Jana Želibská in the Context of the Sixties in Slovak Art
This text deals with the work of Jana Želibská (1941 Olomouc) – flanêuse in the 1960s and the priestess of the Great Mother (Nature) in the 1970s. Želibská took a central position among male protagonists of neo-avant-garde in Slovakia. Her approach has been labeled ‘latent feminism’ because no real feminist platform existed during socialism in Slovakia. Želibská became known on the Slovak and Czech scene, as well as in the Paris circle of Pierre Restany, particularly due to the openness of her art program of sexuality, female sensuality and erotic iconography. Erotic motifs were not rare in the Slovak art of the 1960s, but artists like Stano Filko or Alex Mlynárčik, who were closest in terms of generation to Želibská, used the language of Pop-art and New Realism and their iconography mixed with the local folklore motifs and other specifica in a quite different way. Pop art and New Realism entered the oeuvre of many artists simultaneously with experiments in Conceptual art (Stano Filko, Peter Bartoš, Július Koller, Jana Želibská). In Želibská´s first solo show titled Possibility of Exposure (1967) the female body was presented in a new way, some of the objects were created as ‘anthropometries’ – emphasizing the moment when the female subject passes through the petrifying act of aesthetization and objectification. In Kandarya Mahadeva (1967), a handmade work with an original artifact is consciously replaced by the concept of reliefs-multiples based on the simultaneously developed graphic work and was inspired by the 11th century Kandariya Mahadev temple. After 1968, Želibská shifted the focus of her activities to land as an open structure outside of official supervision. Želibská made several statements regarding experiencing the magic of the present moment and experience with landscape through concepts and events that emphasized connection with nature – a happening Betrothal of Spring (1970), the concepts 10 Days with Aphrodite (1970) and the Celebration of Sun (1971). Photography helped her to work with continuity and causality in photo-sequences of situations and events. The path through ‘rooms of her own’ and other spatial concepts from the female labyrinth to the architecture of the temple in the 1960s, through changing open structures outdoors in her concept and land art in the 1970s, photography in 1980s, reached installation and video in the 1990s. Installations in the 1980s were built mainly on the artist’s experience with and in nature, or on the typical postmodernist contrast of the urban and natural. In her videos and video installations from the 1990s, the body became central both as a medium and as a subject to the works. Puberty and virginity, which interested her in the land art events in 1970s, appeared again in her video art in a monumental demonstration of ‘girl power. In 1997 Želibská took the position behind the camera, shooting a naked male body without identity and face in the video installation Her View of Him. Thus she completed her shift from the ‘girl power’ of the 1960s and early 1970s agenda to fully articulated ‘woman power’.