Martin Piaček: Orchard. A Brief Archive of the Gift
We invite you to the opening of Martin Piaček's first Italian solo exhibition plus site-specific installation "Orchard. A Brief Archive of the Gift" at AlbumArte in Rome!
Via Flaminia 122, Rím
Opening: February 24, 2024, 6 P.M. - 9 P.M.
- Exhibition duration: February 24 - April 24, 2024
Curator: Lýdia Pribišová
About the exhibition
Exhibition realized with the support of public funds from the Slovak Art Council, Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava, Slovak Institute in Rome, in collaboration with PILOT (Bratislava) and AlbumArte (Rome)
Curator of the Slovak Pavilion at the 60th Venice Biennale at the end of April, Lýdia Pribišová, curates her sixth project at AlbumArte, involving one of the most interesting protagonists of the Slovak art scene Martin Piaček (Bratislava 1972) and producing the artist's first solo exhibition in Italy, entitled “Orchard. A Brief Archive of the Gift”.
Martin Piaček is known primarily as a sculptor who works with the themes of history, heroes, changing national identities, and contradictions in historical narratives. Through these profound themes, he confronts the collective memory with his personal one. Within the exhibition at AlbumArte, however, he focuses on another distinct line of his work, one linked to his long-standing interest in gardening and landscaping.
In 2017, Martin Piaček founded an orchard in the village of Rajka that he sees as a "different" space, as a productive metaphor for human interactions with time, and as a tool for creative encounters between people, nature, and art. He understands the orchard as an existential, aesthetic, and political activity of (creating) difference. He regards the orchard as a "heterotopia", capable of uniting a multitude of contradictory endeavors. It is a place that combines production with leisure, utility with beauty, work with contemplation, landscaping with donation, physical effort with aesthetic pleasure, and parasites with harvest, and promotes interpersonal connections, as well as human connections with other, non-human, forms of life. The orchard creates a network of dynamic life situations that take place in real time. It is a space of temporalities and perpetuities, of permeability and flux, of the planned and the indeterminate. Plant time, however, is different from human time. Trees grow slowly, the long-living walnut tree begins to bear fruit after 10–15 years. Hence the artist's melancholy, his feeling of the impossibility of achieving the desired goal: the orchard will only be fully productive in his old age. Based on these contradictions, the orchard is full of microcosmic potential; it gradually becomes an analytical site that not only represents a different perception of vegetation during our own time, but is a barometer of the landscape's changing social and cultural environment. This offers a fertile ground for imagining alternative realities.
The orchard in Rajka is a model study that the artist has transferred into the gallery space. He long pondered its structure, creating various drawings working with its plan and morphology. Part of the orchard contains figs, which in the artist's words are symbolically sensual, requiring quick processing and consumption. Figs are a Dionysian fruit – they have a high-water content and are rich in sugar, which is converted in our bodies into intense fast energy, appealing to the emotions and instincts. Figs are thermophilic trees and their planting is a response to global warming, to the south moving north. A second part of the orchard contains walnuts, creating a more permanent, stable Apollonian counterpoint. The walnut is a noble tree, and a long, cold winter is essential for good walnut production and harvest. Walnuts represent a stock, are highly nutritious, and store well. Consumption of walnuts promotes activity in memory and cognitive processes and has traditionally been considered a cure for insanity. This dialectic is at the heart of the orchard as an intimate retreat that imaginatively mirrors and transforms the outside world.
Fruit, which tends to be a source of income in the orchard, interests him more in terms of non-financial qualities: as energy, chaining, as socio-cultural currency. Simultaneously, the orchard represents a small sample of the ecosystem that the artist systematically subjects to multidisciplinary research. Piaček approached artists, curators, botanists, pedologists, entomologists, and geologists to collaborate and explore the character and habitat of this remote and circumscribed place. The material he gradually accumulates serves him for familiarization and understanding of the landscape, but also as a basis for further artistic processing. The utilitarian potential of the landscape is thus complemented by a sincere attempt to achieve a more holistic relationship with nature, to harmonize with the radical space of the natural world, and to overcome nature–culture dualism. In an era characterized by fundamental changes in climate and migratory flows, it is possible to conceive of the orchard (and the landscape in general) as a place of paradise and exile, reflecting within its boundaries pressing issues such as the Anthropocene, the politics of seeds, the invasiveness of vegetation and insects, extractive economics, and land ownership. For Martin Piaček, the orchard is a bounded place of desire, a transformative energy, a developmental platform, a source of optimism and regeneration, a space for care, transfer, and exchange.
The artist harbors a longstanding interest in the traditions of fruit growing and the ecological aspects of land use. As he says, these times need projects like this. We are alienated from the natural world and see it as something to be subjugated and exploited. With its emphasis on the cycles of life and consumption, the orchard project invites us to rethink our relationship with, and responsibility towards, nature. From another perspective, it is a long-term dissolution of the boundaries between reality and representation, challenging us to think about the role of art in the renewal of contemporary space and time.
Martin Piaček (1972)
is an artist and is the head of vvv studio at the Intermedia Department of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava. Trained in sculpture, he works with a broad range of media and strategies, striving to reconsider the traditional sculptural techniques and materials. In addition to his art and teaching practices, he is involved in many curatorial and organisational projects through which he provides expertise on public space and the politics of monuments. He has been working on the dramaturgy of the Soft Norm lecture series and, most recently, the globally oriented Liquid Dogmas project (http://www.liquiddogmas.org). He is a founding member of the civic association Public Pedestal (www.verejnypodstavec.com) and the exhibition format DiStO (www.disto.sk), and is a supporter of the KU.BA platform (www.kulturnabratislava.sk).
His works have been presented both as solo shows and as part of numerous group exhibitions in Slovakia and abroad. Recently, his projects were presented in the East Slovak Gallery in Košice (2020), Art Encounters Biennale Timişoara (2019), Karlín Studios in Prague (2018), Futura Gallery Prague (2017), Kunsthalle Bratislava (2016), and in many other venues.