As I visited the two exhibitions in Oslo at the Astrup Fearnley museum (The World is Made of Stories and Los Angeles − A Fiction) last weekend, I was reminded of how frequently you are confronted by graphic images of sexual organs in the modern art arena:
Although, what happens when you are bombarded with too many anatomically correct penises – do you become immune? I am struck by how unattractive naked sexual organs seem as they hang on white, flood-lit walls accompanied by the sound of visitors’ footsteps reverberating through the enormous exhibition halls. I am instead concerned with the variations and deviations of the anonymous fertility organs, and wonder what is considered to be the correct distance to the exhibited limbs and pubes.
In Andrea Culkovás’ playful, exploring and visually saturated documentary about life as a modern artist, the title H*ART ON (presumably a play on the words “hard-on”/erection, “heart” and “art”) is positioned in the crossfire between a semen-squirting penis and milk-spouting breasts. However, the frequently occurring sexual motives of the featured artists’ productions never eclipse the informed and profound conversation about the nature and importance of art which unfolds throughout the film.
Relatively unknown avant garde painter, designer and illustrator Zdeněk Rykr (b. 1900) is allocated a central position in the documentary, both geographically and thematically. We also follow Jitka Cempírková, curator of the Rykr Museum in Chotěboř, Czech Republic; artist couple Mark Divo and Sonja Vectomov who work on a renovation project in Rykr’s hometown; Karin Písaříková, a Czech conceptual and performance artist working in Tokyo; and Cedric Philippe, a young French art lover who visits Mark Divos’ artist home during a reading of The Head of the Artist by Milada Součková (historian, literary critic and Rykr’s wife)
«The only way to talk about deceased artists, is through living artists», writes Součková. This may be the film’s goal: to enable artists to speak about themselves and others, about art’s function and possibilities.
H*ART ON’s contributors demonstrate art’s potential through their own work and artistic conversations. Each one is, in their own way, able to discuss challenging topics including the fight against conformity and fascism (Rykr), bodily functions/transformations/erosions (Písaříková), presence and emptiness (Divo), and the importance of art throughout history (Součková).
The film jumps energetically between the various contributors while adding a refreshing supply of intercalated excerpts of people from around the world and different eras with explosive expressions: mad dancing, nudity, acrobatics, play, intimacy. One man, covered from head to toe in mirror fragments, wanders silently between the scenes, connecting the film’s various universes. Perhaps he symbolises Rykr, who according to the curator «avoided having a face which could be read.” What all these conceptual artists have in common, is the way in which they activate their surroundings, framing them with surprising activities and props.
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