hunt kastner is pleased to present a solo exhibition of work by the artist Sráč Sam (b. 1969), who lives and works in the village of Česká Bříza where she runs the sam83 gallery, a platform for the free development of culture. Sam, whose self-adopted name flouts convention as well, holds a unique position on the contemporary art scene in the Czech Republic. Since the beginning, her practice has exposed aspects of social manipulation and approaches to reality, while ignoring the arbitrary rules and social norms that govern our expectations. Sráč Sam’s work was the focus of a solo exhibition at the Prague City Gallery at the Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace in 2017-18 (The Difference is in the Question) and, in cooperation with Denisa Bytelová, she was an invited guest curator for the Kurzor Gallery at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Prague in 2021. The exhibition at hunt kastner presents a wide range of works in various mediums that relate to the body and escaping the control of external forces.
The Body that Saves Their Shadow
by František Fekete & Tereza Stejskalová
The drawings and objects by Sráč Sam presented in this exhibition deal with the female body that is hindered by its shadow, as the artist herself described it when we visited her in Česká Bříza. But does the body itself get in the way, or do internalized expectations of how we should treat the body get in the way? How do our bodies behave in a space where no one can see them? And is there a community that has no expectations of bodies?
The encounter with visual art or with another through a work of art is often a physical and emotional experience. In the exhibition, we encounter mostly female bodies, on the border between figure and abstraction – they don’t want to fit in either way, they are deformed into different shapes, they remind us of something, but we can never be quite sure if they represent something else. They are bodies that are becoming someone, inventing themselves. Sam leaves us space to become aware of our own wounds and vulnerabilities. Yet it is precisely women’s bodies that seem strange – too fat or too thin, too hairy, or not hairy enough, with nipples monstrously large or too small. We watch a body that is bent over and vomiting something. In the end, we’ve all been bent over vomiting something at some point.
Accepting your body is commendable and perhaps revolutionary, but not always equally possible for everyone. The body is traumatic and we are never in control of it, it does what it wants while society tells us how beautiful or how disgusting we are, how young or old, healthy, or sick. We are never okay. Some bodies are always in the way or in the way so much that they are completely invisible to others. Perhaps this recognition is the beginning of a better and truer relationship with others, a possible starting point for creating communities. Instead of celebrating the body and what it can do, there is a union through its weakness and vulnerability, through the body as an obstacle. The fragility and vulnerability that some of Sam’s beings exude are qualities that have always been close to us, but that the world expects us to hide. Sometimes we’re just strange monsters with nothing left but our own shadow. But that’s not the end, on the contrary, it can be the beginning. For to be a monster is to understand your body beyond stereotypical expectations. Isn’t the shadow actually a metaphor for an idea of ourselves that eludes us? We can transform this idea into a work of art and put it on as a healing mask.
We see women’s bodies. Yet, there is also a male perspective. It does not absent itself; it is only hidden. The female body always contains something masculine and vice versa. What then is the role of the male body that is hindered by traditional masculinity? Such a body kneels like the vomiting creature in Sráč’s painting. In order for masculinity to find its way into a world where we meet vulnerable, fragile and proud beings, it must transform itself. To reinvent itself on the threshold of a new feminist practice, which Sráč Sam, as one of many, is co-creating on many different levels, not only in visual art. At the center of this practice is a certain ethos that is uncompromising about the importance of its own principles, but in other ways is maximally open and accessible. A lunch together, a walk or a conversation in this space takes on the same value as a drawing and one cannot be separated from the other.