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Anna Slama & Marek Delong »Will I become a better person if I stopped dreaming about the stars?«, Futura Gallery, Prague, 2019, curated by Michal Novotný. Photo by Tomáš Souček
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Anna Slama & Marek Delong »Bludna Loza«, 427 Gallery, Riga, 2019, curated by Christina Gigliotti. Photo by Līga Spunde
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Anna Slama & Marek Delong, Klara Fantova & Matěj Slama »The Clan Of Softness And Honor«, Berlinskej Model, Prague, 2019. Photo by František Svatoš
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Anna Slama & Marek Delong, Klara Fantova & Matěj Slama »The Clan Of Softness And Honor«, Berlinskej Model, Prague, 2019. Photo by František Svatoš
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Still from Anna Slama & Marek Delong, Keiu Krikmann »Everything Is You«, 2020, video.
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Anna Slama & Marek Delong »Will I become a better person if I stopped dreaming about the stars?«, Futura Gallery, Prague, 2019, curated by Michal Novotný. Photo by Tomáš Souček
pw-magazine-marek-delong-anna-slama-martina-poliačková pw-magazine-marek-delong-anna-slama-martina-poliačková
Anna Slama & Marek Delong »Bludna Loza«, 427 Gallery, Riga, 2019, curated by Christina Gigliotti. Photo by Līga Spunde

Anna Slama & Marek Delong: »Mistakes Are Allowed«

April 25, 2020
Text by Martina Poliačková
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Anna Slama & Marek Delong »Will I become a better person if I stopped dreaming about the stars?«, Futura Gallery, Prague, 2019, curated by Michal Novotný. Photo by Tomáš Souček

Anna Slama and Marek Delong’s art practice is like going down a rabbit hole into dreamlike landscapes teetering between fairy tales and psychedelic maze. They talk about liberation through imagination, filmmaking and the indispensable role of friendship.

Could you tell me something about the beginnings of your collaboration? How important is it for you, especially in the artistic field?

We have known each other since we were children and had a common group of friends, so when we met at the university in Brno it was very easy to find a similar language. Especially since we felt somehow lonely and excluded with our practices at school, it brought us together and we supported each other in that environment. We often invite other artists, theoreticians or musicians to join our projects. This is much more inspiring, because it can initiate great friendships, which are particularly important in the predatory art scene.

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Anna Slama & Marek Delong »Bludna Loza«, 427 Gallery, Riga, 2019, curated by Christina Gigliotti. Photo by Līga Spunde

In your artworks you create specific scenographically conceived situations, often entailing significant aesthetic experiences such as fantasy, naivety and imagination. Do you consider them escapist, and if so, could we regard escapism as a constructive notion?

We did not always work with fantasy or think about fantasy, but it came to us. As a decision that did not stem from the need to primarily create fictional worlds, but from the desire to feel something while creating art. All the characteristics you named serve as a means for us to be more affective. We became tired of art that thinks only in terms, in theoretical concepts, we wanted to really experience something. For us, it’s not a question of whether art is relevant, but rather we understand it as a relationship. That is why we like a lot of »amateur« or folk artists, for whom the act of creation is a life necessity, liberated from formal requirements.

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Anna Slama & Marek Delong, Klara Fantova & Matěj Slama »The Clan Of Softness And Honor«, Berlinskej Model, Prague, 2019. Photo by František Svatoš

Usually, escapism has negative connotations, suggesting superficial and childish confrontation of reality. We treat it as a different perspective, which implies an expansion of consciousness. Overall, what we care about is an easier experience of a world. Which is open to emotions, where it is easier to empathize with living and inanimate beings, where the search for meaning is intuitive, where mistakes are allowed. So yes, here it is, fantasy is escapism for us, but not in the sense of blind detachment from reality or irresponsible treatment of one’s own being, but in terms of a healthy attitude to life and the world. Does this sound constructive enough? We are not sure.

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Anna Slama & Marek Delong, Klara Fantova & Matěj Slama »The Clan Of Softness And Honor«, Berlinskej Model, Prague, 2019. Photo by František Svatoš

How do these concepts of relationship, empathy and accessibility function in regard to narrativity? In addition to complex artworks in the physical exhibition space, you also created two films, »Sugar Hunter’s Feast« and more recently »Everything Is You«, which depict particular storyline that is both illegible and mysterious, but also give us some kind of prophetic messages.

