Black Media: Work don't play

04/02/2015 - 15/03/2015

Opening: 04/02/2015

Curator: Caroline Krzyszton

Karlin Studios, Prvního pluku 2, Praha 8


To all DIY phobics

Interview with the group Black Media

Let's start with the title "Work. Don't play. ", which cleverly summarizes the theme of the show - game vs work, fun vs duty, doing nothing vs zeal, laziness vs effort, passivity vs. drive, image (surface) vs. substance. I feel like the center of your attention is the role and appearance of the contemporary man, the real handyman vs lumbersexuel. What is essential for you in this antagonism?

You have properly captured the essence of the exhibition title. We actually used the slogan of the tool manufacturer Metabo. (ed.: the english slogan of the company is also used for the Czech market). It is supposed to convince the customer he can truly feel like a professional using these tools. The intention is to present tools of passionate professionals, made with passionate professionalism. In the spirit of another of their slogans "Get Serious", we started to analyse the phenomenon, which doesn't qualify the worker as a professional. Regarding the topic of the contemporary urban man, we have been interested in his "clumsiness" at work. On the one hand he is an unkempt handyman and on the other hand an attractive woodsman with neat bristles. We ask ourselves, what should be the role of today's man. Keeping a healthy approach to production, repairs, maintenance of tools and devices, ability to improvise or acquiring skills in hairstyling, mastering the mimicry in changing ideals and stylizations? Perhaps our current time needs both approaches, but no one knows in what proportion the two aspects can be properly balanced.

The phenomenon of czech DIY is unique, as testifies the legendary DIY duo Pat and Mat and their "That's it!", also testifies the popular competition of best handyman of the year "Master Handyman", the periodical magazine "Do it yourself" or even the untranslatable word "antikutil [anti-DIY]" which is now part of czech technical terminology . Where does come from the czech tradition of an obsessive, fierce and relentless DIY?

Dictated uniformity of the socialist era stimulated a certain sens of improvisation, spontaneity and creativity. People came up with substitutes for scarce goods and various improvements of their own conception. Is the contemporary Czech DIY really that unique? We do not think the number of hobbyists here is so different than the number in Poland, Hungary and India. And the term "antikutil" has certainly been invented by malevolent craftsmen, or so-called DIY phobics. They don´t recognize any other DIY subclass: meta-DIY, post-DIY, nekro-DIY, self-DIY, filo-DIY, psycho-DIY, synchro-DIY, or even DIY-ism, DIY-ing, DIY-ity.

DIY is traditionally based on restriction and deprivation, is associated with creativity without aesthetic ambition, with folk handicraft. In times of economic liberalism DIY has changed into a hobby, interest, leisure activity, its main motivation beeing the simple pleasure of it. Is there a risk that it finally disappears ? Who will be the Czech handyman in 100 years?

We have to say the words DIY, or hobby don't sound appropriate, they don't match our understanding of its functions. We believe these terms are wrapped up with pathos or burden of the past and therefore they would deserve a more frequent theoretical revision. We encounter similar problems when we try to define the contemporary notion of the word "art".
The simple word "DIY" is a phenomenon and it is hard to find a synonym to replace it. For example, the word "jack-of-all-trades" isn't the synonym for handyman and then also exist various associations of words like "amateur-craftsman" or "artisan-layman". A handyman is mainly non-professional, amateur (amare = love), who has the desire and courage to try a profession he doesn't fully understand, to improve and to learn something new. DIY depends certainly a lot on the willingness to learn. To properly define the notion of DIY, we may finally take inspiration from foreign languages. In English the "handyman" is a skilled person, capable of a wide range of repairs, especially at home, but in German "der Bastler" comes from the word "basteln": improper manufacture, amateur production. At the Czech border is then used the word "bastlení" instead od DIY.
As artists we are fascinated by DIY. With a slight exaggeration we could say that DIY is the first step towards visual arts, and in each handyman is a budding artist and vice versa. If one day DIY disappears, so will men. We truly believe in fact, that the human soul will tinker even in the post-biological age.

What do you think about the survey stating that 50 percent of Czech handymen are today women?

Such women impress us.

Are you looking at DIY as a political stance, form of resistance, type of subculture or is it just a hobby or econimal alternative?

Contemporary DIY can be seen as a direct opposition to prevailing industrialization and modernization of our world, which pushes many aspects of our culture and aesthetics out of the handcrafted production, switching to the mass production from our modern conception of the future. In this perspective, DIY could be understood as a radical political activity, as activism, which opposes visible trends of mass production, series production, against conspicuous consumption, massive waste, corporate philosophy and moralization of needs.

The biggest source of inspiration and useful information on which DIY today relies is the Internet. How do you perceive DIY in terms of new media? 

Information channels with repairs thematics have great potential. They work as educational, community and training guide, which is able to answer even very thorny questions. Often, such video channels are directed, filmed and presented by one DIY enthusiast, who is, out of pure passion, willing to give away freely valuable information. That is why the quality of small channels is often beyond the value of commercial programs with large budgets. DIY in digital media is synonymous with democratization of equipment accessibility and expansion of knowledge. Its use is essential for our activities. Two examples of our favorites DIY enthusiasts: David L. Jones and Markus Fuller. 

May be DIY a form of therapy? 

I DIY, therefore I am! Let's ask ourselves why the artist creates. We think that for an artist the greatest joy is the satisfaction of a job well done. Each handyman is a bit of an artist. On the other hand, nothing ravages a handyman´s wellbeing most than an abortive work, wasted time and material or a broken instrument. For such a handyman, a little mental work is a real respite. DIY is salutary, exactly as art is salutary. It is like football. Watching a football game is fine, but it's useless, and nothing compares it to a game you would play yourself for fun. 

Too much brain work and little physical activity, metrosexuality, loss of virility...all of this generates (especially for men trapped in a big city) a desire to return to man's primitive nature - primitive in terms of basic, ancestral, deep poetry of masculinity. In this context appeared the new image of lumbersexual: a pseudo-outdoor man, a woodsman with laptop and iPhones, with combed and perfumed beard instead of sweat and dust. How do you perceive the cult of lumbersexual? Is it a fetishization of rural folk? Or rather a romanticization of dingy ideas of an hardworking man? 

It is possible that the lumberman cult emerged as a response to the decline of the traditional man's role as the family breadwinner, a response to the "death of man" and his classic role in society. In the city it is not easy to just chop down the trees of the avenue, hit a deer with an arrow or bake a potato in an open fire, so we choose castraded compensations for such work and seek refuge in the shadow of gym clubs with a moderator. That is maybe how the ,, fragrant sawyer "was born in fact, as a substitute for reality we are truly craving for. In its romantic aspect, lifestyle magazines and supporting fetishists have created the image of the guy in a flannel shirt. However the hardworking man is sweaty, has stinky feet, greasy hair and when he comes home from work, he is glad, that he is glad.

The interview with Black Media has been realized by Anetta Mona Chisa



Black Media group was founded as a creative instrument with cooperative and production aspects. The members initially wanted to form a music band but music experiments and posing attemps in order to realize audio media covers have shown they were not ready yet. Therefore, the group withdrew to the realm of visual arts and began to work as a instrument of realization for actions no artist would like to realize alone.