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One Night Show with Robert Šalanda

On Wednesday 16th March AIR Antwerpen hosted presentations of artists in residence. One of them was Robert Šalanda, who has shown works and experiments produced during residencies in AIR Antwerpen and abroad. In collaboration with artists collective Pinkhouse concerts took place by Children of the White Leaf, Floris Vanhoof, Pierre Berthet, Bart Sloow. DUBAIS, DJ’s Cosmo Knex, Zoot Ruff ski and Chinese Takeaway might have engraved the remembrance of this event in your brain.

Robert Šalanda works with an imaginary database of abstract visual and linguistic symbols. His inspiration comes from an entire arsenal of digital images and everyday phenomena, from traffic signs to popular tattoo designs and semiotic analyses of text. The quote is an important element in his work – a found motif will usually appear in other works, in a number of unexpected constellations and contexts. Šalanda’s approach has two aspects. The first is primarily intellectual, based on his research with symbols. Here intuition is mainly applied in the treatment of the medium of painting itself, and through what are frequently surprising or seemingly irrational combinations of visual elements and content, but which ultimately give the impression that their “randomness” has been generated by some mathematical algorithm. The other aspect is a relaxed stylisation based on the artist’s obsession with lowbrow verbal and visual culture. Both aspects organically intersect in the resulting work, although generally one will tend to dominate.

More information: http://www.robertsalanda.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/1511373192503850/


Interview with Robert Šalanda:











What was the main impulse for you to choose the residence in Belgium?

I've always looked at residencies from a general point of view. It is especially crucial to make the decision and move abroad. In practice it is necessary to continuously respond to a number of "calls for applications" and hope that some of them will work out. It would be nice to think of a project on a particular place with a particular residence and then expect to get easily accepted. Unfortunately, it does not work that way, at least it didn’t in my case. It does not sound very romantic, but the main impulse and attraction is the character of the residencies, not a particular state or city.


Could you briefly describe how it works in AIR Antwerpen (also in connection with MeetFactory)?

AIR Antwerpen is located in a really original building and on an interesting place. There is the second largest harbour in Europe and residences are located precisely in this industrial zone. The house was originally used for the staff of the harbour and their families. Residents live and work only in the building. They usually try to use the stay to concentrate on the creation of art and on making contacts with artists and curators, who are active on the local scene.

The stay is usually finished by the physical presentation of the implemented project. In my case it was the participation in the so-called One-night show, which was great and intense one day event / exhibition / party for residents and other invited artists.

My program was conceived as an exchange visit in cooperation of AIR Antwerpen and MeetFactory. The exchange is about the residence of a Czech artist in Antwerp and later a Belgian artist in Prague. The intention is that both artists from these countries should be in contact during the exchange. The Belgian artist Alice de Mont will arrive to the MeetFactory in April.



Unfortunately, there are not many residences of this type offered in Czech Republic, even though foreign artists would definitely like to have the opportunity to stay in such a creative Czech environment ...

The possibilities in the Czech Republic are limited because of more or less clear causes. We could have a separate debate on that topic. I wouldn’t be so negative though. I think the quality is more important than the quantity. Although, from me it might not sound objectively, but concretely MeetFactory has good reviews and I think they deserve it.

And yes I know, that many foreign artists are interested to go to Prague for an exchange. Unfortunately, they are aware of the fact, that Prague is not the European centre of art. So rather than heading to Prague to significantly improve their art career, they are attracted by the very popular town, its atmosphere, and the spirit of East and the fact, that we are such a special combination of Eastern and Western Europe.


What do you think are the key benefits of the artistic residencies for the artist’s works? It must be interesting to create art, live and share personal space, and then in the same premises, exhibit art together with people from all over the world - in one remote house ...

I think that those benefits are clear at least for the insiders. These are well known basic things, which make the residence so attractive, they do not change much and still work. For example unfamiliar surroundings, foreign language, being a foreigner, but not a tourist, adventurous improvisation and cute faux pas, new contacts, grant, slowdown, the possibility of a maximal and undisturbed concentration on your work, the new view of the Czech scene, hence the homeland ...

The fact, that here in AIR Antwerpen, we create art and live in the same building, has its pros and cons. It saves time for transportation, you can easily get to know each other with the other residents, you can cook together. For me it felt like a hippie community. But it also lacks the necessary detachment. I am used to go to a studio like people do to work. So it's a bit strange, when I wake up in the morning here, I open my eyes and the first thing I see is my art work in progress. As if the officer woke up right in his office.


It was neither your first and hopefully nor your last residence. What do you assess positively on staying in a villa near the harbour compared to the other experiences with residential stays and on the contrary, what do you miss?

The positives clearly outweigh the negatives and I would not hesitate to come again. But I'm still here, so only time will give a clearer shape to this response. But as far as I’m concerned, the villa itself, which looks like from a Hitchcock movie, and the place, where it is located, is truly unforgettable.

On one side, the view of a crumbling concrete grain bin, passing cargo tankers and navy school, into which the students in blue uniforms come on bikes every morning. On the other side, view of the generous construction of the administrative sci-fi building designed by famous Zaha Hadid and an army boat with a heliport and a whirring helicopter parked close by. From the other side, the giant ship repair tanks and a remote historic centre with jutting tower of a gothic cathedral. All is complemented by a regular clumsy bell rattling announcing the lifting of the bridge, which is in close proximity to the building.



If I were to be critical, I expected the residence organizers to try to connect residents with local artists, gallery owners, curators, etc. In this respect, however, each resident had to take care of his own self-promotion.

As another extreme, which of course is not entirely conventional model, I would like to mention a residence in New York, where I received a monthly list of interesting curators, from whom I could choose and then organize a meeting with them in my studio ...


Archetypes vs. cliche and their repetition often appear in your art works. The key element in your final output is kind of a narrative of irresolvable detective case. Is there already any connection with your impressions from Antwerp and with the environment around the villa?

The detective story is kind of a model, that I’ve chosen and in which mentioned moments appear frequently. I have been interested in this topic for a long time.

You’ve asked, to what extent has the environment influenced my work? I need to judge, what I use for my work, with a standoff. So the influence of the actual place may occur later. I have noticed, that I buy art books during a longer stay abroad. So I usually concentrate a lot on the book and author, with whom the place has nothing to do, paradoxically. Rubens, Magritte, Brueghel and others will hopefully forgive me. One of the thick books, that I bought here, is for example the graphic work of Claes Oldenburg. Paging through it led me to some thoughts.  The sources of inspiration during a residency can be really diverse. Everything counts.


What would be your advice for young artists, who would like to go to such residence as well? What are the usual conditions for admission?

The most important is to try to regularly apply on multiple residences. Do not wait for anything. The admission terms for many of the residences are until the age of 35. As everyone can find out, the common condition is the submission of project. I would not underestimate it. In order for it not to be so simple, this work plan must be often linked to a particular place, sometimes directly to a topic, etc., in some cases, it has to be focused on a specific medium. That can reveal some "obstacles" that may discourage from the beginning. It is important to patiently cope with it.


Are you looking forward to coming home? What are your future plans once you come back to the Czech Republic? 

I looked forward to coming to Antwerp, so I’m looking forward to coming home as well. I always look forward to travelling to a different place. My future prospects in the Czech Republic are great for sure.



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