We wanted to make these short films as a kind of addition to what we usually work with, as a relaxing activity from the gallery environment. However, we gradually realized that we had set out on pretty demanding projects that we might not feel so confident with. It seemed to us to be an excellent form of cooperation, so we asked other artists and musicians to join us with their works. But the main collaboration was with the Estonian art theorist and writer Keiu Krikmann, who wrote the text for both videos. We worked with the text differently in each video, but in »Everything Is You« a specific narrative unfolded, carrying the ideas of social change, the expectation of a miracle, or the transformation of the earth. Keiu’s writing is very poetic, and the overall tone of the video is quite atmospheric and dreamlike, which we really enjoy. It’s narrative is not so explicit, but it sets the rhythm and opens up to the aforementioned concepts of empathy and relationships in an alternative way. We think that narrative really helps them, it is an effective tool of comprehensibility, and we would like to focus on some form of storytelling in the future.

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Still from Anna Slama & Marek Delong, Keiu Krikmann »Everything Is You«, 2020, video.

»Everything Is You«, which was filmed at a former Czech castle, was not the first time you focused on the Middle Ages. For example, the exhibition »Femme Fatale Brewery«, in which you dealt with the topic of female brewers. What is behind your interest in medieval or pre-modern history?

»Once upon a time« is the phrase we love the most. Many stories and fairytales begin this way, and it is a promise of something adventurous and distant. In our installations we often try to create a similar feeling. There are probably more paths that have led us to it. One might be the desire to look at the world from a different perspective than the current reality of late capitalism status quo – as in the case of »Femme Fatale Brewery«.

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Anna Slama & Marek Delong »Will I become a better person if I stopped dreaming about the stars?«, Futura Gallery, Prague, 2019, curated by Michal Novotný. Photo by Tomáš Souček

We worked there with the position of women, and it was inspired by the history of female brewers (alewifes) before the expansion of Spanish Inquisition. Their craft was not only to brew beer, but also to heal or teach what was traditionally reserved for women, mothers or widows, for whom it was usually the only source of livelihood. This was eventually dismissed by the Church because all these professions were profitable and therefore must have belonged to men. It led to the birth of witch symbols such as a cauldron (beer), a broom (a symbol of mature beer) and a cat (rats). This aspect of usurpation still affects us today on many levels, whether we like it or not, which is why we consider retrospection to be very important. It is not only about nostalgia or taking over the practice, but mainly about evaluating past actions.

Our journey also led us through crafts, and we felt the need to change our work habits. It made more sense to work with an emphasis on material and technique than just visualizing the idea. And it is these craft practices, closely linked to the history of the transmission of knowledge, that very often create the medieval and ancient appearance.

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Anna Slama & Marek Delong »Bludna Loza«, 427 Gallery, Riga, 2019, curated by Christina Gigliotti. Photo by Līga Spunde

Certainly, there is a new need for intimacy and sensitivity, not only with regard to materials, the production of art, but also its reception. Your exhibitions have often been featured on documentation-based platforms like OFluxo or Tzvetnik – how do you deal with this »second life« of your art thrown into the digital mesh?

For small galleries and project spaces, where we most often exhibit, these platforms are an excellent opportunity to present their projects and artists to a much wider international audience. The very form of a never-ending feed can be alienating and overwhelming, it sometimes stresses us, but at the same time we take it more as an invitation, and everyone can then search for deeper information according to their interests.

It is not in the power of a few volunteers to provide a comprehensive view of every exhibition. And while this way of presentation does not contribute much to creating a relationship to a work of art, it certainly helps to build a community. Since following these pages, we have met many of the artists IRL, which has really helped us to cope with our artistic reality. We also got the opportunity to participate in interesting projects and shows that we would have never been able to reach without this attention. And above all, it helped us to cross the boundaries of the local scene, which was gradually becoming claustrophobic for us.

Next article

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Lawrence Abu Hamdan »Once Removed«, 2019. Courtesy of Maureen Paley, London

Aftermath: Lessons in Futurity from Lawrence Abu Hamdan

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PW-Magazine is a bilingual online magazine for contemporary culture.