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20 Jan 2012 09:30 - 17:00

Czech Design - Independent, Free and Democratic? The Pelcl Symposium

Drawing on original contributions from design professionals, design critics, theorists and historians from the Czech Republic and the UK, the symposium will consider the ways in which Czech design horizons have changed since the mid 1980s when the ideologies of the Eastern Block began to undergo change and challange. Speakers include Jiri Pelcl, David Crowley, Dr Jüri Kermik, Iva Knobloch, Dagmar Koudelkova, Martina Pachmanova, Sylva Petrova and Jonathan Woodham. For detailed schedule and speakers' biographies, please click the link below.

Registration fee including lunch and refreshments: £50; concs. £30; University of Brighton staff and external students £25; University of Brighton students £18.

For further information and reservation contact Madeleine Dutton: 01273 643720, m.j.dutton@brighton.ac.uk

More information at: http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/jiri-pelcl



9.30      Registration and tea/coffee

10.00    Welcome and Introduction to the symposium
Jonathan Woodham -
Professor of Design History at the University of Brighton
This will include a brief introduction to the history of Czechoslovakian design from the national revival years of the early twentieth century leading up to the establishment of the first Czechoslovakian Republic in 1918 through to the period of Communist rule and the tensions that culminated in the Velvet Revolution and the establishment of the Czech Republic in 1993, thereby setting the scene for the day’s programme.

10.20 “The Interminable Lightness of Being“ – A Curator’s Professional experience and Choice
Sylva Petrova -
Professor of Glass at the University of Sunderland, researcher, educator, curator and publicist
Sylva Petrova, who witnessed and professionally dealt with the development of Post Modernism in Czech art and design whilst employed as Curator at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, will talk about her unique experience from the end the 1980s and 1990s and about her choice to support Jiri Pelcl’s work.  

10.40 The Incredible Lightness of Being – Czech Design
JirI Pelcl
- Professor of Architecture and Design at the Prague Academy of Art, Architecture and Design and founder of Atelier Pelcl
JirI Pelcl will talk about the exhibition of his recent work in the University of Brighton Gallery which contains a series of one-off pieces, a significant range of work for manufacturing industry, and designs by his students at the Prague Academy of Art, Architecture and Design.  He will speak from a deep knowledge of social, political, economic and cultural change and its impact on design practice and education.

11.00    Bowler Hat Dialogues - Design and Circumstance
Jüri Kermik
- Designer, design historian 3D Design and Materials Practice within the School of Architecture and Design at the University of Brighton
The paper is based on a meeting and dialogue between Jiri Pelcl and Jüri Kermik that took place in Prague in early December 2011. It will explore the circumstances that shaped the education and practice of design in Czech Republic and Estonia with particular reference to regional, cultural and political conditions of the 1970s and 80s. Parallels and connections are drawn from professional and personal experiences of design educators-practitioners operating under similar conditions in Prague and Tallinn.
The bowler hat metaphor is borrowed from Milan Kundera’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ to provide additional context and perspective to the discussion of objects and their meaning in relation to particular political and social circumstances: “… each time the same object would give rise to a new meaning, though all former meanings would resonate (like an echo, like a parade of echoes) together with the new one.”
Key themes discussed include: culture and traditions; functionalism-modernism; design, education and industry; concepts of necessity, weight, value and meaning.

11.30 TEA

11.45 Jirí Pelcl and Jüri Kermik in Conversation
Both conversationalists have parallel experiences as designers and educators in two countries (Czechoslovakia/ Czech Republic and Estonia) that have experienced considerable changes from the Communist era to the free market conditions of the present day. Their discussion will bring to the audience a series of reflections emanating from previous conversations in Jirí Pelcl’s studio in Prague in December 2011.

