Pavel Kopřiva creates multi-medial objects and installations, while also working with photography and video art. His work is characterised by a conceptual approach. Kopřiva’s interest lies in various technologies and designs whose methods he shifts into a fine-art context. His objects and installations are derived from experience with a post-industrial and post-totalitarian society. He comments on social phenomena and events that he works into his work with an ironic distance. He is a master of fiction and mystification. The social aspects of Kopřiva’s work were already apparent in his first oeuvre – a land art work from 1992 which he himself claims to be influenced by artists such as Richard Long and Miloš Šejn. But in the background of this interest in nature stands Kopřiva’s experiences arising from his life in the North Bohemian coal areas - a region highly impacted by industrial exploitation. The erosiveness of the land is a source of a feeling of insecurity that permeates the artist's work. This feeling is already evident in the following work – in relativising installations of sorts: Electrical Fiction (1993), Gardening-Cultivating Fiction (1993), Logic as Fiction (1994). The very title of the word “fiction” indicates that it is a mystification of the viewer: “I examine systems and then disrupt and alter them and then serve them back to the viewer, who then examines from his normal perspectives, though something in them doesn't seem right to him. That's an interesting point for me, to share with him that not everything is brilliant. There can be lots of errors, especially when things are created sophisticatedly," says Kopřiva.
In his work Electrical Fiction Kopřiva demonstrated the installation of handmade electrical circuits that were plugged into false outlets. However, the viewer did not know this and the installation caused a threatening feeling. Only the enlightened viewer could know that the electrical circuits “had faults" and could not work. In his UFO project (1995) he again played with this type of mystification: He created a glass object that evoked the image of a flying saucer. Using a mobile crane he photographed this object (characterised by a NASA-like visual representation) and sent the picture to a newspaper. Kopřiva thus created an ironic take on ufology as a pseudo-scientific system.
He returned to extra-terrestrial civilisations later, in 2000 for instance, when he created the object Born 1947, which is a strangely mysterious object, paraphrasing the "extra-terrestrial" object found in a Nevada desert in 1947. A feeling of anxiety and mystification also permeates another project by Kopřiva, May Day (2001). Digital photography places us here in the position of a viewer – a visitor to a technically equipped room in which a kind of secret, mysterious research is taking place. Many of Kopřiva's project work with several media at once. His inter-media works include the Chameleon Skin installation (2004). He screened on a gallery wall made up of mirror fragments a transmitted on-line film recording of activity on the street right beyond the gallery wall, directly connecting the gallery and street space.
Other projects bring the viewer right into play. In the performance project Everybody Needs the Podium (2006), Kopřiva installed in the gallery an exact copy of a briefing room from the Pentagon (which we are familiar with from TV). The gallery’s visitors were invited to go up on the podium and be photographed in a situation that we're familiar with from the media. An interest in modern technology, science and research, whose findings he either directly applies to modern art or paraphrases them, is also characteristic of Kopřiva. A recent work utilising the most recent discoveries is High Voltage Image (2009). He worked on this with the nanofiber laboratories of the Technical University in Liberec. This is a cycle that makes use of a new scientific method for art: “It is a project in which the phenomenon of composing a nano-fiber structure depending on the conductivity of the substrate material and on the high voltage value”, said Kopřiva. The result is subtle abstract “pictures”, in which Kopřiva works with microscopic shots that he modifies and that aestheticise the most recent research attempts.
Fiction, mystification, dysfunction, sarcastic humour, ironic de-masking of social systems… these are words that can be used to characterise the work of Pavel Kopřiva. He likes commenting on and paraphrasing “mysteries”. He enjoys new technologies and questions of aesthetics and beauty. Many objects appear perfect, even "beautiful”. Is it a design or an object with a specific purpose? Hard to say. And that’s the very challenge that Pavel Kopřiva presents to the viewer.
Pavel Kopřiva, Hand Book. Texty: Michal koleček, Jaroslav Polanecký. Univerzita Jana Evangelisty Purkyně v Usti nad Labem, 2011.