Fotograf Gallery

Matyáš Chochola
— Rambling Paths

Opening: On Tuesday July, 19 at 6 pm
Curator: Edith Jeřábková

The escape routes that Matyáš Chochola seeks as a means of exiting from the current crisis of dominant rationality do indeed have a clearly centrifugal direction – as long as we understand the ideological centre to be the infinite rule of reason, carried over from the previous century or, if we choose to be more precise, something that arose during the Age of Enlightenment. Just as in the recent past it has been possible to note a return to modernism, oxygenated by post-modern critique (which has shaken the core of modernism and its rigid progressivity), it seems that a post-modern style is returning, a style whose empty core is being filled by an attempt to push forward the existing order of the social system.

Chochola is looking for a means whereby alternative practices could become generally relevant and might have an effect on the overall mentality of society. The strengthening of the individualistic approach to (political) life is being transformed into a path that brings to the forefront the aforementioned utilitarianism. It is impossible for this path to lead to a utopia, to be the same path for everyone. Quite to the contrary, it must stray of in various diverse directions towards a different system of values. Chochola chooses a dual strategy – he presents his own documented experience as an example and, at the same time, the fallacy of this type of example that, which leads to uncertainty and brings to live civic deliberation and independence.

By drawing attention to an alchemistic heritage, Chochola strengthens the significance of the focused quests that have been questioned in the past. The prototype of an alchemist and his legendary and promised transmutations of lead into gold already contain within themselves the processed ambivalence of professional ambition and civic responsibility. The alchemist subversively diverts a part of the riches accumulated by the elite classes through visions of more reproducible wealth that the patron will acquire by supporting alchemical science. Chochola thus replaces today’s image of interchangeable science with an image of one of its historical variations, in a way that is cunningly parallel to the intentions of the elite, who otherwise rule over everything else. At the same time, these promises expectations of something new, an element that is lacking today. This great work is the objective and simultaneously a transformation; it is an ending that we currently feel very intensively and it should also be a beginning, whose form is languidly outlined through subtle hints. Chochola builds this archetype of the desire for the undiscovered, capturing it in the form of alchemical transmutation, next to a shamanic image – a deer man and a nymph standing next to a waterfall. This symbolic distribution of a model of the world may be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, one of which I am presenting here.

I perceive this exhibition (which I have not yet seen as it is still under preparation) as somewhat of a crossroads, where the first two images indicate the basic paths along which civilisation and individuals may make their way towards either a natural society, where individuals are treated within a balanced relationship with their environment, or a modern society, where the individual is placed at a level higher than nature. The third photo, portraying the seductive bodies of wildly passionate women, represents, on the one hand, an irrational romantic desire and, on the other, a society formed by the advertising industry, at the same time symbolising the mechanical level of strategies and tactics. At its very core this constructed allegory will also contain the key to the entire composition, the final form of which is not yet known to me. I imagine that it will be somewhat of an erratic boulder standing at the aforementioned crossroads, which, due to its unknown origins, will be reminiscent of the oscillating thoughts behind the initial starting point.

The way the photographs have been processed – hand-painted emulsion on paper – is not just a technological embellishment. Together with the energetic notes (calculations, oscillation frequency, and directions) drawn into the photographic images, they reveal something of the artist’s personal viewpoint, even though it is not entirely clear whether the resulting expressive and ritually magical form is direct or more remote. This is also highlighted by the printed headings and Chochola’s own commentary regarding the series of photographs: ‘These are scenes from journeys that never took place, images arising from dreams that were never dreamt, views that I have never seen… a quest for my own personal mythology.’ If romantic conceptualism has recently been a topic of discussion, as presented by the Romantic Conceptualism exhibition held at the Kunsthalle in Nürnberg and later repeated at the BAWAG Foundation in Vienna, we can reverse the sequence of words when it comes to Matyáš Chochola.

Oscillation and the impossibility of extracting oneself from what can be termed a form of social predetermination, as may be seen in the way values changed in two of the 20th century’s most important artistic movements – Modernism and Post-Modernism – are characterised by Mark Fisher in his book Capitalist Realism1/ (I apologise for the cliché way of ending with a quote, particularly from this type of pop literature): ‘Children of Men2/ connects with the suspicion that the end has already come, the thought that it could well be the case that the future harbours only reiteration and repermutation. Could it be, that is to say, that there are no breaks, no “shocks of the new” to come? Such anxieties tend to result in a bi-polar oscillation: the “weak messianic” hope that there must be something new on the way lapses into the morose conviction that nothing new can ever happen. The focus shifts from the Next Big Thing to the last big thing …’

Edith Jeřábková

1/ Mark Fisher, Kapitalistický realismus (translated from the English original Capitalist Realism), Rybka Publishers, Prague 2010, pp. 11–12.
2/ Children of Men, a film by Alfonso Cuarón, 2006.

Edith Jeřábková


Fotograf Gallery is supported by the Czech Ministry of Culture and during the year 2021 by a grant from the City of Prague amounting to 630 000 CZK.