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31 March 2020

MEAN TIME – Roman Ondak

Roman Ondak was born in 1966 in Žilina in Slovakia. At this time it was part of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, which belonged to the Eastern Bloc and the empire of the Soviet Union until 1989. During this year the Velvet Revolution deposed their government peacefully. In 1993 the country split into two sovereign states the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Roman Ondak studied from 1988 to 1994 painting and graphic art at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava. Other stages of his studies were in 1993 the Slippery Rock University, Pennsylvania, 1999/2000 Collegium Helveticum, Zurich, 2004 CCA, Kitakyushu, 2007/08 DAAD, Berlin and 2010 Villa Arson in Nice.

"It's all about the mystery of how people behave in general. It's not a mystery inside of my work, but it's a mystery of everyday life, you know – why we have partners, why we have families, friends, why we like this and dislike that. Somehow the mystery of these relationships is what leads me to seek ways to transfrom them into art works." Roman Ondak interviewed by Udo Kittelmann, in Notebook, Hatje Cantz, 2012.

'Measuring the Universe' is one of the iconic pieces from the artist. It was realized in 2007 for Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich and 2009 for the Museum of Modern Art in New York and is part of the permanent collection of MoMA. Visitors were invited to stand against the wall, mark off their measurements and to label it with their first name and date. The empty walls were filling up with thousands of measurements forming over time a ragged black band. Without the engagement and participation of the viewers the work does not exist.

There is also a work by Roman Ondak in the Art Collection Telekom, in which the concept was developed by the artist. But the drawings of 'Futuropolis' from 2006 were carried out by others, namely by one hundred of his friends and acquaintances. The artist selected the frames for the individual sketches of a city in the future. This series was also part of the first comprehensive exhibition of the collection 'Fragile Sense of Hope' in 2014 at me Collectors Room in Berlin.

In 2009, Roman Ondak created 'Loop' for the Czech and Slovak common pavilion one of the highlights and audience favorites at the 53. Venice Biennale. Main entrance door and rear exit door had been removed. Inside the pavilion, the park path and planting were continued. The walk through the park paths of the Giardini with the national pavilions was not interrupted by art or national borders. Instead, nature came to the fore.

'Mars Walk' from 2019 is one of the more recent acquisitions from Roman Ondak for the Art Collection Telekom. The work shows bare footprints on a balance beam, which is covered with red dust. An act of trying to keep the balance, in a world that even considered that the future of humankind might be on Mars. Because the real footprint of humankind on Earth has become too big. The work relates in some way to an early exhibition of the artist in 2004 at Kölnischer Kunstverein. For 'Spirit and Opportunity' he created a large installation reminiscent of some landscape on Mars, which was the backdrop for a number of interventions, announcements and activities to involve the audience.

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