In her work, Berlin-based artist Klára Hosnedlová (Czech, b. 1990) crystallizes elements of socialist architecture and Bohemian folklore into an alienating yet familiar environment.
“I am the first democratic generation to come out of Czech,” says the artist Klára Hosnedlová, sitting in her Berlin studio apartment. The old, airy building borders the grounds of the now-defunct Tempelhof airport—a structure that was one of a few access points to West Berlin during the Cold War era. In many ways, it stands today like a time-stamp of an old world order that still lingers in the memories of many Europeans. That particular feeling, in which the past breezes through the present, figures greatly into the Czech-born artist’s installations, which encompass muscular sculptures set against delicate embroideries and candid performances. Time seems to weave back in on itself in Hosnedlová’s work. Elements of socialist architecture and art, as well as folkloric Bohemian textile traditions are all reinterpreted in the young artist’s futuristic arrangements. For her recent exhibition, “Nest,” at Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler in Berlin, organic stone walls have plush, fabric-like ripples, embroidery fibers touch against metal, and semi-transparent sea glass juxtaposes steel in an arrangement of art pieces that muse at functionality, with a hint of the domestic. “I want people to feel familiar in the space—like they can interact with the artwork, and reach out and touch it,” Hosnedlová says. A feeling of distant familiarity is something that millennials like her, born just after the dissolution of the former Czechoslovakia in the Velvet Revolution of 1989, seem to know intimately. They had to find a way to move on from socialism; and though they were never technically a part of it, it nevertheless partially defines that generation, tinting their present. Statements of power—grandiose buildings, old train stations with idealistic public artworks—were all built to outlast the very societies that made them, a phenomenon that seems to fascinate Hosnedlová. As such, she collaborates with craftspeople from Czech who were also working during the country’s previous era. For the artist, “It feels like we are helping each other build something new together.” Ještěd Tower is one such place. Nestled on top of a mountain in Northern Bohemia, the hyperboloid tower, which was built in the late 1960s as a television transmitter tower and luxury hotel, provided the background for a recent performance by Hosnedlová. Donning silvery silk suits, which the artist borrowed from the Czech National Theatre, her group of performers trekked up the mountain to remap the alien, conical structure. They stayed there for some days. “We remember so many stories from socialism, and that’s why I try to go into these buildings without the heaviness from the times they represented,” she says. Her research there manifested as a series of photographs, some of which were then reincarnated as exquisite embroideries in “Nest”.
The intimate, fibrous examinations of the human subject may hone in on details like the contour lips, hands, an ankle, or a bare chest. But these familiar elements are ultimately rendered into something foreign, holding the viewer in a state of half-recognition. Hosnedlová’s keen interest in embroidery grew out of a dissatisfaction with painting during her studies in Prague, times that were punctuated by encounters with “macho” Czech painting traditions and its cast of too-often male characters. So she turned to something that she felt was underused, more meditative, and less overtly ambitious. The work has an almost iridescent appearance that belies the granular, time-intensive labor required in their making. It’s an effect that’s intensified by setting them into larger panels and installations, a conscious choice Hosnedlová made, not wanting to have “any hierarchy between the objects.” Currently, she’s working on two large installations for the Belgrade Biennial and Athens Biennial, which should take place later this year. Her intense churning and re-churning of images and past moments will once again be on display in these projects. In her studio, she pulls out new, unstretched embroidery panels and one can recognize the images, which were taken from a performance at the Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler show in the winter. Not that anyone saw the image, but no one ever does—these images are like preliminary sketches for her work, and only occur as documentation that may crop up in installation views, somewhere on the internet, or in a new installation. In one embroidery piece, a performer is pulling threads from a cocoon of the silk-producing Madagascar bullseye moth—the very same creature was perched on some works in her installation. In one picture, it seems to have landed on a performer’s hand. “It may seem that I never finish something,” she says slowly, turning over the actual cocoon in her own hand. That’s why Hosnedlová’s works are so compelling. Her practice is like a chrysalis that slips through time, offering a uniquely nostalgic gaze on the future that allows for an enchanting metamorphosis of the present.