Pavla Sceranková (*1980), though young in years, is a mature artist in her work. A native of Košice, living since the year 2000 in Prague, she has successfully established herself in the neighboring scene. Confirmation of this is, among other things, the fact that twice (in the years 2007 and 2015) she became a finalist for the Jindřich Chalupecký Prize. In 2010 she was also placed among the finalists for the Slovak variant, the Oskár Čepan Prize. She has completed several solo exhibitions, most of which were held in Prague, Brno, and Bratislava, and has participated in many group exhibitions at home and abroad (Hungary, Italy, Belgium, Poland, USA, Norway, Germany, Austria, Russia, France, Holland).
In the following text, I will analyze a number of (intersecting) concepts or fields that are crucial for Sceranková’s work, which is formally diverse but inwardly consistent.
INTERMEDIALITY: Sceranková completed her master’s and doctoral studies in the Department of Intermedia Work at Prague’s AVU, where she currently works as a teacher. We see her principally, however, as a sculptor. Not a person who carves or modeling, but a sculptor who sticks, screws, beats things together – a contemporary artist who seeks non-traditional possibilities for sculpture and object “in space, time and context”. However, she does not confine herself to the medium of the sculpture/object but also works with video and action. In her own words, from her dissertation: “The early forms of video art do not relate only to the movable image, they also relate to its bearer: to the object of the TV set. The video space is subject to its own physical laws, which are constantly changing and developing along with the technology on which it depends. In this imaginary space, the object or performer becomes a digital sculpture – a video sculpture.” Hence also Sceranková uses the designation “video sculptures” rather than “videos” for her artworks, and the work with video is at the same time work with space, movement, the body.
DIY: The material artefacts which she creates (leaving aside for the moment videos, animations etc.) may be designated more as objects than sculptures. In many cases a found object becomes part of them or the main component; as a rule, it is an authentic object from the artist’s family setting (for example, in the series A Visit Home, 2010, and the installation Clash of Galaxies, 2014). A second large part of Scerankova’s “material” works consists of expansive objects “hammered together” (or screwed or stuck together...) from cheap materials such as OSB board, polystyrene, MDF board, or plywood, evoking the DIY aesthetic (e.g. Mixer, 2007; Caravan of Love, Idem, both from 2009; The Art of Non-measurable Scientific Questions, 2011). What is “sculptural” in these objects is the fact that they are based on an evident manual craftsmanship: always one can sense in them the work of the artist’s hands. We are aware of Sceranková’s physical work on the artwork, her vital, active corporality. That is transmitted to imagined interactivity with the viewer, who is invited to touch the objects, manipulate them, or directly enter them. The objects (installations, video sculptures) are actualized (vitalized) at the moment when they enter the live awareness of the viewer.
PERCEPTION: Sceranková is conscious that “each perception is to some degree a fantasy: a mode of how the body perceives the world”. This insight fascinates her, and she examines it from all possible angles, relying on what she herself has lived and experienced. For example: through a shift in the form of the object she attempts to express the emotion which was felt when she came into contact with the given object. In this mode, mopping a table in the series A Visit Home (2010), she speaks of her fear of spilled coffee. In Granny’s Apartment Remembered and Real (2007) she reconstructs the basic plan of the apartment on the basis of memories. She applied a specific approach when creating Report from the Neocortex/Observatorium (2011), where she sought to give one of her dreams the form of an object. In her dissertation (published as a book with the title Thought Without Image) Sceranková also takes up the theoretical question of vision or perception generally, while placing emphasis on subjectivity and on the distortion of the objectively quantifiable world in concrete awareness. She examines, for example, the phenomenon of “blind spots”: those places which we leave aside, do not observe, in the process of seeing. In her own words, sometimes the language of science is just as fantastical as the language of art. She regards art as a mode of expressing a reality that is objectively non-measurable and indescribable. Thus, for example, the object with the eloquent title The Art of Non-measurable Scientific Questions (2011) represents “a visual attempt to capture the situation in which what we conceive becomes the only thing we see, when thought devours the unrealized possibilities of the encounter.”
For us to decipher the language of art, for us as viewers really to enter the unique time-space of Seranková’s works, we must have an open (or more precisely empty) mind – while we are swallowed up by our own flow of thoughts and ideas about the world, we cannot perceive the situation that she offers us.
