Jiří Žák

Consensual Hallucinations and Poetic Investigation

19.05.2022 / 6pm

 As an artist, Jiří Žák works mainly with moving images and video installations, in which the research component usually blends with the poetic line and the form of narration. He is interested in how grand narratives and collective identities are created and how they are maintained in society. In his work, he constantly tries to create a contra-stories towards consensual hallucinations for example such as the mythos of a national identity. In the lecture, Žák will elaborate on an ongoing project which is based on his long-term artistic research regarding the Czechoslovak and Czech weapon industry. Military materials were important Czechoslovak commodities, which were exported to various parts of the world during the 20th century. With the rise of the Communist Party government in Czechoslovakia in 1948, there was a turn in this area towards cooperation with fraternal socialist regimes. The Syrian Arab Republic stood out of a long line of these friendly states in the framework of trade cooperation. The first contract with Czechoslovakia was signed in the second half of the 1940s and this bond lasted till the year 1991. Although the core of the relationship was a weapon export to Syria, there was much more of a mutual influence going on, for example on the level of education, culture or simply basic human relations. Showcase example of this research will be Žák's loose trilogy of short films called Epilogue of the Long Friendship (2020) which consist of Unfinished Love Letter, The Debt and It Was Probably Our Karel, She Said
Besides this, Žák will also present his project called DeepReal Havel where he investigates the speech of Václav Havel, in which the former Czech president marks decolonisation and the disintegration of the Soviet Union as the most significant events of the second half of the 20th century. This speech, delivered by Václav Havel on the occasion of receiving the Indira Gandhi Prize in 1994, became the subject of the collaboration between said researchers, etc. gallery and Jiří Žák. This collaboration consisted of a collaborative rewriting of Havel’s original speech based on the insights of postcolonial studies and the historical distance of the past quarter-century. The final text is not merely a transcription but is foremost a re-evaluation of the thought of a politician who has become an international symbol of the nonviolent defeat of totalitarian communist regimes and the following transition of these regimes to capitalist democracy. This theoretically and visually updated reading of Václav Havel’s speech encourages viewers to take distance from the symbolic aura of his persona, and adopt a new perspective on the relation between post-Soviet Czech society, Western countries, and non-European others.
Jiří Žák (*1989) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and works for Artyčok TV. 
In 2015 he became a laureate of the EXIT award and in 2020, he became co-holder of the Jindřich Chalupecký Award. His works were shown on the art biennales in Kiev, Warsaw or Prague.