Jana Hojstričová a Palo Macho

Jozef Kovalčik

The body, in opposition to the needs of the spirit, has always been a major topic of Western visual culture. Its surface, gestures, colours, folds and proportions have never ceased to attract, fascinate, inspire, but also to repulse or appal. It has served as a symbol of divinity, beauty and perfection just as much as of sin, decay and perversion. A constant object of passion, seduction, tenderness, as well as of violence, lasciviousness, humiliation, and cruelty.

The body constitutes the intersection where Jana Hojstričová and Palo Macho bond photography and glass into inspiring wholes that articulate an artistic constant. And just as it can be said about culture as a whole, about the approach of these artists we can say that regardless of whether they visualise and thematise the body or hide and omit it, you can always feel its presence. It is the centre that to a great extent determines the nature of their work, the centre that makes sense of the peripherals whose different signs point at it. A considerable part of Hojstričová and Macho’s cooperation are depictions of the body directly captured in the form of human representations. Many of them are figures in unusual poses. Most of them, however, are just parts, torsos, or fragments. Nevertheless, the body also emerges from images in which - in spite of sticking to realistic conventions - no figure can be identified. Indeed, it does come out to the surface and remains trapped in the folds, warps and pores of absolutely ordinary pieces of clothing that fulfil everyday banal functions: guarding its intimacy, presenting it to the outside world, and protecting it from injury. For each one of these elements, however, the body constitutes the common denominator that not only determines their manufacturing form, but also uses and wears them into shapes, giving them their unique look, smell and final appearance. Ordinary shirts, t-shirts, or gloves thus become unrepeatable evidence of a body whose pictures have been preserved into glass panes.

Even though you can hardly separate the human body from its sexuality and physical pleasures, in the works by Hojstričová and Macho this element is suppressed if not completely absent. None of these drawings seduces, ignites erotic fantasies or incites ogling. In their installations and compositions, the artists do not aim at any additional emotional gestures. There is no urge for monumental figurative rhetoric, pathos or yearn, no need to persuade. They just state and present facts with the hindsight and scientific impassiveness of elaborate documentary-like records that smell of laboratory.

This, however, is just one aspect of these installations, one in stark contrast to the actual content of the depictions: everyday, banal clothing - the remnants of bodies, their traces imprinted in their form and composition, the soaked smell, the projections that emanate when looking at their laxity, casualness and immediacy. All this brings a waft of merciless transience and melancholy into the different installations and opens horizons that affect the far end of every single physical covering.

Our consumer culture has turned the body into a fetish, into an omnipresent article you are required to persistently take care of to maximise profit. Its constantly imposed ideal necessarily brings along frustration, disappointment, and even hatred. Yet, Hojstričová and Macho opt for a different strategy and take the opposite direction. They do not elevate the body or place it on a pedestal, but just emphasise it by letting its fragments, memory logs, references, smells and traces stand out. They do not aim at telling a whole story, or at translating into visual language what philosophy has already verbalised. Instead, they distort any relationship between the different installations, creating autonomous solitaires that speak differently, with different intensity and different content. They let the physicality of their artefacts speak and give testimony of the body, which never ceases to defy any verbal type of articulation.