Compass in Hand: Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection

Ján Mančuška. Konference. (2001)

Installation of paper, ink, graph paper, plexiglass stands, wood boxes, buttons, wire, paper clips, paper napkins, pressure-sensitive stickers, toothpicks, sugar, synthetic polymer sheet, ribbon, gum wrappers, cigarettes, pens, coffee cup and saucer, sugar packets, chewing gum, and velvet on table, Installation: 194 x 49 x 32 1/4" (492.8 x 124.5 x 81.9 cm). The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection Gift. © 2022 Jan Mancuska

Artist, Jan Mancuska: My name is Jan Mancuska. And I live in Prague and in Berlin at the moment.

Narrator: Mancuska calls the piece Konference, but doesn’t specify what kind of conference has taken place.

Jan Mancuska: It's a table, which is supposed to be for 20 people. And through these objects which are standing on the table, you can recognize the people in there, somehow.

The objects are these very casual objects of everyday life, which are, also involved somehow in such a conference, right? So it's cups, pens, bottles, and glasses.

Narrator: They also relate to his childhood in the 1980s in Slovakia, then under communist rule.

Jan Mancuska: In the 80s the assortment in the shops it was very basic. So there was usual practice among the normal people to make the things yourself, somehow so this actually almost like a hobby and you could have made very crazy things. I think what is very obvious on [these] objects which I used or included into the installation they are actually hand made. I made it. And also, I of course collected lot of things which are included into the installation.

Narrator: After the fall of the wall, Mancuska watched as round table discussions set out to re-think society, a process in which one-time dissidents became run-of-the-mill politicians.

Jan Mancuska: All this disappointment from what had happened in the society is somehow in that installation. In [that] installation, hidden is this moment when actually you had this feeling that you had participated in ... certain things and suddenly, it's all gone somehow. I see this situation of the Konference as very artificial, so when people sit there, and somehow, they are responsible for important things, but very often it's all just wrong. I think it's what is left from such a situation. It's evidence that, here, were sitting like 20 people. It's a principle of absence. I mean like, absence is something else than the emptiness. Absence is something that you know that it must be some content but you just don’t see it.

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