What inadvertently slips from our mouths may be outside the bounds of correctness, but it can lead to important changes at various levels. The Verbal Slip exhibition imaginatively reflects on the limits of correctness and our own imprisonment and freedom within the principles of ethical, ecological, sustainable and interspecies living.
Daniela and Linda Dostálková exhibit a new series of thirty photographs and ten videos. The photographs are titled “Misobricks”, the videos “Verbal Slip”, and the exhibition is named “Verbal Slip”. Up to this point, the exhibition is as simple as its installation. Having already curated a number of exhibitions in the venue, the Dostálková sisters know well the potential of the place. They haven‘t used any exaggerated installation tricks for their exhibition. A single wall, the only continuous wall in the Bauhaus’ glass house, provided support for the exhibition . A number of videos and photographs and “nothing more.” Miso paste and I-profiled interlocking pavement are consistently recurring motifs in both series. We are looking at cycles of variables and constants. I haven’t yet spotted the programming language in the work of these artists, which so closely resonates with me. But it’s like everything the artists use, this language is one of the languages, it’s used as a familiar aesthetic code that’s already under our skin, we don’t need to learn it to read an image. It’s a rhythm of the day that is close to our eyes and other senses and organs, close to the way our bodies create images, close to our technological environment that is our second home.
Let‘s deal first with the constants – miso and the pavement. It would be hard to imagine a weirder combination that would be less associative at first sight. The interlocking pavement strictly locks in any tendency to frizzy imagination. I would say that the artists want us to look for possible less hackneyed, more direct, and personal connections which, though not so quickly branching off into complex meandering stories, might provide a good basis for short fables. It should be clear that with so few protagonists, we’ll have to make an effort to claim meanings. It may seem that the artists are being cruel in offering us such a beautiful, albeit generically “poor” feast. But believe me, distractions wouldn’t be of any help and the individual components try to lead us to the heart of the matter without saying ‘that’s how it is.’ Therefore, let us not be rash, even though we don’t have much time to solve the puzzle of our predicament. We are, after all, in an activist field; activism that takes place in aesthetic form on a feminist ground.
Soybean miso paste brings ubiquitous fermentation into play, no matter if we consider it in biological research, as a cultural metaphor, or in hipster cooking. Miso is a hit in healthy households, almost instant in terms of preparation time and very old in terms of culture. It is an environment for microorganisms that are now researched and acclaimed like never before. Our relationship with them borders on friendship or interspecies affinity. The relationship between miso and pavement seems to be binary: warm and cold, alive and dead, wet and dry, inside the body and outside the body, formless and shapely, feminine and masculine, manual and industrial. But together they also create various situations, like the act of slipping on the pavement. Likewise, thanks to their fermentation and compositional abilities, they together constitute a good grounds for a story. The pavement is construction and miso is the putty, giving the pavement a warm hue, a lively look, a sparkle in the eye. This is an important characteristic for product and fashion photography. “[B]eauties are more than the Faults, concludes the Poet against the little Judge,” says the book, recommended to me by Daniela and Linda and reflecting on the work of feminist poet Anne Finch and other writers of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the relationship between poetry and criticism, mainstream and neglected literary currents1.
Variables in pictures: The putty sometimes inappropriately leaks out of the joint and stains the perfect model's glasses, sticks to the plastic wrapping of flowers, blurs the view. In the picture, the putty appears solid, organic and ecological, the kind of materials that are needed in our time. But it’s food, and it’s not ethically correct to waste it outside of living bodies. An oriental mug draws attention to the soy inside. Soy is contained in most vegan food products and animal foods. Its production destroys the Amazon rainforest. Miso and bricks are the basis for our environmental stories, illustrative lessons because we don’t have much time.
We are at home, if we take into account the flashy sideboard and the view through the window into a now fairly standard corner of a garden with pebble, and in some black non-environment where strange and beautiful still-lifes with miso paste and pavement have been installed. And yet this austere and delicate taste of the ingredients used can’t simply satisfy us, there’s always something haunting around. And it’s not an aura, it’s a black hole that looks formal, always the same, repetitive, empty, even though it’s super-matter. The black hole of our present that we can’t see; we only can see what’s falling into it. These black “non-backgrounds” make a strange gravitational field for levitating objects with a closed contextual structure. No other visible reference points. This and nothing more. This universe is laid out for us as in the film fairy tale Beauty and the Beast (1978), i.e. without human presence. The smudged miso paste suggests that it wasn’t used by a bricklayer nor by a skilled cook. Maybe Misobricks are non-binary after all. They are Vanitas – the burning candle signifies the end, which is repeated here. An end, multiple ends coming over and over. It is the rhetoric of the end, the rhetoric of our climate change. Are these the ends of binarities, of large-scale farms, of discrimination? In the variable dishes, the artists have set up a steak or, if you prefer, fleshy tomatoes with ketchup for us, and buffalo skin for our pets.
