Publisher: Taipei Fine Arts Museum
Publication Date: 2020/09/01
Chief Editor: Sharleen Yu
Editor: Agiluf Chen
The Taipei Fine Arts Museum's solo exhibition program provides the public with opportunities to not only become acquainted with different artists' concepts, but also explore their lives and cultural and political backgrounds. Inner Emigration: The Frame of an Image Is You is the first solo exhibition in Taiwan featuring the work of the renowned Czech artist Vladimír Kokolia, and marks the first contemporary art exchange the museum has undertaken with the Czech Republic. Kokolia represented the Czech Republic at Documenta IX, and his wide-ranging interests have led him beyond the visual arts-serving as lead singer of the legendary underground rock band E, practicing Chen-style Taijiquan, and winning a national award in his home country for composting in 2007. Kokolia has also been a teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague for close to thirty years, where he has guided many outstanding young artists. As a synesthete integrating life and art, Kokolia has explored the core of creativity and developed a variety of practices in different fields.
The term inner emigration was coined by writer Frank Thiess and taken up by German writers opposed to Nazism. Explaining the use of the term for this exhibition, curator Miroslav Ambroz said, 'For people who find themselves totally out of step with the alien rule of their own country but are not able to physically escape a repressive regime, an 'inner emigration' is often the only solution to their plight. They encase their thoughts and feelings in a cocoon of close family or trustworthy friends, or even in complete solitude.' Having spent the first half of his life under Czechoslovakia's communist regime where he experienced profound inner emigration, Kokolia believes that art is a life skill that can be used in pursuit of freedom. Based on this, he wished to take a broader view of the term inner emigration in using it for his exhibition title. Kokolia senses that when inner life is being depleted by the outside world, one can turn inward and, in doing so, reap both tranquility and power. This kind of inner emigration is manifest in one of the focal points of the exhibition: a selection of 116 of the artist's drawings on paper from the 1980s, which have not been exhibited for over 30 years. The series in its entirety is called 'Big Cycle Drawings' and comprises more than 600 works. For these drawings, Kokolia employed sensitive line quality to depict individuals or groups engaged in absurdist plots pitched against fate or fighting for survival. Caught in circumstances that defy common sense, his figures struggle to break free of various entanglements that seem humorous and futile.
When depicting something, Kokolia is less concerned with its appearance than with its essence. However, people tend to focus on appearances and pay little attention to the process of seeing or how to see. In other words, they overlook the importance of their own roles and mechanisms of viewing. Kokolia has said, 'Without the viewer's sight, an artwork actually does not exist.' Hence in this exhibition, he has striven to encourage unique viewing mechanisms with painting, a medium which he considers as time-based and dynamic. The entire exhibition is actually an elaborately planned light-based installation, as he chose to keep the venue dark to attenuate the usual pace at which viewers move from one work to the next, and thereby cultivate an immersive viewing experience.
Planning for this exhibition has been underway for a long time, and the global pandemic that broke out this year has affected international exchanges, thus increasing the complexity of communication and difficulty of implementing the exhibition. I wish to extend my gratitude to all who have assisted in the process, especially the curator Miroslav Ambroz who was unable to come to Taiwan due to these extraordinary circumstances. I am also grateful for the many contributions of the Czech Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei and the wife of the former Representative of the Taipei Economic & Cultural Office, Prague, Ms. Jeane Huang, as well as for the efforts of all individuals who made the exhibition of the artist's philosophies of life possible, and have had to shoulder the additional burdens of cultural exchange inherent in these difficult times.