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Umělec magazine
Year 2006, 3
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Umělec magazine 2006/3


Jiří Ptáček | reviews | en cs de

The festival of contemporary art Tina B. was supposed to be the most prestigious action of this summer. Visiting it I recalled my old wish to award anti-prizes in visual art just like in any other field. Tina B. would be in the running for the Fiasco of the Year.

Odd and even years

Tina B. is a fictitious artist and an acronym at the same time: This Is Not Another Biennale. In the Czech Republic the public recalls the competition of the two Prague Biennales and the acronym Tina. B was probably understood the same way. But the slogan “This is not another biennale” reminds one merely of the rule of street fighters: “If you have no one to fight with, find someone.” The organizers of Tina B. didn’t have to fight but they wanted to show fighting spirit. They rejected the biennial which no one would link with Tina B. Its role might have been to express the fear that the festival would not be any different. Tina B. is supposed to take place every two years, and the first year showed that it will not differ from both conceptions of the biennial. Possibly a presentation of smaller curatorial projects in the sense of “what friends bring,” which will accompany a number of events, but that’s it. So we can look forward to a nice change. In the years 2007, 2009 and 2011 we will have one or two biennials and in the odd years regular “non-biennials.” Various names, similar structures.

Large and invisible

Ninety artists presented themselves in exhibitions of various quality. Sound art in the Žižkov memorial resonated in the ghostly spaces of the state mausoleum, the Velká dvorana of the Veletržní palác was an average mix of various concepts and the exhibition with a funny name Large/Digital in the Karlín factory hall functioned as an intentional parody of itself. Of course, some works were quite “large,” some were “digital.” But the hall was “much larger” and so even the “largest” works were lost in it. And because the hall wasn’t darkened, the “digital” works (projections only) were not visible. Poor organization was accompanied by miserable PR. There wasn’t much written about Tina B. and those who read the printed materials noticed the many grammatical as well as factual mistakes. The large amount of information from abroad would have seemed serious if the international distributor of the electronic invitations e-Flux hadn’t sent the printed materials of Tina B. three times at once. I haven’t experienced anything of this kind in the three years in which I have been a client of this service.

Copyright “Wild East”

If I wrote that the festival wasn’t any different from previous biennials, I forgot one thing. Tina B. was backed by a home team – the citizen-action group Pražská umělecká budoucnost led by the director of the festival Monika Burian. The festival wasn’t connected to the state and had no strong foreign base. It had to manage with the support of home sponsorship. The bad quality of the festival seemed to be aimed at strengthening the belief that we cannot manage actions on a larger scale. Also the stress on foreign prestige in contrast with neglected PR at home showed that international actions in Prague aren’t organized because of the people from the Czech Republic, but because of the export image. Post-communist Europe is changing. Tina B. was an illustration of one kind of the contemporary eastern “copyright.” Outwardly: a trendy website, international presence, a few skillful, young (and thus cheap) curators, young artists and a few celebrities. Inwardly: not much money and production impotence. The result? If the inner state is kept secret, outside one can still say that this was one of the “main attractions on art lovers’ calendars” ( Since there are not many such events, there is still a hope that Czech artists and curators will take part in it because they have not many opportunities and the foreign element will be pulled in by the attractive, unknown destination.

The speech of the marker

Did you ever notice what value the small papers with additional information saying that something is not as it was supposed to be have? People at Tina B. worked with it carefully. At the collection of penises and vaginas in the section Peepshow at Veletržní palác they probably realized, that it might corrupt the youngsters and on the booth they put a paper saying “The Tina B. PEEPSHOW is open only to those over 18.” A few steps further the visitors could read the artists’ notices for the staff (“Please keep audio volume at 40”) or an apology by the staff (“We apologize that this projection is out of order”). The trophy of “dumb and dumber” goes to the author of the piece of paper glued on the ticket counter. The English speaking visitors were offered a lower entrance fee than the original Czech offer next to it. Prague taxi drivers and restaurateurs are famous for having higher prices for foreigners – and this looked like a delayed effort to make up for it. I expected that there would be also cheap watches and ham at the cash-desk .... There was nothing of that kind. These additional texts make the exhibitions more human. They show us that behind the art there is someone just as inept as we are. Tina B. was a story of one big incapability. The doubts that in the Czech Republic we can put on a prestigious, large scale action have already led to alternatives of the “small,” “cheap” and “DIY.” In this issue of Umělec magazine there is a long article about them. Tina B. was the first attempt for change in a long time. It didn’t boost anyone’s confidence.



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