Artur Magrot: Degree of Freedom
28. 2. – 22. 3. 2020
opening: 27. 2. 2020 from 6PM
curator: Nina Moravcová
Have you ever experienced an earthquake?
Yes I have, when I was twelve years old. Where I come from, seismic activity was relatively frequent. That time it was only around the magnitude of 3.0. I was laying at home reading a book. Then something happened. Everything, including me, moved but it was in a strange way. When everything around you moves, there’s a feeling in your body. I mean inside of your body. At that time there were reports in the news that an earthquake was coming. Some friends from the town near ours which was closer to the epicentre, used to talk about what it was like. Then, when I experienced it first hand, it was a rather exciting moment and hardly graspable. It is a very “vertical” feeling. It comes from the depth of the earth, through you and further above and yet it is in all directions.
And that is exactly what I’m interested in. That feeling you experience when the ground is moving. I imagine it would be like a sudden meeting with a force, the source, intensity or scope of which we are unable to see. Like something that floods you and escapes your perspective.
From what I can remember, it takes some time to find one’s bearings, to realize what is happening. Thoughts about what to do – standing between a doorpost or hiding under a table – occurred to me only after everything was over and they actually seemed absurd to me. When one experiences something so strong for the first time, something outside of the human dimension, or rather smallness, it is not like being in front of something monumental, but rather like being in monumentality itself and not being able to escape it. It is like being in the stomach of something that is marching somewhere without taking you into consideration.
Sometimes I try to imagine what kind of a feeling it is. I remember when I was in elementary school a long time ago and our whole class had to go a clinic. It’s like a hidden image now and sometimes I’m not even sure that it actually happened. There was a nurse in the examining room with a strange instrument in her hand – some kind of forceps that she used to measure our heads with. One after the other: “Five. Next!” … and then one time we tried on gas masks in our classroom. I remember the rough texture of the rubber material between my fingers and I had a bad taste in my mouth from the rubber for several days after, just like the strange feeling of constraint. Once in a while that feeling comes back to me when I encounter something I don’t quite understand.
That was before my time. But I remember that once in “workshops” we were helping our teacher clean out the supply room. There was a lot of old dusty things and among them some national defence education supplies – instructional posters on what to do in case of injury or in the case of a chemical attack, musty gas masks, disintegrating raincoats, gumboots and rubber gloves. Students from higher grades were bragging that they used to try the masks on. I wonder if back then anyone actually believed that something like that would protect them.
Maybe it was supposed to be an instrument to better depict the image of an enemy.
I have recently seen a documentary on TV with a short American film from the beginning of the 1950s. The subtitles were animated and there was a turtle. It had an army helmet on its head. There was a monkey above it swinging in a tree-top on a fish hook with a dynamite. As soon as the turtle noticed that, it crawled inside its mail. Cut, followed by a black and white instructional film with shots of children behind school desks. They immediately crawled under their desks and covered their heads. It was about nine minutes long and it was all about how to behave in various situations where a nuclear explosion occurs.
So a “parody” on the same topic!?
I wonder if it’s possible that back then in the West they were not aware of that realistic threat they could be facing?
Probably not, at that time.
And do you think it was different here?
I think it was quite obvious what was happening here.
I’m not so sure about that. Maybe later. That threat didn’t have to be just war. Not too long after I was born, there was a radioactive cloud floating above Europe. I never actually asked my parents about it.
It was brought up at our house once. Apparently, no one knew much about it and in the beginning, there was a lot of secrecy.
I think that’s even worse! When you feel that something is happening but the context escapes you.
It’s true. Ever since the time we’ve had hope, I’ve had the feeling that a lot of things are escaping me. There was a time when that didn’t bother me at all. On the contrary, I felt like I was being embraced with peace. Recently, however, I have encountered several things that I’m not able to understand. When I’m at home I try to listen to the news on the radio during the day. Usually until the time that the information starts to repeat itself. I don’t have a TV. I don’t read the newspaper. Only once in a while, when I’m not too tired I browse through various news servers. I start with text that interests me. Maybe someone shared it that day. I can’t remember now. Other headlines keep popping up. I continue to read. The information is a chain. Sometimes I catch myself after an hour or two, realizing I have lost track of time and that I’m not even paying attention to what I’m reading because I’m exhausted by the flood of information. And then I stare into the ceiling until the morning thinking about how to hew my way through all that.
(transl. Vanda Krutsky)
The program of the Jeleni Gallery is possible through kind support of Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, Prague City Council, State Fund of Culture of the Czech Republic, City District Prague 7
Partners: Kostka stav
Media support: ArtMap, jlbjlt.net, UMA: You Make Art