Text by Ingrid Luquet-Gad
Modernist cities are “dense, disorderly and overwhelming.” In the aftermath of the 1968 student uprisings in the US and Europe, sociologist Richard Sennett penned The Uses of Disorder. A now classic text on combining personal identity and city life, it described a deadening urban environment while calling for the opposite: chaos, so that change, and community, would spring from a former utopia’s cracks and crevices. Both an update and a shift in perspective, Making Space: Women and the Man-Made Environment, a similarly pioneering work published in 1984 by feminist collective Matrix, unearths the social inequalities of the patriarchal built environment, in public space as well as in the home. In recent years, architectural theory and urban planning campuses have increasingly acted as a catalyst for transdisciplinary thought, turning away from grand narratives and abstract political theory.
However, we are mostly told why bodies—collectively, or segmented according to gender, class, race—feel trapped in our present-day capitalist city, much less so how they, as sentient as well as thinking entities, can reclaim time, space, and agency in the short term: as a day-to-day practice, patiently and from the inside, while awaiting the day, on a greater scale, when a structural change will happen. Klára Hosnedlová’s practice is one that, both in its process and its outcomes, subjectively and spatially, offers a lens to envision the latter. Born in 1990 in Uherské Hradiště in the Czech Republic, she studied in the painting studio of conceptual artist Jiří Kovanda. Already in the first years of her study, she turned to the technique of silk cotton embroidery: “enjoying the process more than the final product,” she started to work from found pictures, such as sequences paused from a post-war movie, and then later, from in situ photographs that she would orchestrate and take herself.
Attracted to sequences containing a portrait or a fragment of a body, she renders them in her characteristic color palette: bloodless or faded, earthy or fleshy, playing on subtle hues and gradients. As a result, the scene seems observed from a distance, peering through a physical glass-pane, or travelling back in time with a mnemonic device. Enhancing the timelessness of embroidery, the tones also hint at a broader mindset of recursive history. “We are repeating the same things, also politically, as we did fifty years ago,” expresses Hosnedlová. In her space-based installations, the embroidered canvases and their motives, relating to techno-scientific imaginary, are positioned inside wider retro-futurist compositions. Elements from brutalist soviet or Central-Easter European architecture embody phantasmatic projections of progress, as they frame each depicted body-part against, and in tension with, terrazzo paneling, insulating foam or elements of handblown glass.
Nest (2020-2021), her first solo-show at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler gallery in Berlin, where the artist lives and works, thus took elements from her research conducted around the Ještěd Tower, within which in the 1970s the Czech Republic integrated various functions: a weather station, a transmission antenna and a designer hotel. Brought inside the gallery’s space, a globalized machine for seeing paralleling the utopian machine for living of the tower, the displacement of one inside the other opens up a productive void: both become uncertain in their uses, free to reinvent their functions and, to the visiting bodies, haptic navigation paths. For Hosnedlová, keeping the practice personal, and resonating with an intimate experience, operates as an emotional framework: “The space I’m choosing would have to fit to my work. I prefer accepting fewer shows, as I’d rather keep the spaces close to my heart.”
Rather than the linear abstract projection of historical progress, or the birds’ eye view of two-dimensional urban mapping, Hosnedlová makes use of a shift in perspective—freeze frames, close-ups, fragments—to better push against late-capitalist exploitative narratives. If the invention of measured time coincided with the deskilling of production through an atomization of tasks in the industrial era, it enacted, for time, a similar dispossession as when confronted, in space, with impersonal public spaces—totalizing, transcendent, leaving the subject a mere cog in a huge corporation. In the performative part of her praxis, the participants are similarly chosen from an encounter, often on the street: gender non-conforming subjects, whether adults or teenagers, learn to enact with their surroundings. “I like when the focus is on a group of people helping each other in various situations, such as leaving a message on a stone or holding a lamp.”
Sakura Silk Moth at Art Basel Parcours (2021) delved deeper into the organic realm. Here for instance, at the Gewerbeschule, a series of free-standing epoxy columns, hosting embroidered compositions, played host to latex plastron and burnt-denim clad beings—the garments designed by Cissel Dubbick—interacting with the sculptures and the smaller glassware tubular elements left on the floor. Through shapes reminiscent of cocoons or embryos, the machinic is subverted through the resilience of a cyclical, natural temporality enacted through a small-scale group of mutating bodies. Careful not to simply replace one ideology by another, Hosnedlová shows how there is no need for a tabula rasa; as amnesia, and forgetfulness of the past, would lead to a repeat of the same mistakes—and only displace the patriarchal-machinic gaze. Subverting the infrastructure rather than merely critiquing the institutions, the artist, currently working on upcoming solo-shows at the Kunsthalle Basel and Kestner Gesellschaft in Hannover, opens a frail arena of mutual coexistence.
Steering away from rationality and visuality, she similarly counters the current atmosphere of cancelled futures. Inside an embodied framework, where touch, feelings and lived experience are centered anew, sites of local resistance slowly emerge. Aiming at self-determination, they possess the stubbornness of organic life. Rather than traditional science-fiction per se, Hosnedlová’s practice could be seen as attuned to the newer strand of “science fictions of life.” In his last book Extreme Fabulations (2021), philosopher Steven Shaviro redefines the medium as a form of storytelling positioning future as intrinsically vague and multifarious. Resisting any attempt at prediction or rational guidance, Klára Hosnedlová similarly celebrates the fragility of present, transient life to better subvert the underlying anthropocentric and positivistic narratives of predefined systems such as science, technology, history or epistemology.
Text by Ingrid Luquet-Gad
Portrait by Laura Schaeffer
The Generational Issue
KLÁRA HOSNEDLOVÁ (b. 1990, Uherské Hradiště, Czech Republic). Her work explores historical sentiments as they crystallize in modern and contemporary design and architecture. Her sculptures and environments are indebted to Eastern European histories and collective mythologies.
INGRID LUQUET-GAD is an art critic based in Paris and PhD candidate at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. She is the arts editor of Les Inrockuptibles, a contributing editor to Spike Art Magazine and a correspondent for Flash Art Magazine. Her research, developed through essays, catalog texts and conferences, explores the individual and collective structures of the networked self.