24. 11. 2021 – 6. 3. 2022
House of Arts
Edith Jeřábková, Kateřina Svatoňová
* Allergological warning - live cats will be present in the exhibition halls from 13 December onwards. Please carefully consider visiting the exhibition if you suffer from allergies.
ESTER KRUMBACHOVÁ, the monographic exhibition of the famous director, scriptwriter, author, artist, and designer of both film and theater costumes, is also an event for adopting cats from the Tlapky Mochov cat shelter.
The monographic exhibition ESTER KRUMBACHOVÁ presents the author’s estate which has been inaccessible for twenty years. Ester Krumbachová (1923–1996) worked as a theater artist beginning in 1953 – first in České Budějovice and later in Prague. She contributed to many important films of the Czech New Wave (Diamonds of the Night, Daisies, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, The Ear, etc.). In 1970 she directed her only film, The Murder of Mr. Devil. From 1972 she was banned from contributing to feature films and television. She only worked occasionally on short films with Krátký Film Praha (Short Film Prague), film studios outside Prague, and several international productions. She was able to overcome the ban in 1983 when she and Věra Chytilová made The Very Late Afternoon of a Faun. After 1990 she was able to return to film once more, and her last job included script editing, scenery, and costumes for the film Marian (1996). Ester Krumbachová is one of the crucial figures of Czech culture from the second half of the twentieth century; her characteristic literary style and original visual language determined the form of the visuals, script, and direction of a number of Czech films and plays and influenced many other artists. Despite this, her work has not previously been comprehensively presented to either Czech or foreign audiences, in particular because her estate was only recently discovered.
The exhibition is not a historical cross-section of Ester Krumbachová’s work (although it does reflect this), but rather an extensive network of original material, the many texts, images, and artifacts with which Krumbachová occupied and surrounded herself throughout her life. Primarily, then, the exhibition presents Ester Krumbachová’s archive/estate, in the form of interconnected thematic blocks that allow visitors to learn her thoughts on costume creation, especially the role of details and use of colors; the relationship between meaning, visual form, and the overall atmosphere of a film; her work with text copying the spoken word and human narration; and her relationship to magic, the universe, living organisms, cooking, love, death, subjectivity, male and female polarity, and the hierarchy of species as well as social and work positions. Her paintings and drawings, costume designs, jewellery, letters to friends (and cats), diaries, and private photographs are presented here. The exhibition thus represents both a reflection of influences and themes from her time and a diverse universe of multilayered and very original thought. It provides a view into the artist’s semi-public private life and her numerous struggles (in an unfree era) in both her creative and personal life. To a limited extent, it also presents a selection of her output and sections from films to which she contributed. The exhibition will include a projection of Ester Krumbachová’s one directed film, The Murder of Mr. Devil, and Věra Chytilová’s documentary film Searching for Ester, which includes recollections from many of her friends.
The archive also appears as a series of notes and sketches that remain open and incomplete. The exhibition thus aims not just to emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of Krumbachová’s work, but also to show her work and way of thinking as a fully lively, dynamic, and inspiring environment for contemporary artists, designers, theorists, and historians of art and culture. Accordingly, the curators’ view on Ester Krumbachová’s work is constructed from a contemporary perspective. Not only was Krumbachová involved in many fields connecting film, literature, and fine and applied arts; strikingly, her way of thinking gives rise to topics that have only become fully developed in the present day. For example, the methods that Krumbachová used to enter into the essential moments and form of films from various positions (screenwriter, costume designer, director) have become clearer through the use of current theories of gender and media. This contemporary perspective is also reflected in the fact that the exhibition was prepared in collaboration with several contemporary artists who have interpreted Ester Krumbachová’s work and life or applied similar lines of thought in their own work – for example, thinking through today’s positions on feminism; the rights of animals, plants, and other entities and ways of displaying them; culture; fashion; methods working with the inseparable intertwining of content and expressive form; and methods of direction in the broadest sense of the word.
