Pavel Korbička


SPACE, OR THE EVENT OF SPACE, Miroslav Petříček, Prague, 2011

Pavel Korbička is striking due to the inconspicuousness of his work. He quite graphically expresses Robert Morris’s words, that “simplicity of form is not the same as simplicity of experience”. The source of that with which he works is light and space. We know light, whether as a physical phenomenon, and as a symbol or metaphor; we know about space from geometry, and/or we are not aware of it at all when we move through it. Pavel Korbička has determined that right in the centre between these extremes there is an opportunity for artistic activity. Seemingly simple: light works upon space and vice versa. However, as those who see his installations can be convinced, to describe what happens there is much more difficult. Pavel Korbička does not create some ”specific object” situated in an exhibition space, because through the help of flexible polycarbonate sheets and neon lights (he requires nothing more), the gallery is instead transformed into a place in which only then is it possible for the space to be encountered and experienced. A very specific space, one that is perceived only if we become not its viewers, but its components. And that in which we find ourselves, that which is happening there with us, is not an event “in” a space already somehow given us; we experience the space itself in its creation, one in which the space occurs with us. Light goes somewhere, something appears and something disappears, as that time we pose the questions “where?” and “whence?”. It is not easy for us to get answers, because the visual interior is one and the same with the perceived space. Meanwhile there is something necessary to add: it is not an illusion nor some special effect or trick; the installation does not confound our senses, rather is cleanses them and returns them to the quite natural world of our lives.

The originator of this special experience is quite diligent in his work and he thinks through his themes for some time on all sides. It is perhaps obvious that space was somehow already visualised in his notations of dance and tactile drawings (notations can always be understood as matrices from which one can generate that which was notated - a two-dimensional drawing captures a view of the form of a three-dimensional movement; touch is rather dimensionless, but from touch an experience of the content is created). Light in his work appears as a guardrail and as a corridor (Moravian Gallery in Brno in 2003, the City Gallery in Pilsen in 2005), which leads us somewhere else that we are used to: its curves take us to ourselves; i.e., to the fact that our vision is always “spatial” - not because our sight has its basis in geometry, rather that it is a moment in the body of a moving creature. All of this returns in his contemporary exhibition. Space is given to our touch, when we raise our arms along the gleam of the neon light in polycarbonate panels, and in the proximity of these lights we perceive depth. We know the space suddenly with our entire body, at the same time we are still “in between”, we walk “around and around” (also the same of the installation at the České Budějovice House of Art in 2007), it can even occur to us that our “here” is still “elsewhere”. It is a very strange experience: here actually we are not observers, we do not look at neon tubes nor panels which lead the light (if we try, our vision falters in its transparency), actually we are not viewers here - because we have become components of the dynamic of this work: creation of space, which here is experiencing in us, together with us, how we perceive in it. Because it is probably not possible to stop for a moment and impassively look about one’s self; if we wanted to look “around” ourselves, we must go into motion, the space which is created does not allow impassivity. It is a dynamic composition, made up variously, according to whether we walk or run, turn our heads and/or raise our hands, and whether we attempt to sense what is taking place behind our backs, or whether we are aimed at something that is before us.

If it were possible to single out Pavel Korbička’s diverse inspirations, then possibly minimalism, and Dan Flavin or Daniel Buren (who “dispersed” light in order to explicate the composition of a specific place), and/or generally the reassessment of the function of sculpture in relation to space and so forth. If we were really to undertake such archaeological research, it would make sense only if we were to show Pavel Korbička differs. It would not do to put together some group of symbols which would refer to out (forgotten, unconscious) perception of space, for he wants each person who gets caught up in his installation to experience this perception anew. Primary however, again and again he shows that space is not a given, some “form of attitude”, for it is that which it does together with us, the way to perceiving space is perception of the event of space. Geometry says much less about space than the feeling we get that there is someone behind our backs, and we swiftly turn around. And actually light also hat this effect, that it spreads, breaks and glimmers in Korbička’s Lexans (that brand name for the polycarbonate panels).

Thus Pavel Korbička in his own way answers the question of what has happened in art in the last century; his answer is again simply complicated: art does not want to refer to anything, it wants to depict that which we perceive without our knowing that we perceive it. However it demands a viewer who is prepared to take part in artistic creation and cooperate in its meaning. He or she who goes to his exhibitions will see that the bizarre slogan of travel agencies, “experiential tourism”, can have quite an unexpected meaning in other contexts.

Miroslav Petříček