The work of Janek Rous is dominated by performance and the creation of specific situations that can take the form of subtle intervention (and its simple documentation) or monumental narratives caught by film essay or complex video installation. Rous is either a solitary actor carrying out apparently banal activities in relation to the city or countryside environment, or a kind of chess player playing with real figures, able to create unexpectedly interpersonal constellations on the border of reality and abnormality. The combination of the artist’s idiosyncratic humour in relation to the everyday and his interest in the “other side”, i.e. the irrational and magical side of reality, lends his work a freshness and originality of its own.
One of the first imposing works created while Rous was still at the Academy of Fine Arts studying with Jiří Příhoda at the Monument Studio was the cycle Useless Activities (2007). In the role of a somewhat deranged benefactor Rous copies sheets of blank paper, shakes the snow off the branches of trees during a storm, and buys tickets to exhibitions that he doesn’t visit. This was followed by the project Neue dörflichkeit / Nová vesnickost (New Rurality) (2009), realised in collaboration with Jan Trejbal. The artists undertook a night-time expedition to dysfunctional villages where they carried out minor rituals reacting to problematic situations such as disputes between neighbours regarding the boundaries of land, water pollution, or forgotten monuments. In a line of (non)supporting projects Rous also continued with actions and related installations entitled Hvězdičky na špeku / Stars on Speck (2010), in which he drank rainwater in order to water the artificial flowers in his hotel with own urine. By inverting the logical of things ad absurdum the artist unwittingly draws attention to both small and large interstices and deaf places in the organisation of the environment in which we live.
Conscious absurdity also dominates a series of performances depicting Rous in relation to architecture. Colourfully clad, the artist puts himself in the position of a glorified sculpture on the top of an apartment block (Sláva / Glory, 2010), or practices balance by sitting on the end of a girder stretching several meters from a bridge over the river (O stabilitě / About Stability, 2011). From a wider perspective the artist’s work creates a tension between the city and the countryside, rules and deviation, reality and dream. In his most recent projects the dreamy, illusory, hazy element begins to predominate.
The video-diptych entitled Fig. 7 – The King (2011) is an atmospheric composition with a powerful audiovisual aesthetic. Here too the theme emerges of incomplete stories on the boundary of mystical visions or optical illusions. A majestic king balanced on a boat in the middle of a lake in a picturesque mountain pass disappears beneath the surface of the water forever, while in the second video in an almost spiritual circle above his own head he attempts to switch on a perpetually exploding light bulb. The ritualised circle, this time in relation to the human community, also appears in the following action entitled Čekání na otočení / Waiting for Turning (2012).
An important work in which the artist examines the content and technical aspects of installation more comprehensively is his diploma work, a film essay entitled Vhodná poušť pro fata morganu / Suitable Desert for a Fata Morgana (2013). A widescreen projection linked with a captivating audio installation obliges the viewer to navigate the space and follow the film story from two sides. The work is concerned with the theme of memory, one of the most surreal elements of the human personality. The relationship between different levels of time, recollections and dreamlike images escaping the waking state is also at the heart of his most recent work Zvuk z pouště / The Sound from the Desert (2015). A spacious video installation shows the improbable meeting of several individual figures in an open space, as though there were some kind of crack in the fabric of space-time in which seemingly unrelated fragments of narrative could become intertwined.
At first sight the work of Janek Rous is dominated by lightness and humour in the face of unusual situations. However, on another plane the artist is entering the deep waters of the human psyche and the unexplored corners of the surrounding world. His work offers no simplistic answers. By means of subtle, multi-layered gestures the artist dissects well known, even archetypal themes in order to reveal the ambiguities of reality that we play a part in creating.