We generally like to think of contemporary art as a highly international practice, but the work of any individual is inevitably shaped by the specific local conditions that surround them – their time and place within the world. Castlefield Gallery’s upcoming exhibition, Oh, it is easy to be clever if one does not know all these questions partly responds to this reality, highlighting and bridging aspects of geographic distinction through its very structure and framework.
The exhibition is made up of two parallel parts, organised in collaboration between Pavel Büchler (Manchester) and Mariana Serranová (Prague). Together the two guest curators are working with Castlefield Gallery and DOX Centre for Contemporary Art (Prague) to bring together a number of early career artists from their two respective cities, with the aim of initiating a dialogue between the practices developing within these two distinct cultural environments and artistic traditions. The collaboration will see a number of the artists travel between the two countries to make new work for the exhibition, which runs in Manchester from 18 May to 1 July and in Prague from 20 June to 10 September.
Despite a curatorial approach based on the specifics of place, the artists that have been selected (Nina Chua, Nicola Ellis, Maeve Rendle and Evangelia Spiliopoulou from the UK, and David Fesl, Martin Kohout, Lucie Michnová, Vojtěch Novák/Andrew Jan Hauner and Pavel Příkaský/Miroslava Večeřová from the Czech Republic) each embody a strong outward focus, making work that addresses the larger, collective world in which we live, rather than centring on questions of cultural identity or background.
As its enigmatic title (taken from a passage from the Austrian novelist Robert Musil’s controversial 1906 novella The Confusions of Young Törless) suggests, this isn’t an exhibition that sets out to impose a predetermined narrative or critical analysis, but invites visitors to simply experience the work and draw their own connections based on instinct. Let’s just hope that flights to Prague are included within the free entry price, so we can develop a fully-formed opinion.