SPACE: This artist’s interest in architecture and space was realized not long ago in the form of the structural resolution of Apparatus for a Utopian Image (EFA Project Space, New York, 2016), an exhibition which Sceranková prepared as curator, together with her husband Dušan Zahoranský. A further joint realization is the children’s playground in Litomyšl (2017).
More than space in the positivist sense, what interests her is the manner in which space is subjectively (not) perceived. Real space and the objects in it change in dependence on the specific consciousness which actually perceives them. Sceranková proceeds as a rule from her own experiences (or, as she would say, encounters). Subjective perception of movement in space appears as a theme in a video sculpture with the title Go Away. Come Back (2009), which is inspired by a real experience of walking over a bridge. The strange construction of the bridge gave the artist the sensation, when crossing it, that the opposite banks of the river were at a certain moment approaching each other, only to be subsequently pushed apart from each other once again. She afterward constructed a mobile object on the principle of approaching and receding, which in reality was saying something about issues of human relationships.
A further transcription of a constellation of relationships is Idem (2009), an object which completes the statement made by the video sculpture Go Away. Come Back. This is a circular construction, which one may enter, and which brings viewers through one exhibition room from door to door without seeing the room they are actually in, or conversely, without seeing what is going on within the object.
LANGUAGE OF ART: Pavla Sceranková is never literal, illustrative. The search for a form for her works proceeds from the conviction that art has its own specific language at its disposal, which is not translatable into the language of words. She believes that art has the ability not just to speak of a situation (describe it) but to actualize the situation (experience, encounter) in real time. Despite the fact that the artist herself is of a rational disposition and in large measure takes the natural sciences as a starting point in her analyses, in this respect she approaches the magical conception of the world, in which individual things do not function as symbols referring to something else but directly “are” what they refer to. Art is actually a form of “enchantment” – this is all the more true of Sceranková, in that the things in her installations, objects, and video sculptures come to life and slip free of physical laws. The goal of art, as she conceives it, is not to talk about something, but to make it possible for the viewer to enter the given situation (e.g. memories, emotions) here and now. Hence not “to gaze” but to experience.
MACROCOSM: In 2013 the artist caused a surprise with her exhibition in the Prague City Gallery, which was entitled Woman on the Moon and addressed the theme of the universe. The name of the exhibition was inspired by the eponymous German sci-fi film of 1929. At the same time, as is Sceranková’s custom, one of the exhibited artifacts is a narration or materialization of real experience – a meeting with obese women at a public swimming pool. The central work of the exhibition, The First Woman, depicts a mighty metal figure, carrying a wardrobe on its back – incredible, but equally a functional connection of a “banal” experience and a universal theme, namely the phenomenon of conquest of the universe and the almost entire absence of women in this process. An installation entitled Planetary System consists of enormous balls of wool, representing the planets of our Solar System. Viewers were called on to knit scarves from these balls of wool, which consequently connected the “planet” with the central axis, representing the Sun. Hence a typically female, socially non-highlighted activity such as knitting is here exalted as a symbol of the creative energy that holds together the movement of the entire universe. Women, as is well known, throughout history have composed only a small percentage of the recognized artists or other socially appreciated professions. Sceranková places the two modes of creation and self-realization (masculine –socially active, and feminine – maternal) on an equal level, showing that although they are different, from a global standpoint they have equal value. This project prefigured the artist’s turn from the theme of the microcosmos (personal experiences, domestic setting, intimate relationships) to the macro-cosmos (planets, galaxies, cosmonauts).
She continued this theme with her projects Constellation (2013) and Clash of Galaxies (2014). Both of these were spatial installations concerned with the movement of heavenly bodies. In Constellation Sceranková created a model of the Great Bear constellation. This expansive installation consisted of scaffolding pipes with which old office chairs are held together (the latter were originally to be found in the Moravian Gallery in Brno). If the position of one were to be changed, that would affect all the others. Sceranková’s Constellation is a static structure where “the individual members of the system, i.e. the office chairs, are held together in positions which make any kind of action impossible. The mutual relations are subordinated to the threat of collapse.”
