The current exhibition at KW Institute presents the work of Anna Daučíková through video, photography and sculpture. Spanning the past five decades, the body of work refuses linearity, welcomes the experimental possibilities between the artist and her materials, and opens up to wider discourses on identity.
‘Upbringing by Exercise’ (1996) greets the viewer upon entering, showing Daučíková pressing a pane of glass to her body in a set of seventeen photographs. The glass imprints itself against the artist’s torso in unrepeatable and unique abstractions. Daučíková creates a thoughtful contrast between the autonomy of the artist and the uncontrollable results of the materials used. Even the composition of the images resists linearity, moving like a heartbeat first across, then up and down, up and down. Next to this work loops the film ‘We Care For Your Eyes’ (2002), in which hands pass over unzipped trousers at a climactic pace, under which a mirror bounces and reflects. Similarly to ‘Upbringing by Exercise’, the artist navigates her own voyeurism and hints to the varied, even un-bordered, possibilities of the body outside of the binary pigeonholing so often relegated by societies.
The exhibition continues to move between photography and video work. In ‘Untitled’ (2000), snapshots are arranged like interrupted streams of consciousness. Each image overlaps the one beneath, offering us glimpses of pavements, a street bench, a bag sitting on a train seat and fingers wrapped around a thumb. In the video work, the viewer sees hands repeatedly engage in rituals, such as the soapy cleaning of a ceramic lid in ‘Chthonian Greeting for C. Paglia’ (1996) or the intense rubbing of a tightly-held glass in ‘Queen’s Finger’ (1998).
The highlight of the exhibition is Daučíková’s newly commissioned work, ‘Expedition for Four Hands and Accompaniment’ (2019). The work incorporates both film and sculpture, comprising of a three-screen video piece, engraved panes of glass angled delicately on rocks and an accompanying publication. The rituals of earlier video work neatly mirror the rituals of this film. Hands are recorded cutting glass, folding clothing and arranging glass around fabric. In a performative sequence, a supposedly male hand moves along one screen whilst a supposedly female hand moves across the other. The videos overwhelm the screens onto which they are projected, casting neat oblong shapes against the back of the space akin to the panes of glass. The works shatter across the space and, in doing so, are brought together in a visual dialogue.
The engraved panes of glass read like a thoughtful epitaph: the viewer must physically walk to reveal the sentences, either by the light bouncing off the engravings or by the shadow cast beneath them. This doubling of the text occupies the in-between that, as one sentence reads, ‘plays out in contact with other surfaces.’ The etched sentences transcend the performative and gendered movements of the screens and address the incredibly precarious position of transgender people across the globe. The final pane factually lists the number of transgender people attacked and killed each year. From 2000 to 2018, we see the number rise before reaching the current year, where a dash is left unanswered; its pending state rings volumes for the acts of violence that are and continue to be inflicted. The message carried is urgent, present, ongoing.
In the work of Daučíková, an ongoing conversation threads throughout. The artist engages, as one etching reads, in ‘the language of gestures where every sign is also a question mark.’ The gestures of the artist, from the movements captured in both early and contemporary work, form a continuing process and exploration rather than a completion, end point or result. It is through these gestures that we witness the artist’s work move from self-investigation of identity to a poignant and shared perspective.