6. 9. 2019-16. 11. 2019
Gallery NTK, Technická 6, Prague
open mo-fr 10-18, free entry
On the 5th of September 2019, the Techné exhibition opened in the NTK Gallery. Spread out over two floors, the show will present a representative selection of precious historical scientific books from the NTK’s fund, side by side with contemporary art from both the Czech Republic and abroad.
The Techné exhibition is part of the celebrations of the ten-year anniversary of the opening of the Czech National Library of Technology in Prague. The building of NTK, a successful realisation by the Projektil architecture studio, was opened to the public on the 9th of September 2009. The history of NTK’s literary fund, however, reaches back to the year 1718, to the establishment of the library of the Estates Professorship in Engineering, one of the oldest technical schools in Europe. The founder of the institution, the first (and at first the only) professor, Christian Joseph Willenberg, received three hundred pieces of gold to purchase books. These books became the basis of the archives the Czech National Library of Technology has at its disposal today.
Renaissance and Baroque books from many fields – mathematics, geometry, physics, mechanics, optics, hydrology, architecture, military and civil engineering, astronomy and astrology, cartography, geology, mining, assaying, or alchemy – are placed in confrontation with artworks that relate in varied ways to phenomena relating to science and technology. The exhibition architecture takes its cue from the aesthetics of Renaissance cabinets of curiosities (Kunstkabinett, Wunderkammer), filling the space of the gallery with a colourful, almost chaotic mix of illustrated historical volumes, maps, atlases, and globes which sometimes contrast and sometimes resonate with the art installations, objects, and video-projections.
The exhibited books were selected – within the limits of NTK’s archive – so that they introduce important figures and discoveries from the history of science and technology. You will find Renaissance translations of the Greek mathematicians Euclid and Archimedes, the Roman architect Vitruvius, but also the medieval Arab scholar Alhazen. A work on geometry and perspective by the famous German Renaissance painter and engraver Albrecht Dürer is one of the oldest and also most precious books in the NTK archives. There is a comprehensive collection of Renaissance and Mannerist architectural treatises by Leon Battista Alberti, Andrea Palladio, Sebastiano Serlio, Giacomo Vignola, and Vicenco Scamozzi. Military engineering, represented in the NTK’s collection with a number of volumes on the construction of fortifications, is represented at the exhibition – among other books – by the works of the French fortification builder Sébastien Vauban, who brought to perfection the system of bastion fortifications characterised by almost decorative star-shaped designs. The founder of modern science – the genius Isaac Newton – is present through a work on mathematics and philosophy. The books of universal German scientist Athanasius Kircher on geology and optics are accompanied by beautiful illustrations. Georgius Agricola, the first to apply a scientific approach to mining, was closely tied to the Czech lands, specifically to the silver mines in Jáchymov. The selection is also blessed with several rarities. Primarily, these are two unique manuscripts – the Renaissance Mechanics by Hanns Holzhammer with drawings of complex machine mechanisms, and a Baroque translation of the mythical ancient Iranian thinker Zarathustra with coloured illustrations representing fabled beings that seem almost surrealist. One interesting and bizarre item is a small tome, Biblical Mathematics, which focuses on mathematical and geometrical problems in the bible, such as the architecture of the Tower of Babel, the construction of Noah’s Ark, and the like. Among the exceptional exhibits from the library’s property are two historical globes and a three-metre detailed map of the Czech lands from the Baroque period. There is a remarkable collection of map sets, among which the astronomical and astrological atlases of Christoph Keller and Joachim Doppelmayr stand out, both equipped with large-format coloured boards detailing the course of the planets, the movement of the sun, the surface of the moon, or the star signs. Altogether, the exhibition introduces over fifty books from the NTK’s Historical Archive, predominantly from the 15th to 18th century.