Clash of Galaxies, in contrast, is a kinetic system. It counts on the input of the viewer, who will set the individual components in motion. The work is in a certain sense a transcription of an event described in astronomy when two galaxies collide. This is a paradoxical situation: although fundamental changes take place in the arrangement of the matter of the galaxies (their shape is deformed, new stars are created, etc.), nonetheless this happens without physical contact between the individual stars and planets. Furthermore, if the entire process is artificially accelerated and we see it in the form of animation, it is a dramatic and dynamic event. In real time, however, it proceeds at such length that human consciousness cannot perceive it. Sceranková’s installation consists of six metal stands with horizontally rotating arms, with halves of porcelain objects (cup, saucer, etc.) fixed to the end of them. The second half of a given object will be found on the arm of an adjacent stand, and in the turning movement of all the arms, the individual parts come close to each other at certain intervals, without ever touching or joining.
RELATIONSHIPS: The use of objects from the domestic setting again refers us to the family environment, with the atmosphere of a relatives’ visit or a ceremonial meal. The tense relationships between family members, unexpressed emotions, the effort to maintain “decorum” at the table – all of that could be a “microcosmic” equivalent of the clash of galaxies.
A Visit Home (2010), mentioned above, is a series consisting of ordinary domestic objects (e.g. hoover, conference table, lamp...) that have lost or changed their original function, and instead of that express a memory or a feeling which the artist experienced (in the past) when she had an interaction with them.
Sceranková’s most recent accomplishment and her first in public space is the six-meter sculpture The Constellation of the Passenger (2018), permanently sited in Prague close to the Pankrác station. This also combines themes of the macrocosm and individual human experience. On the formal side, this steel sculpture evokes the model of a constellation (a system of balls held together by rods); from another aspect it is a female figure, solitary, facing who knows what challenges and fate. The sculpture responds to the history of the given location. Until 1986 there was a bus station at Pankrác, at that time the largest in the city. On its side today there is a new administrative center, surrounded by older apartment houses. Many of the apartment dwellers remember an entirely different Pankrác, which today is gone irrevocably. The “traveling” astral passenger thus represents an attempt to connect the new complex with the older memory of the city and especially of its inhabitants – to create a point of encounter.
Sceranková’s sculptures, then, are never just “sculptures”: their meaning, operation and form branch out in the most unexpected (and entertaining) directions. At the inception of each work, there is a personal experience, a complicated life situation, a distant memory, sometimes a dream. Remarkably, the admitted subjectivity in the choice of themes changes in the course of the work’s accomplishment to a statement of surprisingly general validity, which we can extend to our own lives and experience, and which at the same time reaches to the stars.
Alexandra Tamásová, November 2018
photo (portrait): Lucia Sceranková
 Paraphrased from the website of the Studio of Intermedia Work II/school of Dušan Zahoranský and Pavla Sceranková, https://www.avu.cz/category/avu-menu/akademie/ateli%C3%A9ry/ateli%C3%A9r-intermedi%C3%A1ln%C3%AD-tvorby-ii-%C5%A1kola-du%C5%A1ana-z%C3%A1horansk%C3%A9ho-pavly- accessed 28.11.2018
 Sceranková, Pavla: Mysl bez obrazu .(Thought Without Image) Brno: Dexon Art a OFF/FORMAT, 2012, p. 37
 Sceranková, P.: op. cit.,., p. 18
 Sceranková, P.: op. cit.
