Here, the visual counterpart to classical images of mythological paradise reveals the other side: reality. Paradise is fascinating, as is reality.
The Dark Side of Paradise was the name of Andrej Kolenčík’s solo exhibition at Nitra Gallery. It dealt with the topic of end-of-the-world — or possibly apocalypse — scenarios. Kolenčík presented his vision and the current social situation in the form of drawings and graphical images. His point of view may be unexpected, as it entertains pessimism and a certain darkness. The darkness is not about losing faith in the world but about motivating us to try to find solutions or have some kind of an awakening.
Appropriately, this post-apocalyptic topic was held in the gallery’s subterranean space, the Bunker. Kolenčík created a multimedia zone, a paradise garden of underground pleasures, a post-factual environment of a post-factual period. As curator Omar Mirza states: “Post-comics, post-graffiti, post-graphic post-design, post-thinking, all this and much more and maybe something completely different can be found in an organic network of tangled fragments of static and moving images, objects, noises and buzz — on the walls, projections and screens, in real space and yet unreal, in time returned or averted.”
The puzzle is carefully crafted with references to the origins of graffiti, ancient Mexican culture, punk, metal, and more. Kolenčík plays with texts and with his own typefaces, which all merge into illustration — you cannot establish a clear border between genres here. The complexity of visual material refers to the complexity of today’s problems. The name of the exhibition openly refers back to Baudelaire.
When Charles Baudelaire describes the conditions induced by hashish, opium and wine in his book of 1860, Artificial Paradises, he also warns his readers about the devastating consequences of the illusion of pleasure that these drugs create. The exhibition points to our everyday artificial paradises, which consciously and subconsciously flow into our veins. On the other side of the illusions about perfection, performance, desires and needs, are the only accurate views and ideals of beauty, shining on us from screens and billboards.
Visitors could even participate in creating their own stories in the available colouring books. This interactive aspect indicates that we have a choice. A choice between good and evil, beauty and ugliness, normalcy and perversion. The question remains: how to build a paradise for everyone?