The Talking Fish Cannot Breathe

I only remember the pre-revolutionary times in very vague memories. I started elementary school in the old era, but socially, the seams were cracking – it was falling apart. For me, the most specific attribute of the change of political system was how we addressed our pedagogue: “miss comrade” became “miss teacher”. Kryštof and Jakub, however, are fresh fruit of the wild east nineties. Stories about how it was before the Velvet Revolution are something they’ve been told by their family members (at least a decade older), textbooks, and more or less dubious films and TV shows. Until recently, it would not have occurred to me that all three of us belong to the generation of the so-called millennials.

There seems to be no definitive designation of this generation, but there is general agreement that millennials are people who are now between 19 and 38. Some of them reached adulthood with the new millennium, others were only just born. Some of them grew up into the world of zeroes and ones, the internet, and social net works, others grew generically into it. Together, in the space-time of the 21st century, we experience together the unbearable lightness of near distance and distant nearness. We try to avoid the unification of the mass through subcultures, we desire to belong and to be independent, we drown in sponsored truths and in the hardships of subsistence in the civilised “straight white man” world.

Kryštof Strejc (* 1994) and Jakub Dvořák (* 1991) are both fresh graduates. Kryštof at the painting studio at UMPRUM in Prague, Jakub at the architecture studio in Liberec. Both share an almost furious ardour and a relationship to spatiality. In Pardubice’s GAMPA, they meet in a creative dialogue.

Jakub’s architectural practice is often anchored in relatively large scales and contexts. These force him to think about dwellingness, habitableness, the function of buildings or environments, particularly in relation to people or a particular community. In his fine art, however, Jakub sensitively resorts to smallness and even minuteness of everyday objects – their meanings and states. Both these approaches mix in the gallery space, helping settle Kryštof’s works into a particular scenographic situation.

Kryštof’s large-format drawings and paintings often expand outside their framework, becoming objects, crossing the borders of what we usually expect from an image. Though they are full of bright shades, clear colours, and pop culture references, they also have a certain darkness about them. Apocalyptic narratives settled into the timelessness of reality, where the depicted unworn trendy tops clearly betray the fact that our lived present is not too distant from the narrative in question. Do we truly find ourselves at the end of the world? The true end, not just filler for the quiet news season in the tabloids or a Hollywood blockbuster which shows the thousandth devastation of an American metropolis in the name of the saving of humankind…?

Let us not end with the tears of environmental grief and the dystopian despair of today, when democracy is becoming a shunned utopia. The future exists and hope dies last. After all, the motif of the fish on Kryštof’s paintings can be read as both a challenge and a way out, a “cliffhanger” into the new world.

Naďa Johanisová, ecological economist and a critic of both capitalism and socialism, claims that if we want to be successful in facing the stress brought about by the state of contemporary society and the climate crisis, we need to realise that the world is extremely complex and doesn’t always react the way we want it to. American biologist and feminist Donna Haraway expresses a similar position: we need to create unexpected connections, change the established ways of narration. This is why we have to stay active and let our values lead us – but without clinging to the result. Let us search for economic alternatives, step out of the mainstream, not let ourselves be blinded by the illusion of infinite growth, let us consider, share, reframe traditions, let us be local within global discourse, let us discuss. It’s thirty years after the Velvet Revolution, and don’t worry, hope grows gold!






City gallery Pardubice

Příhrádek 5, 53116 Pardubice
T: + 420 730 524 909
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opening hours:
Tuesday–Sunday 10am–6pm



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