Art out of the underground in the course of time

Yvonne Roos

With the two women presented here, features artists of different generations from the underground who question pop culture and social structures and free themselves from established values.

Before Czech artist Naděžda Plíšková became better known, she operated from the underground. During the Czech normalisation, she was not allowed to exhibit her art; her art was considered too modern and therefore was not in line with the government. Even though censored artists did not necessarily create art of a subversive, anti-government or antisocial nature, their work was deemed as illegal because it did not correspond with the officially desired art. Plíšková therefore produced samizdat (Russian for «self-publishing») editions. These were passed on from person to person, thus avoiding censorship in socialist Eastern Europe.  

In the artists' group «The Crusader School of Pure Humour without Wit», Plíšková produced art contrary to the officially prevailing definition of art. Through regular meetings, the underground artists, usually in a pub, sought inspiration for their own work, as well as support in the difficult political situation. With grotesque acts on the unofficial stage, they undermined the seriousness of the past and the current «normalisation phase» and created their own space of artistic freedom.  

In addition, Plíšková was also a «rarity» in the underground art scene because of her womanhood. She addressed gender roles and feminist themes in her art in an ironic way - as does the German artist Verena Kandler. Among other things, she uses advertising images for women that are full of clichés and transforms them. In doing so, she changes the message, public perception and breaks through established gender role concepts. Her exhibition venues are also often far from the barrier of institutional museums, making her art a public installation. Her work can also be found in the digital space. A space that can also be «hidden» precisely because of its sheer reach and publicity: the artist must thus be discovered unofficially, analogue as well as digital. As a result, her art appears multidimensionally in the underground. 

Works by these two artists of the different underground generations can now also be discovered at, unbound by place and time.