Vojtěch Fröhlich, Ondřej Mladý, Jan Šimánek, Vladimír Turner
site-specific installation/ public intervention
Best six, Szpilman Awards 2013
In the autumn of 2012 a temporary group of artist friends created a visual intervention in the public space of Barrandovský Most bridge in Prague. During a swift nocturnal action they climbed onto an illuminated billboard by the bridge road and redirected its lamps to illuminate a nearby sculpture that until then had been overshadowed by this huge advertising space. The strong light source caused “Equillibrium”, a cast-concrete sculpture by sculptor Josef Klimeš from 1989, to make an almost theatrical appearance. The huge billboard, advertising a luxury off-road car, was plunged into darkness.
The variable art group composed of visual artists and an architect thereby demonstrated both its courage and, above all, its serious interest in public space, which they expressed, for example, in a project from the previous year whereby the used a gigantic rotating billboard at the end of the same bridge as a carousel.( vimeo.com/32210404 )
This artistic action’s clear message needs no broad politico-social or cultural explanation. It is obvious that the ubiquitous visual advertising smog that has uncontrollably occupied our city since the start of “real capitalism” is a bothersome and ugly factor that is harmful to health. This phenomenon is rooted not only in the non-existing urbanistic and aesthetic vision of the custodians of our cities, but above all in the official support for the private sector to the detriment of the public space. Every day, advertising beside high-speed roads and on the facades of protected buildings convinces us that we are still in the “wild east”. The huge quantity of this advertising is a consequence of the ubiquitous corruption that means that violations of the already very liberal rules on the placement of advertising spaces are not punished. Our sense of shame is multiplied when we cross the border into he Czech Republic from Austria or Germany, where strict laws exist and, above all, are enforced.
Although this artistic and politically motivated activity is a manifestation of civic disobedience, the action is certainly not illegal because, on the contrary, it partially redresses the unlawful conduct of the advertising industry. By placing the billboard so close to the statue that you can jump from one to the other, this industry violated both the sculptor’s and the bridge designer’s copyright. The maker of the sculptor told us that employees of an advertising agency visited him in his studio to get hi to sell the copyright to the sculpture which, they thought, could be an ideal pedestal for an advertisement.
The eighty-six year old Josef Klimeš turned down the highly lucrative offer and threw the advertising agents out of his studio. Not long afterwards they installed a billboard in front of his peace anyway, and now it is entirely hidden from the road by a gigantic advertising space.
This artifact, like almost all abstract works of art installed in the public space during the communist period, has been labelled a communist nonsense; it was ignored, received insufficient maintenance, and gradually disappeared beneath an over -layer of advertising and run-of-the-mill graffiti. In the glare of floodlights, however, it is clear that it has lost nothing of its power.
The audacity of the work and monumental affect of the sculpture are also evidenced by the fact that it was locally nicknamed "The Conqueror Worm", referencing the huge desert creature that is a symbol of the liberation of the planet Dune in the eponymous sci-fi film by David Lynch. Can the partisan actions of the Fremen save out planet from ubiquitous advertising, a tool of corporate manipulation and a symbol of government corruption? Acting this way, Vojtěch Fröhlich, Ondřej Mladý, Jan Šimánek and Vladimír Turner, responded to activist Jordan Seiler's call to take over the regulation of public space: "The advertising industry shows how the system in general behaves towards outré society, treating like a commercial item… It is up to us, the public, to take back the control over the public space!"
Text: Pavel Karous