Roman Ondák

Resistance, 2006; Courtesy the artist; Courtesy gb agency, Paris; Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna; Johnen Galerie, Berlin

The work of Slovakian artist Roman Ondák has been referred to as “intervention,” a label which makes reference to the way a piece confronts the viewer with an unexpected experience. Ondák, who is currently participating in the Berlin Biennale through August 8, 2010, creates work that is at once mischievous, hilarious and stone serious. He deals with social issues of both the grand and trivial scales and swaddles participants—whether knowingly or not—inside the folds of each performance. In the manner of a social scientist, he is wont to stage “temporary situations and imaginative sitespecific constructions that predict various communication patterns in behavior and in the perception of things.” (source) In his 2009 presentation of Measuring the Universe (2007) at Museum of Modern Art in New York, Ondák urged museum visitors to mark their height and first name on a white wall—the same way a child might over the years in a hallway at home—until the thousands of black ink markings became as visually dense as they were socially significant.

In Loop, his installation for the Slovakian Pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennale, he brought the lush grounds of the Giardini Publici into the interior pavilion, causing guests to take pause before realizing that the artist’s installation was in fact the well-ordered plant-life which surrounded them. His 2006 video Resistance, originally staged during an opening at Viennese Museum of Modern Art, plays with ideas of social status by following the feet of a group of guests with untied shoelaces. As reported by Kontakt, the Art Collection of Erste Group (whose artists were being presented in the exhibition during which Resistance was staged), “Fellow visitors were puzzled by this intervention, since there was no direct clue as to why certain people were posing this way. Thus Ondák queries the bondage, not necessarily visible, of certain peer groups, in this case through the need of people working in the field of art to proclaim otherness as a means counterbalancing social standardization.” (source)

Loop, 2009; Courtesy the artist; Courtesy gb agency, Paris; Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna; Johnen Galerie, Berlin

Roman Ondák was born in 1966 in Zilina, Slovakia and now lives in Bratislava. He was recently included in I’m Not Here. An Exhibition Without Francis Alÿs at De Appel, Amsterdam—a “solo exhibition that takes the form of a group exhibition in which works by the contributing artists evoke the atmosphere of the work of an absent Francis Alÿs.” He has been included in numerous solo presentations internationally, including at MoMA, New York; Tate Modern, London; 2009 Venice Biennale; and 2008 Shanghai Biennale.