According to established theoretical convention the work of the artist Jiří Skála can be dubbed conceptual, though it does not fit comfortably into this category. This is despite the fact that Skála’s thinking is linked to conceptualism by its strictly polarised oppositions between text and object, picture and gallery space. To begin with he flirted with the suspended painterly form. This period saw a series of painted Flags, as well as the video performance Harmony Corruption. An already primed canvas was gradually turned into a total of four frames. Another example that again draws on painterly determined resources is Local Stigma. The video recording retained the simple preparation and priming of the canvas prior to the act of painting. The principle was to record several different methods of work, the joint objective of which is a painting on canvas. Skála was the creator of a plan with which everything complied.
Skála’s work gradually moved toward the thematising of textual narrative and the search for an alternative mode of communication that could allow for the relevant existence of narrative, either in a gallery or public space. In 2006 he created one of the important examples of this style entitled Exchange of Handwriting. He undertook the first version in Art in General in New York and at the end of the same year presented the second version of the project at the Atrium of Pražák Palace, Brno. He used the method of acquiring a manuscript in the opposite sense of verbal communication, by means of which we usually get to know the other. This fact of getting to know the other is supported by the presence of a female and male subject. In its way this was a contemplative workshop updating the concept of authorship. In 2007 at the Gallery Hunt Kastner an exhibition was held entitled “Two Groups of Subjects” that paraphrased an essay by the Italian writer Umberto Eco, in which Skála began to investigate the duality of socially and privately determined relations to consumer production by means of work or leisure resources. In 2010 he published a book entitled “One Group of Subjects”, in which the role of the text and object bring together that socially determining potential that Skála continues to systematically develop. The basis of the book is formally constructed on a descriptive form of narration, a strategy of experimental poetry evoking a list of engineering objects, and on the amateur photo-documentation of these objects by their users, i.e. the generation of artistic parents (now in the fifties and sixties), for whom these tools were a means of support in very clearly demarcated working hours, after which followed leisure time, usually filled by another kind of activity.
Skála subsequently used the relationship between narrative and the technological object when creating his internet blog. This served him as a virtual surface on which to hang videos of “unboxing”. New owners of technological devices (mainly smartphones, computers and digital cameras) film themselves while opening bulky cardboard boxes and upload the result to the web. This is accompanied by texts that are almost journal-like in character in which these technophiles describe their experience with the devices and again publish it somewhere on internet islands. Skála selected what he felt to be the most interesting examples of this huge volume of visual and textual material and then either manipulated the texts or write his own version. One could argue that he was interested in capturing the current generational level of consumers, where the originally clear boundary between leisure and work is gradually being eroded. The social dimension to Skála’s activities consists in the attempt to reveal the mechanisms that radically expose our privacy and enter into the sphere of the totally public. Text is then a tool for the poeticisation of the artificial and motionless reality of the object, be this a symbol of desire or utilitarian production resource.
After one year of its operations the blog gave rise to a series of performative readings in the Gallery Hunt Kastner Artworks, Prague. On this occasion Skála had the opportunity to utilise the conception of his blog physically, and to be inspired by the concept of the Prague Free Theatre and the stage concepts of Jindřich Honzl, Jiří Frejka and E. F. Burian. The original material of the unboxing videos was alternated in the gallery with readings of individual passages from the blog. Non-actors were invited to read the texts and were required by Skála, acting in the role of director, to restrict themselves exclusively to intelligible and fluent reading (with the occasional change of place within the gallery).
Interview with Jiří Skála (after having been awarded the Chalupecký Prize): kultura.ihned.cz/c1-39209010-jiri-skala-zajimaji-me-veci-ktere-mohou-byt-sdelitelne-i-mimo-galerii