Juraj Èarný, Stano Masár, Interview, 2013

 J. È.: Even from a first browse of your catalogue, a viewer must see that you love art and working creatively, and you also love life, and on top of that you like to play. If you weren’t an artist (and therefore also not a graphic designer or a restorer), what would you like to be involved in and make your living by? What would you bring to this world, or how would you proceed; what would you do differently and what direction would your work take, if you didn’t have to make a living as a graphic designer?

S. M.: It’s great to hear such words right at the outset. Yes, what you’ve said is true: I live, I create, I play. And I love it! I find it hard to talk about what else I would do besides art and design, I mean on a professional basis. I give a lot of time to these two fields, and I also need to and want to give time to my children and my family. To tell the truth, I can’t imagine any other work where I wouldn’t be dealing with visuality and its language. And what would become of my art without my work as a graphic designer? I can’t say exactly, but I think it wouldn’t change that much. Granted, I’d gain more time for art, but whether that would help…

J. È.: You’re the author of the logos of several Bratislava galleries (Galéria Faica, Galéria Cypriána Majerníka), web pages of respected projects (www.aica.sk, www.artdispecing.sk), and exhibition catalogues (Zero Years, Michal Kern, 1963). How do these projects related to your free composition? Or to put it differently, in a TV programme reviewing your exhibition The Unbearable Ordinariness of Being (Galeria SODA), the critic Omar Mirza tried to provoke you to comment on your distractions, peccadillos, extraprofessional interests, or your personal human escapes from the world of art. You didn’t reveal anything. Do you really not have any escapes?

S. M.: I would say that my one great escape is my family and children. But I don’t know if that isn’t rather an escape into responsibilities and having to solve practical problems. You’re a parent yourself, so you know that the duties go beyond the limits of carefree play. But to give you a satisfactory answer: maybe it would be football. I love the game, and whenever I could I used to play it non-professionally, and so maybe I got more joy from the game, without being weighed down by expectations of sporting performance. And as regards my work as a graphic designer, I think of it separately from art. Even if the working procedures and work with the visual is similar, nonetheless for me they have different foundations. Art is outside of time and does not have, or need not have, any aim. For me it’s an absolute space of freedom.

J. È.: From the history of art you’ve followed your trail as far as the gallery space, to its analysis and interpretation, and with countless commentaries. Has history exhausted itself for you, or do you still find the exhibition space fascinating? Are you planning more returns to the history of art and interventions in further gallery spaces? What key do you have for choosing the artists whom you reflect in your work?

S. M.: I did my first interpretation in 1996 with the title After Duchamp / Mutt-r-ioshka. I was interested in the thin line separating art and non-art, ready-made, re-articulation, the repeated overstepping of this boundary from one side to the other, and the borrowings made from the real world as well as from the world of art. Afterwards I continued my interpretations and I discovered that, just like objects from ordinary life such as chairs, tables and doors, equally I can “use” finished works of art, when they prove suitable for the articulation of my themes. If I wanted to talk about simplification, “globalising accessibility”, I chose the best-known works whose citation in the language of pictograms would be most convincing (the Global History of Art series). I’ve used this key in other series also. My interest in space has been developing roughly since 1997, when this kind of concept first emerged. Afterwards my later projects, developing in parallel and site-specific, were focused on the exhibition space itself. I presented one series of such works in 2012, following on from my doctoral work, and further completed works and concepts have emerged since then. Commentaries, citations, and interventions in exhibition spaces: those are constantly my current theme.

J. È.: Interpretation and appropriation were symptomatic characterizing features of Post-modernity. Self-referring art and institutional criticism have defined art after the postmodern. Where do you think art will go after this?


S. M.: Art at the present time is beautiful and exciting partly for this reason, that what emerges does not have to be securely anchored in a medium or a theme. And so every day some surprising new combination of media may appear, or a newly expounded theme or reality. Certainly there’ll be moments when something is more in, but in my view that won’t put in jeopardy the current exalted status. And what will come afterwards? I would be happy if the current measure of freedom and independence of the artist and the gallery were to remain unthreatened. A fine vision, what do you say?

J. È.: I’d like to get back to your work Dead Hare Explaining Art to My Family. You’ve combined the intimate space of the family with J. Beuys’ work, that is to say his dead hare. What led to that?

S. M.: I freely associated myself with what was going on in the photo of that well-known event. I see there a kind of transcendental conversation between Beuys and the dead hare. Or is it an absurd situation, a futile attempt to set up communication, the im/possibility of explaining art? What I’ve chosen from this composition is precisely the dead hare. In another time, in another space; but the hare remains, in the identical position that Beuys had him. A hare that has learned all about art from Beuys, and now in the laps of members of my family is prepared to pass on his knowledge. Or not?

J. È.: To what extent is the viewer the purpose of your efforts, and what do you think about interactive art?

S. M.: Engaging the viewer with the artwork is something powerful, and from a certain point I’ve been working with it in some compositions of mine. It’s immensely interesting to model situations that presuppose a certain entry of the viewer into the work. It’s more like a strategic game, where I know how the end result should look, but it’s necessary to set up the situation so that we can get there. And that means not only enabling the viewer to experience the work, but to be part of it, a co-creator. In general, a work does not exist without a viewer, but we can say that these works need a viewer who is active and motivated to take part in the scenario I’ve mentioned, so that the work can actually come into being.

J. È.: Your catalogue ends with directions to the viewer for leaving the gallery. Is that the only way to the conclusion: the viewer’s escape, or his death? Where is contemporary art going, in your opinion, and what do we still have to prepare for? Is it necessary to say to the viewer, “This is the end of the exhibition”?

S. M.: Pointing the viewer to the exit right after entering the gallery is posing a kind of question, not laying down an imperative. It’s a comment, possibly with ironic detachment, on the theme of how art perceives the non-artistic world outside. But it’s also a self-reflection of the institution exhibiting art, or of the artworld itself. The Gallery Exit work – the standard illuminated sign in a non-traditional position – is also a visualization of certain themes. I’ll sketch out what is maybe the plainest reading to hand: Exit; departure, disappearance, and after that the word Gallery. Is the gallery dead? Again, “only” a question. And when I was in a gallery presenting contemporary art I saw a plate with a sign, "End of exhibition", and I realized the multiple significance of this notice in terms of the territory of art, and the possibilities for reading and interpreting it.