Jiří David: Deconstructing the 'Slav Epic'

Jiří David takes a step back and reinterprets Mucha’s work

La Biennale di Venezia (2015)

The Czech Republic was represented at the 56th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia, in 2015 by Jiří David’s site-specific installation 'Apotheosis' in the Czech and Slovak Pavilion. The concept of the piece is based on the Czech Secessionist artist Alphonse Mucha’s monumental painting 'Apotheosis of the Slavs: Slavs for Humanity' (1926) from his romantic series 'The Slav Epic' (1911–1926) in which Mucha thematised the heroic saga of the history of the Czechs and the Slavic nations.

Czech and Slovak Pavilion, From the collection of: Czech Republic and Slovak Republic - Biennale Arte 2015
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Apotheosis, Jiri David, From the collection of: Czech Republic and Slovak Republic - Biennale Arte 2015
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A woman walks inside the Czech and Slovak pavilion at Giardini by The New YorkerCzech Republic and Slovak Republic - Biennale Arte 2015

'Padiglione Cecoslovacchia'

'Padiglione Cecoslovacchia' - Czech and Slovak pavilion, Giardini, Venezia. The pavilion was designed in 1926 by architect Otakar Novotný, a leading personality of the Czech artistic avant-garde.

Ministry of Culture of Czech republic and The National Gallery in Prague were delighted to announce Jiří Daivid as the artist of the Czech and Slovak pavilion at the 56th Biennale in Venice. His project 'Apotheosis' was chosen by the international jury who especially appreciated the generous concept of site-specific project that reflects the past in the context of the current political and social developments.

The project is quoting an iconic artwork from Czech history, it is radical and complex conceptual installation that combines a distinctive value of the space of the national pavilion 'Cecoslovacchia' with questions of national identity and representation. Project thematises a series of contradictions concerning both artistic poetics and as well as disturbing manifestations of contemporary civilisation.

Apotheosis, Jiří David, 2015, From the collection of: Czech Republic and Slovak Republic - Biennale Arte 2015
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APOTHEOSIS detail, JIŘÍ DAVID, From the collection of: Czech Republic and Slovak Republic - Biennale Arte 2015
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'Apotheosis' Exhibition

David approaches Mucha’s painting from the position of a contemporary artist with an analytical-critical point of view and an ambivalent stance. David’s gesture of appropriation and reinterpretation of Mucha’s work, represented by a black and white reworking of the original image, simultaneously constitutes an act of deconstruction enhanced by his subtle intervention in the individual parts of the composition in the form of apocrypha.

The point of the installation with intertextual crossovers is the active spectator, whom David provides with a whole range of interesting mental, emotional and visual experiences via participation in an empty space and a cramped one with the key focal point of a corridor, which presents the spectator with the challenge of submerging into the “archaeology of knowledge and memories”.

The Slav Epic - Cicle XX, Alphonse Mucha, 1926, From the collection of: Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil Rio de Janeiro
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Apotheosis, Jiří David, From the collection of: Czech Republic and Slovak Republic - Biennale Arte 2015
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Reproduction of the painting 'Apotheosis', with the highlighted apocrypha

Here the viewer/participant encounters the reinterpreted 'Apotheosis', reflected in a mirror wall of identical dimensions, and becomes an ephemeral part of it. The mirror is an important metaphor in the context of this work, because it offers the spectator the possibility of self-reflection and introspection.

APOTHEOSIS detail, JIŘÍ DAVID, From the collection of: Czech Republic and Slovak Republic - Biennale Arte 2015
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Apotheosis, Jiri David, From the collection of: Czech Republic and Slovak Republic - Biennale Arte 2015
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The installation based on meditation as well as playfulness motivates the recipients to consider geopolitical and socio-cultural issues in a timeline of more than a century and asks them questions relating to the re-evaluation of concepts such as home, country, nation, state, the history of the Czechs and the Slavic ethnic group.

In this way, 'Apotheosis' also becomes a time-specific installation that is a stimulus to critical thinking about a number of serious political, economic, socio-cultural, philosophical and sociological issues that reference the past and the present of the world in the broader relationships in which local and global issues intersect.

Apotheosis, render, Jiri David, From the collection of: Czech Republic and Slovak Republic - Biennale Arte 2015
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Apotheosis poster, Jiří David, From the collection of: Czech Republic and Slovak Republic - Biennale Arte 2015
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The exhibition is accompanied by a book – a reader titled 'Apotheosis, Apocalypse, Apocryphon: Deified Nations, Deified Ar't consisting of five essay reprints. The essays have been written by significant European and American philosophers, sociologists and historians, such as Jacques Rancière, Zygmunt Bauman, Peter Sloterdijk, Timothy Snyder and Susan Buck-Morss.

The collection of diverse contributions resonates with the key connotations of Jiří David's oeuvre, which focuses on historical, philosophical, aesthetic, artistic, social and political topics and introduces them into ambiguous correlations.

Jiří David (1956)

One of the most prominent representatives of contemporary Czech art who, thanks to his rich and diverse work, has gained a reputation not only at home, but also in an international context. His areas of creativity consist of painting and intermedia art – primarily photography, installation and public space projects. David’s original approach is distinguished by a high level of personal engagement and an ambition to present important messages about the pressing socio-cultural and political issues of the day.

A woman walks inside the Czech and Slovak pavilion at Giardini, The New Yorker, From the collection of: Czech Republic and Slovak Republic - Biennale Arte 2015
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Jiri David, Hynek Alt, 2015, From the collection of: Czech Republic and Slovak Republic - Biennale Arte 2015
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Portrait of the artist by ©Hynek Alt

He is the kind of artist who persistently seeks inventive, innovative visual solutions and by means of his work continually poses critical questions that help the spectators to orient themselves better in the complicated world of today.


David exhibits regularly in the Czech Republic and abroad and his works are represented in the collections of many prestigious institutions (e.g. The National Gallery in Prague, City Gallery Prague, Ludwig Múzeum - Museum of Contemporary Art in Budapest, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, The Art Institute of Chicago and others).

Credits: Story

🏦 Pavilion of the Czech and Slovak Republic at the 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia

'Apotheosis'
Artist: Jiří David
Curator: Katarína Rusnáková
Exhibition commissioner: National Gallery in Prague
Deputy commissioner: Barbara Holomková
Graphic design: Zak Group
Realisation: Rámy Pasparty

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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