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The work of Eva Kotátková examines institutions
and disciplinary systems, from primary schools to
prisons, considering the ways in which they can
determine behavior. Using what she describes as
an “archaeological” approach, Kotátková dissects
the mechanisms underlying the everyday, often
using her own experiences, memories, and
personal history as a point of departure. In her
work, the “invisible cages, hurdles, and barriers”
that regulate and restrict mental life are often
rendered as literal modes of confinement,
performance, sculpture, installation, and collage
to viscerally articulate the psychical effects of
social pressures.

In her installation Re-education Machine (2011),
the classroom is reimagined as a torture chamber,
with fragments of a printing press used
in Czechoslovakia in the 1960s and 1970s
transformed into a device for imprisonment;
the work points to the ways in which a system
intended to enlighten and encourage can
be abused; instead made into a vehicle for
propagandistic indoctrination. Likewise, her
installations of altered books and surrealistic
collages often employ instructional manuals,
textbooks, and educational materials, creating
human-machine hybrids that are arranged into
stark, schematic configurations.

More recently, Kotátková has turned to a
consideration of psychiatric institutions and
notions of mental health. For her 2011 project
Unsigned (Gugging), she worked with patients
at the Gugging Clinic in Austria (known for
its central role in the development of Art Brut)
to explore the parallel worlds invented by
psychiatric patients, who expressed complex
inner universes through their art. Similarly,
for the project Asylum (2013), Kotátková
collaborated with patients at the Bohnice
psychiatric hospital outside Prague, resulting in
an installation based on the social hierarchies
and modes of communication envisioned by
the patients. Composed of collages suspended
in glass, propped against shelves, or held in
bizarre containers, the installation suggests an
alternative body politic designed around a vision
of a fragmented body, reflecting the perspective
of those who live outside the normative social


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September 3