Sue de Beer
Harry Dodge & Stanya Kahn
Luis Gispert & Jeffrey Reed
Erik van Lieshout
Stephen G. Rhodes
Ryan Trecartin & Lizzie Fitch
This is the story of a suicide (Killer without a Cause, 2006). The protagonist is in a situation that we all fear to some extent. He lives alone in what seems to be a big city. His apartment is in the kind of anonymous high-rise in which, even after years, no one knows their neighbors. In such a place, nobody would notice if someone died. The building’s residents probably see friends only every few days, weeks, or months, if at all, and are the kind of people whose parents either have passed on or live far away, and who have no partner, not even a pet, with whom to share their lives. The image and text of this film installation by Ján Mančuška are not complementary, but rather replicate each other’s function. Viewers find themselves in a dark room in which the only light source is a small thirty-five-millimeter projection. This projects onto another projector located on the opposite side of the room precisely where the reel is visible—nothing more and nothing less. Thus, unlike being in a multiplex cinema with an enormous screen, viewers almost have to squint in order to discern the image. The film, which is silent, tells the story of the last days of the protagonist “V.” A separate audio recording tells us that the man’s initial is “V” and evokes the kind of radio plays that require listeners to imagine the picture. This ambience becomes further skewed by the fact that the volume of the recording is much too high for the small room. We thus feel as if we were standing in a gloomy planetarium, hoping that it might somehow be capable of expanding to accommodate the sound.
As mentioned earlier, Mančuška’s work deals with a suicide, that of V. We have no problem empathizing with V, but we find ourselves hoping that we will never find ourselves in his shoes. Yet something still isn’t quite right. We are told that V was incredibly lonely, that he didn’t see or talk to anybody, and that his mother had supposedly passed away some time ago. So why is his mother there to see the corpse the day after his suicide? And why did a friend visit V just the day before, leaving a sweater on the chair? And why does yet another person wonder why V never said anything even though they saw each other daily?
Both image and sound prove unreliable; as the sum of these two parts, the story simply doesn’t add up. The suicide, apparently planned well in advance, creates a rupture; afterwards, everything is different. The viewer can’t decide what is real and what is not, because neither the visual nor the oral parts of the story provide credible information. The decision thus remains wholly with the viewer/listener: did V fail to realize that he was not alone because his inner loneliness had nothing to do with the relationships he had with people? Or does his end serve to show a subconscious, or at least not entirely conscious desire on the part of V to be mourned once he is dead? Either way, both interpretations demonstrate the individual’s difficulty in forging stable relationships, which invariably involve dependencies and compromise, within contemporary social contexts through their emphasis of issues of individuality, independence, and mobility. This seemingly sad resume of the contemporary subject does, however, allow for a much more far-reaching realization. The social consensus of what constitutes a “good citizen” has changed in the last twenty years. The individual is no longer expected to integrate as well as possible into the community, but rather is valued for being active, independent, and mobile. The consequence of this praise of autonomy is a psychologization of society, for autonomy can only be achieved through social interaction on all levels. The personal sphere takes center stage and becomes the deciding factor in all behavior, including our professional life.
As a result, we are expected to structure ourselves, for society has abandoned that function. For V, this means that the question of whether his suicide is justified or comprehensible becomes less important than the questioning of the subjective reason behind it. Thus, the issue is not that he may or may not have had good friends and family ties, but rather that these, even if they are real, cannot liberate him from the burden of having to be his own representative.
Lives in Prague and Berlin
|2007||A Gap , Galerie Meyer Riegger, Karlsruhe|
|2005||The First Minute of the Rest of a Movie (with Jonas Dahlberg, touring), Kunstverein Bonn, Germany; Neue Kunsthalle St. Gallen,
True Story , Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York
|2004||Read it , Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York|
|2002||Prague 13 , Galerie Václava Špály, Prague|
|2006||Von Mäusen und Menschen, 4. berlin biennale für zeitgenössische kunst , Berlin|
|2005||Model of Word, The Experience of Art, 51. Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte, La Biennale di Venezia , Czech and Slovak Pavilion, Venice|
|2004||Time and Again , Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam|
|2002||Manifesta 4 , Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, Frankfurt/Main, Germany|
|1999||Distant Similarities—Something Better Than Cosmetics , National Gallery, Veletrzni palac, Prague|
Vít Havránek and Christina Vegh, ed. “Ján Mančuška. Absent.” in: Tranzit no. 3 . (Zurich, 2006).
Melissa Gronlund, “Ján Mančuška,” in: Frieze. Contemporary Art and Culture , no. 102 (October 2006).
Martin Seidel, “The First Minute of the Rest of a Movie,” in: Kunstforum International , no. 178, (December 2005).
Sarah Schmerler, “ Ján Mančuška at Andrew Kreps ,” in: Art in America (October 2004).
Roberta Smith, “Ján Mančuška—Read it,” in: The New York Times (March 2004).