In his Prague exhibit “REW/FFWD”, the young Czech artist Ondřej Vicena shows that a Walkman is not just a thing of the past; it is more than just an old electronic device that plays cassettes. The first thing noticed at the entrance of gallery SPZ is a Walkman sunk to the bottom of a half-filled water tank, which is also suspended from the ceiling. This may symbolize both positives and negatives of the Walkman, according to the curator Christina Gigliotti, who is also an MA Humanities student at the Anglo-American University. It could represent the idea that materialism is consuming people’s lives, and therefore detracting us from religion and religious values. More contemporary electronics lead individuals to constantly staring at a screen; and therefore, they often miss the beauty around them and other things that are more important. Electronics are a huge distraction from taking in one’s surroundings and being consistent with one’s internal values.
Gigliotti also noted that the Walkman accurately depicts the fall of communism in a positive light, as it was the first electronic device to advocate individualism in Czechoslovakia after the 1989 Velvet revolution. Czechs and Slovaks were finally able to walk around the country and listen to whatever they pleased, whenever they pleased. This was a totally novel concept at the time (25 years ago).
Besides the Walkman in the fish tank, there is a single, decaying rose floating in another longer tank of water, which is also suspended from the ceiling; and on weekends, there is a small fire burning underneath it. Gigliotti explained that this is meant to represent, “what is lasting versus what is not lasting”, and in this case, in terms of nature. Electronics are taking over, and therefore, people are beginning to miss out on the beauty of nature and everything that it has to offer. The exhibit “REW/FFWD” is essentially questioning whether nature can become an important aspect of people’s lives as it used to be before technology took over.
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On two walls of the gallery there are two giant black circles, one on each side of the room. According to Gigliotti, these represent time warps, maybe as a way to travel back to a time where religion and nature was more important and more appreciated than electronics. They also might represent headphones; however, it is quite ambiguous, and it is up to the viewer to determine this.
The music that plays in the gallery is “Kiss from a Rose” by the artist Seal. It sounds as if it is playing from underwater, and therefore it is a perfect fit, since there is an underwater theme throughout the exhibit.
Ondřej Vicena’s “”REW/FFWD” at the tiny gallery SPZ, practically next door to The Globe, pushes the viewer to deeply think and question aspects of society and life today, and how it differs from the past—it speaks volumes to anyone who goes to see and hear it. The exhibit closes 27. 2. 2015.