12.15 Jiří Pelcl: from Atika to the present days: Transformations of Czech Design in relation to the work of Jiří Pelcl
Dagmar Koudelková
- Lecturer in history of design and life style at the Philosophical Faculty, Masaryk University in Brno (Institute of Musicology) 
1. Atika
: Twenty-five years ago, the Czech Atika group shocked the artistic public through its nonconformist approach to design seen in postmodernist, expressive pieces of furniture, a response to the impossibility of cooperation with the state furniture industry. Although Atika existed for only five years it provided a powerful catalyst for a prolific output by its members. Epitomizing the high-quality roots of the Czech design, its tradition and vitality, their original conception of furniture and accessories, influenced by postmodern aesthetics even evoked responses from outside the Czech Republic.
2. Transformation – the early 1990s: changes in the structure of the furniture industry (reorganization, privatization or extinction of factories), its orientation towards manufacture for western markets, the competition with foreign companies entering the Czech market, and the partiality of newly established firms toward atypical commissions and small-series production became a complex background for the arrival of the new generation of designers graduating from the Prague Academy of Art, Architecture and Design. Inspired by their teacher, Bořek Šípek, their work is based on an original idea, simplicity, preference for minimalism and new materials and is supported by massive publicity and marketing strategy.
3. Searching for new ways – the turn of the century: interest in experiments and projects, competitions and support for young artists has brought about original designs; in furniture, many young designers and students appear, new studios and manufacturing companies are founded, whose activities would be impossible without backing by enlightened supporters. Present-day work marks a return to the high points of Czech design.
4. Furniture at the beginning of the third millennium: this period has brought a change in the relation between designers and manufacturers – Czech manufacturers collaborate more than before with designers. The result is a number of experiments produced in small series and high-quality serial production. From the beginning of the new millennium Czech furniture is bolder, more interesting, of better workmanship, and can boast of foreign awards; the remaining problem, however, is the absence of quality furniture reasonably priced, to serve the middle class.

13.00 LUNCH

14.00    Postmodernism and its heritage in the Czech Republic
Iva Knobloch
- Curator of Prints and Drawings, the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague
Czech Postmodernism in the ‘80s was linked with revolt against the totalitarian establishment, centralized economy and academic rules. As their main weapon, designers employed conspiratorial readings of design objects. The authenticity of black humour, camouflage, parody, mystification, local and personal mythologies and rituals are seen in the work of the B.K.S. group. This design activist approach may be seen in the early work of Milan Knížák and provocative and personal emotional messages could be read in work of students of the Prague Academy of Art, Design and Architecture, the main academic institution of design education in socialist Czechoslovakia. For semi-official cultural and underground events graphic designers used the visual language of political subversion. Fashion was also promoted as a sign of revolt. A critical reflection of the role of the mass media is present in the anti-design activity of František Burian. What is the heritage of Postmodernism in the Czech Republic today? We can observe a passion for design amongst the younger generation, born after the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Again, design is understood as personal, emotional and free manifestation of individual freedom, resistant to the pressure of institutions, mass media and mass market (magazines okolo, živel, komfort ad).

14.45    Did Postmodernism Reach the Eastern Bloc? Design in Eastern Europe in the 1980s
David Crowley
- Design historian, curator, critic and leader of the MA in Critical Writing in Art and Design at the Royal College of Art, London
Tančící dům (the Dancing House) was often proclaimed as the first major post-communist building in Central Europe. A fashionably anthropomorphic pair of buildings clasped together by the river Vlatava, it was designed in 1992 by Vlado Milunič and Frank Gehry with an interior by émigré Czech architect, Eva Jiřičná. Widely reported around the world, it was seized as a symbol of the shift to the West, the creativity and the optimistic mood of Czech culture after the Velvet Revolution. Funded by a Dutch investment bank and providing up-market apartments and a French restaurant, it seemed to illustrate the dramatic arrival of postmodernism and post-communism in Central Eastern Europe. Here was a vivid example of what Fredric Jameson in 1991 called ‘the logic of late capitalism’.
Despite its much-trumpeted connections with newfound freedoms of expression and the market, this was the third appearance of postmodern architecture in those parts of Central/Eastern Europe. It had already been born there at least twice before; once in the form of Socialist Realism, the architectural language that was claimed by Soviet ideologues to be ‘post-historical’ (in that it assimilated all preceding forms of architectural knowledge including, of course, modernism). The second appearance of postmodernism – in the 1980s - took a diverse variety of expressions. They included paper architecture in the Soviet Union, Hungarian ‘Organic Architecture’ and the construction of numerous churches in Poland. What they shared in common was a critical perspective on modernity, usually associating it with repression. Architecture could operate, it seems, as dissent.  
Twenty-five years after its peak, postmodernism in architecture today stands indicted on numerous accounts (for its pseudo-historical nostalgia; for being in thrall to the corporation; for its abandonment of any social vision; etc.) What might be retrieved from experiences of the late socialism? What lessons might the strategies of architectural action developed in Eastern Europe in the 1980s offer the present?
15.30 Function or Style? On Czech Women Designers and the Glass Ceiling of their Profession
Martina Pachmanova
- Art historian, independent curator, writer and Assistant Professor at the Prague Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design.
The principal focus of this presentation is on the role of women in Czech design, commencing with a brief history of the professionalization of women in a field that was considered for a long time to be a male preserve, reinforced by its links with technology, industry, and economic profit. A concise survey will be made of Czech modernist and avant-garde women designers of the first half of the 20th century and their disciples in the post-war era. Following the orientation of the symposium Czech Design – Independent, Free, and Democratic? this paper will nevertheless accentuate the production of contemporary Czech women designers who work in the fields of interior and product design, glass, fashion, jewelry, and textile. In the post-1989 period consideration will be given to prominent women designers with international reputations (Eva Jiřičná, Eva Eisler) and those whose work is well covered by the mass media and glossy style-life magazines (Barbora Škorpilová, Liběna Rochová). Assessment will also be made of the contribution of the youngest generation of women designers whose careers commenced in the past decade, and whose work is innovative, aesthetically and technologically challenging, and often socially or ecologically oriented (Anna Hanzalová-Kozová, Lucie Koldová, Alena Matějková, Darja Podboj, Hana Zárubová, Dominika Applová and others).
This paper is more than a mere survey as it is based on critical reading of gender agenda of contemporary Czech design, whether on the level of education and production or reception and promotion. The question posed in the paper’s title refers to a cliché that is often found in Czech life-style journals and that is, as it is argued, even inscribed into the design profession itself: while men designers prefer function, women designers incline to style. It is proposed to document how this dichotomy that embraces an old gender stereotype (masculinity = function and technology; femininity = aesthetics and decoration) still disables Czech women designers from entering some areas of their discipline, allocating them to the traditional spheres of “women’s work”, no matter how radical and challenging their oeuvre is. Furthermore, taking into consideration the coverage of contemporary design in the printed media, several Czech design awards, as well as the speaker’s interviews with both male and female protagonists of design and design education (including students) in the Czech Republic, In sum, this paper seeks to show that the glass ceiling in the discipline still exists yet remains almost unreflected upon.

