If I were forced to pick one word to describe the work of Barbora Kleinhamplová it would be its performativity, which, regardless of changes on the level of the meaning of her work in recent years, is the starting point or a part of most of the work by this artist.
Barbora Kleinhamplová entered the Czech art scene in 2008, at the start of her studies at the Academy of Fine Art in Prague. Today she can be regarded as one of the foremost representatives of the youngest generation of Czech artists.
The roots of Barbora Kleinhamplová’s work are closely interwoven with the features of human existence in the modern-day politico-economic order. In recent years in particular her work has taken on a socio-political dimension. It can be interpreted as a form of non-violent commentary and a critical take on aspects of modern-day society, which she portrays using symbolically and metaphorically powerful devices of association.
The performative dimension of her works stresses the role of the body and its political aspect in the context of the economic system, a system in which it is a key element. An example is the project Circle of Convergence (Kružnice splývání, 2013). Here the artist takes the idea of debt as the subject; debt as a notion or sense of the individual’s obligation to society. As a subject that alludes also to the issue of state debt, it is here explored in relation to the individual and not exclusively to a group. Indebtedness, living on credit, has in recent years become an integral part of human life and thus a kind of socially accepted norm. Today a debtor is not someone who has incurred a debt by his or her own voluntary action, the debtor is every ‘participant’, everyone whose existence is involved in the (supra)national functioning of states and unions. She represents the moment of incurrence of a debt as the symbolic extension of the human hand: a video of a group of men in a corporate setting shows them extending their hands to each other, gripping each’s others hands. The video is also about collective responsibility, which involves social indebtedness. The artist addresses the subject of debt arising as a consequence of human action through the story of Olga Hepnarová, a woman who, prompted by the feeling that society owed her something, killed several people she chose randomly. This work can be interpreted as a form of projection surface, a surface that we are unable to absorb in its full breadth with our eyes, just like the blurry photograph from the police file on Hepnarová that papers the gallery wall.
Debt is a theme that appears in other works by the artist. Mention in this respect should be made of Mass for the Forgiveness of Debts (Mše za odpuštění dluhů, 2013). Here the performative element is even stronger, as it not the documentation of a staged event but involves a real event, a performance that in mediated form is part of the resulting work – as is the case in many of the artist’s works. The piece itself rests on a form of spirituality that is today largely suppressed by secularised society. Unlike Circle of Convergence, here the economic perspective is absent – the expert perspective that is part of the installation mentioned above and a number of other works by Kleinhamplová. In this context mention can be made for example of The Lecture by Ing. Jiří Klvač Csc. on the Invisible Hand of the Market at the Secondary School in Uničov (Přednášku Ing. Jiřím Klvačem Csc. o neviditelné ruce trhu na Gymnáziu v Uničově) and many others.
Another major theme in her work is the so-called invisible hand of the market (Thinking in a Circle /Úvahy v kruhu, 2012, The Invisible Hand / Neviditelná ruka, 2013) and features of the corporate environment. She explored this thematic area in particular in her most recent works (Eye Work / Práce oka, 2014, Credible Relationship / Důvěryhodný vztah, 2014). She uses its language, resources, and aesthetics, alluding to the power and mechanisms of the market system, and its relation to and effect on the individual, the labourer fluctuating within the system – the labourer who is each one of us.