Jan Bražina’s installation in Galerie mladých must be viewed in a broader time horizon. Not only is it a culmination of his studies in the Sculpture Studio 2 at the FFA (Faculty of Fine Arts) but he also gains sovereignty in his work with textiles and at the same time presents the last chapter of a love story – he talks about breakup.
What we see in the gallery space is a scene of a suspended moment of sorts, one “frame of film”, where two life-size puppets, torn apart, slowly come to life again. Their recent bond has been untied and now just hangs casually in the air. The two figures lying in opposite corners of the room are made of identical material: dyed cotton canvas pinned to polystyrene “bones”. Beneath their fabric skin is a soft layer of foam. The joints of the bodies are flexible, formed by simple knots. The figures thus resemble oversized marionettes or voodoo dolls. To understand this scene in its entirety, it is helpful to look at the story presented in reverse. The preceding chapter is a pair of interconnected installations in two Brno artist-run spaces, Zaazrak|Dornych and Galerie Průchod, which took place simultaneously last fall. This two-situation exhibition featured a pair of figures in close connection in a whirl of dance or a kiss.
The non-idyllic stillness of an otherwise romantic moment was suggested by the use of canvas and plaster material reminiscent of the bandages of numerous fractures, and the danger of this proximity was revealed by three semicircles with spikes for hands and heads. The toxic dependence of the relationship between the figures installed in Zaazrak|Dornych also permeated the architecture of Galerie Průchod with its tentacles. The key prologue remains the first chapter, implemented in Jedna Dva Tři Gallery on Petrohradská street (Prague), which presented a pair of bride and groom costumes evoking a joyous celebration of love. Hanging from plaster hangers from the ceiling were the groom’s wedding suit and hat and the bride’s precisely tailored ruffled shirt, skirt and corset. Compared to the subsequent implementations, there are two distinct moments in this installation. It is the only one to work openly with gender binaries, the symbol of the bride and groom representing the traditional heteronormative arrangement of romantic relationships. Even today, however, the institution of marriage is a utopia for the queer community. The second difference is the absence of bodies in the costumes. Through this absence, Jan Bražina thematizes the unfulfillable “normality”, the impossibility of equal acceptance of queer partnership. The corset of the bride’s costume can also be read as a social and legislative rigidity into which everyone cannot be laced.
Love rhymes with fuck you is the title of a song by Jeffree Starr, an American queer celebrity, who rose to fame in the MySpace era with his punk-rock music production, later with his distinctive drag stylings and his own cosmetics brand. It describes the painful breakdown of a relationship, the feelings of frustration and the ensuing unpleasantries. In Jan Bražina’s work, I also perceive natural, albeit indirectly formulated, intersections with pop and rave culture as strong sensory perceptions affecting experience and emotions, stimulating and developing intuition or psychospiritual experiences. The environment of rave communities has also been constructed from its beginnings as a safe space that espouses the principles of inclusion, freedom and empathy. The technique of DIY dyeing secondhand fabrics that Jan Bražina uses also evokes references to contemporary rave fashion based on the psychedelia of the 1960s. Although the dark colours of the puppets allude to decay and death, the softness of the materials, the careful sculpting, the care taken in dyeing and ironing the fabrics, and the kind introspection and listening to one’s own experience suggest a rather Jungian reading of the symbol of death as a new, healing beginning.