Come Closer

Where:Prague City Gallery, Prague Market and other venues
When: 22.07.2020—15.11.2020

Come Closer

The first edition of the biennale Matter of Art seeks will be held in Prague, Czech Republic and seek a new language and new possibilities for “improbable meetings”. It wrestles with issues of coexistence in a society in which people have ceased to speak the same language. It dwells in places where language has broken down, it examines contempt, irritation, fear, frustration, anger, aggression and fatigue. With a feeling that it is necessary to find common ground, it examines the causes and conditions of the emotional atmosphere of today’s society. It searches for these causes in the past, in the present, or looks at them from the perspective of potential future scenarios. In the first edition of the biennale we shall systematically focus on the disappearance of platforms where people from all kinds of social groups have come together and been confronted with opinions different from their own, which have forced them to step outside their comfort zone. Presentism, a toxic present, backwardness, nostalgia, revision, modernity. Every exhibition becomes a battle between forms, for which of them will allow us to plan at least another breath with the hope of survival, a five year plan, a future.

Come Closer is an appeal for proximity, both physical and mental. It could be something an adult would say to a small child when they want to wipe their mouth, it could be an erotic invitation or friendly encouragement, yet at the same also a threat. Human closeness can take the form of mutual understanding but also of fundamental misunderstanding. Above all, closeness is a basic human need and also an expression of empathy, caring, and emotional labour, which we perform for ourselves as well as for others.

Biennale Matter of Art 2020: Come Closer will be open from July 22 to November 15 2020 at Prague City Gallery, Prague Market and other venues. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Instagram and Facebook.

Official statement on COVID-19

Similarly as in other cultural organizations, the coronavirus crisis has had a paralysing effect on the process of planning the first edition of the Biennale Matter of Art. However, at the moment the situation appears to be promising and with the recent loosening of the government restrictions it is likely that we will be able to hold the exhibition at a later date in 2020, although it must be said that this will be a different exhibition from the one that we had initially planned. Some of the commissioned artworks could not be produced, and even if they are finished in time it will be under different conditions, as the creative process has been negatively influenced by the circumstances. Additionally, a major part of the audience from abroad, including professionals from the art world, the general public and some of the featured artists, may not be able to attend the event. The overall zeitgeist surrounding the biennale has also shifted dramatically. Nonetheless, we view this situation as a great opportunity to formulate a new role that contemporary art serves in today’s society structure, which is, after all, a fundamental task that every cultural institution is faced with these days. It is clear that the current events will have a tremendous effect on the conditions the art world operates under, and it would be naive to pretend that business is continuing as usual. However, we believe that our vision of a caring institution that takes into account the environmental sustainability of art presentation, as well as the working conditions of the people involved, is more significant now than ever.

At the beginning of the year we chose the title 'Come Closer' for the first edition of the biennale, in order to address the contradictory nature of intimate relationships between humans and emphasise the link between art and empathy. Little did we know how much significance and unimagined connotations this title would take on within the context of the spread of SARS-CoV-2 into our lives. One of the most fundamental aspects of our existence – physical proximity – has become something potentially traumatic and frightening. We long for it, yet we fear it at the same time. Even if we may not be threatened by the virus ourselves, we can easily become a part of a chain of events that is harmful to others. Nowadays, caring for someone means that we refrain from physical contact and maintain a safe distance. The feeling of physical engagement with an artwork in an actual gallery space will never be the same again, as the primary domain of human contact and encounters with art in the past months has been in virtual space. We hope that the Biennale Matter of Art may help us all navigate across new intersections of intimacy and closeness in this new, (post)corona world.