The selection of contemporary artists participating in the exhibition is just as varied as the selection of historical books. It includes figures often present on the local art scene, such as Jiří David and Martin Zet, matadors of the international art circuit – the German artist Bjørn Melhus and the Romanian Dan Perjovschi –, and promising young artists Jakub Geltner, Magdalena Kašparová, or the Austrian Daniel Hüttler. We could call a number of the participating artists lone wolves. Luboš Plný is certainly one of them – author of obsessive pseudo-anatomical drawings and collages, as well as bizarre surrealist instruments arising from “inappropriate” combinations of natural and technical materials. David Adamec used a similar principle, hanging a series of “instruments” on the walls of the gallery – these were made from fragments of worn-out electronics, bones, and other organic materials. The objects remind us a little of votive artefacts used in natural or ancient cultures, as well as evoking technology in the post-apocalyptic future in the spirit of Mad Max. The selection of art works is not only limited to recent works, but also includes Jiří David’s pseudo-scientific drawings from the mid-‘80s, or from the ‘90s, Stanislav Zámečník’s objects and Pavel Kopřiva’s industrial video. The cartographic exhibits from the NTK’s historical archives found their artistic counterpart in the work of Jana Kasalová, whose work displays a long-standing interest in maps. The exhibition introduces samples from several series by the author. Especially for Techné, the artist created a collection of destroyed maps – facsimiles of precious prints from the NTK archives. Treasures from the library’s property, this time in the field of the military arts, specifically archery, inspired Czech multimedia artist Jakub Geltner. Slovak artists Marek Kvetán and Matúš Lányi present spectacular objects that make use of recycled computer components. Kvetán creates geological formations using crystals of copper sulphate and old motherboards. Lányi works with the myth of a new religion which mixes Baroque forms with trash computer aesthetics. David Možný’s large-scale installation presents a cross-section of an office, including a phone and desk computer cut in half. Another monumental contribution to the exhibition is the interactive mirror object equipped with laser sensors that turns to follow the visitor. It was built by Slovak artist Juraj Dudáš. The young Austrian artist Daniel Hüttler introduces a video whose central motif is a fencing match using mobile phones. As a special guest, the exhibition presents Romanian artist Dan Perjovschi, who has been closely tied to the building of the Czech National Library of Technology from its very beginnings. He is the author of its central artwork – two hundred large-scale drawings which adorn the library’s atrium. In his drawings, informed by comics and caricatures, Perjovschi comments on varied – often politically sensitive – topics that resonate in contemporary society. The exhibition’s curator Milan Mikuláštík invited the Romanian artist to intervene, this time on the windows of the gallery.
The name of the exhibition, Techné, is a term from Ancient Greek which once described skill in a broad sense – the artisan’s dexterity, the doctor’s skills, or the artist’s talent. In a figurative sense, then, this term encompasses the worlds of art and of science and technology. In symbolic form, the exhibition realises the mission of the NTK Gallery since it was opened ten years ago: To search for similarities and contexts among two seemingly radically different worlds. The common denominator of artists and scientists seems to be, first and foremost, fantasy – the capacity to imagine things. Just like fantasy allows a surrealist painter to create new, never before seen images, it allows the scientist or inventor to imagine a never before used solution to a problem, a new, dissenting theory. The exhibition also offers reflection on ethical questions related – in addition to science and technology – to ecology, militarism, and religion. The motives of destruction and decomposition that appear repeatedly in the exhibited works by contemporary artists create a sometimes dystopian atmosphere which is accompanied by a creeping uncertainty: What is the fate of a civilisation that has achieved such successes in the fields of both scientific and artistic knowledge?
The author of the concept for Techné is NTK Gallery curator Milan Mikuláštík in collaboration with Petr Nouza, specialist researcher at the Czech National Library of Technology.
