Photo by Iryna Drahun
Photo by Iryna Drahun
Jakub Jansa »Club of Opportunities, Episode 7: SHAME TO PRIDE«, film still, 2021.
Jakub Jansa »Club of Opportunities, Episode 7: SHAME TO PRIDE«, film still, 2021.
Jakub Jansa »Club of Opportunities, Episode 7: SHAME TO PRIDE«, film still, 2021.
Photo by Iryna Drahun

Jakub Jansa: Crisis of the Uprooted Veggie

November 29, 2021
Text by Martina Poliačková

Releasing the 7th and latest episode of the »Club of Opportunities« project, Jakub Jansa talks about identity crises, class struggles and problems with professional partnerships.

Photo by Iryna Drahun

Jansa’s project »Spiritual Fitness«, which focused on social manipulation and self-development, resulted in a complex exhibition series called the »Club of Opportunities« in 2017. Through a mix of genres – from drama to absurd comedy – the club thematises current social issues and questions forms of authority and hierarchical relationships. Each exhibition creates situations that hover between reality and fiction, where the narrative is gradually revealed through video, various objects, and ongoing live action scenarios. In previous episodes, we could follow a rebellling celerist who first rejects its mythology and flirts with the alt-right populism. Later he joins a privileged and smooth avocado society but fails to adapt to society’s expectations.   

Photo by Iryna Drahun

The Jindrich Chalupecky Award exhibition recently opened at the Moravská Gallery in Brno. Can you give us a little sneak peek into the latest episode of the »Club of Possibilities« project?

In the current episode, the main character »Celerist« (a hybrid creature between a human and a celeriac) is solving its own »class coming out«. As part of the vege-society, the celery began to increase its value – his social capital grew, and he was invited to join the avocado circles. However, he cannot identify himself with the new social class, but he has already broken with the environment he comes from. He experiences the intense feeling of being an uprooted veggie – he is a class traitor or renegade. A feeling of relief can only arise by performing his own »class coming out«. The inspiration for this episode was, among others, Didier Eribon’s book, »Return to Reims« and Nathalie Olah’s book »Steal as much as you can« and, of course, my personal experience of being a kid leaving a city of roughly 50.000 people.

Jakub Jansa »Club of Opportunities, Episode 7: SHAME TO PRIDE«, film still, 2021.

Celerist has undergone several identity crises throughout the project series, which are all narrated by means of immersive storytelling. In a metaphorical sense, this story mirrors the total estrangement of the individual in a post-capitalist society. Do you think it is possible to overcome this struggle? Is there any hope for him?

At first, he has to accept who he really is. His rebellion against those around him stemmed from his great insecurity. For example, in the third episode, he rebelled against a program proposed to him by the character Oracle – the mother of celeriacs. In the current episode, where he is going through a class and social coming out, he is already resolved to listen to her. Whether this has solved the problem of personal authority remains to be seen? Perhaps the only path to hope and overcoming the hyper-individualistic world begins there. But we both know that it will not be that simple to find an answer to this question. Maybe we will need more episodes to tell us how he will develop his identity and ability to cooperate.

Jakub Jansa »Club of Opportunities, Episode 7: SHAME TO PRIDE«, film still, 2021.

The narrative of the whole series is interwoven with questions concerning hierarchical relationships, which seems to be a recurring theme in your work. How do you deal with those relationships in your professional life, especially when the project itself is built on collaboration? 

A number of unsuccessful professional experiences led me to this topic. I had a problem with ill-defined hierarchies in my past professional life. And who doesn’t, right? I’ve experienced certain forms of emotional manipulation, which tried hard to look like »professional partnerships«. The main problem was always a certain lack of transparency: It was never clearly stated what our roles in the project would be, how our professional partnership would be defined, how we would be credited or what the final fee would amount to. In my current practice, I try to prevent this from happening. I try to make sure that the collaborators know in advance how they are involved in the project and how they will be listed and how much they will get paid. I find my inspiration in the field of architecture or film production, where it is also not possible for one single person to be the sole creator. At the same time, I try to avoid the outdated model of »renaissance art workshops«, where the genius, the boss artist employs uncredited assistants. For example, I really like the model created by the BCAA system art collective. I’ve always dreamed of something similar, but we’ve never found the right group of people to work with in that way. BCAA are simply in a better place since they know each other from high school. I went to a sports high school in Ostrava and no one there was interested in art, there was no one to work with. And later, when I started at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague, it looked like some sort of ego festival, so it didn’t work out either.

Jakub Jansa »Club of Opportunities, Episode 7: SHAME TO PRIDE«, film still, 2021.

What role does fiction play in narration and how should it engage the viewer? »Club of Opportunities« is a mashup of serial storytelling as we know it from online streaming platforms, but the experience takes place in the gallery.

My stories are based on real life. But reframing reality through fiction helps to distance oneself and get a bigger picture of the situation. Fiction is simply a tool to examine reality. It is then up to the viewer to give the chosen metaphors meaning. Humor plays another important role. Subversive satire plays a strong emancipatory role. The Club has the format of a guided tour in an arranged environment of the gallery, where the individual exhibits serve as scenery and props for storytelling. The Club observes the development of the character - the celeriac. The character is analyzed from the perspective of me and my colleague Kamil Nábělek. Over the last seven episodes, the character has been dealing with various identity transformations - simply looking for its own position and role.

Photo by Iryna Drahun

Do you consider Celerist’s uncertain fate and his various transformations as the main male protagonist to be a reflection on the contemporary crisis of masculinity?

Yes, that’s how it could really be read. The role of the neo-rebel, hunter or heroic rescuer has become obsolete. Nobody cares  for a show of strength and self-belief anymore. His strong facade has become his greatest weakness. In the last episode, he has to admit his own vulnerability. What if the things he considers to be his weakness and something to be ashamed of are his true powers?

Next article

Photo by Luca Celine Müller

Rosa Anschütz: »Musik als Sprache Begreifen«

About

PW-Magazine is a bilingual online magazine for contemporary culture run by Luca Büchler and Lewon Heublein. 

PW-Magazine is supported by the Federal Chancellery of Austria and Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.