16.15 Plenary discussion and close

16.45 Tour of the exhibition

18.00 Český Sen/Czech Dream (film screening)
Directed by Vit Klusak and Filip Remunda
Two students from the Czech Film Academy commission a leading advertising agency to organize a huge campaign for the opening of a new supermarket named Czech Dream. The supermarket however does not exist and is not meant to. The advertising campaign includes radio and television ads, posters, flyers with photos of fake Czech Dream products, a promotional song, an internet site, and ads in newspapers and magazines. Will people believe in it and show up for the grand opening?
(Running time: 87 minutes)



David Crowley
David Crowley runs the MA in Critical Writing in Art and Design at the Royal College of Art in London. He has a number of research interests including the art and design of Eastern Europe. He was co-curator of ‘Cold War Modern. Design 1945-1970’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2008-9 and ‘The Power of Fantasy: Contemporary and Modern Art from Poland’ at BOZAR, Brussels, in 2011.

Dr Jüri Kermik
Jüri Kermik joined the University of Brighton in February 2003. Having developed the Design Technologies subject area until 2009 he currently leads the academic programme of 3D Design and Materials Practice within the School of Architecture and Design. Kermik completed his design education at the Royal College of Art in 1998. His doctoral research focused on the history of plywood technology in furniture design. Kermik has gained an international reputation for research in materials and furniture designs for small scale and volume production.

Iva Knobloch
She is the Curator of the Prints and Drawings Department at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, focusing on graphic design and design. From 1995 to 1999 she was editor of the graphic design magazine Deleatur. From 1998 to 2002 she was Head Curator of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, becoming Head of its Prints and Drawings Department Museum. She is a member of the organizing committee of the International Biennale of Graphic Design in Brno and teaches at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. In 2003 she organized travelling exhibition of Ladislav Sutnar´s design, and edited books of his work: Ladislav Sutnar: Prague-New York - Design in Action (2003), Mental Vitamins (2010), Ladislav Sutnar: Americké Venuše / US Venus) (2011). In 2010 she was head of a research project on Czech Design and its Institutions 1900-2010.

Dagmar Koudelkova 
A graduate in the History of Art at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Brno (1983 – 1987) Koudelková became curator of the collection of furniture and woodwork at the Moravian gallery in Brno (1990 – 2001). She prepared several exhibitions of contemporary furniture, took part in the organization of major thematic or individual artist’s exhibitions (including The Thonet Principle, Czech Cubism, František Bílek, and Antonín Procházka). As curator of the exhibitions held by the Design Centre of the Czech Republic (2002 – 2007) her particular specialism was the presentation of contemporary Czech design in the Czech Republic and abroad. She is the author of the publications Czech Interior and Furniture Design 1989 – 1999, Jindřich Halabala a Spojené uměleckoprůmyslové závody v Brně (Jindřich Halabala and the United Industrial Arts Plants in Brno), Subjective x Objective, Jiří Pelcl x design and Atika 1987 – 1992, Emotion and Form.

