Matěj Smetana

Matěj Smetana, Czech Republic. Lives and works in Prague.

* 1980 (Czech Republic)
education: Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, Faculty of Fine Arts, Brno University of Technology, Intermedia and Painting Studio 3
lives and works in Prague

Matěj Smetana’s artistic practice closely resembles the work of a scientist, particularly through his ability to view a phenomenon that is being studied from unexpected perspectives. Much like in the scientific world, new discoveries often arise from an innovative perspective. Intuition-driven heuristics underlie his exploration and, essentially, reconfiguration of established systems. He modifies typography to the very limits of legibility, tests the boundaries of architectural functionality, and imitates optical phenomena and the functioning of optical devices. Animation holds a special place for him. His linear drawings, which are similar to scientific illustrations or technical manuals,  often deal with the concept of time. He traces the passage of time, ageing, and entropy across art history, from ancient pyramids and classical antiquity, through the Romantic Louvre,  Suprematism, and Minimalism, to the last painters on Earth. Simply put, Smetana seeks the scientific in art and the artistic in science.

Pyramid, 2024, video, loop, 16:9, sound

Matěj Smetana prepared a project for the triennial – a video recorded during the spring months. He constructed an installation next to a forest anthill, using sugarcubes to create a structure that matches the size of a small anthill. The sugar structure resembles ancient pyramids and references Suprematist architectural models as well as Sol LeWitt’s minimalist installations. Kazimir Malevich worked on architectural models between 1923 and 1930, creating experimental spatial architectural forms (without a specific function) made of plaster blocks.  This is not the first time Smetana has explored architectural models;  Pyramid is most closely related to his 2014 installation Architecton, exhibited at the Oskár Čepan Award finalists’ exhibition in the New Synagogue in Žilina. The earlier work was monumental in scale for human visitors, while this year’s structure is monumental for forest ants. The camera angle in the video immerses us in the activity of the ants as they explore the sugar structure, penetrate it, consume it,  and transform it into ruins. This transformation was captured through macro lenses in a documentary style. The documentary approach also meant minimal intervention in the entropy of the white installation.  The outcome was clear from the start: nature would prevail. Filming conditions were consulted with a biologist to ensure no animals were harmed.