Namesti Jana Palacha, Prague, June-October 2004

Recently there have been a number of interesting exhibitions mounted at the Philosophy Faculty building on Námesti Jana Palacha, curated by Ondrej Hrab.

One of these in particular stands out and deserves mention: Ondrej Tucek’s series of found objects, previously on show at Klub v Jelení, the Catholic House in Telc, Sazavou castle, and Muncipal Theatre, Cesky Krumlov.

Using plastic bottles, steel wires, torn wrappers, bricks, cardboard tubes, half-eaten biscuits, stiboglyphics, and other ephemeral tracings of industrial and urban activity, Tucek’s work charts what could be called the “inventions” of mimesis in objects which don’t signify anything, and therefore become “beautiful” (sublime).

These objects, which appear both vulnerable and threatening by turn, describe a critical act of “seeing”—a recognition of the particular objecthood of the way in which man inhabits the world (trash as symptom of social entropy).

The fascinating thing about Tucek’s work is how it investigates the ways in which methodologies of aesthetic “production” are circumvented by the techne of urban waste.

While Tucek’s objects may on the one hand be emptied of functional or meaningful content (with regards to “use”), they nevertheless acquire an incisive critical content, through which the serial arrangement of these “works” constructs an architectonics of “found relations,” of relations “interpreted into/onto objects.”

In the relation between a found object and its supposed referent we are confronted with the “fact” of an absent idea: of an object that stands absolutely in place of its supposed “idea” as a figure of entropy.

What remains debatable here is whether or not there is any possibility, beyond mere aestheticism, of a recuperated “function” of such discarded objects—“exhausted of function” (a means of material “redemption” versus the theological, transcendental sense of “spiritual” redemption: that the “used” or “used up” may confer upon us either humility or humanity).

If such a redemption is possible, then we might well seek for it here, but not in any facile sense.

It is a question of recognising in this accumulation of traces, that objects exposed to abandonment acquire complexity—that they are not impoverished or “wasted” simply by the fact of human neglect, but rather become the complex emblems of it.

Between use and abandonment there stands a radical détournement of the humanistic system of values, tied to what we might call an “eternal recurrence” of a particularly human form of entropy. In an interview in Nov Prostor, Tucek made the point that “in a time of a general revaluation of values, and when it is ourselves who are the cause and instruments of this (as far as we can admit to being the cause of turbulence in our own value systems), we look for a fixed point in smaller or lesser disputable truths … This is how found objects enter or renter our lives; we crawl into such objects as one might crawl into a snail’s shell or return to the mother’s womb, imagining that here we may shelter from the world.”

While Tucek has appeared to some as form of post-historic cave painter, his work ought not to be seen as a “primitivist” withdrawal from the contemporary world in the form of an abstract nostalgia. Tucek’s work, as critique, is fundamentally engaged with the contemporary, and can be viewed as an ongoing expression of the “redundancy of representation” in contemporary art.

At the same time, the mysteriousness of Tucek’s abandoned “objects” points to the mysteriousness of representation itself—objects which stand in place of the unseen or unseeable; of entropy; of the paradox of entropy as a generative re-cycling by which “new” images of the world are brought into existence through accumulated forms of accident.