zbyněk baladrán cv

Microscope and Telescope of Time

two channel video installation,
2x HDV, 11:00, 2013

We still believe that the moving image is a certain form of visual thought; it renders thoughts more exact and discovers the unthinkable. This also held true at the time of its discovery more than one hundred years ago; the same as it does today, when each corner of a shared (communal) space has a camera in it. The moving image frees the eye, it is the negative of time, it shows what the eye can never see: signs of decoded reality, spontaneity and external movement. It hides in itself a dialectic potential – it is an emancipatory tool and a control tool all at the same time. As Dziga Vertov wrote: Our eyes, rotating like propellers, move off into the future on the wings of hypotheses.


1. Storytelling turns the spectator into an observer

One common, lost memory of childhood. Perhaps it concerns one generation, perhaps it is common to more than one. It concerns conditions for life, basic things that can not be further reduced. There are various memories that may become common; this is mine:

A massive tower block project belonging to the uranium exploration industry somewhere in the north of the country thirty years ago. The memory is not about radiation. around the uranium mineshafts it is omnipresent. Nor is about its potential presence in the form of invisible hazards that cripple the mind. It does not look into whether one is radioactive or not, because even if one were, nothing could be done about it anyway. The lost memory concerns moving into a new apartment, an apartment, that is, in one of the new tower blocks on the outskirts of the city. The apartment is not even quite finished. Hidden inside this banality fixed in the childish mind is the undeniable notion that we have the world around us under control and that life and living conditions can be changed. A tower block project in the construction phase during the period of ‘real socialism’ is the perfect setting for such a notion. For some it is the insensitive and megalomaniac solution of the bureaucratic machinery, for others a deed of liberation from social determination, leading somewhere into the future, towards a certain ideal state. An abstract, but collective future. Common and intelligible.

2. Storytelling arouses the spectator’s activity

Rather than recollection, it is more an example of a child’s daydreams, such as this one, which brings the first contradictions:

Jesus, nailed to the cross, flies in from somewhere to a tower block balcony for Christmas. He meets himself as a baby, wrapped tightly in swaddling clothes. Both have flown down to deliver Christmas presents. But now they hover helplessly over the balcony, one already dead, the other not yet able to speak. Neither of them is capable of distributing presents.

Or this mental image of an imaginary film from the memory of the child director influenced by silent slapstick. The script is intended for later filming as entertainment, most probably for other children:

The story is about a worker walking through a housing estate with a long plank. Wherever he walks he causes a commotion, because he behaves as if the long plank on his shoulders was not there. He knocks people down, rams into cars, breaks windows and scatters things without paying attention to what he is doing. He simply goes on his way. When he finally reaches his destination, he drops the plank from his shoulder and his face shows an expression of relief after a job well done.

3. Storytelling forces a decision on the spectator

How did it come about that the ideal of an egalitarian society has disappeared from the horizon of a possible future? How did it come about that so self-evident a collective imagination has faded away? That is what impinges on the mind.

Here is one more record of a child’s daydreaming:

I imagined how a just society would look. I knew that it was not the present one and that we were still living in an imperfect society. The tower block flat we had been given for our use demonstrated that we were on the right track. Maybe that is exactly why I imagined communist society as an endless row of tower blocks, stretching from one horizon to the other. Before this idea became shrouded in disenchantment that communism as I imagined it, it was a good vision. I remember the enthusiasm for building and the joy of the new.

4. An image of the world; the spectator is set against it

Recollection does not help anyone; it’s not about evoking an idyll or nightmare of childhood. The buried memories here should expose a contradiction that we see in the present; that is, the dissolution of collective notions. The contradiction gets deeper and deeper. On the one hand, disillusionment, on the other hand, the impossibility of imagining a future that one can head towards gladly. It is not possible to come to terms with that; experiencing such a reality is filled with paranoid fear and paralysis. It’s not just about the physical conditions that are exacerbated by legalized avarice, but also about the fascisizing of society and general conformity. A voluntary self-colonization by notions that we regard as the best of all possible bad ones…

5. Arguments – the spectator is led to knowledge, the spectator studies

The question remains as to why it is worthwhile mining for buried memories and confronting them with the current reality of aggressive capitalism, the form of which we participate in either consciously or unconsciously. And why in such a form? And why here in the context of the art world?

Because it’s a matter of life and death.

Because it’s about the collective imagination of the possible.

Because there are various channels of communication.

Because art is one of those channels.

Because even if art seems toothless, it still speaks to someone.

Because there is a possibility here that art can change something.

And also because the author is trained in art and cannot do anything else.

6. Man is the subject of scrutiny

Lucretius Carus once hypothesized that what we see are the skins of objects and shapes. They all separate from objective reality like layers of an onion and enter the eye. The surface of things always has sufficient material. Images float through the air, each of which is invisible independently, but together they are woven into a fine fabric. They form a continuum of images. A multiplicity of individual images is generated in a moment, in a fleeting time. They combine together and fall apart. A new meaning emerges from their collisions. We could say that Carus’ notion anticipated depiction by means of moving pictures.

Even more interesting are his thoughts about the sound of a voice. He hypothesized that voices and sounds are material. Therefore, when the voice pours out through its narrow channel and when the words are in large numbers, the throat may easily be irritated by the onslaught. Voice and words are bodies made of matter, and are therefore abrasive. Carus continues: Everyone knows how much it taxes a man’s strength and nerves when he has to speak continuously until dark, especially when he is compelled to shout. He who talks a lot always loses part of his mass.

7. Social conditions determine thinking

Let us regard the work of art as an instrument of torture, let us imagine how each image, sound, voice and word loses its original meaning. How seemingly certain assumptions disintegrate. In our era, nothing remains other than to dissect the original meaning, pulverize it and impose a new meaning on it. To divert the flow in an expected direction to an unexpected one. It’s like the joke that no one understands, but everyone laughs because it’s a joke. It is necessary to give the joke a new meaning.

8. The conflict is unresolved

If we are not to succumb to a feeling of despondency, we must concede that it is a matter of sentimentalizing the past and a subjective romanticization of the artist and his work. And also, that it is not about an aesthetic objective either. Rather, it is about a methodological proposal for proceeding with an artistic statement. A statement about the loss of the universal collective notion of the impossibility of change and about the ambiguity of such a statement and the ambiguity of the role of the artist and of art. In this case, the author conceives himself and his approach as a case study, as an instrument for scrutinizing himself… which is an obvious nonsense, but it enough to say that the author scrutinizes himself, and leave that contradiction, like others, unanswered for the time being.

9. Contradictions remain

To return to the said insistent memory, I do not imagine something repressed that is locked deep in the unconscious and engenders fear. There’s nothing there. What remains is experience. Each experience, each description of experience, each depiction is like a chapter of human history as a history of class struggle. Because what would be different? The awareness also remains that some things cannot be depicted. Therefore, it must be tried again and again.