Dominik Lang


When encountering the work of the young Czech artist Dominik Lang, it might well seem that its main goal is an intervention in the gallery space and, figuratively, into the temporality of the history of art. However, the real focus of Lang's attention is an inquiry of the distribution of visibility. His works either intervene in the architecture of the gallery, wherein he installs or construes new elements of structure, or else they present a strategic interpretation of the history of art. This is so, for instance, in the numerous cases when he as an artist includes in his exhibitions either a reconstruction or the originals of other artists' works. His purpose in doing so is not merely to reveal the hidden assumptions of the administration of exhibits (like the proponents of institutional critique do), or else to examine the possibility of bringing the unfinished past into the present (as attempted by the so-called archival turn). His primary intent is to create a certain context for the attention of the viewers, and to demonstrate to them the spatial, historical and institutional conditioning of all that they can actually see.

Lang's most explicit achievement in this direction is probably the installation “Sleeping City”, commissioned for the Pavilion of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011). Here, Lang offered a radical interpretation of the late modernist sculptures of his own father, Jiří Lang (1927–1996). The artist's primary goal was not a simple presentation of the figurative plastic works, tinged by abstraction, which Jiří Lang created in the Communist 1950s, nor did he intend a reconstruction of the museum architecture where the works could have been exhibited in their own day. Rather, this particular installation incited the viewers to ask themselves what conditions guarantee the visibility of art, which are the causes of its falling into oblivion, and by extension, what will happen with the highly, unavoidably visible art of today in fifty years' time.

If the afterlife of art was Lang's topic in the “Sleeping City” project, his focus in “Private Collection” – his first individual project for the Krobath Gallery – are the antecedents of a work of art. In a highly specific environment, Lang uncovers that which is always concealed in the resulting work as its tacit presupposition: the referential framework of both artistic and non-artistic influences, of empty gallery spaces and unrealized projects. On panels, in display cases and on shelves whose total surface precisely equals one of the gallery walls, Lang has assembled collages and facsimiles of works by authors such as Karel Teige, the important representative of the Czech avant-garde, or the American “anarchitect” Gordon-Matta Clark. All together this creates a kind of a blind spot which, unseen, allows us to see Dominik Lang's work.

Karel Císař