In the wide stream of Czech political art Jan Jakub Kotík’s works stand out due to their analytical character, their creation of symbolic relationships between seemingly divergent contexts, and their orientation on American politics. The roots of Kotík’s investigative approach and formally complete realisation can be found in his New York background. They stem from his having grown up and studied in another cultural and political environment.
He arrived on the Czech art scene in 2000 with his exhibit, Economies of Scale / Úspory měřítek at the Jelení Gallery. This collection of household appliances built from airplane, tank and battleship models critically delves into the problem of industrial machinery’s potential. It addresses the fact that the machinery’s well-intentioned conventional utility has a number of known and hidden connections to the technologies of aggression and power. This contextual principle sets the banal every-dayness and unsettling symbols of political expansion against each other. He even utilises a picture of the Mir satellite made from various pieces of toast. It was called Breakfast of Champions / Snídaně šampionů (2001). Kotík is well aware of the genesis and history of social status in consumer design. It took off during the World War II period thanks to the work of army laboratories. Besides the reverse side of consumption, in his further works Kotík also addressed globalisation; for example, in his project Easy Target / Snadný cíl (2001). This project draws attention to the possible short-sightedness of the anti-globalisation movement. The same holds for his series of „personalised“ ATM machines, Money Talks / Peníze promlouvají (2002), which Kotík stylised with the help of sorts of „wallpapers“ readily installable on PCs and mobile phones.
Since 2002 Kotík’s work more intensively deals with the problem of mutual ties between media, industry, politics and ideology. Kotík interprets non-transparent relationships, which shape global reality, generate political leaders, and manipulate information. His work attempts to draw our attention to what interests and brutal facts can be camouflaged by the media image of what appears to be a friendly handshake. The joining of various time and local contexts, the analogy of various hierarchical models validate themselves in Kotík’s „list objects.“ His use of subtle, artificial, electrical moulding for the schematisation of plastic drawings on walls, for example, as he did in the B-1 Bomber (2003) joined to a clock, in the project 60 Watt Max (2004), or his Study of Disseminating Information (2005), thus become a sort of material metaphor for hidden ties.
Kotík’s criticism of militant international policy is expressed in the object, Long Live the Commander / Ať žije velitel (2003), which ironically combines statements on the aggressive policy of the Bush Administration with the heavy metal composition, Iron Man.
This impressive representation of making visible the manipulative strategies of US war rhetoric during the time of the attack on Iraq can be seen, for example, in the S, M, L, XL project (2003). In that work he showed professional models wearing t-shirts with slogans such as „Shock and Awe“, „Axis of Evil“ and „War on Terror.“ The t-shirts were later sold in not-for-profit schemes. Jan Kotík’s works represent concrete forms of power or wealth. He points out that the roots of social evil are not abstract, but rather they speak to us clearly in a mundane language about everyday events.
Jan J. Kotík, Práce z let 1995-2005, Nadace pro současné umění Praha, 2005.
Umelec Magazine, Travis Jeppesen, Burnt Toast and Broken Satellites (Profile), Prague, 2004.
Tyden Magazine, Tomas Pospiszyl, “George Bush is a Metalhead – Interview with Jan Jakub Kotik”, Prague, 2003
Lidove Noviny, David Kuhlhánek, “Mir Satellite as Artistic Inspiration”, Prague, 2001
The Prague Post, Mimi Fronzak Rogers, ‘Politically Incorrect at the Castle”, Prague 29.5.2002
Mlada Fronta Dnes, Simona Jurackova, “Kotik makes the Music of the President”, Brno CZ, 2004
Mlada Fronta Dnes, JHV, “Pick - Entrance Stage Death”, Moravia Edition - 21.2.2004.
Mlada Fronta Dnes, “Pick - Grand Opening”, Moravia Edition - 2.10.2000
Art & Antiques, Lenka Lindauraova, “Artist’s Profile - Jan Jakub Kotík”, Prague, 2004
Atelier, Jiri Valoch, “Models and Paraphrases - Jan J. Kotik”, Prague - 5.2000
Atelier, Nicholas Sawiciki, “Review - Politik-Um”, Prague, 2003 Atelier, Milena Slavicka, “Review - Prague Bienniale”, Prague, 4.4.2002
The Prague Pill, John Caulkins, “Review- Politik-Um”, Prahue, 15.6.2002