The historical material is thus supplemented with several contributions by contemporary artists. Indeed, the layout of the exhibition itself, by Jakub Červenka from the architectural studio Objektor, gives the material a contemporary resonance. The exhibit itself includes contributions from artists expanding on Ester Krumbachová’s work: specifically, photographs by Libuše Jarcovjáková taken in Ester Krumbachová’s apartment during her lifetime, an installation by Jiří Kovanda responding to Ester Krumbachová’s shared interspecies apartment, a video cycle by Marek Meduna inspired by the archive and the film The Murder of Mr. Devil, work by David Fesl referencing Ester Krumbachová’s texts and jewellery, and a series of photographs exploiting the borders between fashion photography and artistic photography by Daniela and Linda Dostálková that addresses the hierarchy between different kingdoms (human, animal, plant). These layers are also connected in the magical objects approximating the artistic crafts of jewellery making and glass making by Anna-Marie Berdychová; Jan Boháč and Anna Ročnová put plants into the exhibition, thus adding more creatures from Ester Krumbachová’s circle of friends. Foreign artists have also contributed to the artistic research on Krumbachová’s work and archive: Beca Lipscombe in collaboration with the graphic design studio HIT, Morwenna Kearsley, Bernie Reid, and Laura Richmond has prepared a series of posters from Ester Krumbachová’s wardrobe advertising the exhibition to the public. The collective New Noveta will open the exhibition with a new performance based on the study of Krumbachová’s film and archive with a sound installation by musician David Aird aka Vindicatrix and costumes by Atelier Bâba. The exhibition also includes a performance by Jiří Kovanda and a performative adaptation of Ester Krumbachová and Věra Chytilová’s screenplay for Daisies II, which was found in the estate, by Kateřina Konvalinová and directed in collaboration with Viktorie Vášová.
The exhibition project was prepared together with a monograph and the open online Ester Krumbachová Archive, three interconnected outputs that cap off four years of critical treatment of the artist’s work. Since 2016, this research has linked different artistic and theoretical formats (exhibitions, performances, conferences, books, curatorial screenings) that, from the beginning of the research, have opened up the work of this crucial figure of the Czechoslovak New Wave to a range of interpretations and made it accessible to specialists and the broader public, both domestic and foreign. The aim is to fill a gap in the history of costume creation, design, Czech and Czechoslovak film, and art in general. Ester Krumbachová’s archive presents a relatively complete footprint of her lifelong activity and documents a holistic consideration of the artist that remains open for future creative generations. Thanks to the various layers of the archive, it is now possible to imagine the éminence grise of Czech film, a personality brimming with ideas and a longing to experiment; to show the tension present in her time between creativity and individuality; to view her work and the films of the New Wave in connection with the suppression of both creative and personal freedom by the official state apparatus demanding standardization and compliance; to connect the past and present; and to open many topics that are relevant in our current time.
Visitors can encounter the work of this underappreciated artist who influenced the form of the Czech New Wave and get to know her work dedicated to cats and other animals, but can also, in this interspecies atmosphere, find their own four-legged companion whose godmother is Ester Krumbachová. She herself cared for stray cats who enjoyed her legendary care and love in various numbers at her apartment on Za Zelenou Liškou Street. The cats at this exhibition are not an artistic display, but rather broaden the range of an art exhibition to include another ethical aspect that was important in the artist’s life. Although bringing an animal into a human exhibition still remains problematic, the curators and institution have undertaken this risk in the belief that it is possible to cross the defined boundaries of taste for the benefit of a good life for our non-human friends in need.
The exhibition is organized by House of Arts Brno in cooperation with Are | are-events.org.
The exhibition will be held under the auspices of Mr Lubomír Zaorálek, Minister of Culture, and Ms Markéta Vaňková, Mayor of the City of Brno.
The exhibition is organized with support of the State Fund of Culture of the Czech Republic and Arts and Theatre Institute.
Architect: Jakub Červenka - Studio Objektor
Participating artists: Anna-Marie Berdychová, Jan Boháč & Anna Ročňová, Daniela & Linda Dostálková, David Fesl, Libuše Jarcovjáková, Jiří Kovanda, Beca Lipscombe & HIT & Morwenna Kearsley & Bernie Reid & Laura Richmond, Marek Meduna, New Noveta & Vindicatrix & Atelier Bâba (New Noveta - Keira Fox (UK) & Ellen Freed (SE/UK) with sound installation by musician David Aird aka Vindicatrix (UK), costume design by Gabriella Massey, glassware by Miranda Keyes and metalware by Ben Burgis)
Acknowledgements: Ivo Paik in memoriam & Jarmila Košnářová, Jan Krumbach, Helena Albertová, Tereza Brdečková, Lucie Černá, Michal Činátl, Jakub Henja & Šárka Hejnová, Radovan Jeřábek, Marta Kubišová, Tereza Kučerová & Štěpán Kučera, Jan Němec in memoriam & Arleta Němcová & Iva Ruszeláková, Edita Pešková, Šárka Podlipná, Noemi Purkrábková, Dana Zeminová
Photo: Martin Polák
House of Arts
Malinovského nám 2
Exhibition Opening: 23. 11. 2021