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Artlist — Center for Contemporary Arts Prague

Matěj Smetana

First Name
Birth place
Place of work
Praha, Vrané nad Vltavou, Brno, Bratislava
↳ Find in the VVP AVU database
conceptual art
installation art
CSU Library
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About artist

Matěj Smetana looks upon his working method as a kind of conceptual game, and play is the principle inseparably linked with his work. Using the game he analyses certain processes and procedures linked with the way we perceive, while eschewing complexity and ensuring his work is characterised by simplicity of resources and intelligibility, combined with meaningful depth and imaginativeness. Every work of his asks the question: “What would I do if...?” or “What would happen if...?”, as though we were wondering how to cure boredom, play a game, or think of an idea, and an infinite set of possibilities opens up. The artist then creates certain rules and procedures according to which the work emerges. It is for this reason that his approach is sometimes compared to scientific research. 

One of the resources and themes that he often takes apart and analyses is animation. This does not always involve the moving image or classic film animation, but, for instance, objects in which animation is present in some way even if only hinted at. He began with animation in an early work It’s Only a Film (2004) in order to cure the boredom he experienced while learning classical drawing required on a research fellowship at the Faculty of Fine Arts (FaVU) in Brno. He decided that he would redesign the trailers to horror films of the 1970s and 80s, and this is how his short animated films with an original soundtrack, though free of drama or horror, arose.

In the animated film Smutek je unavená radost / Sadness is Tired Pleasure (2011) the plasticine hero finds this tired pleasure in simple games and activities. On the blades of a fan he draws the individual phases of a closing window and attempts to animate it. In order to wink, he has to make a sacrifice and poke a finger in the fan, so drawing blood. Despite the highly personal, subjective character of this work, it also features a conceptual approach in the form of a depiction of the principle of “animation within animation”. The injured finger replaces the Geneva drive (or Maltese cross), which suspends the film frame for a moment and allows for the illusion of movement.   

The search for and comparison of art, animation, technical and other processes in everyday situations is typical of Smetana’s work. It is true of the series of three videos Taylorism (2013), in which the principle of animation within animation appears anew in different variations. In the first two it is a video that the actors manipulate with drawn objects. In the third video it is drawn hands that move photographed figures within the film strip in phases. A kind of conception and definition of animation is expressed: “The principle of Taylorism as it began to be used in nineteenth century factories is the breakdown of complex activities into simple, repeating procedures. I found it interesting that this principle is almost exactly the same as the action of the film strip during projection and the procedure that the animator is obliged to follow when creating individual phases of movement.” This is a principle that can appear above and beyond the recorded moving image, the film strip or video and can be found in ordinary life. Taylorism shows that Smetana is unafraid to address serious social or political themes, as we see in his other work. However, he does so in a light and, as he himself humorously describes it, “ignorant way”. Art is not for him an instrument of political or other change, but is something much more fundamental and at the same time amusing.

As we have seen, Smetana’s work is reminiscent of scientific research combined with DIY, and the artist sets himself relatively difficult and sometimes intentionally unrealisable objectives. For instance, he attempts to encompass movement in static objects or installations (Podzimní zoom / Autumn Zoom, 2010) or create a realistic blurred object (Myslím, že tento objekt není možné vyrobit / I Don’t Think It’s Possible To Create This Object, 2010). In other works he does not even attempt to make the objects himself, but creates animation inspired by an instruction video with the accompanying elevator music and offers precise instructions as to how to make this artwork at home (Návody / Instructions, 2009).

Just as he finds art outside the world of art, so he takes an equally irreverent approach to the art and architecture canons (Antika, 2010) and modernist directions (e.g. minimalism in his work Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and John McCracken Are Like Us, 2005 / 2012). In this respect one should mention the animated film Poslední malíři na Zemi / The Last Painter on Earth, 2012, created on the basis of an older comic strip. “It recounts the short stories of four people shortly before the destruction of Planet Earth. They are inadvertently to be found committing an act that in a certain context it would be possible to label painting.” [see: the artist’s website] Smetana is not interested in mocking or diminishing art, but more in finding a kind of basic principle or essence and using it to make art more accessible and to locate it outside the sphere of the institution..

Despite his age, Smetana has already built up a large portfolio of work involving both solo and group projects (whether in galleries, public space or elsewhere) that cannot be done justice here. Recently he has been concerned with the transformation of human perception in connection with technology or the virtual world. We had an opportunity to see this in autumn 2016 at the exhibition S leskem v očích / With Shining Eyes at the Fait Gallery in Brno, at which he addressed the expansion of our optical experience thanks to modern technology. The optical phenomenon known as lens flare became an object with the same name suspended in the gallery. The curator Jiří Ptáček wrote: “Its suspension in free space above the ground simulated a situation in which this phenomenon does not appear in a camera record but in the human eye.” [see: www.faitgallery.com]

In addition to his own work, Smetana also gives lectures and at present is a specialist assistant at the Intermedia and Multimedia Department at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design (VŠVU) in Bratislava. He and Barbora Klímová head the Environment Studio at FaVU in Brno.

