Review: Departure - Low-Cost Generation

Six young Czech artists each fly to a different European city, and Czech Center Prague displays the results

Odlet - Low-Cost Generation

(Departure - Low-Cost Generation)

Jan Kotík - Bukurešť/Bucharest

Tomáš Svoboda – Londýn/London

Milan Salák – Moskva/Moscow

Vasil Artamonov – Paříž/Paris

Krištof Kintera – Madrid

Katka Vincourová – Řím/Rome

While gazing at your umpteenth European castle, do you ever consider the consequences of the booming low-cost travel industry? Chances are you've never thought of it in a negative light before, but see it as fostering understanding and the sharing of knowledge and culture.

In light of all this newly affordable, boundary breaking travel, curator Alberto di Stefano asked a handful of young Czech artists to create a piece inspired by their personal reaction to six different European cites. The result is a nice mix of media and ideas, conveying a message that overcomes any borders or divisions.

Because the Czech Centre's bright, airy café dwarves the tiny gallery, I wasn't surprised when the attendant seemed confused that I'd come to the space for an art show. After pointing at the paintings and repeating the word "art," I was directed to a back room housing two videos and an installation, which, along with the art in the café itself, make up the show.

The first painting, by Milan Salák, is a souvenir of his failed attempt to drive a toy tank thorough Red Square in Moscow. (The square was closed that day.) The lively canvas, accompanied by the tank itself, is rendered in a contemporary style that fits both the aim and the universal humor of his attempted intervention.

The café's sidewall features a number of spray-painted logos, in an internationally accepted tamed graffiti/electro style, inspired by Krištof Kintera's trip to Madrid. Kintera suggests that the logos would benefit and update the image of financial institutions in today's changing society.

The next rooms contain two monotonous, uninspiring videos which, unfortunately, I don't find it necessary to comment on.

As for the last piece, don't be afraid to descend the stairs into the unlit and unkempt basement below, which contains a cleverly disguised instillation. Jan Jakob Kotík was motivated, even before his trip to Romania, by reports that Nicolae Ceausescu's Palace of the People, in Bucharest, is the second biggest building in the world. (Only the Pentagon is larger.)

What results from this fascination are two doors, on opposite walls of a decrepit room - one disguised as a secure entrance to the Pentagon, the other as a similarly fashioned door to Ceausescu's palace.

The doors actually lead nowhere - I know this because I tried to open one, causing the glued-on handle to fall of - but it's a creepy experience nonetheless. If you're alone in the gallery - which I pretty much guarantee you will be - it only heightens the feeling that you've happened upon an area that you shouldn't have entered.

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, or need to escape the downtown tourists, this exhibition is a good way to refresh your senses, offering a welcome breathing space among the bewildering array of architectural delights outside.

Departure - Low-Cost Generation is at Czech Centre Prague until Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

Video on YouTube

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