Accessibility note no 4

Gallery of Academy of Fine Arts in Prague
February 25th – March 21st, 2019
Curator: Magdalena Jadwiga Härtelova
Photos by Radek Dětinský, Dávid Brna
multimedia installation, collaborative practice

David Brna,exhibition view

david brna exhibition view

david brna get together

In the gallery, Brna created an acutely material and, at first, unsettling environment. Indeed, the How to Talk to Your Body installation is about unease – of watching yourself, of witnessing one’s own mind and body, of being seen by others in a society that still values normality and attempts to shape individuals by comparing. Figuratively and literally, Brna uses the slogan-like language of neo-liberal Internet. Through it, he comments on the contemporary discourse around mental health and neurospecificity, especially as it manifests on popular online platforms. Undoubtedly, the openness of the internet has contributed to de-stigmatization of mental illness in significant ways. However, in the same gesture, the content presented online most visibly often times banalizes neurospecificity, mixing up anxiety over job interviews with psychiatrically diagnosed, paralyzing, anxiety attacks. Browsing through this complex and ambiguous space that provides resources and platforms for discussion but also normalizes, excludes and is always, always, hyper self-observing, Brna looks at the moment of diagnosis. Doing so, by a parallel, his exhibition project at GAVU draws connection between the mechanism of diagnosing and institutionalization of art.

On one hand the liberal discourse around mental health democratized access to information on neurospecificity. Doing so, it challenged many of the stigma of the past around mental illness and made more widely available some resources, such as self-help tools. On the other hand, as we said, the popularity-focused content creating of the internet age banalizes many complex issues. The wide-spread self-diagnosis, often presented as a type of entertainment, may make it seem like there is no need for devising real strategies of inclusion for neurospecific people. Similarly, most art institutions have adopted the buzz words taken from feminism, post-colonialism, queer theory and other philosophies working towards radical change in inclusion, representation and power hierarchies. However, material changes are still sparse and practical implementations of the proclaimed values are mostly oriented towards those already included in/around institutions. One example for all is the exploitation of neurospecific people by the Art Market in what has been the trend of Art Brut. Brna’s exhibition project doesn’t resort to a gestural or mocking commentary on the situation. He belongs to the new generation of artists that can include humor in their vocabulary but are post-irony. He acknowledges the weight of his and others stake in the matter, acts in practical ways, share. He decided to have a, at the academy quite unprecedented, Get-Together about what is on his mind.

text written by Magdalena Jadwiga Härtelova