Inverse Romanticism

  • 5/4 – 16/6/2019
  • Curated by Petr Vaňous
  • Kunsthalle Bratislava
  • Bratislava SK
In the broader context, and outside the strict terminology used in the field of history of art (as a historic term), the concept of romanticism is usually linked to identification of the expression of variously exalted and escalated imagination, realised in any sort of media and with any type technical or technological support. Inverse means something overturned or warped. We consequently stand before a concept that of itself, from the very beginning, requires that the recipient has a specific ability to empathise and imagine, because it sets the expressions linked to imagination (romanticism) into a framework, which “modifies the lighting” of this term and overturns its original meaning (perversion of the code). The term has a dynamic character, because it applies to something and identifies something that takes place within a process and as a process.

It is significant that the term “inverse romanticism” actually arose from curating practice. It was initially used by the curator of this exhibition in 2005 as “romantic inversion”, subsequently modified into “romanticism inside-out” (2007) and finally, in 2008, an exhibition titled “Inverse Romanticism” was held at the Bastart Contemporary in Bratislava by a group of authors consisting of Josef Bolf, Martin Gerboc and Jiří Petrbok (repeated in Prague at Galerie 5. patro in the same year). The term “inverse romanticism” was only retroactively grasped theoretically, after a certain interval, as a result of a book published in 2018. This was because of the conviction that this concept contains an important critical aspect linked to some expressions of contemporary visual art, which evades more general critical practice and which has to be differentiated from the so-called decadent tendencies, whose occurrence and extensive acceptance by the media has recently displaced the purpose of deeper theoretical differentiation of the relevant issue.
The work of five authors - Ivan Pinkava, Jiří Petrbok, Richard Štipl, Josef Bolf and Martin Gerboc – demonstrates aspects of a link to some type of crisis, which must be faced. The most visible aspect, common to all five authors, could be called a crisis of representation, i.e. representation, which should receive support in the reflection of the majority of society. On the contrary, the situation is such that the majority of society usually refuses the works of the relevant authors, is incapable of coming to terms with them, considers them shocking, destructive and (wholly incorrectly) “decadent”. In this context we can mention another aspect of the crisis, which is problematized non-verbal, purely visual communication, which cannot be simply passively consumed by viewers. This is given a specific form in the works of all five authors, on the level of critical expression, which is constantly, simultaneously assembled and collapsed. This is expressed by the authors’ tendency to hybridise morphology, toward sophisticated or violent fusion of heterogeneous means of expression (deformation, exalted colours, expressiveness, disappearance, overlapping, completion of acknowledged models), the tendency towards inflamed imagination, irritation, towards creation of phantoms and monsters as caricatured representative figures (including auto-effigies, auto-portraits), towards means of dramatization of situations reduced into images, towards theatrics, artificial arrangement, and also evocation of awkwardness, irony, helplessness and perversion, which contaminate the process of creation to various degrees.

The works of all five authors bear traces of inversion, which, as negation, disassembles and assembles what it negates in order to provide space for critical movement of creation and thoughts.  This is where we would find the position of the concept we are pursuing – inverse romanticism. The risky movement at the limit of so-called bad infinity, which threatens to pull the author outside the world of resolvable problems like a black hole, is also a romantic element in their artistic work.

The INVERSE ROMANTICISM exhibition follows onto the literary project of the same name and is its re-conversion into the media of an exhibition.

Petr Vaňous
Ivan Pinkava
Josef Bolf
Martin Gerboc
Jiří Petrbok
Richard Štipl
Things Behind the Sun