Jiří Surůvka enriched Czech art of the second half of the nineties in the sphere of performance and its subsequent development. He joined the art scene with a clear set of values and on this basis began loudly and exaggeratedly naming and unpicking facts at variance with general morality. In his pictures, objects, photographs, digital pictures, videos and performances he offers an intelligible critique of society free of intellectual airs and graces, which has a chance of fulfilling its purpose thanks to its simplicity and humour. Jiří Surůvka has acquired respect thanks to his direct personal commitment and involvement, which Jana and Jiří Ševčík describe as “a kind of dada-body-art”.
He began concentrating on performances in the middle of the eighties. To begin with this took the form of an incidental accompaniment to the band Vzhůru do dolů (1984), and a year later he began appearing with his cousin Petr Lysáček, with whom in 1992 he founded Předkapela Lozinski, focussing mainly on performances at private viewings. In 2005 the ensemble was joined by František Kowolowský and renamed Frant išek Lozinski o.p.s.. The activities of Předkapela Lozinski (also known as the Duo Lozinski) include the establishment and organisation of the festival entitled Malamut Performance Meetings in Ostrava.
Of his individual events the character of Batman and the Policeman are best known. A symbolic costume creates a semantic backdrop for individual dramatic scenes. Even though Surůvka prepares his performances with a particular place in mind (he usually performs in public places) and these performances very much belong to the moment, there are many recordings of them which reconstruct his work retrospectively. His work is interconnected. For instance, the figure of Batman is not simply a figure from performance but is the subject of several photographs (e.g. Batman Home) or the model for the monochrome object Fatherhood (2003), a dark blue life-size sculpture of Batman in a gynaecological chair shortly after giving birth holding a small Batman in his hand. Similarly, the cabaret Return of the Masters of Entertainment, which he founded with friends in 1998, operates as a temporarily disappearing work. The cycle of photographs entitled Figures from the Cabaret Return of the Masters of Entertainment stands on its own as a new work, with different information, but nonetheless recording the situation which has taken place.
Jiří Surůvka’s videos are either documented performances or conceived as video performances, such as The News (2004) and videos edited for individual rooms of an apartment for the exhibition Invitation for a Visit (an installation with Ilona Neméth for the Venice Biennale, 2001). This is an ironic and humorous collage in which an opponent’s methods are used to disarm him.
Surůvka is not constrained by formal limits. Even in the cycle Instigators of War (1996-2008) images and computer airbrushes appear alongside one another. In this series he displayed humanoid fruit (e.g. the figure with the head of a pear) during a fervent cultural act (playing on various musical instruments) with the horrors of war in the background. The neo-Dadaist interpretation of war is visible in other works, where he uses a computer to add a lemon and cabbage instead of a head to two victims of a concentration camp and named the work after the famous artistic duo Gilbert&George, or in other manipulated photography entitled Twins, in which he created portraits of two children in the spirit of Warholesque pop-art who clearly make reference to the person of Adolf Hitler and his propagandistic hobby of having himself photographed with small children.
Since 2003 Jiří Surůvka has worked as a lecturer at Ostrava University as head of the New Media Studio.
Jana a Jiří Ševčíkovi: Surůvka
Vaňous Petr: Umění pro malé i velké, Ateliér, roč. 14, č. 43/ 2001, s. 5
Mikolášek Martin: Psí útulek, A2 kulturní týdeník, roč. 3, 13/2007, s. 8
M. Ticháčková, Stipendisté - 4 x jinak, A2 4/09
Jiří Přibáň: Poznáváte se?!, Novinky.cz, 9.12. 2010
Čujanová Dagmar: Kamera skura, Duo Lozinski a Record, Ateliér č. 3, 5. 5. 2004
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Lindaurová L.: Vize ostravského barda, Umělec, č. 2 , 1997