Anna Hulačová is a Czech artist based outside of Prague. We talked about her recent projects at Moly Sabata residency, mythology and folklore, sculpture as her main medium and discussed the challenges of reconciling family life and motherhood with artistic practice. Anna Hulačová is represented by hunt kastner. Read our interview with Camille Hunt and Katherine Kastner on FIAC Stories.
I would compare my style of work to the ambivalent relationship between the statue and children. Often, I try to deal with the reality of family life while engaging in the creative process, which gives me emotional support and an auxiliary shelter from the often uncompromising reality. I balance between these worlds as a mother and an artist.
What project have you been recently working on?
I am currently working on two projects: “Eating Planet” and “Alien Bees”. While in residence at Moly Sabata, I created a series of ceramic bee hives as sculptures for the outdoor space. I would like to shift the design of the beehive form to a natural approach to breeding, inspired by the Warre Beehive. When I think of sculptures in the public outdoor space, beehives offer me the perfect solution. Beehives, like sculptures, can beautify and cultivate the public space, they could also have a useful environmental function and there are many variants.
“Eating Planet” is an installation composed of a series of sculptures thematically related to the theme of agriculture. Now I am focusing on the topic of the Collectivization period, which is only part of the more complex concept of industrialization. Historically, the bond between Brutalism and Collectivization is connected through the adaptation of the landscape. There are many sectors that have suffered, from beekeeping to soil degradation. These sculptures are mostly sculptural groups – a special cooperation between man and machine. The figures are connected to the machines and the machines are transformed into organic shapes; a kind of correlation and contradiction of the technological and natural. Human figures are transformed into a technological, anonymous world, and technology is further transformed into the landscape of our bodies and vice versa.
My medium is mainly figural sculpture. Making figural sculptures helps me address issues and themes such as individualism alongside social empathy. I like to link the contrasts emerging from this conflict, both symbolic and material – this approach helps me to answer questions arising from this complex world.
Our identities are traced in all kinds of digital directions and this makes us anonymous. For me this becomes a struggle between the utopian and the dystopian. In short, we want to be technological designers and at the same time gardeners of the natural – biological spheres of life.
Last year, my husband and I started adding a studio to our house, which we have been slowly renovating since we moved in in 2016. My studio is not very large, but it is a very practical space to work in, and not – yet – a problem to realize sculptures of larger dimensions. Otherwise, I still have another work space, down the lane, in a former cowshed – an agricultural building. This space is surrounded by fields, but at the moment I rarely manage to get out there.
Do you have a particular routine or specific rituals when you work?
I would love to have a set routine, but this is not really possible with two small children, especially since I am still breastfeeding the youngest. When I go into the studio, I immediately use all my time just to work. Sometimes I take a coffee with me and listen to music, while working. Sometimes I just go to work without music, in order to keep one ear open for when the baby starts crying.
What do you prefer about your everyday life as an artist?
Currently, I like the peace of concentration, of becoming drawn into my work and withdrawn from the noisy reality.
Could you send us an excerpt of a book on your bedside table at the moment?
“Plants, however, they speculate, “do not communicate” and so have no language. Something else is going on in the vegetative world, perhaps something that should be called art. Phytolinguistics pursued along these lines by the scientists and explorers was just beginning and would surely require entirely new modes of attention, field methology, and conceptual invention. The president of the Therolinguists Association waxed lyrical: If a no communicative, vegetative art exists, we must re-think the very elements of our science, and learn a whole new set of techniques. For it is simply not possible to bring the critical and technical skills appropriate to the study of weasel murder-mysteries, or Battrachian erotica, or the tunnel-sagas of the earthworm, to bear on the art of the redwood or the zucchini. “ From Donna Harraway – Staying with the Trouble
Countryside, The Future at Guggenheim Museum
The topic of ecology, agricultural landscape and its development are very important to me due to the place where I live and because I come from a family of small farmers who suffered during the collectivization period.
The current system is also destructive for them, so I search for historical connections and causes to the current agricultural crisis. At the same time, I observe that thematic contrasts, such as utopia – dystopia, are interconnected.
Could you tell us about an artist/writer/musician that you particularly admire and inspires you or your work?
I like writers such as Emanuele Coccia, Astrida Neimani, Donna Harraway. I am a fan of this type of scientific ecological philosophy, which supports the perception of our connection with the organic – natural world, which is much more refined and, at the same time, more fragile than we are able to perceive. This connection and empathy of the complex world, such as aquatic, plant, organic life and relationships, is very spiritual, and at the same time the awareness of the current state as very problematic and alarming.
You currently live in Prague. Why have you decided to be based in this city? What’s your favourite thing about it and your favourite places?
I don’t live directly in Prague. In 2016, I moved from the city to a small town in the countryside about 40 km from Prague. Although I am often coming to Prague, life in the countryside suits me mainly because of the children, but also the possibility of implementing personal eco-projects, such as planting trees or beekeeping …
I have a close relationship with folklore techniques from childhood; my grandmothers and aunts taught me many kinds of techniques that use various natural materials. So I have a kind of nostalgic relationship to that.
I like vernacular art and I perceive working with natural materials as very ecological, because most of the materials are recycled or are renewable raw materials. On the other hand, in the current period of increased nationalism and populism, folklore itself is also a very complicated concept and working with it is also very often fraught with controversy, especially in Eastern Europe. However, I like material techniques, which are often specific to a location, which endows them with their special charm. The closest to me are the folkloric expressions that could be perceived today as a feminist or eco-female art brut. In any case, I don’t work as much with folklore topics at the moment. I previously also had a longer period of inspiration from historicism and mythology. Now, I also draw partly from history, but I focus more on the Surrealist-Futuristic, Soviet-Brutalist language, which suits me better to realize the ideas of the contemporary utopian-dystopian world.
Cover photo : (c) Jiří Thýn