In her practice, she uses a particular skill set, built for visual stimulation, to decode the materials and strategies used by the image-making industry. She explores the means of communication applied the idea of the ‘Self’, making use of lo-fi recording techniques (signaling authenticity) and digitally synthesized visual allegories. She makes repeated use of the clichés of consumer-oriented pop-psychology through an “I” that is both emotive and anonymous, where individual identity is strategically eluded.
In her work, she demonstrates a fascination with the female body — girl's body, pregnant body, mother's body — and its relation to constructions of gender. And the biological liquids that circulate it, prostaglandins, tears, saliva, menstrual blood, amniotic fluid, urine, breast milk. She often relates to the notion of the ‘mother’, the idea of a connecting body which includes us, and that suddenly we are divided from — and how this idea is carried by the womb, an object of longing; the connection of a young child to the mother’s body, separated in the moment of recognition of the ‘self’ in the mirror — a moment of solitude, and a moment of loss. She aims to decipher this ambiguous state between solidarity and alienation, that carries out through one’s life.
In her proposed girly-girls narrative she is reacting to the ideal of the functional fertile body, as seen by the media. Often carried out in the first person, her accounts of invalidated female representation subvert the narrative in a form of protest. They bring out concerns of the infrastructural violence and muzzling of the feminine experience. ‘Girly-girls and sexy-bitches’, a type of virtual power of powerful womxn — not to ‘empower’ but to expose the potentiality of feminine power in all its bliss.
She aspires to interrogate the power systems through an embodied experience of the body in affection. She exposes and records her own body as a research mechanism — going to twerking class, filming in Times Square, documenting in Paris, hiking in the national park... These serve her as a means to demonstrate an acute awareness of the labor and potential exploitation involved in constructing an idealized image.
Her aim is to create the opportunity to scramble dynamics and value systems associated with demarcations of gender; to exploit own yet communal experiences by subverting the frame of individual subjectivity.
“What I am best at is giving, to be honest with you. Is it a form of learning, informing, crying? Playing my fever dream of screams, of temporary views, and captured repetitions? I am a girly girl, a loner. A girly existentialism.”
Simona Koutná (1994), started her practice as a graphic designer trained for advertising agencies. She grew up in post-communist Prague, where she first started her artistic studies. This background-context, felt on her way to art school through proliferating shopping malls, against the surrounding ‘Czech Dream’ of structural existentialism, informed her at an early stage of artistic development.
In her proposed girly-girls narrative she is reacting to the ideal of the functional fertile body, as seen by the media. Often carried out in the first person, her accounts of invalidated female representation subvert the narrative in a form of protest. They bring out concerns of the infrastructural violence and muzzling of the feminine experience. ‘Girly-girls and sexy-bitches’, a type of virtual power of powerful womxn —not to ‘empower’ but to expose the potentiality of feminine power in all its bliss.
Paris, May 2018 (performative reading, approx. 00:20:00, 2018) The advertisement model's position towards the passerby is their only means of communication. Documented, prefabricated, and homogenized into a single posture of seduction, their only ‘voice’ is the one enforced by the overlaid words that make out the advertisement’s brands and products. To address this phenomenon, I wrote a series of imaginary monologues later recorded as a series of audio captions that pace the reading tempo of the portrait collection. In this reading/recording of my magazine ‘Paris, May 2018’, the bodily interaction with portraits through the flipping of the pages affirms the silence of the twice-depicted women.
My Surrogate Self, Leader (video, 2018)
My Surrogate Self, Act I. (video, 2018) My Surrogate Self addresses the question of self-identification, oscillating between the perspective of the object being identified, and that who identifies itself. I took particular interest in the phenomenon of the video-recorded child led by their mother to a performer’s position at a time of formation of the self. I propose a connection of this manipulation felt in the upbringing with the adolescent-adult period, this time as recipients of consumer strategies that constantly present us our alternative self(ves). My position in this narrative is deliberately unclear. The particularity of an individual identity—be it mine or another persona’s—is strategically eluded.
My Surrogate Self, Act I. (video, 2018)
My Surrogate Self, Act II., Girly girls and sexy bitches running the world through a pink mirror, dreaming about things that I understand. (video, 2022) I delve on the topic of female representation in a collage of my own and borrowed images. In the language of cliché pop songs, I sought a narrative of fictitious bonds between 'a girl' and ‘the world’. The flourishing-style succession of snippets, somewhere between documentary and fiction, continually renews the position of the subject, mediating spectatorship with performativity. By using recordings of YouTube videos on iPhone and LED screens, I attempted to frame a proposition of ambiguity of control—where amateur and professional content coexist in symbiosis: a feedback loop where one view informs and promotes the other.
My Surrogate Self, Act II., Girly girls and sexy bitches running the world through a pink mirror, dreaming about things that I understand. (nstallation view at Festival Deziluze, Březnice, 2022) Photos: Sara Bojić
No Words Just Feelings (video essay, 2018) In this work I delve into the tensions between what are typically referred to as male and female experiences, or ‘worlds’. I conducted site-specific research across many places associated with these two seemingly divergent experiences. One of which was Paris, a place of encounter (rendezvous) with Aurélie, a young female artist, where I was also confronted with images of manufactured female beauty, and automotive industry sites. In the film, the viewer is led through these ‘worlds’, and presented with a digital artificial hyperfeminine body ‘working out’ – a translation of the disembodied portrayals of female bodies I encountered.