 Sceranková, P.: op. cit., p. 50
Individual Exhibitions (selection):
2018 – 2019
Souhvězdí Pasažérky. Sculptural realization in Pankrác as a winning competition design. Starship Enterprise a.s., Prague (CZ)
Surface Tensions. (with Lucia Sceranková), curator: Lily Hall, Pump House Gallery, London (UK)
Staré světlo v Oddělení galaxií. Curator: Ján Zálešák, Fait gallery, Brno (CZ)
Žena na měsíci. Curator: Sandra Baborovská, Prague City Gallery, Prague (CZ)
Chybějící kapitola. Curator: Tereza Stejskalová, Drdova Gallery, Prague (CZ)
Nahlas. Curator: Nina Vrbanová, Cyprián Majerník Gallery, Bratislava (SK)
Správa z neokortexu. Curator: Sandra Baborovská, Dům U Zlatého prstenu, Prague City Gallery, Prague (CZ)
Alles wird gut. Curator: František Kowolovski, G99, Brno (CZ)
Hlavo Lam. Curator: Ján Zálešák, BKC, Brno (CZ)
Otevřeno zavřeno otevřeno... Curators: Monika Sybolová, Ondřej Horák, Gas Station near Slané (CZ)
Kapusta. Curator: Michal Pěchouček, Jelení Gallery, Prague (CZ)
Group Exhibitions (selection):
Bakelit. Contemporary Slovak Art. Curator: Vladimír Beskid, Miskolci galéria, Miskolc (HU)
Pocta súknu: textil v kontextu umění. Curators: Emma Hanzlíková a Markéta Vinglerová. zóna 8smička, Humpolec (CZ)
Kdo je vítězem. Curator: Yvona Ferencová, Gallery of Fine Art in Ostrava, Ostrava (CZ)
Nová díla ve sbírkách GHMP. City Library – Prague City Gallery, Prague (CZ)
Hidden Beauty. Curators: Marina Dacci, Krištof Kintera, Sara Zanin Gallery Rome, Rome (IT)
Pavla Sceranková and Alexandra Vajd. Art Brussels, Brussels (BE)
Médium: Figura. Curator: Sandra Baborovská, Colloredo – Mansfeld palác, Prague City Gallery, Prague (CZ)
Divadlo statického objektu. PAF, Olomouc (CZ)
Apparatus for a Utopian Image. Curators: Pavla Sceranková, Dušan Zahoranský, EFA Project Space, New York (US)
Jindřich Chalupecký Award / Final 2015. The Moravian Gallery in Brno, Brno (CZ)
Beyond the Obvious. Curator: Zita Sárvári, Deák Erika Gallery, Inda Gallery, Viltin, Budapest (HU)
Model. Curator: Ladislav Kesner, Rudolfinum Gallery, Prague (CZ)
The Soft Codes. Conceptual Tendencies in Slovak Art. Curator: Vladimír Beskid, Wroclaw Contemporary Museum, Wroclaw (PL)
Rekonštrukcie. Curators: Vladimíra Büngerová, Petra Hanáková, Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava (SK)
Europe, Europe. Curators: Hans Ulrich Obrist, Thomas Boutoux, Gunnar B. Kvaran, Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo (NO)
Circular Ruins. Curator: Jean-Marc Avrilla, Meetfacory Gallery, Prague and Institut Francais de Prague, Prague (CZ)
9th Biennial of Photography and Visual Arts. Liege (BE)
VII. Nový zlínský salon. Regional Gallery of Fine Arts in Zlín, Zlín (CZ)
Republika postav. Curator: Tereza Stejskalová, Tranzitdisplay, Prague (CZ)
Jamais Vu. Curator: Maria Niemyjska, Art Gallery Wozownia, Torun (PL)
Things and People. Curators: Michal Jachula, Arsenal Gallery, Bialystok (PL)
Grey Zone. Curator: Zita Sárvári, Krokus gallery, Bratislava (SK)
TRIKO – Triennial of Contemporary Art Košice 2013. Curator: Vladimír Beskid, Kunsthalle/ Hala umenia Košice, Košice (SK)
Slova mezi tvary / Tvary mezi jmény. Curator: Denisa Kujelová, Martin Nytra, Fait Gallery, Brno (CZ)
Systems and Accidents. Curator: Lýdia Pribišová, Exelettrofonica, Rome (IT)
The Stars Look Different Today. Curator: Zita Sárvári, Dovin Gallery Budapest, Budapest (HU)
Opak je pravdou. Curator: Karina Kottová, Meetfacory Gallery, Prague (CZ)
Začátek století. Masné krám. Curator: Pavlína Morganová, Gallery of West Bohemia in Plzeň, Plzeň (CZ)