Martina Pachmanova
Martina Pachmanová PhD is an art historian, independent curator, and writer. She is Assistant Professor at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, Czech Republic. In 2000-01, Pachmanová was a Fulbright Fellow at Harvard University. During the last ten years, she has also been affiliated with several other U.S. universities based in Prague (NYU, University of Washington, American University) where she taught courses related to gender and art history in East and Central Europe.
Pachmanová’s many essays and articles on modern and contemporary art and visual culture, most of them dealing with issues of gender, sexual politics and feminism, have been published in periodicals and exhibition catalogues in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Pachmanová is author of many books including Mobile Fidelities: Conversations on Feminism, History, and Visuality (Prague 2001), Unknown Territories of Czech Modern Art: Through the Looking Glass of Gender (Prague 2004); Artemis and Dr. Faustus: Women in Czech and Slovak Art History (together with Milena Bartlová; Prague 2008); and two monographs of forgotten Czech female modernists, Milada Marešová: Painter of New Objectivity (Prague – Brno 2008), and Madame Gali: Expressionist Work of Marie Galimberti-Provázková. 1880 – 1951 (Prague–Pilsen 2011).
As a curator, Pachmanová has organized more than twenty exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. Among the most recent projects are: Bodies – Languages – Institutions (part of a large traveling exhibition Formats of Transformation: Seven Views on the New Czech and Slovak Identity), House of Art, Brno (CZ), 2009 – MUSA, Vienna, 2010; Behind the Velvet Curtain: Seven Women Artists from the Czech Republic, Katzen Arts Center, American University Museum, Washington, D.C., 2008; Cultural Domestication – Instinctual Desire, University of Toledo, Ohio, 2005 (together with Debra Davis).

JirI Pelcl
He studied architecture at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague and furniture design at the Royal College of Art in London and now works on architectural and interior design projects, as well as designing furniture, glass, porcelain and other products for manufacturing industry. In 1987 he founded the design group ‘Atika’, an important landmark in Czech design. In 1990 he established his own practice, Atelier Pelcl. Since 1997, he has led an architecture and design studio at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague where, from 2002 to 2005, he also held the position of Rector. In addition to his achievements in product design, Jiří Pelcl implemented a series of prestigious projects in architecture and interior design including work for President Vaclav Havel at Prague Castle as well as the Czech embassies in Rome and Pretoria. Between 2006 and 2008 he worked as the Chief Designer at Crystalex, the biggest manufacturer of glass products in the Czech Republic. He has also participated in numerous national an international exhibitions, is the author of Český Design / Czech Design (1995–2000) and has received several major design prizes and awards: in 2006 he was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Brighton for his major contribution to international design and education in the field of design. Up to now, he has held 23 solo exhibitions and taken part in more than 140 others in conjunction with other artists. His works are included in various prestigious museums and collections.

Sylva Petrova
In 1985 Sylva Petrova joined the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague (CZ) as curator of glass, and the 20th Century Design Department leader. She was later promoted to the position of the museum’s Curator in Chief.  In 1998 she was appointed as Professor at the University of Sunderland (UK) and Director of the Institute for International Research in Glass. She has published 5 sole authored books and contributed 45 others, lecturing in Japan, Australia, the USA and many European countries including the UK, the Czech Republic, Latvia, the Netherlands, Finland, and Italy. She has curated numerous exhibitions. Her prime book is Czech Glass, published in Prague 2001.

Jonathan Woodham
Jonathan Woodham was made Professor of Design History at the University of Brighton in 1993 where he has been Director of the Centre for Research and Development (Arts) since 1998. He has published more than 100 books, articles and book chapters during this period, the best known of which are Twentieth Century Design (1997) and the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Design (2004). More recently he has become committed to remapping the design historical world to include a far greater geographical coverage than the prevalent domination by a limited number of countries of the (generally) western industrialized world. He is also researching into, and publishing on, recent and current national design policies. His most recent publications include essays on ‘Mrs Thatcher and Postmodern Design’ for the catalogue for the Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990, exhibition at the V&A (2011-12) and ‘Urban Visions: Designing the Welfare State’ for the book accompanying the Design in Britain 1948-2012: Innovation in the Modern Age exhibition at the V&A (2012).


Sallis Benney Theatre, Faculty of Arts, University of Brighton, Grand Parade, Brighton, BN2 0JY

20 Jan 2012 09:30 - 17:00


Czech Center is a coorganizer of the event

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