- selected work
"Particips. This is the term that I use for an action or event conceived for a specific site or situation."
Tomáš Vaněk is one of the key figures of the second wave of post-conceptual art in Central Europe. He works with schematics and the creation of scenarios from everyday situations. Since the late 1990s, he has been creating spray-painted stencils for specific situations and places. His "Particips" can be described as principals of active participation, having disparate forms that range from subtle interventions all the way up to large scale projects, such as when he disassembled his own car and used the parts as stencils for a grand fresco. Most recently, with the help of stereophonic microphones, he has been making specific sound recordings of private spaces, which he describes as sound sculptures.
Vit Havránek, 2007
"Poetry does not come to explain mystery, poetry comes to draw attention to mystery" (Ivan Diviš: The Last Poems)
Tomáš Vaněk told me that he has been somehow thinking about death in recent times. One of my friends, whose father plays second violin in the Ostrava philharmonic orchestra, told me that quality silence can only be played in a big space. On a visit to the Olomouc draughtswoman Inga Kosková, Tomáš explained why he calls his works "participles". "Participation, then," the former descriptive geometry teacher replied, "you have that your whole life." Vaněk some time ago abandoned painting when the format of the picture began to limit him. The "participles" he refers to are actions created for a specific place and situation. The participle is not a concept, but an attitude. Tomáš Vaněk is intuitive. If he writes texts on his carefully numbered works, he describes them; he does not interpret the reasons or aims, but leaves them open. This is perhaps an inconspicuous, yet truly remarkable quality of the artist: purity without self-interpretation and therefore precision. His solor exhibition in the Prague gallery ETC took place in three phases: 1. Three enormous, invitingly pastel-coloured inflated balls quietly wait in line on the gallery floor. 2. Tomáš bursts them one after the other and stretches their rubber skins on the gallery walls. 3. Abstract pictures on the walls: the relics of three martyr deaths. When Tomáš Vaněk spoke of the stretching, he said he would enjoy it until such time as he discovered what he was actually doing it for. With a sander he sanded graffiti tags off public walls and parapets. Lighter areas remained behind, reminiscent of radiated places. He is now doing audio-sculptures, which are projected by earphones into the head. He collects template situations ("I often push 'pull' doors and pull 'push' doors"). He coined the expression "neosamizdat", a negation of the pre-revolutionary process of underground publishing, and gave it a meaning. He operates a gallery in a street glass display cabinet. He often likes to work with banknotes, so his work is in circulation, in hands and pockets. Stereo microphones enable the capture of sound with all its spatial quality. They conserve time-space. Templates fix shadows in order to keep them independent of the objects that cast them. The use of technology that facilitates the experience of physical flashback, emphasis on communication... all of these are linked to a dynamic experience of space. Tomáš Vaněk used to be a good footballer. The Baroque historian Zdeněk Kalista, after going blind, dictated his last work, which he called the Baroque sense of life as "recognising God through this world." But here there is a need for the same kind of caution as when you say in unfamiliar company "energy" and you do not mean electricity. Fragments of a light bulb.
Lenka Vitková, 2007
Tomáš Vaněk calls his projects „particips“ and „distributs“ in accordance with their functional potential. His series of „particips“ was initially launched in 1999, when, using stencils, he spray-painted his first set of images in public spaces. It was at this point that Vaněk left the classic confined space dedicated to the presentation of art and entered an environment ruled by graffiti sprayers, sticker artists and the visual culture of the street. In his projects known as „distributs“- the best known being his neo-samizdat project - the artist formulates parallel possibilities for the diffusion of information beyond the standard commercialized structures. Vaněk works with social authenticity, shifting art to the level of a direct experiment in communication which takes place under actual, contemporary conditions. Tomáš Vaněk has defined new formats for artwork, for their use and presentation.
Text courtesy of VVP-AVU (Center for the Study of the Visual Arts at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts)
Tomáš Vaněk was born in 1966 in Počátky. He lives and works in Prague where he studied in the painting studios of Jiří Sopko and Vladimír Kokolia at the Academy of Fine Arts from 1990-1997 and was a member of the artist group BJ (Bezhlavý jezdec/Headless Horseman) together with fellow students Josef Bolf, Ján Mančuška and Jan Šerých. In 2001, he was awarded the prestigious Jindřich Chalupecký prize. He has participated in several residency programs abroad, including the Muzeumsquartier in Vienna (2003), Delfina Studios at the Camden Arts Center (2004) and the International Studio and Curatorial Program in New York (2006). He is also a member of the initiative PAS – Production of Contemporary Art Activities (www.paspage.cz), together with the artist Jiří Skála and curator, Vít Havranek. His most recent work has even taken him to the stage, with his Particip No. 52, Live Score, an interactive music installation and performance made in collaboration with the new-media artist Floex.
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