No Words Just Feelings (video essay, 2018)
No Words Just Feelings (video essay, 2018) Installation view at As Nostalgia Meets Time-Pressure, Mediamatic, Amsterdam (2018)
Paris, May 2018 (magazine, 39 pages; 35,3×50,0mm; 2018) My fascination with Aurélie, who deals with issues of female identity in her own intentionally amateur footage, led me to Paris. My confrontation with this virtual-turned-real persona, where the boundaries of the encounter made themselves present, turned me to document portraits of women from ads in public spaces. These images-products of the fashion industry, produced in France and distributed all over the world, became my newfound obsession. This publication is the result of my six-day stay in ‘Paris, May 2018’. It includes a series of 64 portraits from street commercials, a poem, and the texts ‘I’m all yours’, and ‘Paris’.
Paris, May 2018 (magazine, 39 pages; 35,3×50,0mm; 2018) Photo Eva Rybářová
Paris, May 2018 (keychain collection of 39 pcs, approx. 30×50mm, 2018) This series of keychains is the talisman of the female body cult. Frozen in time, aimed for circulation – the fertile activity. The images of idealized beauty were sealed in pairs and cast in resin, preserved as carry-on objects of projected expectation. The aim was to objectively cast these images in their inherent and subjective state between obsolescence and decay – extending it to a period of one hundred years (the decomposition time of epoxy resin). Centenary fertility in a frozen state, where circulation is the only remedy. Photo (left side) Tomáš Slavík; (right side) Vojtěch Novák
Anti-stress Tits (silicon foam, glue; approx. 150×150mm; 2018) When creating this small series of body-like anti-stress-balls, I wanted to explore the idea of a powerful tool associated with a part of the female body. ‘Anti-stress Tits’ are tangible objects made from two skin-like synthetic materials that make two halves of one sphere. The friendly object invites for a touch or a hand-hold, an appeal for closeness. Its shape and materiality induces the squeeze, an act that with repeated movement becomes a pattern, and eventually, an obsession. And thus the object has performed its purpose of inflicted addiction and affected materiality—a vision of (bodily) feminine propaganda.
I needed to go the bathroom and ended up famous (selfie wall installation, red lipstick, glass cleaner; approx. 2×0,8m; 2019) A cleansing routine of mirror posing. Following the desire of exploring one's personal world and being part of it, we seek and share private scenes and spaces. Representing the capitalized personal-self, I turn bathrooms at the show 'Nobody Remembers A Shapeshifter, MODESHOW 2019' into a cool place to share oneself. Onto a (Perdita) bathrooms' mirror wall I apply red lipstick mark over a stenciled status by Brie Larson, following the MET Gala selfie restriction, preventing the ownership and capital loss from someone else's picture. Thus I created a shared filter of smudged lipstick, abusing the stereotypical tool of female expression.
Silk Almendra (video, Mexico City, 2019)
All the things she said (video background for a performative reading, 2019) The intense stimulus of the virtual tour recreated in a live audiovisual presentation, reproducing the mediated experience of the metropolis. The non-body journeying through the landscape presents an opportunity for occupation. The familiarity of the unclaimed virtual space serves as a catalyst for the alternative theory of the dalmatian-female evolution. The possibilities open up: I read my thesis manifesto ‘All the things she said’ driving in 4K to Downtown New York. In the virtual journey with my entourage – Pongo and Perdita, Rosalía and Kylie Jenner — strolling and performing against the background of the fading city lights.
All the things she said (booklet, 18 pages, 148×420mm, 2019) In this self-published booklet, I attempted to gather the voices of the characters present in my works. The characters, based on my memory of all female figures, fictional and real, that have caused an affect on me, present themselves in a nonlinear succession: a collage navigating through the Neon Knife feminism, the Pink Mirror cinema, the Times Square non-hierarchy, and Girly-Girl opti-pessimism, in a series of poems connecting hyper consciousness with numbness. An immediate product of dizzy memories, temporary emotional states, and ecstatic feelings of ‘being raised by many women’ — stressing the fluctuating position between control and lost power.
Dalmatian Rose (rose, approx. 400×5mm, 2019) This piece aims to reveal the impact of social standards of beauty alongside cartoon caricatures in the formation of the kid-woman. Through the manipulation of the rose’s surface, I wanted to point to the lasting effects of exposure to standardized feminine beauty. The dalmation rose brings together two separate constructs in a single object. The ideal of feminine beauty and the innocence of the cartoon character. Both supporting endless narratives (timeless beauty, happily ever-after), that is emphasized by the rose: a common fairy tale symbol. I followed the tale and encapsulated it in an object lasting from now until forever.
I Went To The Worst Makeup Artist: Dalmatian Rose (workshop, approx. 8m², 2019) The impromptu beauty salon was inspired by the Disney character Perdita, who resembles the female beauty ideal in dalmatian form. The intention was to reiterate Perdita’s dalmatian features on the visitors of the salon — where the repetitive act of makeup application brings to mind concerns of the influential role of the character. Emphasized by the backdrop of video tutorials featuring kids’ voices reenacting the terms of the adult-beauty industry, the ‘application’ reveals an ambiguous positioning. Somewhere between facepainting and makeup, innocence and beautization, the ambiguous gesture nevertheless produces homogenizing outcomes of humanimal roleplay.
The sky is pink and roses are blue (film & books installation, 2022) Installation view at Bohemia Farmstudio, Vysoká Photo Marcel Rozhoň
The sky is pink and roses are blue (book, text, illustration, approx. 95×145mm, 2022) An open publication in the form of a diary of the Dalmatian Rose, linking imagination and fairy tale story. The main character is the stereotypical symbol of femininity (a rose) through which I am mapping the process of self-discovery, across visual culture and personal identity.
The sky is pink and roses are blue (book, text, illustration, approx. 95×145mm, 2022)
Seminar Film as a Research Field – The Evolution of Perdita (seminar series, Faculty of Fine Arts Brno, 2022) Photo Polina Davydenko
Simona Koutná, Artist Statement For inquiries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org