Allegorical proposals for living in a problematical age
Eva Kot’atková has described her work as starting from “my nearest environment, the basic-naturally-structured communities like household, family or school with their mechanisms, rituals and schemes of mutual dependencies“.
Kot’atková began her work as an artist creating sculpture and installations that are allegorical proposals for living in a problematical age. Her drawings and collages are blueprints for difficulties that must be surmounted in order to explore the limits of human relationships and behaviour. From the beginning she has enlisted other people in the resolution of his task from school children, where in an early series of sculptures Sit up Straight she made apparatus to correct slouching in class, to adults that reveal her research into the strange behaviour of vertebrates and the psychology of enclosure and restraint.
Although Kot’atková has said that there is no unity of form or style in the outcomes of her experiments, her revision of artistic language emphasises the importance and centrality of each installation as the means by which disparate elements are drawn together in a cohesive way. The human scale of each sculptural element within Kot’atková environments draws the spectator into a disaffected world in which rules must be obeyed but are not understood.
In her earlier sculptures subjects are physically restrained, caged and hobbled by a vast range of appliances that seem to have the sole purpose of creating physical discomfort but act as obstacles to the meaningful integration of a person into social structures. Sometimes, as in the case of the school children, they appear to be some sort of dysfunctional learning aid implying that the way in which knowledge is acquired is counter to our natural needs and potential. They are produced for an unnamed authority that provides the natural habitat for its citizens; the classroom or the prison cell.
Throughout her work Kot’atková walks a line between dispassionate control and intimacy. She explores her and, by implication, the audience’s ability to connect or a propensity to fall into gaps within a common sensibility when the capacity to respond and to empathise is confounded by physical and psychological barriers.
More recently the metaphorical status of physical constraint has become a reflection on the inherent impossibility of real communication. Kot’atková has introduced live performers into her environments whereas before human presence was invoked by her sculptures or recorded in photographs. These performers execute repetitive actions over and over again only occasionally relaxing into more natural poses. Their mechanistic behaviour emphasises the levels of stress that their circumstances dictate. The stage on which they move is shaped like the human speech organ and the performers depict it as a dysfunctional model in which they activate speech even if this is very difficult to do. Kot’atková tests “alternative methods of non-verbal communication, unarticulated expression through movement, unidentified sound, pantomime and versions of sign language“. Her physical cages are the outer manifestation of inner emotional control and restraint. They materialise the condition of mental restriction that the disempowered unconsciously experience, the invisible cages that to varying degree deprive people of their potential.
You can watch the interview with Eva Kot’atková at the 55 Biennale Venezia 2013:
Via: David Throp, Curator – Eva Kot’atková, A Storyteller’s Inadequacy.