Octopus Press is a publishing platform of PLATO, a city gallery for contemporary art.

Jiří Žák, Kateřina Konvalinová

If you have a canary with a poor singing voice, it will never stop singing after this training video!

  • video
    • 21’24”

Year of Creation: 2023
Place of Creation: Czech Republic
Technique: Video

Legend: The series of four songs, which paraphrase the form of training videos for singing canaries, was created in collaboration of Kateřina Konvalinová with Jiří Žák for the current exhibition at the PLATO gallery. The form of the song—as a narrative coded into a melody – aims to retell the story of the Harts canary's journey from the Canary Islands to the mines in Ostrava. Within the songs, the canaries themselves become narrators, describing the fate of their breed.

Special Thanks: European Union – Next Generation EU, Ministy of Culture Czech Republic, National Recovery Plan

Reportage form the exhibition Escaped, Found a Hideout, Still on the Run (Animal News).

In their report about Harz Roller canaries, Jiří Žák & Kateřina Konvalinová take us to the Canary Islands and Ostrava. Until recently, these canary-employees used to go down underground with miners in the pits to reliably detect the presence of poisonous mine gases. The canary was considered a member of the mining crew. The longest use of canaries in mines was in England – a 1986 BBC report talks of the discharge of the remaining two hundred retired canaries from British mines and their complete replacement by electronic devices. There is a bird aviary in Ostrava-Přívoz which commemorates this piece of mining tradition and which has been cared for by the local association of breeders of Harz Roller canaries for almost sixty years. Jiří Žák works primarily in moving images and uses a method of interweaving research with poetry and narrative. He is interested in historical narratives, the identity of post-communist countries and its deconstruction through non-Western perspectives. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. He is a member of the Studio Without a Master, winner of the Jindřich Chalupecký Award and works for Artyčok TV. Kateřina Konvalinová also graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts and her work can be characterised as autobiographical fiction based on personal experience and “dilettante research” of interpersonal and interspecies relations. She focuses on so-called minor life revolutions, physical and psychological symptoms of the times and psychological-therapeutic tools. On the Unicorn Farm in the Prague weekend-house settlement of Roblín, she takes care of a hundred hens.

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