video loop 6' / 2012
Subtle humour, explicit art shortcuts and a seemingly trivial grasp of "serious" topics are characteristic of Matěj Smetana's productions. The author uses the language of graphic manuals, schemata, instructions and popular educative visuals in his economical commentaries about the origin of being. The video trio "Factory 1–3" is some kind of a miniature interpretation of the Big Bang. The author has processed the motifs in a concise form that leaves the viewer with some hope that it is still within our power to meaningfully embrace the immensity of the universe.
This video is a short, open post-apocalyptic poem. The voices of surviving aliens mingle with images of mythical earthlings, frozen in stiff images. They chanced their earthly existence on pragmatic wisdom and thus wasted the boundless possibilities provided by game, chance and the absurd. Small format becomes a platform for some kind of trailer for a film with an almost unbelievable story and plot. Pataphysics and image forms that we are not used to within art and media spheres, are familiar and personal to the author. He has an unusual sense for paying attention to and recording situations with essentially "poetic" values.
This story about fear and its personifications is an economical and convincingly drawn shortcut. The film line calmly takes some surprising turns. The beginning introduces us to a classic sci-fi schema – conflict. A scientist and a dangerous usurper of power becomes the victim of an obscure crime. Gradually new, delicately drawn characters are revealed to us. The narrator's voice leads us further into unusual mental worlds that are populated by distinctive figures. Every one of them might have its own real archetype, and thanks to that we are able to decode their characters and identify with them.
This suggestive authorial vision of the condition of today's human kind "homo mechanicus" is built on a sovereign visual stylisation. The author outdoes the conventional story figure – an individual manipulated by society – thanks to the original shot composition and surplus of unusual metaphors. The drawing, characters and action in the fictional city constantly change in front of us. Like a snake that dodges, zigzags and unexpectedly transforms itself, not even Pretty Face can be grasped and kept in one's mind. Nonverbal contemplation about downfall, temptation and doubt does not abound in hope, but ultimately why should we delude ourselves...?
Video at the border of literary reading and painting also comments on the tools that are available to us for getting a grasp of the world. This work's asset lies in its distinctive visual handwriting that captures the story's locations and the exteriors of a lightly populated city. A character asking for advice from a more experienced partner-pilot, on how to act in order not to lose one's way in life, could be interchanged with a trainee from any creative sphere or art. But how should words be handled so that their weight is not unnecessarily damaged?
Interventions into landscape and city have the nature of a saboteur, but this author cunningly aims her actions and sticks to a non-invasive strategy. For example, in shops she secretly plants exotic seeds in the pots of houseplants. Symbolically she mixes local and foreign flora and the plants' owners will get a surprise in the form of a tomato or avocado sprout. The author's entries into the landscape are harmless However, they also force us to direct our attention from our ego to the broader animate and inanimate nature.
The longest video film in the collection is a wellmade tribute to a group of Turkish enthusiasts, who, aside from the media bustle, deal with the collection and protection of original local plants and their seeds. Turkey with its exceptional agricultural tradition, similar to the whole of Eurasia, faces pressure from the use of cultivated and genetically modified varieties of crops. What is more, this country's legislation goes against its own "unregistered" species – it bans their trade. A civil movement with an English title "Save the seeds" attempts to raise public awareness among farmers and in the film's finale it cleverly bypasses the legislation.
This group of artists carried out an illegal action when they readjusted the spotlights illuminating a large advertisement on a frequently used ring road in Prague. In a prominent place on the Barrandov Bridge, there is a statue Equilibria by Josef Klimeš – once intended to be an important part of the architectural layout, but today overshadowed by the interference of obtrusive advertising . By spotlighting the sculpture instead of the billboard the young authors restored the sculpture's esteem, at least temporarily. This act is about uplifting a forgotten value and at the same time criticizing city representatives, who silently, or vocally, tolerate the devastation of public property.
In a deserted place, where its space disposition gives evidence of past energetic bustle, a couple of authors started their own poetic interpretation. Genius loci – spirit of a place – provoked them into a free series of images interconnected by the figure of an earthly astronaut. Symmetrical scenes have precise light points and three spaces/chapters are linked through morphing geometrical objects: ball and crystal shape. The sound track rhythmically and semantically corresponds with the tool of pixilation that is replaced in the finale with a non-violent postproduction manipulation.