Mark Ther at Futura

Artist: Mark Ther

Exhibition title: Augenfett

Curated by: Michal Novotný

Venue: Futura, Prague, The Czech Republic

Date: December 4, 2019 – February 9, 2020

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Futura

The title “Augenfett” arrived, as Mark Ther himself notes, from a conversation between three old ladies, Sudeten Germans, over a coffee in Walkraiburg, Bayern. To the question, how she would translate the beautiful Czech word “ospalek” (eye boogers), madam Springer answered: “Augenfett.”

“Augenfett” in German doesn’t exist, at least according to the internet dictionaries it is simply translated as “Schlaf”, or more poetically “Schlafsand”. However in the frame of the rhetoricallanguage play, it is an accurate, enough descriptive, expression.

Play with genres of Czech Germanity in its fantastic versions extends to all the exhibition. Despite it is authentic in it its core, the family of Mark Ther comes from Broumov, he doesn’t take a didactic or critical position, but on the contrary reflectively denies any possible trueness. This position hence also works for the plasticity of the whole Sudetenland problematics, its irreversibility, different projections it embodies, its phantasies and political manipulations.

The exhibition is a sort of set piece, stage set, intentionally unfinished, quickly sketched for the illusion of the camera eye. Derelict as interiors of the old computer games, with only a painting and a torch on a wall. Imperfection is here however not a practical attitude, but constantly overplays itself in the pirouettes of its own formal perversions. Printed carpet, different lows and heights of the curtains, the swallow nest, cuckoo clock. Essentially inauthentic are also the original paintings of the Goudenlove dynasty from Poběžovice, executed by their courtly painter Alfred Offner in pseudo-historical style in the 1930s. Although as much as the drawings of Franz Schmelz, Ther’s alter ego, with their dream-like sexualisation, are both certain sophisticated manneristic game, not afraid of hyperbollic expressions. “…shot a bear of exactly this size.” Metaphorically in the same manner as are from nowadays point of view the German Sudeten villas from 1930s in their fake pomp play much more interesting than the insipid trueness of the Czech pearls of architectonical modernism.

Even if Mark is able of somehow cinema-like surprising excesses such as Puck fly with glasses from the series Biene Maija or miau miau american plush cats, his attack on authenticity is not a cynical, relativising one. It is childishly fascinated, captivated, escaping any purpose and categorisation. Phantasy here constantly touches its own limits towards excess, but never falls into vulgarity or pornography, pure fulfilment of its own purpose. Ther’s works therefore problematise and exceeds still so important polarities of the critical and adorative, honest and ironical attitudes.

-Michal Novotný