Author of the annotation
Alžběta Cibulková


Matěj Smetana studied the School of Creative Arts (FaVU) in Brno at the Painting 3 studio of Petr Kvíčala as well as the Intermedia studio. He is the creator of installations, comics, and videos. He expresses opinions on artistic institutions, focusing on the themes of error and inappropriateness. For example, he photographed scratches in works of minimalistic classics by Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and John McCracken.

He often addresses the relationship between purposefully set limits and happenchance. He sorts out the spatial relationships of 3D bodies, created from a specific shift from existing symbolic shapes. His series of wooden objects, Flags / Vlajky (2002) is based on the form of four national flags elaborated with the help of an intersection of geometric bodies. The object, Czechoid / Českoid (2003), stems from the premise of a rotating surface for the Czech Republic; the piece Hradčanoid (2006) builds upon it. It is an extended cylindrical mesh object, created based on the rotating silhouette of Prague Castle.

He worked his way into the field of motion pictures with the video, It’s Only a Film / Je to jenom film, when he redrew three trailers for classic horror films on tracing paper and complemented them with their original soundtracks. The themes of coincidence can also be found in the installation, Remix, which toys with the idea of the existence of a special intelligent conscience in media reports. Their decoding takes place with the help of selecting and marking word or letter order from copies of books, photographs of film subtitles or from a label on a lawn mower, which together create an „existential“message.

Author of the annotation
Lenka Dolanová



Academy of Fine Arts in Praze, Phd. (at. Jiří Příhoda´s studio)

Faculty of Fine Arts in Brno, MgA. (at. Intermedia, Drawing and painting 3)

Scholarships and residencies:

Tranzit, Budapešť, Maďarsko
Galerie SPACE, Bratislava, Slovensko
Magyar Iparmuveszeti Egyetem, Budapešť, Maďarsko


Finalista ceny Oskára Čepana, Slovensko
Umělec má cenu - Cena od Václava Stratila: Dílo roku (Hvězda, DUMB Brno)
Cena diváků, Jiné vize, PAF Olomouc (Návod 2: Trilobit)
Finalista ceny Start Point, Klatovy - Klenová


Solo exhibitions
Chceš mě kousnout do dortu? (s E. Smetanovou), Galerie Chladnička, Praha

Paměti, kinetický objekt k paměti Jana Patočky, PdF MU Brno
S leskem v očích, galerie Fait MEM, Brno

15000 let stejnosti (s Danem Perjovschi), Meet Factory, Praha
AB, Galerie Art, Brno
Výloha, galerie Umakart, Brno
Hry v globus (s Adélou Součkovou), Kabinet T, Zlín
Mechanik, galerie Svit, Praha
Říp, Altán Klamovka, Praha
Závod s časem (s Andrásem Csefalvayem), galerie SPZ, Praha

Fototektonika (s Filipem Smetanou), Galerie Fotograf, Praha
Zeitverlust (Loss of Time) (s Alicí Nikitinovou), SVIT Autocenter, Berlín, Německo
Jednou v noci (s Alicí Nikitinovou), Galerie Mimochodem, Praha

Motýli v břiše (s Tomášem Uhnákem), Školská 28, Praha
Taylorismus, Die Aktualität des Schonen, Liberec
Motýli v břiše (s Tomášem Uhnákem), Školská 28, Praha

Skoro jasno (s Terezou Kabůrkovou), AMT_Project, Bratislava, Slovensko
Libretto (s Tomášem Javůrkem), Off-Format, BrnoCo objekty chtějí? (s Pavlem Stercem), galerie Kostka, Meetfactory, PrahaPoslední malíř, Galerie města Blanska, Blansko

Předělávky, Galerie Mladých, Brno (s Marií Štindlovou a Klárou Břicháčkovou)

Antika II., Galerie Školská, Šedý pokoj, Praha
Unavená radost, Dům u Zlatého prstenu, Galerie Hl.m.Prahy, Praha
Spíš venku než uvnitř (s Filipem Smetanou), galerie D9, České Budějovice
Jarní úklid, Galerie 207, Praha
bez názvu, Galerie Svit, Praha

Podzimní zoom, Galerie 36, Olomouc

Návody, Atrium, Pražákův palac, Moravská galerie, Brno
Schody vedoucí do nikam / Off-road (s Filipem Smetanou), galerie Benzínka, Slaný

Vysílání, galerie Pavilon, Praha

Hradčanoid, Pražákův palác- prostor pro jedno dílo, Brno
Kino, Galerie Mladých, Brno
Neobyčejná místnost, galerie G99, Brno

Dědičné postižení (s Filipem Smetanou), galerie Jelení, Praha

Remix, galerie Půda, Jihlava
Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt a John McCracken jsou jako my + Je to jenom film, galerie A.M.180, Praha

