The departure point of Jiří David’s site-specific installation Apotheosis (2015) is the monumental painting Apotheosis of the Slavs: Slavs for Humanity (1926) by the Czech Secessionist artist Alphonse Mucha (1860 – 1939). This, the last in the series The Slav Epic (1911 – 1926), consisting of twenty large canvases with a distinct romantic sentiment, is the culmination of Mucha’s heroic saga on the history of the Czechs and the Slavic nations, which he created in honour of the birth of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918. David approaches Mucha’s painting from the position of a contemporary artist with an analytical-critical point of view and an ambivalent stance. David’s gesture of appropriation and reinterpretation of Mucha’s work, represented by a black and white reworking of the original image, simultaneously constitutes an act of deconstruction enhanced by his subtle intervention in the individual parts of the composition in the form of apocrypha.
The point of the installation with intertextual crossovers is the active spectator, whom David provides with a whole range of interesting mental, emotional and visual experiences via participation in an empty space and a cramped one with the key focal point of a corridor, which presents the spectator with the challenge of submerging into the “archaeology of knowledge and memories”. Here the viewer/participant encounters the reinterpreted Apotheosis, reflected in a mirror wall of identical dimensions, and becomes an ephemeral part of it. The mirror is an important metaphor in the context of this work, because it offers the spectator the possibility of self-reflection and introspection. The installation based on meditation as well as playfulness motivates the recipients to consider geopolitical and socio-cultural issues in a timeline of more than a century and asks them questions relating to the re-evaluation of concepts such as home, country, nation, state, the history of the Czechs and the Slavic ethnic group. In this way, Apotheosis also becomes a time-specific installation that is a stimulus to critical thinking about a number of serious political, economic, socio-cultural, philosophical and sociological issues that reference the past and the present of the world in the broader relationships in which local and global issues intersect.