GARAGE CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY CULTURE PRESENTS
Jan Švankmajer’s Kunstkammer
Garage Center for Contemporary Culture presents an exhibition by legendary Czech artist, filmmaker and set designer Jan Švankmajer, widely recognized as one of the most accomplished animators working today. Švankmajer has received international acclaim for his films, which merge live action, stop-motion animation and puppetry to create scenes that simultaneously shock and captivate the viewer. His work explores the legacy of Surrealism, and the way in which images derived from the subconscious can reveal both the inner workings of the human mind and its social surroundings, thereby confronting the dark and often frightening sides of our existence.
Švankmajer’s artistic practice is incredibly wide-ranging. Aside from his feature films and animation, he produces sculpture, graphic design, collage and “tactile experiments”. The artist uses both man-made and organic materials, such as animal skeletons, stones, fossils and dried plants.
Curated by Yulia Aksenova, the exhibition at Garage reveals the rich diversity of Švankmajer’s practice. The work gains cohesion within the concept of the Kunstkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, an eclectic collection of peculiar man-made and organic objects. The first Kunstkammern, created during the Age of Enlightenment during the 17th and 18th centuries, epitomized the influx of new knowledge from non-Western civilizations and were perceived as a sort of arena, a theater of the world, where art and nature collide.
Švankmajer’s sculptures and short films will be presented as part of a large-scale architectural installation – designed by Kiril Ass and Nadezhda Korbut - created especially for the exhibition at Garage. The artist’s installation and arrangement of the space aims to immerse the viewer in the phantasmagoria of Švankmajer’s art and his world, thereby offering the viewer a completely unique insight into his practice.
Jan Švankmajer was born in Prague in 1934. In the 1950s, he studied at The Theatre Faculty of the Prague Academy of Performing Arts, where he majored in Puppet Set Design and Production. Švankmajer continued to work as an artist and filmmaker in Prague, founding the Theater of Masks in the city’s Semaphore Theater and taking a leading role in the Czech Surrealist Commune. His works have been exhibited internationally at the Laforet Museum Harajuku, Tokyo; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; the Kyoto National Museum and the Museum of the Moving Image, New York; with a major retrospective of the artist's work recently held at the City Gallery, Prague. Švankmajer has made over thirty short films and animations and six feature films, for which he has received critical acclaim and won numerous international awards.
Yulia Aksenova studied History of Art and Curating Contemporary Art at the Russian State University of the Humanities (1998 – 2002) and attended the Programme of New Art Strategy for Artists and Art Critics at the Soros Center for Contemporary Art (2000 – 2002). She later attended the International Curatorial Training Program de Appel in Amsterdam in 2007. Aksenova has held curatorial positions at the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow Center of Art and Garage Center for Contemporary Culture. She has curated and co-curated numerous exhibitions over the last five years, including Russian Pop-art (2005) and Sots-Art: Political art in Russia (2007) at the Moscow State Tretyakov Gallery; numerous exhibitions at the Moscow Center of Art; Masters Hamfrey`s Clock, De Appel, Amsterdam (2008); New Old Cold War, Red October Gallery (2009); and Russian Utopias (2010), Phantom Monuments (2011) and Necessary Art, Gorky Park (2011) at Garage.