Kohout used to work under the pseudonym *pash, and began his artistic activities while still young. He belongs to the generation no longer encumbered by the memory of totalitarianism, at least not directly. However, unlike his contemporaries something remains of this historical memory in his approach. At the age of 22 (2006) he set up the selective culture journal jlbjlt.net [pronounced jelibojelito] on a non-commercial basis. The site still operates without advertising and is intended mainly for non-profit galleries, theatre ensembles or bands as an open information server. Its mission statement makes this clear: “We help promote culture of marginal interest but of considerable importance.” While still at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU), between 2008 and 2010 he visited the Gregor Schneider studio at Universität der Künste (UdK) in Berlin, and since last year has been studying at the Städelschule in Frankfurt at the Simon Starling studio. Despite his activities abroad, he has not abandoned the Czech art scene and regularly exhibits in this country.
Kohout places intuition and rationality on an equal footing. In conventional installations he demonstrates the basic principles that are being lost in today’s over-informed world under layers of superfluity. He takes a mainly minimalist approach and often uses new media. One work in which these features come together is Ombea of 2006. He prepared a room in which the visitor spent eight minutes. The environment corresponded to the visitor’s behaviour: movement = sound and darkness, repose = silence and light. The reactions were transferred into code in gradations of grey and sent to the owner upon demand as a protocol of conduct. Technical support was provided by Mash64 and Viktor Soukal. Another example of the analogy of elementary situations is The Skipping-rope / Švihadlo (2007) made of electricity cable. A cable turns inwards between two sockets at the gallery entrance. It is easy to enter, but more difficult to leave.
Zvednutý prst / Threatening (2008) is a site-specific project undertaken at the Cargo workshop in Sofia. The performance takes place in an open space. Kohout stands behind a brick wall and all that can be seen of him is a raised finger. Without its being clear beforehand, the hand as basic communicative medium makes an appearance in other works. It appears remotely during the presentation ScriptPad (2010). A series of sketchbooks, each containing artwork from the title page, is showcased by means of an instructor wearing gloves. The instructor later appears in Sticks (2011) and in the publication Linear Manual (2012) and the gloves themselves in Skinsmooth (2012). As well as the concept of high and low, ScriptPad relativises the relationship between presentation and the actual value of art. Kohout engaged with a similar question in the object Heroes (2008). He placed seven small loudspeakers in a three-metre speaker bearing the word HEROES embroidered in silver copying the original graphic design of David Bowie’s LP, from which seven different cover versions of the song Heroes can be heard.
Another work based on music is Solo Show (2010). Kohout invited Tomáš Kopáček to compose songs inspired by his work. He then invited Kopáček to Futuregallery in Berlin to create a musical production according to a strict timetable (from 6pm to 10pm with ten-minute breaks every hour) lasting from Friday 25 June to Sunday 27. Tomáš Kopáček and the timetable, made to look like the cleaning plans of public WCs, were the only items in the exhibition. The graphic design of the timetable was by Rasmus Svensson. A similar theme, the revaluation of temporal continuity and authenticity, also appears in Opening Hours / Otevírací době of 2008, which restricts the availability of Kohout’s website. A circular green sign saying OPEN rotates in a rolling rhythm on its vertical axis in the form of an independent tab on his website from Monday to Friday from 7am to 11pm, and from Saturday to Sunday from 8am to 12am. As soon as opening hours are over, the website is unavailable and a red sign saying CLOSED rotates in the same rhythm. An artificial limit is set up that formally restricts the theoretically unlimited possibilities of the internet. The programmer was Martin Baar.
Kohout examined the interaction between the crossing of boundaries and predefined orders and a natural flow in the project The Script Involving a Language Teacher (2010). A foreign language teacher was asked to write down the first word that came into his head upon waking up in the morning. He was to do this every working day without any further explanation as to why. He was then asked to compose sentences during his lessons using the words in the same order he had written them. It was up to the teacher as to whether to explain things to his students and how to incorporate the words into his lessons. The clearest example of the communicative aspect of the hand mentioned above appears in Six Days in the Life of Sandra Lolax (2010). Kohout asked his girlfriend to recount the events of the day using her fingers. This he recorded on video. The last two works that should be mentioned are procedural in character and relate to language. Watching Matin Kohout is a large net-art project in which the procedures and possibilities of language (in this case subtle gestures of mimicry) are intensified minimalistically. From April 2010 to March 2011 he recorded himself by webcam each time he watched a video on YouTube and then published the results on the channel Watching Martin Kohout, which now contains 821 videos. A similar analysis of the work was carried out by Marie Meixnerová.
Much of his work appears collaborative, though this is simply the natural outcome of the needs of form. In 2009 he set up the limited-edition publishing company TLTRPreβ.
Wandering Magazine #2
User-Friendly, Essay by Jakob Schillinger featuring Watching Martin Kohout. Artforum, November issue
Martin Kohout, Essay by Marie Meixnerova, Fotograf magazine
What a summertime causes, Denisa Bytelová, PIŽMO 11
Die U-30-Party, Der Tagesspiegel, 11.8. 2012
Martin Kohout, Arts & Antique magazine (Cz)
The Prosumer Version, essay by Jakob Shillinger, FlashArt international, October issue
Vernacular Video, essay by Domenico Quaranta for Flash Art Italy n. 285
Watching Martin Kohout, essay by Gene McHugh
Poučeni uměním spolupracují, an article by Lenka Lindaurova for Lidove Noviny
7a bienal do mercosul, exhibition catalog
14. Marler Video-Kunst-Preis, exhibition catalog
Berlin Athina, exhibition catalogue
Objekt animace. Třetí smysl (Object Animation. Third Sense), exhibition catalogue, ed. Cenek, Filip and Martin Mazanec
A2 #40 (01/10/2008), Kazalky in an article „Nové umění z kráteru“ by Pavel Sedlák
Lidové Noviny (09/08/2008), column Galerie curated by Katherine Kastner
Nový Prostor #306, p. 21, text by Jiří Ptáček
Umelec Inernational, text by Jiří Ptáček
IdN Magazine #5
Sticker City book (Thames & Hudson)
Hype magazine #23
Lidové Noviny, Za barevnější svět (Jan Kovalík)
Wooster Comix #1