here by the corporate world. Against homogenisation, she proposed a laughter.
Text by Gauthier Lesturgie, 2017