Ostrovy odporu. Mezi první a druhou moderností 1985-2012. Curators: Jiří and Jana Ševčíkovi, Edith Jeřábková, National Galler Prague, Prague (CZ)
Play nature work future. Curator: Alena Drahokoupilová, TZB Gallery, Berlin (DE)
Shorts Amorpha. British Film Institute, London (UK)
Raum Selbst. Curator: Friederike Hauffe, Art House Brno, Brno (CZ)
Prague Biennale 5. Curators: Vjera Borozan, Mariana Serranová, Microna, Prague (CZ)
Critical Space. Curator: Áron Fenyvesi, Trafó Galéria, Budapest (HU)
Home Edition. The Central Slovakian Gallery, Banská Bystrica and East Slovakia Gallery, Košice (SK)
Interview. Nitra Gallery, Nitra (SK)
Young Art Biennale ZVON 2010. Curator: Tomáš Pospiszyl, Dům U Kamenného zvonu, Prague City Gallery, Prague (CZ)
Oskár Čepan Award 2010. Médium Gallery, Bratislava (SK)
Collectors. The Czecho-Slovak Pavilion. Curators: Lucie Drdová, Martin Mazanec, Brot Kunsthalle, Vienna (AT)
Situation, 3rd Moscow Biennale. Curator: Elizabeth M. Grady, Moscow (RU)
V. Zlínský salon mladých. Regional Gallery of Fine Arts in Zlín, Zlín (CZ)
Objekt animace. Třetí smysl. Curators: Martin Mazanec, House of Art in Zlín, Zlín (CZ)
Současný český kubismus. Curators: Václav Magid, Vasil Artamonov, Old Town Hall, Prague City Gallery, Prague (CZ)
Videoart.cz. Space, Bratislava (SK)
Jindřich Chalupecký Award – Final. Entrance Gallery, Prague (CZ)
Klasse Cragg. UDK Berlin, Berlin (DE)
Hrubý domácí produkt 2. M’ARS Center for Contemporary Arts, Moscow (RU)
Vylepšený model, kulhavý efekt. NoD, Prague (CZ)
Forma následuje… risk. Curators: Jiří Ševčík, Jana Ševčíková, Monika Mitášová, Futura and Karlin Studios, Prague (CZ)
Skúter – Young Art Biennale. Curator: Vladimír Beskid, Ján Koniarek Gallery, Trnava (SK)
Punctum. Curator: Václav Magid, Futura, Prague (CZ)
RE/ACT Festival. Schloss, Universität Mannheim (DE)
Bad good girl. Kino Blow Up, Berlin (DE)
Best Of Festivals 'BO2'. Médiatheque José Cabanis, Toulouse (F)
Essl Award. Contemporary Gallery, Prague (CZ)
Extended Views. Video festival, Amsterdam (NL)
Martinu Reloaded. AMU. Curator: Daniel Pitín, Bohuslav Martinů Hall, Prague (CZ)
DACCI, Marina – KINTERA, Krištof (Ed.): Hidden Beauty. Catalogue, Roma: Z2O Sara Zannin gallery, 2018
KESNER, Ladislav: Model. Catalogue, Prague: Rudolfinum Gallery, 2015, ISBN: 9788073534714
BESKID, Vladimír (Ed.): Soft Codes. Conceptual Tendencies in Slovak Art. Catalogue, Wroclaw: Wrocław Contemporary Museum, 2015
SCERANKOVÁ, Pavla: Constellations. Catalogue, Brno: Bohemian Gallery in Brno, 2014
SCERANKOVÁ, Pavla: Woman in the Moon. Catalogue, Prague: Prague City Gallery, 2013
LEDVINA, Josef: Realizace soukromého vesmíru. In: Art + antiques, 4/2013, p. 71
SCERANKOVÁ, Pavla. In: Flash Art CZ/ SK, 12/2012 – 3/2013, p. 58
VITVAR, Jan H.: Zlehčit a odlehčit. In: Respekt, 15/2013, p. 66-67
VRBANOVÁ, Nina: Sceranková na Mesiaci. In: Ateliér 8/2013, p. 1, ISSN 1210-5236
SCERANKOVÁ, Pavla. Catalogue. Dexon Art s.r.o. in cooperation with OFF/FORMAT Gallery, Brno, 2012, ISBN 978-80-904271-4-3
SCERANKOVÁ, Pavla: Mysl bez obrazu. Catalogue. Dexon Art s.r.o. in cooperation with OFF/FORMAT Gallery, Brno, 2012, ISBN 978-80-904271-5-0
ŠEVČÍK, Jiří – JEŘABKOVÁ, Edith – ŠEVČIKOVÁ, Jana (Ed.): The Islands of Resistance. Between the First and Second Modernity 1985–2012. Catalogue, Prague: National Gallery Prague, 2012
MORGANOVÁ, Pavlína (Ed.): The Beginning of the Century. Katalóg. Pilsen: Regional Museum in Plisen, 2012
SCERANKOVÁ, Pavla. In: Artforum, 12/2010, p. 21