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Ikon opens most comprehensive UK exhibition of work by Czech artist Krištof Kintera
Krištof Kintera, Nervous Trees, 2013. Image courtesy the artist.

BIRMINGHAM.- Ikon announces the most comprehensive UK exhibition of work by Czech artist Krištof Kintera (b. 1973, Prague). Internationally acclaimed for his sculptural, often kinetic works imbued with a characteristic energy and imaginative wit, Kintera offers an overview of new, recent, and archival works, shown in the UK for the first time. Filling both gallery floors, whilst also expanding into the public realm, THE END OF FUN! is a timely exhibition probing the apocalyptic environmental issues we currently face, taking on a new poignancy in today’s climate.

Crafted with a dark sense of humour, Kintera’s artistic practice addresses current affairs. Striking a balance between feigned triviality and fatality, his works comprise a lively and philosophical critique of hyper-capitalist systems, especially with respect to ecological concerns: “I am aware of our responsibility for drastic changes of climate, extinctions of species and all kinds of living organisms, and therefore we’ll face sooner or later fatal problems. It is our shame, it is my shame.”

Serving as an introduction to the exhibition, Kintera’s Paradise Now sculptures (2009) – a herd of crowd-control barriers with antlers made from tubular steel – invade the space at the front of Ikon’s building. Modified modules of fencing, they resemble creatures that should not be fenced in, giving pause for thought in an urban environment that is becoming increasingly regulated, according to the laws of “nature we have made”.

In the gallery, Kintera’s recent installation Postnaturalia (2016) sprawls across the floor. A model landscape made from discarded electronic components – interconnected like a nervous system – this postapocalyptic microcosm reminds us that we are part of the natural world, despite our technological pretensions. However, rather than simply condemning our unsustainable behaviour and throw-away mentality, Kintera is more philosophical: “you can hesitate for a while and ponder whether this is nature or not, but I am sure… this is the nature we have made.”

Perched at the top of Ikon’s main staircase, Mr. Raven (I see I see I see, 2009) – a mechanical sculpture of a crow dressed entirely in black western clothing, complete with leather jacket – moves its head and legs back and forth, whilst intoning a mix of inspirational corporate slogans, such as “Let’s make things better” and “Just do it”. The ominous pronouncements (“I see your future … fuuuuuture”) from this creature of belittled intelligence, hint towards the character of the ‘fool’ in an Elizabethan play, conveying wisdom through a veil of madness.

Kintera places great emphasis and importance on the titles of his artworks; in Nervous Trees (2013) the environmental message is clear. Leafless and positioned upside down, branches and twigs spread out towards the floor to resemble arms and legs, and roots are replaced by globes to suggest heads. Inspired by the walking, carnivorous plants in John Wyndham’s post-apocalyptic novel The Day of the Triffids, the sculptures tremble across the gallery space in a jittery motorised movement, signifying both a human affliction, and the fact that the natural world is in trouble. Another anthropomorphic work which epitomises this problem is My Light is Your Life – Shiva Samurai (2009), a superheroic figure consisting of 250 table lamps, towering four metres high. Shielded by translucent globes and neon tubes, a halo hovers over its notional head as if to indicate that it is on the side of the angels. An ironic gesture, the work belies the artist’s awareness of the effects of pollution and devastating depletion of natural resources, as a result of our excessive consumption of energy:

“… my long-term fascination with electricity … comes together [in My Light is Your Life] with a mighty strength, and we suck it out of the sockets very clearly. At the same time it is one of the pressing issues which an enormous number of people are dealing with and will in the future too. We need to do so because everything is a question of energy. What is up with it, how much of it do we consume, how do we treat it and if we will continue to have these seemingly inflexible options.”

The idea that we have been spoiling things for ourselves is a fundamental proposition in Kintera’s work, and nowhere is this more explicit than in the poster campaign planned for dedicated sites across Birmingham. Featuring details of his drawings (also on view in the exhibition) incorporating electrical circuitry, wiring and faces fashioned out of expanding foam, it constitutes a smart eco-propaganda, with texts that are as frankly funny as they are confronting – “Am I Also Responsible?”, “The Revenge of Nature”, “The End of Fun (Coming soon)”. An appeal beyond the art world, the messages speak on behalf of a world that soon might not be a natural habitat for us.

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