J. Mitríková a D. Demjanovič: The Evacuation of Slovak Elites

The absurdity and ambivalence of this work are characteristic features of Jarmila Mitríková and Dávid Demjanovič’s output.

Art. Inv. No.: O-2164

Artists: Jarmila Mitríková & Dávid Demjanovič
Title: The Evacuation of Slovak Elites

Year of Origin: 2012
Technique: Pyrography on plywood, coloured with scumbles
Material: Wood
Dimensions: 125 × 180 cm
Signature: Back side, burnt: Mitríková & Demjanovič MMXII

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Two women and a man, dressed in traditional Slovak folk costumes, are standing in a field behind a village at the foot of majestic Slovak peaks, watching the take off of a spaceship (a conglomerate of various rocket modules), with a yellow Lamborghini happily parked next to it. This bizarre scene is captured in the pyrograph entitled The Evacuation of Slovak Elites, and, as the title suggests, the aforementioned spacecraft surely holds the créme de la créme of the Slovak nation. But what is the reason for their evacuation? And who exactly are these people? On the grounds of the luxurious car, one could conclude that the “chosen” are the rich, while the ordinary common people have no other option than to stay at home and continue to bear their fate. Or is it all completely different?

The absurdity and ambivalence of this work are characteristic features of Jarmila Mitríková and Dávid Demjanovič’s output. Nationalism, Slovakness, folklore, myths and legends, rituals, religion, paganism, superstition, Morena (the Slavic goddess of death), processions, carnivals, Spartakiads, harvest festivals, tractors, combine harvesters, flags, symbols, Nazis, Communists, pioneers, partisans, shamans, Turons, traditions, pop-culture, subculture, comix aesthetics, DIY, mystification, the Slovak space program, iconic architectures, creatures, dictatorships, caricatures, recycling, humour and irony – these are the ingredients of the nutritious, refreshing and genuinely Slovak post-modern smoothies, which this artistic duo blends for us – the consumers. Just the way everything blends in our collective, as well as individual, memory to such an extent that sometimes it is not clear any more what is/was reality and what was rather a creation of our imagination, or forgetfulness.

The numerous layers of visual and cultural references peel off gradually, therefore prolonging the viewers’ experience. The content of these works is very closely linked with their form. The artistic duo use pyrography, a traditional technique of burning wood (or leather) with a soldering gun, very popular with DIY-fans in the former Czechoslovakia, which is used for making souvenirs and other folk products to the present day. These “fire drawings” are coloured with scumbles for wood and shaded with a hot-air gun, which enhances their folk-craft touch and, similarly to the use of plywood (a cheap and easily available material), refers to amateur creativity, where handicraft merges with a sense of decorativeness on the brink of kitsch. Mitríková and Demjanovič do not linger on the level of just one medium and they complement their pyrographs with performances, videos and objects.

“We like to use methods of amateur ethnographers and historians, folk storytellers and postcard artists. We roam through libraries and second hand bookshops, where we collect our material. We use the acquired knowledge in our works in various ways: We exaggerate and envelop them in a haze of mythology.” [1]

Jarmila Mitríková (1986, Trebišov) and Dávid Demjanovič (1985, Bardejov) completed their studies at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava in 2011. Mitríková attended the Studio of Ceramics, led by Ivica Vidrová, and the 4th Studio of Painting, led by Ivan Csudai. Demjanovič attended the Studio of Spatial Communication, led by Anton Čierny, where he also completed his doctoral studies. Mitríková’s independent work focuses on painting and ceramics. In 2010, she was a finalist of the Painting of the Year competition. She went on a study stay at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Helsinki, Finland. Demjanovič creates objects, installations and videos. In 2011, he was an Essl Award finalist. He went on study stays in Zagreb, Croatia and Newcastle, UK. The two have been making art together since 2009 and in 2011 they were the first artistic duo ever to win the VÚB Foundation‘s Painting of the Year competition. Together, they have resided in the Czech Republic, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Currently, they live and work in Košice.

Omar Mirza
December 2015

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[1] Quote of the artistic duo from the book: Collective of authors: Fifty Contemporary Artists in Slovakia, Slovart, Bratislava 2014, pg. 41.

This acquisition has been supported using public funds provided by the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic.