Veronika Hykova - art curator
Art Criticism and Writing, Node Center, Berlin, DE, August 2020
Curatorial Course, Corso Curatori, Venice, IT , June - August 2019
Managing an Art Gallery, Node Center, Berlin, DE, February 2019
Fine Art at UWIC (Univeristy of Wales Institute, Cardiff), BA(hons), 2008 - 2011
Let´s start with my studies at UWIC I did two important projects one was focused on Pigeons and the other one on Bunnies. The Pigeon project was based on broader understanding of my cultural background as I come from the Czech Republic. I don´t know how good you are at European history but in 1938 Czechoslovakia was taken over by Hitler. It was not a sudden moved but a well planned operation. Back then early in the 30´s when Germany was in a deep economical recession, Hitler gained more and more power mainly because he gave work to ordinary people who struggled to feed their families. A vast majority of people did not really care what sort of job it was as long as they had food for the starving children. Nobody could have blamed them. However as result of it Germany developed really good infrastructure which enabled Hitler to take over many European countries. Czechoslovakia was one of them. Drawing on the past of my country and evolutionary human nature in terms of whatever needs to be done in order to covered basic needs. I came up with idea of killing of pigeons. There is a plenty around and they eat whatever seeds they find. The pigeons don´t think where the food comes from, why I am being fed and what are the consequences.
To put it simply I decided to be Hitler for pigeons. On back of my mind there was this misguided belief that rice actually kills birds (back then I did not know that it is not true) So, I shared my brilliant plan how to kill birds with my flatmates who were pacifists and vegetarians. I don´t have to mention that they were not happy about my plan. I told them that they can stop me if they were willing to fight me on the street but since they were pacifists too, the physical fight was out of their options. Nevertheless, they came up with an idea of organizing a protest with banners Stop Killing Pigeons. I had told them that for sure it was a very effective way to draw an attention to a subject that nobody cared about. I could have imagined the busy people rushing from job to home picking up children from school and taking them to their extra curriculum activities. Moreover everybody hates pigeons. The busy people would not have cared about some birds and for sure they would have get irritated by a bunch of protesting people who got into their way. My flatmates admitted that would have probably been what would happen and let it go.
Later on that day I went to buy rice and met with my fellow classmates on a high street to introduce my project. So, I started to throw rice on a street and as expected pigeons flew over to pick the rice. More and more pigeons flew in as I kept throwing the rice. After a short while one of the fellow classmates said that I should stop doing that because the rice would swollen in the stomach of the birds and they would die. I said to him I knew that and it was the reason why I was feeding the pigeons. There was too many pigeons anyway, everybody hated them and killing them was the perfect final solution for all our problems. In that moment the group split into two smaller groups. One group who agreed with me - yep it is too many of them, let´s reduce the number - and the other one who did not agree with me but they did not stop me either. They only walked over the other side of the high street and pretended that they were not part of our group. When the teacher finally realized that I was consciously and willingly killing the birds she engaged in a physical fight with me but it was too late anyway because most of the rice was gone and the damage was done.
I have always wondered how was it possible for Hitler to rise in power and do what he did and this performance which I did 10 years ago gave the answer.
My second project Bunnies was based on cultural differences between the life in the Czech Republic and in the United Kingdom. My grandfather used to have a small rabbit farm cca 100 bunnies. It was nothing commercial just for the family needs. Ever since I was a child I knew how the life circle works. Rabbits were born, fed, killed and eaten. That is how it works. I remember that shortly after I arrived to the UK I did babysitting for British family who happened to have a full size grown rabbit as a pet. In the Czech Republic we have pet rabbits as well but they are tiny breed and never grown into the full size rabbit. However, that rabbit I saw in that family was big just like the ones in my grandfather´s farm. So, one day I suggested to them that I could make a really good stew out of that rabbit if they wanted. I don´t have to say that it didn´t go down well. The mum was mortified by my proposal of killing their pet bunny which they had for eight years. Upon that I was horrified by the age of the rabbit. I didn´t know that the rabbit could live for eight years. Why would anybody keep a rabbit for eight years? After those shocking revelations on both sides we never spoke about the stew again and maintained a good relationship through my stay in the UK.
Nevertheless, this experience shifted my focus on how the local society treated meat. Through the years I did notice that people especially children didn´t know where the sausage, steak or bacon came from. For them the source of meat was a supermarket and not a farm and livestock. It looked to me like people were missing the link between the death of the animal and the bacon on a plate. So, I decided to bring the attention to this link. My proposal for performance included a live event in a white cube gallery space and the event would involve introducing a life cycle of a rabbit, including last two stages actual death and being a stew or schnitzel. For the slow burning readers yes, I was proposing slaughtering a bunny live in front of the regular gallery goers. Apart of the kill itself, which is something that I did many times before but usually having wellington boots and standing in a mud but this time I would have been standing in a white cube gallery space having my fancy high heel shoes on, plus I would cook dinner like Rirkrit Tiravanija.
Some people might be shocked by seeing an animal being killed which is kind of surprising because most of us eat meat on daily basis. How do you think that the bacon or Kentucky Fried Chicken got on to your plate or bucket? Eating meat and not being willing to face how the meat got underneath your nose is what is truly shocking. I think that all people who are not willing to face the actual death of the animal should be made compulsory vegetarians. If you don´t want to kill your own food then you don´t deserve it to eat it because eating meat is a privilege.
To cut the story short, a part of the teaching staff and some actually were vegetarians supported me greatly, but the other one saw it as too controversial which was kind of funny attitude coming from the institution that introduced me to the artworks of Marina Abramovič and Franco B. The official reason was that the performance could not have taken place due to the Health and Safety reasons which is a British way of saying that it would be way too much trouble for us to deal with it. The good news was that two years after I graduated, the university campus was closed down and demolished (No lost for the art world. Trust me!) and the name of the university has changed from UWIC to MET (Cardiff Metropolitan University)
After this disappointing experience it was clear to me that the path of an artist is not going to be the right one for me as I wanted my shows to be more than just simply hanging pictures on walls and decided to shift my attention towards organizing shows that have meaning and concept behind.
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