In the Verbal Slip videos, ritual impropriety comments on established propriety, it is a rebellion against the dictatorship of correctness, it happens mechanically just like correct behaviour does. Before becoming militant, the history of feminist writers was one of such slipping. It’s slipped out of my mouth again, dropped out of my head, dropped out of my hands – ahem, oops. It’s lying on the floor and it’s still steaming, they’re trying to put it out, representation gone, a wet painting lying paint side down. A smouldering candle smothered in the miso paste on the edge of the pavement. The same brain pathways are activated with ritualised slipping, the repetition of the same experience. A groove is formed. No, this is not something we know from slapstick. Slapstick was about the individual, about compassion, about criticism of the system. This is straight out about principles, mechanisms and forms.
This is a retrospective of methods, procedures and principles, not a retrospective of pieces. The combination of certain numbers of photographs and videos by Linda and Daniela Dostálková means using the technical image as a picture, without the orthodoxy of the medium, without clinging to its technological bravura. The themes are woven into the form and into the glossy surfaces of the pictures and frames. The motifs and certain principles recur and run through multiple series, interlinking them.
This is a report on art and culture and a rebellion against codification, albeit of the right things. What falls away from the main plot, from good taste, contemporary art, period ethics, world view, lies breathless for a while, but when we avert our indignant gaze, it comes alive. All those slips of the tongue and slipping out, judgments and preferences that haven’t got beyond the horizon of situations are reproductive organs. But we don’t see them because in our presence they are aberrations, things lying around on the ground. We don’t see the events underground. Only what has been agreed upon by politicians, written by poets, described by novelists and recorded by historians is valid. Memory has so far integrated only that which should have been there, what was not excluded. But we should be aware that humanity is not the only one with a memory.
Sharon Young, The Critick and the Writer of Fables: Anne Finch and Critical Debates, 1690–1720, s. 57, https://english.illinoisstate.edu/DigitalDefoe/features/young.pdf ↩
Daniela & Linda Dostálková work as a duo, live in Prague and work as curators at PLATO Ostrava. The work of Daniela & Linda Dostálková deals with a concept of the autonomous hybrid social ‘art practice’—blurring the lines between disciplines, it challenges accepted distinctions in the questioning of identity. They examine the complex problems presently faced by animal welfare activists, the persuasive strategies of their campaigns and the visual language they draw on. They investigate the role that is played by charismatic and non-charismatic species and the desirable or undesirable “wildness of nature” in these campaigns. The theme has been approached several times in previous exhibitions, such as Heroic vs. Holistic (PLATO, 2017), introduced in the form of an erotic eco-drama. The exhibition offered a post-romantic view on ecology from both ethical viewpoints. Video installation Acid Rain & The Labours of Hercules: Capture Slay Obtain Steel (2017), displayed professional emotional distress of eco-activists, termed “environmental grief”. In the video Invasive Species (2018), artists advocated the concept of universal consideration of non-human species. Uncharismatic species as monsters notoriously appears at times of crisis as a kind of the third term that problematizes the clash of extremes which appeared in exhibitions Campaign (2018, Center for Contemporary Arts Prague) and old sinne /reneweth shame (2020, Piktogram, Warsaw). Artists traced unstable positions of uncharismatic species and women in the society and so-called cute versus wild paradox illustrating the human experience of nature. Solo exhibition Claws Not Made to Shake Hands With (2020, New Synagogue, Žilina) attempted to provide the most open interpretation to the viewer, related to forms of domination, or invesion, interest and care: rejected the dualism of nature, and the culture of patriarchal thinking. In 2018 at InOtherWords they published Hysteric Glamour, a two-act eco-drama proposed a post-traumatic, authentic way of knowing and caring for nature that requires a radical reconstruction of our idea of love.
Special thanks to The Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and The Moravian-Silesian Region.