David Adamec, Georgius Agricola, Leon Battista Alberti, Alhazen, Pierre Apian, Archimedes, Lucas Ioannes Aurigarius, Matúš Buranovský, András Cséfalvay, Radovan Čerevka, Jiří David, Dávid Demjanovič, René Descartes, Juraj Dudáš, Albrecht Dürer, Albert Einstein, Lazar Ercker, Euklides, Nicolas de Fer, Ján Gašparovič, Jakub Geltner, Hanns Holtzhammer, Johann Baptist Homann, Daniel Hüttler, Jana Kasalová, Magdaléna Kašparová, Athanasius Kircher, Pavel Kopřiva, Marek Kvetán, Jaro Kyša, Matúš Lányi, Jacob Leupold, Michal Machciník, Marek Marci z Kronlandu, Bjørn Melhus, Jarmila Mitríková, David Možný, Yves Netzhammer, Isaac Newton, Andrea Palladio, Paracelsus, Dan Perjovschi, Luboš Plný, Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, Andreas Pozzo, Cesare Ripa, Walther Hermann Ryff, Alžběta Říhová, Vincenzo Scamozzi, Petrus Schenk, Henricus Scherer, Gaspar Schott, Sebastiano Serlio, Giacommo Barozzi da Vignola, Stanislav Zámečník, Martin Zet, etc.
Milan Mikuláštík, Petr Nouza
Monday 9. 9. 2019 at 15:00 curators held a commented walk through the exhibition together with artist Dan Perjovschi.
AVU, UMPRUM, HYB4, Slovenský inštitút
Petr Zewlakk Vrabec: Climate Revolution
Opening of an exhibition
15. 11. 2019 at 19:00
exhibition runs until 31. 1. 2020
Ground floor NTK
After the Velvet Revolution The Climate Revolution
Thirty years after the Velvet Revolution, environmental issues remain marginalized by Czech political representation. Yet, it was the protection of the environment that, together with the strife for democracy and human rights, fueled the desire for change in 1989. Today, as in November 89, especially young people struggle for a responsible attitude to the environment.
The exhibition Climate Revolution in the Artwall Gallery, as well as a wider selection of photographs by Petr Zewlakk Vrabec presented at the premises of the National Technical Library, showcase some of the civic movements entering the imaginary barricades of the climate revolution. The photographs document the non-violent actions of Limity jsme my, Fridays For Future, Ende Gelände and Extinction Rebellion, and map out forms of civil disobedience directed against a policy that puts individual profits above climate and social justice.
Petr Zewlakk Vrabec is an activist photographer who has been documenting climate protests in the Czech Republic and Germany for several years. He participates in non-violent protests and uses his lens to record events from close distance. His photographs depict not only the determination of the protesters, but often times also excessive police violence.
Curators Lenka Kukurová and Zuzana Štefková comment on the project as follows: “Petr Zewlakk Vrabec’s exhibition shows the parallels of current climate activism with the student movement in 1989, which started the Velvet Revolution. As thirty years ago, young people are now faced with a power that does not hesitate to use violence to silence criticism.”
The conclusions of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published this September highlight that the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions are greater than what scientists have anticipated. We are in a situation where our current inactivity will inevitably lead to a global climate catastrophe. These conditions led to the rise of global ecological movement demanding adequate responses from those in the position of power. If there is an issue that has a global revolutionary potential today, it is undoubtedly the climate crisis.
Yet many politicians are downplaying the threats of global warming and engage in ridiculing climate activists. There is also a violent suppression of civil disobedience by means of repressive forces. However, as in November 89, documentary photography bears witness to the moral power of nonviolent resistance.
Lenka Kukurová, Zuzana Štefková
Gallery NTK opened in 2009 as an integral part of the library's cultural offerings. Since that time, it has hosted a number of exhibitions focused primarily on the interconnection between contemporary art, science, technology, and architecture.
Due to the gallery´s location – in the heart of the Czech Technical University campus – a considerable number of students´ projects have been exhibited here as well. In addition to these exhibitions, the gallery has established cooperation with various cultural and scientific institutions that utilize the exhibition space and present new and original topics.
Gallery exhibitions are often covered in the leading Czech media and abroad.
Location: Ground Floor, near entrance NTK2.
Culture at NTK
For us, the library represents a space that is both physically and mentally open – to people, the interchange of ideas, and art. Our building was the result of collaboration between architects, engineers, designers, theorists and artists; these intellectual intersections continue to this day.
The inspiring architecture of the library (including the well-known interior atrium murals by Romanian artist Dan Perjovschi) foster critical inquiry, exhibit a sense of humor, and contribute to what we hope is a unique aesthetic experience.
Our cultural events and cooperations with artists aim to illustrate the reciprocal creative
spark between art and science.