Martin Janíček: Retro-Repro
8. 9. – 1. 10. 2023
opening: 7. 9. 2023 from 6 pm
a musical improvisation by Martin Janicek, Martin Alacam and Michael Delia: 20. 9. 2023 from 7 pm
curator: Gabriela Kotiková
GK: The Repro-Retro exhibition combines a fascination with the phenomenon of loudspeakers, Czech DIY and field recordings that you make and then use once in a while. You often work with found objects from which you make sculptures - instruments. I'd like to ask how you came to connect the visual aspect of your work with sound? Were you interested in connecting with sound from the beginning? You studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in 1990-1997 under Milan Knížák, and you also spent part of your studies in the studio of Michael Bielický and Miloš Šejn, where you later worked for several years as an assistant.
MJ: I started studying at AVU in 1990, so I was in the first post-revolutionary year. One day we were playing in the studio with the band Vlaky v trysku (Trains in the Jet) and because it was Milan Knížák's 50th birthday, he got the urge to drum and played in my place for a while. And then he asked me, when we were discussing work processes, why don't I try combining it - audio and sculpture. And from then on, my interests were clear. At that time, the studio was totally relaxed, there was so much going on, everybody was trying things out and Knížák helped everyone, he didn't have any other functions yet.
Over the years, you have participated in many exhibitions, residencies and symposia, already during your studies at the Plasy Monastery in collaboration with Miloš Vojtěchovský, and gradually the circle of people has expanded to many international collaborations and stays in Glasgow, New York, Japan, etc. The exhibitions included one-off concerts and improvisations with many different people such as Phill Niblock, Michael Delia and many others. I'd like to ask what your background in music is. Is it classical music education, which was then followed by improvisation, using your own instruments and various object sounds?
My education in music was classical piano for about two years and then later I played drums. But sticking to the notes was quite different from the big beat I wanted to play at the time, so then I did a lot of tapping to songs... I was listening to a lot of different music at that time, industrial, guitar stuff, alternative, but also contemporary classical music.
In addition to visual arts, you were a member of the Mamapa group for some time, which combined theatre and performance, or the musical group Orloj Snivců. But I’m also interested in the lesser-known history that goes back to the communist era, which was related to big beat and the independent culture. For example, you played with the band Národní třída with Jáchym Topol, Vít Kremlička and others. When exactly was that and what kind of memories do you have?
It started when I started playing with my classmates from school, and we had nowhere to rehearse, because someone always had a problem with it... And one day Vojta Stádník came and said that they would try to rehearse in our studio. But we didn't have electricity at that time!! But my enterprising father got a generator. A litre of gas was enough for an hour and the band paid for it. So, within a week Jáchym Topol, Viktor Karlík, Vít Kremlička and later many others appeared and a great era of rehearsals began, which often stretched into a party, and then, completely according to the PPU recipe, Ludvík Hradílek and Tereza Muchová organized a wedding celebration and we had a normal festival.
Did you have to get the special communist permission to play back then? To what extent was there a threat of being banned from a concert, summoned to the state security, etc.?
It was possible to have concerts either where they had the courage to let us play or didn't know what to expect. So sometimes we would play in a pub somewhere on the outskirts of Prague, or outside of Prague. I never went to the communist sessions; I had no ambition to play officially with a permit. All bands that disturbed the socialist way of life were forbidden. I experienced this during one concert when we played in the Žižkov Theatre with David Janeček, Miloš Bárta, Martin John, etc. and the organizer didn't like it and just turned off the power. But we continued to play drums, so they dismantled our drums.....
Is it possible to say that you knew other significant personalities of the Czech underground who influenced your work, which goes beyond the narrow field of visual arts? It wasn't so common among visual artists and from today's perspective it's interesting to go back to that time, which was completely different from the current one.
Since 1976, when I started my apprenticeship at the Arts and Crafts Company, I have been around people who are just like me. There I met David Němec, Michal Prokop, Ludvík Hradílek, Pavel Veselý, Libor Krejcar and the aforementioned Vojta Stádník. And we quickly realised that we were all there because we couldn't get anywhere else, because we weren't from communist families. Some of the families were more active – the Němec and Hradilek families, some less so. So we quickly got together. At that time, I was fifteen or sixteen years old, I was interested in everything - religion, philosophy, art, culture, music, theater. We used to go to jazz days, they were official because the Jazz Section organized them. Then after the signing of Charter 77, there were apartment lectures, Ladislav Hejdánek, Petr Rezek, Jan Němec and many others, and there we met a lot of interesting and active people.
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, GESTOR – The Union for the Protection of Authorship
Partners: Kostka stav
Media partners: ArtMap, artalk.cz and jlbjlt.net