Institutional Diary: JCHS #2


In their second Institutional diary, Jindřich Chalupecky Society reflects on the challenges and responsibilities of the first half of last year.

The first half of 2023 was a time for us as a team to get used to new tasks and new roles. Above all, the first months of the year were marked by the beginnings of the Islands of Kinship project – we learned along the way how to coordinate and motivate partners to be active and fulfill tasks and deadlines, how to promote the project, how to set up functional communication between all partners and distribute competencies and responsibilities. Within our team, the role and tasks of Nikola, our coordinator for inclusion and sustainability, gradually became more clearly defined, and our bright new colleague Zuzka also settled into her production role. Together, we also had to set up a new division of the work agenda between the individual team members as well as within the distribution of the working week. 

Our two main international exhibition projects, i.e. the exhibition Hay, Straw, Dump (Václav Špála Gallery, Prague) and the Imagine a Breath of Fresh Air exhibition (Studio Gallery, Warsaw), were in different ways focused on the theme of the future. Both exhibitions took a strong ecological and environmental perspective, were devoted to the issue of more-than-human co-dependencies, and were largely in line with the ideas of post-humanism.

The Prague exhibition in particular, which was motivated by the effort to create links between our local recent history and the present, became an important testing ground for a new thinking about the inclusiveness of exhibition projects. Our entire team thought about the issue of accessible curatorial texts, which turned out to be an extremely complex and difficult topic that we will continue to further test and solve. Through a series of accompanying programs, we tried (with more or less success) to reach specific target groups, including those that are not so exposed to contemporary art, namely the elderly and the Roma community. In cooperation with the KCC Art community center, we also approached a group of senior women to give us feedback on the exhibition, both on its content and its form – that is, on the way of mediating the individual artworks, the scenography of the exhibition, the accessibility of the gallery, etc. (this was an honored collaboration). This evaluation group brought us valuable insights and we would ideally like to work with them again in the future. At the same time, we also realized our current limits in the field of inclusion when we considered implementing a similar evaluation meeting with neurodiverse persons as well. During the preparations, however, we realized that we do not yet have the necessary capacities and know-how for truly functional communication with such respondents. We had to humbly admit that in the field of inclusion we cannot change “everything” at once and that it is a really long way to go. Even in this case, we have to plan long in advance. 

Questions about what will happen to us in the future emerged very clearly also within our team itself. In almost ten years, the SJCH team has grown to its current size, strong relationships have gradually been built, and we have found ourselves at a point where our “gears” work very smoothly and efficiently. We try to make work meaningful to all of us, to make us happy, and we’ve also learned to set better limits to how much outputs we produce, or joined forces to create clearer boundaries between work and personal time for ourselves and our families. This year, for the first time in many years, we actually managed to spend July in an out-of-office mode.

But we know very well that this harmonious state, which we have laboriously reached, will not last forever, or that we will have to consciously strive to maintain it. The existing Creative Europe grant will end in the middle of next year, so we are already thinking about its continuation. Without funding from the European Union, it would be very difficult for us to maintain the current capacities of our team. There are also changes on the horizon in terms of working hours within the team, which is connected to both maternity duties and the involvement of some members in projects outside of SJCH. A big challenge for us is the collective solution to the issue connected with the position of SJCH director, because Karina’s second term of office is slowly coming to an end. 

All these factors force us not to rest on our laurels and to constantly think about next steps and decisions for the near and distant future. For our SJCH team, this has always been marked by some degree of uncertainty. As always, we perceive the new and unknown situations that await us with respect, at the same time being aware that we have already managed many changes and turbulences together and the amount of collective work we have done is a clear proof of our viability.

Image: Hay, Straw, Dump (Václav Špála Gallery, Prague)