5 Questions for Klára Čermáková

Interview by Katerina Fuksova

Klára Čermáková finished her studies in 2020 at UMPRUM in Prague under the guidance of Jiří Černický and Michal Novotný. She primarily expresses herself through the medium of drawing, printmaking, sculpture, and installation. Klara’s work focuses on the relationship between the human body and the technological environment. Her interest revolves around research, science, the limits of contemporary work, social structures, sustainable art practice, materiality, and technology. She is the current artist in residence of the Czech Centre Bucharest. 

photo by Marie Tomanová

At UMPRUM, you have defended your Master thesis entitled “Hands (and other products of labour),” and your next solo exhibition was called “Teeth.” Is the human body a big inspiration for you?

Yes, the human body is still the most perfect machine in my eyes, even though the technology itself is undergoing evolution. I’m interested in how mechanical objects often look more and more like natural ones. The division between machine and organism is breaking down. And it’s not just machine principles that essentially simulate the brain, but also, for example, nanochips implanted under the human skin.

In your artwork, you predominantly use waste materials. You also recycle, don’t use any industrial goods, and strive to make everything by yourself. What’s behind that?

I mainly use leftover and waste material because it’s available; you just have to track it down. Tracking it down is an integral part of my work; it’s usually how I build a concept for a new project. For example, I used hardened polyurethane foam in my last work, called Hands (and other work products). This material is a waste produced by Škoda Auto. In my approach to art-making, the physical/artisanal work is essential to what fulfills me. The fact that I don’t outsource the production of the work to others is essential to me. I am currently working with wood, specifically linden. It’s softwood with beautiful grain, and I acquired it through the gift economy from a woodworker in Mikulov, Moravia, where I was at the Mikulov Art Symposium.

What is, in your opinion, the role of modern art in contemporary society? Is it accessible and understandable to ordinary people? Do you think art should have a specific function?

I understand art as a specific way of communication. In my perception, it emphasizes the importance of a neglected, more poetic, imaginative, emotional, and empathetic cognition. It challenges the overemphasis on rational thinking, describing everything in numbers and including it in mathematical calculations. It also highlights the inability to truly perceive one’s surroundings. I am interested in reflecting on society through art. I don’t see the world as clockwork; rather, it is a wondrous theatre full of miracles.

But I find it interesting to connect art and science; each of these fields has its own strategies, different outcomes, of course. I think I’m looking for a new grasp of the relationship between art and science, based on an understanding of the direction these fields are taking because of their internal dynamics.

It is important to add that I want to address my artistic practice within the context of the climate crisis. I seek to understand how my work contributes to it or transform, change or mitigate it. However, to date, reflection on the climate crisis within the visual arts has been minimal or has not led to a transformation of existing artistic practice.

The intelligibility of contemporary art for ordinary people is undoubtedly a problem and a significant challenge. My aspiration for the future is to continue to shape the artistic communication of social issues understandably. The search for new strategies that will reach out and reach a greater diversity of people is also essential.

How do you feel about Bucharest? Did you have any expectations? What surprised you the most about the city? And would you like to return to Romania in the future?

I see Bucharest as a bleak, instinctive city. The rows of shattered houses resemble teeth being knocked out and broken in the mouth. I was honestly surprised by how many homeless people there are, while, at the same time, there are many empty houses. I also have disheartening feelings about the transport infrastructure, with car traffic being superior to any other way of moving around the city. However, this is not to say that things are much better in the Czech Republic, of course. I would like to go back to Romania, though, especially to explore more of the mountains. The Carpathians are one of the most important wilderness areas in Europe, and so far, I’ve only visited Măguru, which is kind of Romanian “The Shire.”

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Czech Center Bucharest and the Art Institute for the opportunity to visit Bucharest/Romania. This is my first experience with the Eastern part of Europe, but I hope it will not be my last.  So thank you for providing me with asylum and your kind care; I appreciate it.

Ruce (a jiné produkty práce), UMPRUM, Praha, 2020, foto: Oskar Helcel

Zuby, Adaptace na budoucnost (výstava Katedry volného umění UMPRUM), 2019, foto: Lenka Glisníková
Kresby zaznamenávající cestu na východ, Parcul Izvor, 2021