Issue #24, 2006

Instruction Manual
Vit Havranek

Jirí Skála is born in 1976, lives and works in Prague, Czech Republic.

Studies and stipends: 1998–2004 Academy of Fine Arts, Prague (Studios of Jirˇí David and Vladimir Skrepl). 2003 Palais de Tokyo, post-graduate program, Paris; 2004 Quartier 21, artist residency program, Museumquartier, Vienna. 2005 Art in General, artist residency program, New York. 2006 Residency in Bucharest, as a part of the project How to Do Things? – In the Middle of (No)where... organized by uqbar – Gessellschaft für Repräsentationsforschung, Berlin.

Selected solo exhibitions: 2006 Exchange of Handwriting, Art in General, New York. 2005 The Pacific has no Memory, Eskort, Brno. 2004 Local Stigma, Futura, Prague, DOS Labour Union House, poster and billboard project. 2002 Hygiena, Display, Prague.

Selected group exhibitions: 2006 I, an exhibition in 3 acts, Futura, Prague; How to Do Things? – In the Middle of (No)where..., International Center for Contempo­rary Art, Bucharest and Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, Berlin; Office Art, Gallery C2C, Prague. 2005 18111976041220005, Plan B, Cluj; Narrow Focus, Tranzit Workshops, Bratislava, SK; Prague Biennale 2 Definition of Everyday, Karlin Hall, Prague; The Need to Document, Kunsthalle Baselland, Mautzen, CH. 2004 Take it Personally, A.M. 180, Prague; Finalist of the 2004 Jindrich Chalupeck Award, Brno House of Art, Brno; The 3rd Seoul International MediaArt Biennale, Seoul, S. Korea.


Vit Havranek is an art historian and curator based in Prague, Czech Republic, He is a project leader of art-initiative based in Prague.



Skála’s pieces always develop out of some narrowly defined theme. His themes are based on observations and analyses of his own experiences with work systems, the division of labor, the economics of education and the art system. In the case at hand, the narrow theme serves as a point of departure for his thinking – which expresses itself in conversation with a narrative and almost literary expansiveness – to unwind. The narrative quality of his investigations isn’t projected into the final visual char­acter of Skála’s work, though. As a result, it has a very clear and unequivocal visual form.

The piece Interpretation for Idea is related to one of Skála’s previous projects which has yet to be materialized. In it, Skála worked with Henry Ford’s system of dividing labor at an automobile factory and the shift that arises when applying his “universal” work movements outside their native factory context. Similarly, Skála’s piece for Idea deals with two spheres of interest. First, he was interested in instruction manuals for technical devices, their translation into other languages, and the shifts brought about in the translation process. An instruction manual for such a device represents a distillation of our technical rationality. Its author is required to strip language of all am­bivalence, which is in fact a requirement that systematically contravenes one of languages’ evolutionary features. In the case of large corporations, the manuals are often authored by language experts, university graduates of humanities-based language programs, which is quite a paradoxical state of affairs. Second, Skála was interested in the methodology used to translate such texts. That’s where the idea of interviewing someone from one of that translation agencies that do such translations came from. Skála tried for a long time – until he finally succeeded – to get an interview with the leading company in the field on the Czech market which is active in several other European countries. The interview itself has yet to take place, but their approach to it has been slippery, maybe because they were worried that Skála was up to some sort of industrial espionage. As I write this, I can only guess what course the interview might take. What’s already clear right now is that translation companies are uncommonly circumspect and take great pains to protect the methodology they use in translating instruction manuals.