Řez, Pražákův palác- prostor pro jedno dílo, Brno
Group exhibitions not included in ARTLIST.
 Brněnský Devětsil: Multimediální přesahy umělecké avantgardy, Brno
 Cena Oskara Čepána, Nová synagoga, Žilina
 Krystalizace, Galerie města Blanska, Blansko
 Nový Zlínský salon, Dům umění, Zlín
 Nulla dies sine linea, Galerie Emila Filly, Ústí nad Labem
 Hands On: The Illusion of Movement, Pocket Utopia, New York, USA
 Amnesia, galerie Open, Bratislava, Slovensko

 Rozhovory, ktoré vedú inam, Dom umenia, Bratislava, Slovensko
 Romantic Aprehensions, metamatic:taf, Athény, Řecko
 Drawings... and Contents, Kubik Gallery, Porto, Portugalsko
 4+4 dny v pohybu, Palác U Stýblů, Praha
 Minimální trvanlivost, Galerie Emila Filly, Ústí nad Labem
 Frejm baj frejm 2, Považská galéria umenia, Žilina, Slovensko
 "Ø", A.M.180, Praha (jako host Radima Labudy) 
 Rozhovory, ktoré vedú inam, Stredoslovenská galéria, Banská Bystrica

 Příběhy z temné komory (jako host Anny Balážové), gal. Jádro/Bunker, Nitrianská galéria, Nitra, SK
Frejm baj frejm, Považská galéria umenia, Žilina, Slovensko
 Otevřeno - Současné české umění ze sbírky Marek, zámek Moravský Krumlov
 Neviditelná Štiavnica, veřejný prostor, Banská Štiavnica, Slovensko
 Between Steps, Národní technická knihovna, Praha
 Umělec je vyvolený, Galerie U dobrého pastýře, Brno
Ostrovy odporu, Národní galerie, Veletržní palác, Praha

Architektovo břicho, galerie Kostka, Meetfactory, Praha
Citace a interpretace, galerie NoD, Praha
Sochy v ulicích, park Lužánky, Brno
Prague Biennale 5, Microna, Praha
Ztišeno, Wannieck Gallery, Brno
Ohrožený duch, Prostor R2, Brno
SPACE Residency Lab 2010, galerie SPACE, Bratislava, Slovensko
Absurdita? Groteska? Ironie?, galerie NoD, Praha

Moving Image, galerie Futura, Praha
Collectors „The Czecho - Slovak Pavillion“, BROTkunsthalle, Wien, Rakousko
Villa Reykjavik, Reykjavik, Island
Vedro, Meetfactory, Praha
Demonstrace prostoru, BLOX, Praha
PAF PARIS, Eglise Saint Merry, Paris, Francie

Hlava, Karlín Studios, Praha
Videomedeja, Muzeum Vojvodiny, Novi Sad, Srbsko
Telescopic studio, Galerie Václava Špály, Praha
So Much More, Meet Factory, Praha
Revised Edition, GUMstudio, Carrara, Itálie
V. Zlínský salón mladých, KGVU Zlín, Zlín
100perCENTO, GUMstudio, Carrara, Itálie

Bienala Tinerilor Artisti, Dalles Hall, Bukurešť, Rumunsko
6. bienale mladého umění Zvon, Dům u Kamenného zvonu, Praha
L’art en Europe, Vranken Pommery, Reims, France
Cargo 2008, Budapešť, Maďarsko
Fetisch Versus Evocation, Galerie der HBK, Braunschweig, Německo

Neexistuju když mě nevidíš, galerie Futura, Praha
Kaleidoskop, La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Španělsko
Vylepšený model, kulhavý efekt, NoD, Praha
Collector's Live Re-Edit, Dům pánů z Kunštátu, Brno
Finalisté ceny Start point, Galerie Sýpka, Klenová
Výstava diplomantů FaVU, Galerie Brno, Brno
Friendly Film From the Czech Republic, East Coast Aliens, New York, USA

Eastern Alliance 3 / Teledivision Show, Centrul de Artă Contemporană KSA Chisinau, Moldávie
Eastern Alliance 3 / Teledivision Show, Muzeul national de arta contemporana, Bukurešť, Rumunsko
IV. Zlínský salón mladých, KGVU Zlín, Zlín
Shadows of Humour, BWA Wroclaw, Polsko
Land Locked, Well Gallery, Londýn, Velká Británie
Play-time, galerie Entrance- Karlín studios, Praha
Playtime, galerie Brno, Brno (jako host M. Pěchoučka)

5. bienale mladého umění Zvon, Dům u Kamenného zvonu, Praha
ENTERmultimediale 2, Palác Akropolis, Praha

10 let FaVU, Galerie Václava Špály, Praha

10 let FaVU, Dům umění, Brno
Nejmladší, National Gallery, Veletržní palác, Praha
Národní galerie v Praze
Sbírka Richarda Adama
Sbírka Marek



Tvoje věc (s Jiřím Ptáčkem), vydala INI Gallery

Polojasno (s Terezou Kabůrkovou), vydalo Sputnik Editions, AMT Gallery




Jiří Ptáček, Matěj Smetana, In: Umělec 3/2004



Center for Contemporary Arts Prague www.fcca.cz 2006–2018
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