Updated: Oct 21, 2020
You might imagine, in this day and age, that an exhibition entitled The End of Fun! is a red rag to a bull. The current Krištof Kintera show at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham turns that preconception on its head. Featuring 3D drawings, materials sourced from scrapyards and a talking crow, The End of Fun! is anything but dull.
You know that you're in for a joyous ride when you enter the second room. Although your attention is drawn immediately to a work named Post-Naturalia, a concoction of circuit boards and wires arranged in the shape of plants, it's the rat-a-tat-tat coming from behind the wall that jolts your nerves. Peering round the corner, you encounter the Nervous Trees, which rattle across the floor in haphazard fashion, their bodies made of fibreglass, their heads formed of globes. You sense that these are alien lifeforms, straight out of Doctor Who or The Day of the Triffids. One Tree has been loaned from the Czech embassy, where (one hopes) it pounces on unsuspecting diplomats.
Kintera has yet to visit his exhibition in Birmingham, and he may never do so. Quarantine restrictions were placed on arrivals from the Czech Republic shortly before the installation, meaning that this process was overseen by the gallery's technicians; unusually, the opening was staggered in two phases, with each floor being prepared at different times. This was not, in fact, a significant hindrance. Kintera granted free rein to the curator, Melanie Pocock, and the technical crew, enabling them to assemble and interpret his works afresh. This is most apparent in the first room, the Post-Naturalia Laboratory, in which the artist's studio has been recreated with props taken in part from Ikon. Even the loading bay is left exposed to the visitors' gaze, revealing the packing cases in which the exhibits arrived.
There are several stand-out items in The End of Fun! The talking crow is named I See, I See, I See and recites lines from Jesus Christ, Superstar, among others. One room contains a series of Krištof Kintera's 'drawings', which are formed not with pen or pencil but of objects affixed to a board and emblazoned in paint with slogans such as 'Most People are not O.K.' and 'The End of Fun: Coming Soon'. Melanie Pocock describes this particular installation as like a 'cabinet of curiosities', in which she had licence to deploy the works in as illogical manner as possible. Shiva the Samurai contains 250 lightbulbs which flash on and off in sequence, each of which had to be safety tested during the installation. A group of crowd control barriers with antlered heads, known as Paradise Now, patrols part of the outside perimeter of the gallery.
Pocock recognises that The End of Fun! is a real testament to working in difficult circumstances during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is surely fitting that Kintera's own work is based on problem solving, while his sense of mischief shines through the exhibition. The show itself is beautifully paced (allow yourself up to 90 minutes to go round, with 17 visitors allowed in each timeslot), and the absence of printed panels and labels (available online and via a QR code) is not inhibiting in the least. Has the fun stopped? Certainly not in Krištof Kintera's mind.
Krištof Kintera: The End of Fun! is at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham until 22 November 2020
Julian Harrison for Cradles & Labels