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Jiří Kovanda’s minimalist actions and interventions of the 1970s were often so subtle they were almost imperceptible. They could not attack immediately, but they did have an effect in the long run. There is a certain Romanticism in his artistic gestures that may have been stimulating in the depressing 1970s, when it served as a contrast to so many traumatic and politically-laden performances. Simple actions like gazing fixedly into the eyes of people encountered on an escalator, for example, or intentionally-unintentionally touching chance passersby on the street can be understood as attempts to make contact. They had a therapeutic function, for they overcame timidity without causing injury or parading their intentions ostentatiously. Kovanda’s actions remain a tacit challenge to come closer, a longing for communication, for the preservation of an elemental human contact that was lacking in society at the time. Although political interpretations would have been unacceptable to him, his actions did have a subtle political dimension.

J.S.


  • Artist: Jiří Kovanda
  • Original Title: K129
  • English Title: November 26th, 1977, Hradec Králové, Pressing myself as close as I can to the wall, I make my way around the whole room; there are people in the middle of the room, watching…
  • Year: 1977
  • Material: 2 b&w photographs, typewritten text on paper
  • Dimensions: Original Size: 33 x 24 cm (13 x 9 7/16 in.) Framed: 45,5 x 36,5 cm (17 15/16 x 14 3/8 in.)
  • Inventory no.: K129
  • Category: photography
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