Lukáš Houdek. The Beauty of Oppression
14 – 30 Sep 2021
Opening reception: 14 Sep / 6 PM
Future Museum (Ion Ghica 11, Bucharest)
Mo – Fri | 10.00am – 4.00pm
The work of Czech artist Lukáš Houdek focuses mainly on oppressed groups and manifestations of violence and injustice. The primary motivation for his artwork was his own experience with bullying, verbal and physical violence, which he, as a gay man in a small western Bohemian town, encountered throughout his whole adolescence. It was then that he first reached for a camera and captured his experiences to share them with his closest ones. The result was a series of eight photographs, Dream Life, the starting point for his future work. In his opinion, injustice and oppression are constantly recurring. Only the time, the scenery, and the actors change.
The exhibition The Beauty of Oppression looks at these themes in various ways. While on the one hand, it shows the manifestations and consequences of immediate violence and injustice in a straightforward manner, on the other hand, it deals with the topic in hints through subtle works.
In a series of twelve photographic sequences entitled Poor Morning of Marie B., the artist tells a fictional story from the end of the Second World War. It is set in the Bohemian Forest (Böhmerwald) region of western Bohemia, primarily inhabited by Germans who had lived alongside Czechs for centuries. After the war, most Czech-Germans were expelled from their homes, and thousands of innocent civilians were murdered in retaliation. For a long time, this topic was taboo in the Czech society, and only in recent years has there been a broader debate about these acts. Houdek has been working on this topic for several years, and his series The Art of Killing, exhibited in 2013 in the public space in Prague, caused a stir. With the help of dolls, it reconstructs specific 1945 massacres, which were swept under the carpet by the traditional narrative of the Czechs as victims of war. The images were then displayed as billboards on the main corridors in Prague’s center. Thousands of people drove past them every day for several months. In the video series Poor Morning of Maria B., Houdek points out that violence is always violence, whether it happens to Czech or German women. The viewer does not know what nationality Marie B. was, and the decision is up to them. In May 1945, both Czech and German women were victims of rape.
The Lilies series of photo portraits depict the transgender Hijra community in the Indian metropolis of Delhi, whom Lukáš Houdek has been portraying for a long time. Although they have been a respected part of the Indian society for centuries, due to the colonization of India by Great Britain and the implementation of its laws, Hijras became a criminalized group. Today they are among the most marginalized sections of Indian society. Hijras find themselves in a schizophrenic situation. Many Indians still believe in their magical powers, and any traditional Indian wedding cannot be held without their blessings out of superstition. However, at the same time, they are a target of discrimination and physical and sexual violence.
Two of Houdek’s projects in the Bucharest exhibition touch on women’s status within their own families. In a series of 48 photographs entitled All My Mother’s Knitters, he has created an intimate portrait of the most important woman in his life. The underwear, usually hidden from the public eye, reflects his mother’s personality and dedication to her family and her position in it. In his new installation, Happiness, created especially for this exhibition, he works with his grandmother Josefa’s reflections on her life with her husband, the artist’s grandfather, whom he did not have the opportunity to get to know better. However, throughout his childhood, the ideal life she told her grandson about acquires cracks with the onset of adulthood and critical reflection when the author realizes that the humorous stories are actually full of restrictions on personal freedom and violence.
The Bucharest exhibition The Beauty of Oppression is the first presentation of Lukáš Houdek’s work in Romania. Although it is mainly based on Czech realities, its themes are also relevant to the Romanian context and dealing with the position of marginalized groups.
Lukáš Houdek (1984) is a Czech artist, activist, and documentary filmmaker. Since 2013, he has been leading the Czech government’s HateFree Culture campaign. He studied Romani Studies (Romani culture, history, and language) at Charles University in Prague. In his artistic work, he mainly deals with xenophobia, injustice, and violence. Since 2017, he has drawn his attention to the radio, where he has been working on similar topics in audio documentaries for the wider public. His documentary White Wears Death, about the stigmatization of albinos in Ghana, Africa, won the 2019 Journalism Award. This year he was awarded the Grand Prix at the International Portrait Triennial (Liptovská galéria P. M. Bohúň) for a work touching on the artist’s experience of sexual violence.