Curator's text

This year was the fifth time occasion of START POINT, but only the second time it has been held on a European level. Nineteen art schools participated - four times more than in 2006, and we already know that there will be even more in 2008. In fact, being open to all European schools are interested in participating, the project's potential is practically unlimited. The only condition is that the jury can objectively judge all graduate works from the past school year and to select the best. At those schools which organize exhibitions of students' final works, this is an easy task, while at others we make our selection on the basis of documentation or during the students' actual project defence, when the works are installed in the school's studios. The three-member jury is always composed of one school representative and two members of an international seven-member "grand jury", which selects the final recipient of the START POINT prize at the exhibition held at the Klatovy / Klenová Gallery. This arrangement ensures an objective and independent selection while at the same time including the school in the decision-making process; after all, the selected artists represent not only themselves but also their alma mater.
Over the five years during which we have repeatedly visited and made close contacts with various schools, we have frequently been surprised to discover how large the differences between the individual schools are. They differ not only in size, tradition or their location in a greater or less influential centre of art, but primarily in their internal atmosphere: Some are more closed and conservative, others are dynamic and progressive; some are in decline, others are undergoing intense development. The project is thus a confrontation not only of the individual works, but also of entire schools - after all, what speaks better to a school's overall profile and quality than its graduates' thesis works? In a certain sense, these works are the point towards which the students' entire course of study converges. Much time and energy has been invested in the works; at some schools they are accompanied by oral examinations on theory. The amount of effort which students invest in their works contrasts sharply with the fact that the public has only very limited opportunities for seeing them. While some schools do have a tradition of diploma exhibitions, these frequently last only a few days or are held on school property. START POINT thus offers a representative platform where we can present at least the best of these projects at a regular exhibition held in a museum of art.
Our project also fulfils another important function: It calls offers young artists a spotlight at a turning point in their careers just as they are finishing university, and provides fundamental support to the exhibition's best artist. The main principle of the prize recipient's award is the possibility of preparing an independent exhibition, complete with catalogue, to be held concurrently with next year's Start Point.
So much for background. And how did this year's project turn out? An inventory of represented media shows that the dominant approach were video (with two animated works - Smetana, Špirec; plus Gamsjäger), installations (Bongers) or various steps in-between, such as installation in which digital images played some role (Kwiatkowska, Adamec, Zindler, Guzman, Pochyła). Among classic media, besides painting this year was the first time in the project's five years of existence that printmaking was included (Szkup). There were classic hung paintings (Lányi, Graf, Kis Róka), and there were also artists who attempted to somehow reproduce this medium or expand its boundaries (Bačić, Sztela). Photography was represented twice, but also through works which made references to painting, to impressionism (Mórocz) and hyperrealism (Kersting). Sculpture appeared only in the form of conceptually re-evaluated objects (Herotová, Pšenko).
We should also say that, unlike 2006, this year there was no clear favourite and the jury was faced with a difficult task. Since only one of the nineteen artists could take the prize home, we would like to take this opportunity to at least mention those who made it into the final selection of candidates for the top prize. This year, they were four women - in fact, the female element has clearly dominated the past five years, with the prize going to a man only once. The jury was especially taken by the work of Magdaléna Kwiatkowska and Bärbel Zindler and in particular by Coby Bongers and Petra Herotová. In the end, the prize went to the latter for her work combining a humorous concept and meditative dimension in a minimalist and artistically compelling installation.
Today, START POINT is the most distinct annual international event in the Czech Republic. It has the ambition of becoming a representative overview of young contemporary art and hopes to find its place alongside the most important European events. Although this goal is still a long way off, 2007 has again moved it a small step closer.

Marcel Fišer

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