Week 97_Radek Brousil / by Anti Materia

Green Fashion

Curated by  Michal Novotny

@ Nova Cvernovka, Bratislava, Slovakia

November 30 – December 29, 2017

The exhibition in front of you is part of a planned trilogy, following a project called Red Naomi presented in autumn in Glasgow and preceding Cool Water at Fair Trade Palace in Prague. These three exhibitions are bound together by a critical inquiry that lies between ethics, economics and ecology. Brousil examines the culturally rooted tradition of giving flowers and how it links aspects of barter and desire on many contemporary levels - global, local and personal – through its symbolic, economic and environmental consequences.

However, Brousil’s analysis is not sociological, rather, it works within a methodology of decontextualisation, where forms and symbols are taken out of their original content and, in their new forms, illuminate relationships of power.

In the first exhibition of the series, Brousil examined the reality of African production of roses delivered to Europe, the catastrophic environmental effects an industry with such a very high water consumption has on the local areas, but also the status of farm workers, the sexual abuse of female workers, the exposure of their bodies to pesticides, the history as well as a certain interchangeability of movements of people and commodities from Africa to the north of Europe, all this linked by the Red Naomi rose variety and an unlikely but fascinating anecdote about Naomi Campbell.

In Green Fashion, Brousil ́s assemblages continue to loosen up but intersect all the more for it. The title refers to another, very unlikely and unnatural variety of roses one with a green corolla. It also alludes to the “green fashion” itself – the contemporary tendency of eating healthy and only consuming “natural” things. This includes the preference for a natural, unembellished beauty, which can be reached thanks to a generous supply of natural but, of course, bottled water which is, in turn, the cause of another ecological catastrophe. As with the symbol of sensuality the flowers red petals, grown from slavery in a country that is turning into a dessert, heavily impregnated by chemicals to preserve their “natural” beauty during the long journey and given dead, but fresh looking, with the same market-minded intention, expecting a return of this given sensuality here too Brousil plays with symbols on several levels. Water, the fundamental ingredient in the production of roses, becomes the promise of a beauty seen in advertisements, intentionally using erotic or even pornographic compositions, but it also becomes a symbol of this eroticism in general, the symbol of a wet desire. Another pornographic or even ejaculative moment is the reinterpretation of photo instructions for first aid eyewashing eyes, once again, are being presented as symbols of sensual beauty and are here affected, for instance, by pesticides. Yet another theme shows a sharp thorn almost touching a luring tongue, sticking out from an open mouth. The meaning is always ambiguous, to say the least the beautiful, technically perfect objects are full of contradiction that constantly emerges and somehow emphasises the ‘bloody’ background of red and green roses.

The photographs are not digitals or on paper, but they take a form of three dimensional textile objects supplemented by fabrics of Czech production and design, but made primarily for the African market.

Their flowery motifs create a composition of a hung picture, but of one that is inflated, stuffed, accompanied by photos from fabric flowers and artificial nails. The “pillowness”, this softness that almost encourages sacrifice, makes the economy of empathy and emotion even more problematic. In another display, one that was also shown in the Glasgow project, roses petrified in Vřídlo hot spring in Karlovy Vary once again deadened but preserved for eternity by water, the symbol of the life, but always fake as they are made of paper are covered by a transparent plastic foil which is reminiscent of covered dead bodies as well as referring to some sort of a membrane, a protective layer. Numerous internet versions of the English nursery rhyme “roses are red” are printed on the foil. The archaism of this rhyme, although disrupted by contemporary technological elements, suggests that emotions may never have been natural.

Brousil ́s attitude is thus not only critically rejective, he also endeavours to find out how certain emotional contradictions like the feeling of being moved at the same time as knowing the feeling is fake could present a way out of the system the sole measurable quality of which is profit.

All images copyright and courtesy of the artist