David Ebony, Viktor Kopasz at Václava Špály
This exhibition, titled “In the Jungle,”
featured an evocative installation by Viktor Kopasz, a 27-year-old artist from Slovakia. Two rooms of the gallery, dimly illuminated only by two dangling naked light bulbs, yellow in one room and green in the other, were filled with Kopasz’s series of 12 large photos, shot over the past six years. In diaristic fashion, the images document the artist’s experiences as he and several friends uninhibitedly commune with nature in an idyllic forest setting far removed from civilization. The misty landscapes recall a tropical rain forest, yet the photos were taken in a stretch of marshland that spans the Slovak-Hungarian border. Pinned, unframed and spaced around the rooms in regular intervals, the photos, each approximately 32 by 50 inches, were accompanied by captions in Czech, Slovak and English, scrawled graffiti-style in charcoal directly on the wall below the images. Adding to the eerie display were softly amplified music and jungle sounds piped into the gallery. The soundtrack was recorded especially for the exhibition; the composer, however, chose to remain anonymous. In the dreamlike images, muted earth tones predominate, ranging from pale greens to soft pinks and yellows, although the true colors of the works were somewhat difficult to discern given the effects of the installation’s unusual lighting. Photos such as Chameleon and In Last Moment resemble anthropological studies of a forgotten tribe. Most of the photos show lush, watery landscapes with nude or nearly nude male figures swimming, climbing trees, swinging from vines
or performing obscure rituals. In one image, a shadowy figure pokes at a dark object with a long stick. In another, a wild-eyed young man displays an exotic-looking uprooted plant. In Paradise features three nude swimmers clinging to tree trunks that are party submerged in the churning waters of a river or stream. The stark bathing-suit tan lines on one man’s buttocks, however, suggests that these would-be forest dwellers are more likely city boys on holiday. Nevertheless, there is a hint of menace in the air. Are these men enjoying skinny-dipping on a sunny afternoon, or are they hopelessly lost in a hostile no-man’s land, like the students in The Blair Witch Project? In this haunting installation, Kopasz conveys
a deeply personal relationship to nature. Yet the work, as it addresses the heated arena of global environmental issues, bears broader political overtones.
Art in America, march 2000