Rona Stern


Keep Calm

Klubovna Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic - 2017

Curator:  Marta Fišerová

Text by:
 Marta Fišerová

Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain.

Sunny, you smiled at me and really eased the pain.

The dark days are gone, and the bright days are here,

My Sunny one shines so sincere.

Sunny one so true, I love you.

Sunny … sounded in my head every time I opened the door to Klubovna where Rona Stern was preparing exhibition KEEP CALM. Few days before the opening, the melody and the lyrics of the song occupied my head from the moment I opened my eyes at the morning till I closed them again at the evening. Closed eyes gave additional effect in the form of palm trees sliced into strips.

Going through the exhibition of Rona Stern is like browsing a catalog of travel agencies with the title “great exotic vacation.” Her works are a combination of carefully selected readymade objects, cheap kitsch with the label “Made in PRC” and shine spoon baits in the style of Bonney M. combined with a hobby market Bauhaus (which she incidentally calles her “temple”). Rona is inspired by pictures she meets on the streets, on the marketplace or on internet. These pictures she transforms into installation, which brings the feeling that we are standing in front of the altar. The alter of our bizarre today society. Rona ironically deconstructs visible reality and cultural context. Information she mixes carefully and draws her own conclusions.

I find indirect political dimension. Keep Calm and relax. Videos with dolphins, waterfall or a beach – unified environments that symbolize single thing – peace and still life, which I perceive as a gesture of escapism. An attempt to escape from the reality of the country from which Rona comes from – from the constant – trained security vigilance; The rising of popularity of nationalist political parties, the decline of traditionally strong left wing; from the tense atmosphere in the society, that is divided to many ideological groups with different interests and ideas concerning its future direction. Keep Calm and breathe, says Rona.

She offers a garden bench – so the viewer can calmly watch the waterfall or a beach. Offers an island, that she dreams about… easy going path through life, at least for a short moment. It seems to be simple. But as it sometimes happens, it is simple only at first glance.

The exhibition is a synthetic model of an island, secret garden suitable for escape. Everything is “fake” in the pejorative sense of the word. Omg, people, where it will lead us? asks Rona. Are we moving toward a world where one day everything will be just a substitute? Artificial stone? I would compare the exhibition to the indoor ski resort in Dubai or to the largest artificial beach in the world, in a shopping center next to the Chinese city Chongqing – where Rona spent a three-month residency – with a giant LED screen that simulates the sunset over the glittering sea. In Rona Stern’s exhibition, exotic island or secret garden transforms into a foolish garden folly. It becomes a strange caprice that falls out of a context, amuses or irritates.

I enjoy this instant paradise, but as soon as the song Sunny one so true … starts to fade in my head, I start to feel hopeless impasse. I am not reassured by models of zen gardens that lack their calmness. Concentrated presence of “fake” world, that maybe for some people can be attractive, forcess me to look into the history.

I am reassuring myself that to build the ruins of Jan Castle was as foolish as to write applications for iPhone like “fire in your fireplace,” and that we will continue the shake our heads over such nonsense and we will not allow them to become a part of our live. So, KEEP CALM and be optimist.
Curator: Marta Fišerová

Listen to a short talk about the show

Photos: Barbora Trnková & Tomáš Javůrek
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©Rona Stern