Ján Mančuška

only those wild species that appeal to people will survive

Jan Mancuska (born 1972 in Bratislava, Slovakia) presents a selection of his most recent and newly produced works at the Kunsthalle Basel. His film and video installations involve specially designed architecture, built to contain a range of projection devices that create specific viewing conditions for each work. The installations function as a sequence of interrelated settings within the exhibition space. Mancuska employs cinematic techniques (such as random editing) that introduce discontinuity into the filmic time-space structure.

With his title – only those wild species that appeal to people will survive – which is taken from a scientific article in a popular magazine, Mancuska alludes to the mutual dependency of nature and humankind. This ambivalent relationship can also be described in terms of the “other” or “alien” as an entity required by man in order to be able to reflect himself. The figure of the Other – that which creates difference between us and the world and is in fact what constitutes our identity in the first place – is also the subject of Mancuska’s installation The Other (2007). Strips of film, presented hanging in front of light boxes, document an action photographed by Mancuska in which a woman applies paint to all those parts of a man’s body that he cannot see himself. In the course of the performance a peculiar comic effect is produced, since the man’s body grows blacker and blacker, showing just how little of himself he can perceive. The man’s appearance becomes more like that of a ‘savage’ native – a favourite subject of early psychoanalytical studies. The Other revolves around the staged failure of the complete representation of a human and the seductive power of reflection – themes that also underlie the other works in this exhibition.

In a new video work, Mancuska alludes to one of the pioneering works of the avant-garde, Marcel Duchamp’s Nude descending a staircase (1912). In Duchamp’s painting, motion is indicated by multiple superimposed images – a reference to the technique of chronophotography. For his video, Mancuska filmed a short sequence of a naked woman descending a staircase and then edited this footage digitally according to a random mathematical principle. A chaotic structure of constant visual flashbacks and leaps emerges with the result that the viewer’s mental and physical ability to remember is the only means with which to establish continuity between the images.

In the film installation Killer without a cause (2006), Mancuska tells the story of a man who starts to measure the passage of time by means of different mental and visual experiments. Fiction and reality merge as the story unfolds, and it is unclear what is taking place in the man’s imagination and what he is actually experiencing. The installation is a reversal of a conventional cinema set-up: a large 35 mm projector projects a 2.6 x 3.6 cm image onto the reel of a second projector installed opposite it. The loud noise of the projectors and the tiny projection screen make it difficult to watch the film and cause viewers to focus on themselves as perceiving subjects.

Another installation, Missing Room (2008), includes lines of text suspended on metal wires in the space. The text tells the story of someone who is trying to map out an indefinite space with the help of the language: “There is another set of doors in the room, but those which I entered through are no longer there. Or is it that there are only those which I came through?” This description of an attempt to find one’s bearings inside an unknown space is repeated in the oblique arrangement of the text in space, preventing viewers from reading the entire story at once.
Simone Neuenschwander

Online review and video of the opening at

In conjunction with the exhibition, Jan Mancuska presented his film If there is anything good about me, I’m the only one who knows (2007-08) at the Stadtkino Basel (Klostergasse 5) on February 26, 2008, at 8pm.

Jan Mancuska (born in 1972, Bratislava, Slovakia. Lives and works in Prague).

Solo exhibitions (selection):

2007: westlondonprojects, London; The Invisible: Acting in Sequences, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt am Main; A Gap, Meyer Riegger, Karlsruhe / 2006: The First Minute of the Rest of a Movie (with Jonas Dahlberg), Kunstverein Bonn, Bonn; Neue Kunsthalle St. Gallen, St. Gallen / 2005: Home Alone, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin; True Story, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York; Time in Sequences, City Gallery Bratislava, Palffy Palace, Bratislava / 2004: Jan Mancuska, Marc Foxx (West Gallery), Los Angeles; Read it…, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York.

Group exhibitions (selection):

2007: Against time, Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm; There is no border…, Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck; Made in Germany, Kunstverein Hannover, Han-nover; Zwischen zwei Toden / between two deaths, ZKM Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe / 2006: Yes Bruce Nauman, Zwirner & Wirth, New York; Sammlung Thyssen Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; tranzit: Auditoriu, Stage, Backstage. An Exposure in 32 Acts, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt am Main; I/Ich, Performative Onthology, Secession, Vienna; Of Mice and Men, 4th Berlin Biennale, Berlin / 2005: Model of World, Quadrophonia, Czech and Slovakia Pavilion, Venice Biennale, Venice / 2002: Manifesta 4, Frankfurt am Main.

The exhibition is supported by:
Erste Bank–Gruppe