SOPHIE DVOŘÁK | ALL LAKES ARE TEMPORARY
Exhibition views Galerie Straihammer und Seidenschwann
Sophie Dvořák is a collector and traveler. She gathers images, books, and found objects; she assembles, categorizes, archives, re-archives, and displays these artifacts and fragments with seemingly archeological methodology. In her own words, hers is a “subjective research process” leading to works that achieve an intricate balance between the precision of her craft and subject matter on the one hand, and the intuitive process on the other.
How fitting that cartography should feature so prominently in Dvořák’s ongoing survey of visualizations of knowledge. The map is a surface of projection and signs. In his essay “My Atlas”, Vilém Flusser compellingly plots the challenges of a map projection that cannot be complete nor without distortion. He tells of the shift of the atlas as a product of representation towards itself becoming an activity of representing: “Not history, but the act of visually transcoding history, became interesting.” The map’s limitations as well as its involvement in constructing knowledge and history form the starting points from which many of Dvořák’s endeavors begin their journey.
In her recent group of works, “All Lakes are Temporary” (2018), Sophie Dvořák meddles anew with cartographic projections. Topographic maps outlining the terrain of various lake basins are excised from their context and reassembled. The flowing contours of the cut-out formations counteract the cliché of the placid lake, at times veritably dancing on a background of paper that has been saturated with black ink. Yet in other pieces from this series, the deep velvety black unfurls or radiates from these newly construed abstractions of the lake, appearing as a shadow. The title of the series alludes not only to the lifespan of a lake but to the map’s instability, its inability to ever be absolutely current.
Dvořák seizes upon the opportunity offered by the potency of the map being, as Christine Buci-Glucksmann identifies, “immediately both visible and readable”: We see and instantly read the appropriated cartographic elements and then attempt to get a grasp on the sense of scale or to orient ourselves at the “interface of the world”, only to find we have been duped. The artist has emptied the map of its decipherable codes. The only memory of its legends and labels is the mask of black in place of the gaps in information. With this ruse, Dvořák catalyzes a reflection about our gullibility with regard to the authority and authenticity of visualizations of information.
In a continuation of her yearlong engagement with atlases and maps, Dvořák translates projections of the two-dimensional plane to three-dimensional space in recent plaster reliefs. Cartographic material is manipulated and pressed into wet plaster indelibly embedding fragments of the maps as fossils. Dvořák experiments with plaster and black ink producing objects with fragile geographical surfaces. Fissures, craters and hollows are created during the transformation of map (Landkarte) to landscape (Landschaft). The planned coincidence at work in this series is likewise essential to “Glitches” (since 2016). For these drawings, the artist painstakingly traces a French curve line upon line with a quill. Droplets of ink become trapped between the instrument and the page. The smudges in these flawless seismographic recordings pay tribute to the irregular, the unpredictable, the imperfect.