A retrospective exhibition of Lenka Klodová, an artist whose works deal, within a broader perspective of social issues, with women's experience and overcoming gender as well as other stereotypes.
Most artists avoid superficialities. Not so Lenka Klodová, who, in her work that was inclusive at a time when inclusion was not yet on the table, has fearlessly used superficial allusions, derivations, similes, double (and more) entendre. How is it possible to “dirty” oneself like this with contents that are at hand or with a surface bubbling with popular jokes and parables? Superficialities are seemingly simple and Klodová’s approach to them is quite uncomplicated; but what she assembles from the pieces of the mosaic is visionary, serious, connected and ongoing, all gussied up with fun, and with a solid feminist construction inside.
Over time, the playfulness of the artist’s performances, installations, objects and paintings has sedimented into a geological layer of important topics on (not only) the Czech scene: corporeality, pregnancy and motherhood, nudity, sex, eroticism, pornography, ageism, etc. It shows our subconscious likes, habits, routines, obsessions, oppressions. How many artists would talk, back in 2000, about the interconnectedness of modernity, masculinity and the industrialized landscape? Klodová’s magazine Komíny (Chimneys) has introduced this big topic to the art scene very popularly, with humour and grace, letting it be grasped in various ways. That is why we still like to remember her early works, and the artist herself can go on relating them to the present.
Additionally, Lenka Klodová is one of the first Czech artists who acted openly as a feminist, though not showing a victorious feminism, but feminism of performative gender, open corporeality, inclusion and care, which was quite a new picture for Czech society of the 1990s and 2000s. To deal with sex and porn magazines in art was still a bit eccentric, and Klodová managed to overcome this by constantly revisiting these topics and treating them as a matter of course, as if she were undressing before taking a bath. Klodová herself says that nudity is a simple tool, but it is very important how it is handled and to which purpose. The field that can be examined and assessed with nudity is very large, and Klodová uses it to review moral conventions, sexual norms, pathological phenomena, and industrial enslavement of the body. She liberates other ways of experiencing the body, from simple and euphoric awareness of it, desire and pleasure, or freeing oneself from scruples concerning gender, age, etc. Klodová’s focus is not only feminist, but increasingly ecofeminist.
Leather, skin, leatherette (in Czech koženka), Boženka (Czech female name), the wild girl (in Czech divoženka).* Leatherette is something which we decide will be nice and friendly or not. Some relate it to the unpleasant surfaces of cheap and artificial imitations, while others admit these imitations into their aesthetic-political spectrum and prefer them as demonstrations of how dangerous orthodoxy – natural, racial, and national – can be. This single word makes us recall the whole package of activism, from fur and leather campaigns to anti-racist protests and LGBTQW resistance. Of course, leatherette refers to leather and to skin in many ways, and for Lenka Klodová it functions mainly as a diminutive, similar to Boženka. This Czech diminutive women’s name brings to mind Klodová’s work O Boženě (About Božena, 1997), a light inscription BOŽENA shining alternately as BOŽE (My God) and ŽENA (Woman). Leatherette also strongly associates with her work on porn and the erotic industry, represented at this exhibition with her revisiting porn and erotic magazines and media – of her many works we can mention the pilot issue of Ženin (The Woman’s) magazine, 2005, for the other half of humanity; the Bříza (Birch) magazine, 2000 – photographs of birches dressed in skirts; the aforementioned Komíny (Chimneys), 2001; and the series In Their Hands, 2001, photographs of hands gently holding cut-out pornographic female nudes, connecting the porn industry with care, motherhood oriented towards an object, and women’s togetherness.
The aim of Lenka Klodová’s exhibition within the project Oh and Hah, Beauty, Ruin and Slack is to bring the idea of a body ruin to the second scene Time of Lamentation, though in a different sense than that of a crumpled and collapsed body. Together we would like to evoke the idea of bringing to an end the evaluative and one-sided conception of the body, the body as a container separated from the mind, the body as a vessel of sin, the body as a sex signifier, the body veiled, mutilated and hidden, the body exposed, making money, the consumer body, the body for childhood, young and old age, the healthy body and the sick one. Lamentation is a performative act and our corporeality and nudity acquire a collective participation in it. It is the sensitive interface of the intimate body, the family and the public one – or their mixing – that over time can wean us off many habits with which we clench and torment our bodies, or those of others.
Yet Lenka Klodová comes to PLATO as a native (although she was born in Opava hospital, she lived in Ostrava) to the place of her childhood, adolescence, artistic beginnings, and as a fan of the Malamut festival. That is why we want to conceive the exhibition a bit retrospectively and show something like her “belonging to Ostrava”, albeit without any ambition for conclusiveness. At the exhibition, Klodová will develop her presentation technique of “meshing up” her own work, including among others the creation of new objects following two creative lines.
“I discovered meshing up during the exhibition in Futura Gallery as a favourable way for me to cope with exhibiting earlier works. Two groups of objects make it possible to bring together quite a lot of works from a period of some four to five years. The torsos (curator‘s note: plaster casts of bodies – torsos – of her own and of women from her family, which have screens with the artist’s videos in place of their heads) are the culmination of what I did during the ‘corona’ time. I stroked the plaster casts of my mom and daughter. I will even be able to complement them with casts of my sister and my aunt, so there will be the whole female blood branch in that set. Now I‘m going to give them a head full of my performative videos. In doing this I combine my work with my family, who don’t share my approach to art. I use this to show them back that they are present in my work and that they are one of its foundations. The object Magazines revisits my beloved theme of printed erotic magazines, although now it takes mainly their graphic layout – and this typical layout becomes a construction that in turn will carry a larger set of videos and especially photo works. By placing different events side by side, I am meeting myself. The construction of the Magazine will underline the works’ erotic character, even if it is not itself erotic,” says Lenka Klodová.
A performance by the artist will be announced in the course of the exhibition.
* All three words end with “ženka”, which is derived from žena (woman)
The works of Lenka Klodová deal with women’s experience, viewed from many different angles and within broader social issues. She focuses on corporeality, pregnancy and motherhood, nudity, pornography, ageism and similar topics. Her work uses humour functionally and with emphatic openness as a means of breaking down moralistic barriers in communicating complex social issues. Klodová has studied the specifics of women’s perception of sexuality in detail and has used her own motherhood to bring this topic into the field of art in a direct way, which until recently would have been unthinkable. Klodová repeatedly addresses the relations between men and women and the topic of female sexual desire. The media she uses to do this vary, but they are based on performativity. Lenka Klodová cooperates with the Divus publishing house and organizes the FNAF Festival of Naked Forms. Since 2010 she has been the head of the Body Design Studio at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Brno.
Special thanks to the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and Moravian-Silesian Region.
Supported by Faculty of Fine Arts of Brno University of Technology.