Published: 10 Aug 2020

CZECHDESIGN Graduate Exhibitions Review

The following review article on Prague College's graduation shows is by Barbora Čápová from CZECHDESIGN. 

The global lockdown put an end to conventional art exhibitions but for graduating Prague College students this challenge became an opportunity to experiment with the virtual environment to best exhibit their work online over several days.

During the month of June, four graduate exhibitions took place and were presented to the public. Due to quarantine measures the works could not be presented in the classic gallery format so took form online. Each exhibition took shape within a theme, graduates presented independent concepts, but the theme ensured the shows were cohesive and presented as a unified work of art. Students used contemporary visual language, oriented within trends, but at the same time demonstrated thinking in broader, interdisciplinary contexts, and found interesting relationships and connections. Students commented on current issues, but did not shy away from deeper personal topics. Although the exhibitions are divided according to the graduate programmes, the diverse approaches demonstrated freedom of expression, and a multimedia mix of new and classic forms.

 

You should cometomy.house

The exhibition You should cometomy.house invites viewers to visit a virtual space that connects the apartments of six students from the Bachelor's program Fine Art Experimental Media. By creating a fictional place composed of realistic and existing rooms within Czech Republic, the artists open the question of interspace lying on the border of reality and fiction. They all meet via a webcam in the 'living room', from where the visitor has access to the rooms functioning as a gallery hall.

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BA (Hons) Fine Art Experimental Media 'living room' home page

The aesthetics of post-internet, combined with a return to photography, work very well in this case. The authors use the classic elements offered by the online environment (Lofi aesthetics, simple visual combinations, clipart, audiovisual inputs…), but even so, the autonomy of their owner can be felt from the rooms. Although each room speaks its own language, an inconspicuous connecting line runs across the platform, making the project look like a complex, unified work of art.

Fine Art Experimental Media graduate Valeriie Yeromenko

The idea of ​​residential galleries is nothing new - the pre-revolutionary mood of the last century made this concept a cult, supporting the then peculiarity of alternative exhibition spaces. However, the virtual position conceived by foreign authors adds a completely new dimension to this phenomenon, and if we add to this the recent quarantine situation in which the whole project arose, we can find really interesting sociological levels here. The students invite visitors to their homes, to the only living space where they could move freely. They meditate on their roots, which they connect with the current situation and life in the Czech Republic. In the accompanying texts, on the border of poetry and annotation of the work, they reveal fragility and uncertainty, but also the potential that the months of quarantine have offered.

 

Happily ever after

Physical exhibitions of Graphic Design often lack something. As if the conversion from digital to the real environment would invalidate them with the limitations of the printed format. In this case, the virtual environment offers much wider possibilities and so when facing this unprecedented situation, the creative qualities exhibited became a priority.

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Graduate portfolio gallery with extensive image and video content

The online format of this exhibition really testifies and takes into account the focus of potential spectators, I would consider this solution to be ideal even in normal circumstances. The simple-structured visually attractive platform, despite the diversity of the works on display, functions as a complete, independent work. The portal is dominated by video visualisations integrating the work of graduates of the Bachelor's program in Graphic Design into the real environment of the school's studio space. Instead of striving for a realistic integration of works into the room, on the contrary, it creates a fusion between the real and virtual worlds. As the camera moves, the perspective of the space changes, and the works resemble moving holographic banners levitating across the room. The video thus leaves the viewer free to interpret the installation.

3D Virtual Tour of Happily ever after, BA (Hons) Graphic Design final show

The topic and the way of processing individual works is wide and suggests free management within the studio. It moves from social, ecological and personal topics to the classic processing of visual identity. The technical parameters range from the classic medium of drawing to animation and mobile applications. Most students are very sensitive to the ecological crisis and either choose available sustainable options or try to come up with new opportunities through speculative ways. They often turn to alternative materials and support local craft production. Overall, this creates a comprehensive package of inspiration for many, not only for graphically-oriented visitors.

 

PATIENT F

After a month of quarantine spent in a 1+KK apartment, you try to escape through mental or virtual space to another place. You can either close your eyes or you travel through the layers of the Internet. Graduates of the Foundation Diploma in Art & Design chose the second option and prepared an exhibition right in the middle of the virtual ocean.

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PATIENT F 3D Gallery

The PATIENT F exhibition features the school's Foundation Diploma students and takes place in a strange place, a plateau surrounded by an endless water surface. It is not possible to leave here and the visitor spends their time among the parts installed on exhibition panels. Although it is a relatively classic way of an online tour in an artificially created gallery space and in the style of game art, we still have a feeling of a kind of heaviness - as if the real atmosphere of quarantine was transferred to the exhibition itself.

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Graduate flipsnack portfolios

The overall touch thus corresponds well with the topic of the show theme, in which students focus on the recent difficult quarantine situation and the issues it produced as far as mental health imbalance. With a media mix of flat graphics, illustrations and videos, they comment on global issues through sharing their personal experience of this unprecedented period. Although the form of a virtual gallery tour may in this case seem to be a sufficiently untapped potential of the online environment, in connection with other exhibitions it complements the range of possible approaches. In addition to the exhibition itself, the gallery offers a complete overview of the exhibitors' portfolios and thus a more comprehensive insight into continuous study activities.

 

ReShape

The final exhibit saw an easing of quarantine and allowed the possibility of a physical visit to a classic gallery space. Even so, the graduates of the Master's programmes Fine Art and Future Design decided to keep the ReShape project in both a real and virtual space.

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ReShape physical exhibition opening at Pragovka

The basic concept of the exhibition is based on the existential habits of recent years, when digital technologies have penetrated into our most basic tasks and interpersonal interactions. Through new speculative ways and well-established structures, students comment on personal and general experiences within this phenomenon. The combination of two seemingly very different approaches to the FINE ART and FUTURE DESIGN study programs creates an interesting fusion on the border between classical art media and new technologies. Students of the first mentioned studio ask themselves questions and, through a more or less poetic level, argue over the current state. The second studio then looks for solutions and relevant answers based on constantly evolving new technologies in a speculative way.

ReShape Live stream and interviews with Master's Fine Art & Future Design graduates

Despite these two different approaches, the exhibition holds very well together and the paths of the presentation itself correspond to the concept. The authors decided on a combination of a real classic gallery production and virtual possibilities. The physical exhibition took place in the PRAGOVKA gallery, however, an integral part is the full-fledged web portal and a video recording from the gallery presenting the individual author's approaches. The video is a kind of combination of an online opening and a guided tour, which the visitor can enjoy without crossing the gallery threshold.

Translated and adapted from an original article by Barbora Čápová (in Czech) published 28 July in CZECHDESIGN with permission.