T E X T   
   HOT BOUNDARIES
  

   by Olga Malá


         Veronika Bromová ranks among the protagonists of thenew wave” in Czech art, the dynamic  generation of the 1990s. These young artists, the majority of whom completed their studies in     Prague at the newly-free Academy of Fine Arts or the University of Applied Arts after theVelvet Revolution”, have already gained considerable acclaim both domestically and abroad. The visual and semantic codes of their works are an integral part of contemporary themes in European art, yet at the same time their works retain a strong force of individual expression, and reflect the singular experience of the Czech genius loci. The second half of the 90s has been a period of steep ascent for Veronika Bromová, both in the context of her generation as a whole, and in its particularly powerful female core.

         Bromová’s series of monumental photographs from 1996 entitled Views caused quite a stir among the public at large and art critics alike. After its premiere at “Urban Legendsat the Kunsthalle in Baden-Baden, the series was featured at other exhibitions, includingClose Echoes” in Prague and at the  Kunsthalle in Krems. Individual photographs from this series were published in Flash Art and Village Voice, as well as in the catalogue from the exhibitionThe Quick and the Dead”, organized by the Hayward Gallery, London. This series, in which Bromová uses computer manipulation to “cutportions of skin from naked bodies, creating almost drastic photographs as a result, is a specific contribution to the theme of human anatomy that has appeared in a number of exhibitions recently, often presented in connection with other social issues (i.e. feminism). The photographs, in which the artist is her own main model, are not so shocking in their display of the naked external body, as in theirviewof female anatomy, the body laid brutally bare and stripped of its skin in the most intimate and sensitive of places, in a manner more common to medical anatomy books. Their emotional impact is enhanced by the contrast between the stark objectivity of the depicted internal organs and the expressive manner in which the women are portrayedopened up” - screaming portraits, legs spread apart, wide open mouths.
 

         Bromová is a pioneer in the field of digitally-altered photography in the Czech Republic; the computer collages in Views developed from her previous experience in this medium. Initially she worked with old photographs and pictures clipped from fashion magazines, newspapers and advertisements, reshaping them using a method similar to that of classical collage. This was the technique employed in Photoamputation-Photoimplantation (1993), a project inspired by the world of advertising. The artist used motifs from United Colours of Benetton ads for her own play on absurd commutations of race and sex. She embarked further on this road of experimentation when she began photographing herself and systematically altering the results on her computer. Her first exhibition of computer montage was a work entitled Also Girls (“Biennial of Young Artists - The Bell ´94”, Prague City Gallery) which was connected to the issue of sexual identity.


The artist’s computer art, which she describes as “unpainted paintings”, demonstrate her preoccupation with the figurative theme; her favourite models are people close to her but predominantly herself. Although myriad forms of photography serve as the basis for her art, from the very outset Bromová has also been attracted to expanding two-dimensional photography into spatial objects, as was clear in her use of various platforms and podiums in her early works. By the late 1990s she began incorporating autonomous three-dimensional objects into installations, granting themequal rightswith photographs, and thus complementing her photography both semantically and in terms of their impact on the senses.
 

         Bromová produced her first substantialglobalinstallation at her solo exhibition at the Prague City Gallery (1997), entitled On the Edge of the Horizon. Its theme is that of isolation and the difficulty of mutual communication. Bromová attempts to capture the boundary between two worlds, one which can be understood rationally and one that is transcendental, and which in her understanding has a cosmic dimension. She approaches the theme of the total dissimilarity of possible extraterrestrials - foreigners whose isolation, as she sees it, would not be much different from those human beings who in fact live among us, but whom we refuse to accept because they are somehowdissimilar”.
 

         Her most recent installations are conceived as an integrated whole, combining photographs and kinetic objects covered in variously-coloured feathers. Zemzoo, the latest installation, and the work presented at the Venice Biennial, features an additional video projection. The concept of Zemzoo, relating to mistaken identities and undermining the accepted boundaries between freedom and bondage, further examines the specific relationship between the human and animal worlds, so infinitely remote yet sufficiently close, and offers the possibility of the switching of their roles. Just as in the installation Beauty and the Beast (Czech Centre, Paris) and her upcoming project Metamorphosis, we find here connections to Bromová’s previous work - the presentation of human carnality and its various aspects observed without their widespread taboos. The artist is primarily concerned with the negation of prejudices against other races, women, and, on another level, also against aversions resulting from humanothernessand unalterable biological determination.

© 2003
Veronika Bromová