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September 29, 2022



Exhibition by Robert Gabris in Czech capital shows how he believes the majority society perceives minorities

9.8.2022 7:28
The exhibition
The exhibition "Insectopia" by Robert Gabris. (PHOTO: Prague Pride)

An auxiliary program to the Prague Pride festival has opened at the Artwall outdoor gallery located along the river embankment in the center of Prague (nábřeží kpt. Jaroše and nábřeží Edvarda Beneše). The artist Robert Gabris presents the experience of a member of a sexual minority who is also a members of and ethnic group rejected by a significant part of the majority society, in his view.

The exhibition, called "Insectopia", will be on view until 15 September. Curator Zuzana Štefková explains the artist's intention by quoting from Sister Outsider, a book by the Black American feminist activist, author and poet Audre Lorde in which she recalls the racist approach taken toward her by those who are members of the majority in her society. 

Lorde recounts her childhood experience of a white woman in the New York City subway moving away from her to sit elsewhere in the car with an expression of disgust, and describes how she assumed the cause of the middle-class lady's disgust must be some kind of insect - probably a cockroach - that must have been between them on the seat. Finding no such disgusting object there, she realizes she herself is the reason the woman has chosen to sit elsewhere. 

"Insectopia" is based on the lived experience of a member of more than one minority. While Gabris does not want to be labeled as a "Romani artist", Romaniness is one of his crucial subjects. 

The artist's own body is at the center of his work, through which he records his experience of being dehumanized on the basis of his identities as queer and as Romani. Wrapped with ropes and framed with sticks of bamboo, his body is reminiscent of an enlarged insect in the collection of an entomologist, or of an anthropological museum exhibit. 

This tension between the "human and non-human" is augmented by a series of images on silk that were created by imprinting parts of the artist's body such as his ears, fingers, genitalia and hands. Gabris knits all these components into a story of double marginalization - the experience of a member of a sexual minority and also that of an ethnic group rejected by a significant part of the majority society.

Gabris was born in 1986 in Hnúšťa, Slovakia (then part of Czechoslovakia). After completing his Bachelor's studies in set design at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava, he studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Vienna, Austria. 

In his creations, which fluctuate between using conceptual drawing, installations and video, his subject matter is frequently the intersections of identities that are marginalized. His works have been displayed in both group and solo exhibitions in Bangkok, Riga and Shanghai.

Appreciators of art in the Czech Republic have been able to see his work in the Biennale Matter of Art (2020 and 2022), in the Artivist Lab gallery (2019) or in Brno at the Moravian Gallery (2017). In 2021 he won a Jindřich Chalupecký Award for his installation entitled "Error".   

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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