Red Like Ferrari

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installation, mixed media, 2017, Strom Art Gallery

Cycle Liquid Crystals RGB

Curators Petr Kamenický a Markéta Žáčková

 

Never has been an exhibition at Strom Art Gallery as blatantly minimalistic or rather reductive as current project by Jana Bernartová with the title full of promises: Red Like Ferrari. This special hue – rosso corsa – has been used for the infamous Italian racing cars since the nineteen twenties. However, the author is far from working merely with the visual attractiveness of red colour or with its globally effective marketability. On the contrary: she focuses on uncertainty and instability of a specific colour determined by particular technical conditions, individual perception and physiological prerequisites. She showcased the discrepancy between the virtual existence of a digital – blue, in the given cases – colour and its material forms, already during three exhibition projects this year: Tekuté krystaly R0G0B255 [Liquid Crystals R0G0B255] (Plusmínusnula Gallery in Žilina), Výchozí nastavení [Default Settings] (Altán Klamovka Gallery in Prague), and Ultramarín extra blue [Ultramarine Extra Blue] (Kaplička Gallery in Jablonec nad Nisou).

Jana Bernartová has been following the issue of colour for a long time. More precisely, she is interested in the possibilities of its definition or categorization in exact parameters, which optically fail compared to real outputs. This disproportion of expectation and execution is intensely reflected in the digital space. For it is right there, that we feel it inconceivable that there is no perfect fulfillment of the given code. The assumption of the universal appearance of colour collapses, depending on the character of media and “individual” characteristics of devices we use. Not even standardization can ever be perfect.

An important element, present in the work of Jana Bernartová as a long-time constant, is the principle of a mistake, a popular topic in contemporary art, of course. The author is mainly tracking the mistakes in the digital world that we tend to perceive as an ideal artificial entity superior to human abilities. In this sense, she questions the techno-optimism as a major ideological concept of the twentieth century replacing faith in God by above-personal validity of exact technical sciences. This hope for ideal social order is already outlived, but what remains from that concept is the belief in technological progress, which is still the prevailing driving force in contemporary neoliberal society.

The exhibition can also be perceived as a guide through the phenomena of colour, however of a strictly synchronous character and meticulously avoiding any iconographic interpretation of the red colour in the history of art. Jana Bernartová examines “only” the current culture of consumption, commodity which carries the quality of social representation and material luxury.

A surprising dimension of author’s approach is scientific thoroughness, with which she pursues the chosen topic; obtaining related research papers and creating a solid theoretical base, which she is not afraid, however, to approach with reduction and irony. In her previous projects, Jana Bernartová was dealing with the colour blue, as the “primary” colour of digital era. The recent shift expands her scope by a notion of historical legend and addresses also the motives of analogue times.

The almost baroque opposition “radiating versus absorbent” is still valid, no matter that the author intentionally does not apply any historicist, iconographic or psychologic interpretations. But what appears in the “media sea and its fragmentation” as undeniable, is that the denoted, i.e. the name of the colour in the sampler expressed by a bunch of letters and numbers, is the only ingrained reality. In other words: the denoting gains absolute grounds over the denoted, which appears to us in a Mephistophelian manner in many different forms determined by nothing but the means of mediation: in one case is “the default colour codified in sampler” nested in a digital space, in another in a laser beam, then in the wall paint, or in print. In every case it is different – the set of denotations is overfilled. The usual „what you see is what you get“ didn’t ever apply then, and it never can.

Markéta Žáčková