Magazine article Artforum International

Rafani: The Brno House of Arts

Magazine article Artforum International

Rafani: The Brno House of Arts

Article excerpt

A retrospective is typically understood as an affirmation of historical significance. Since the activities of the Czech-based Rafani collective date back only to the turn of the millennium, such an acknowledgment may seem premature. But their recent exhibition "Dech" (Breath), in which an archival overview played a significant role, reminded us that retrospection is one of the group's hallmark strategies. Rafani's almost compulsive need to continuously refer to its own past activities can be understood as a method of reexamining its shared identity; the interplay between Rafani's status as a collective and the autonomy of each member, which they themselves describe by the motto "Our unity is a higher level of individuality," has always been an integral part of the work they produce. Such tensions are explored, for example, in Cviceni (Exercise), 2012, a series of abstract images with modernistic overtones, each constructed from five paper cutouts. The surface of each sheet is covered by blue fingerprints of one of the five group members. Organized in a geometric manner into eleven altered images, each of which has a segment made by each member, the installation becomes a perfect manifestation of their collective functioning.

Unsurprisingly, then, what could best be described as an archive of the group's past activities functioned as a foreword to the exhibition. This included a series of videos documenting the collective's numerous Happenings and interventions, which have constituted one of its primary outputs to date, as well as a wall display of its founding manifesto and a series of texts related to past projects. Since Rafani has previously excluded text from its work entirely, this represents an important new direction for its practice. But the group still resists the idea that writing should be transparent to meaning. Language becomes a physical experience, thanks, for instance, to red lighting in the archival section of the exhibition, which distorts the viewer's vision in the following room, which takes sport aesthetics as its leitmotif. …

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