Johana Novotná:When she arrived, she was an hour late and already crystallized

1/6 — 9/7/2018

An important position in JH’s work so far has been the subject of embarrassment in self-portraits, the use of self-irony, and awkward and scathing jokes about who we are or who we want or don’t want to be. At least on the surface, the motif of the self-portrait is absent from her exhibition at Galerie 35m2, replaced by the more universal situation of a young chemist and hobbyist who, in the safety of her room, creates crystals and writes about it in her faithful diary. The process of crystallization is also a kind of metanarrative for the story of her life. The blue crystals are clearly the peaks of the froth of days. The exhibition is an associative layer of motifs. We find an instruction manual and see the result, although it has not yet entirely crystallized. But no matter, the pleasant blue fluorescent light has a calming effect.

When she arrived, she was an hour late and already crystallized. We find ourselves in the strange showroom of an imaginary girl who likes to play with crystals. The motif of the young girl is found everywhere today, and sometimes it feels like the starting and end points of our dreams and endeavors. We either want her or we want to become her, but both cases involve a desire to possess her. Some people have even gone so far as to call the young girl an archetype of capitalist society (Tiqqun: Raw Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl). The atmosphere of the showroom is another element we should pay attention to. Why do exhibitions increasingly resemble showrooms? And what do exhibitions present? Artifacts, objects, artists? It must be a symptom of the times. We all build our own showrooms – ideological, physical, most often virtual. But there is something odd about this. The object that is supposed to promote the cool blue atmosphere seems to disappear within the whole. The crystals hide in shame, and we have to seek them out, to be perceptive and attentive. The typical showroom, by comparison, is built on the idea that the products come to us on their own – they move towards us so directly that we are destined to collide with them even if we don’t want to. This moment of endearing little details (who has ever paid attention to the crystals in their television screen?) gives JH’s showroom its humorous and ironic character.

JH likes to play with her crystals – this we know. And at the same time, she is a crystal herself. “I am a planet!” the young and pregnant high school girl Juno proclaims in the eponymous film. Everybody is a planet, everybody is a crystal subject to growth and change. If we follow the instructions, we will be as beautiful as the crystals are blue. Blue is the color of the sky, blue is the color of the ocean – all the things that form the background for the perfect Instagram selfie.

But it’s not all about beauty. Some people use “crystallized” to mean drunk. We’re tired, but also satisfied. We’re pliant and tractable. Are we exactly the way we want to be – or how the young girl, the starting and end point of everything, wants us to be? The girl from the gif with a crystal between her legs faithfully depicts this state. Stuck in a changing and clumsy loop, she watches us with her perfect eyes and perfect body, although they evoke a certain sense of mistrust, followed by laughter. Her gaze is empty, her body merely a sum of well-balanced proportions. In the end, she maybe even arouses a dash of pity in us. I must admit that there is some irony in that; we don’t want to ridicule her. She accidentally stumbled into our exhibition from out of the internet. So let’s not laugh at her; let’s laugh at ourselves instead.

curated by František Fekete

more of Johany Novotné