Tomáš Rafa, Competition Procedure for the Czech - Roma Flag
The project Competition Procedure for Czech-Roma Flag critically reflects on the situation where members of Roma population aren't considered as Czechs by the majority of the society, and therefore find themselves in forced isolation.
Seven flags exhibited on the Artwall Gallery panels in public space and in the premises of the National Technical Library have been selected from a series of several dozen proposals. This initial selection was made by an expert committee consisting of people with professional interest in the Czech-Roma cohabitation issue: Kumar Vishwanathan (human rights activist and director of civic association Vzájemné soužití), Lucie Horváthová (social anthropologist, memeber of Green Party), Zdeněk Ryšavý (Director of civic association Romea), Vojta Lavička (musician, Metropol TV presenter) and David Tišer (romist, member of the Government Council for Roma Community Affairs). The expert committee was represented also by historian and flag expert Jan Kremer.
The final decision about the single winning design of new Czech-Roma flag will then depend upon the broad Czech population through public vote. The voting will occur both online on the Facebook profile of Artwall Gallery, as well as at the ballot box situated in the premises of National Technical Library. The team of project’s organizers will also tour around those places of Czech Republic with high rate of the Roma population, letting the local public vote directly in the streets. The winning flag will then be handed over for consideration to the Government Council for Roma Community Affairs.
The Selection procedure for Czech-Roma flag is based on the time lapse project "New Nationalism in the Heart of Europe" that has been started by Rafa in 2009, with a purpose to explore the boundaries between nationalism, patriotism, racism and xenophobia. According to him, the main objective of the current Czech-Roma flag initiative is a creation of "an open platform to discuss both current and future coexistence of the major Czech population and locally settled minorities."
"The project opens the question of Czech-Roma identity also in the internal context of Roma population" says Zuzana Štefková, one of the Artwall gallery curators. "We are trying to find out how do the Czech Roma actually perceive the notion of "Czechness", and to what extend do they identify with the Czech national identity represented by official state symbols, or what does the fact that they are living in this country mean for their identity." Lenka Kukurová, another Artwall curator, further specifies: "this hybrid flag that points to the fact that the state is not ethnically pure unit, should evoke a contemplation of the concept of nation and state. It is not only the Czechs who are living in the Czech Republic; there are also other minorities that should feel equally at home here."
"Finally, the exhibition also depicts the ambivalent nature of new possibilities in the field of opinion publishing, which are enabled by vast range of popular ICT platforms, such as social networking sites and online chat forums," adds curator Markéta Dolejšová. Selection Procedure for Czech-Roma Flag opens up a whole range of issues relating to the relevance of state symbols in contemporary society, as is for example their abuse by Neo-Nazi movement, but primarily refers to the absurd dualism of "Czechs and the Others".
About the artist:
Tomáš Rafa (1979) lives and works in Warsaw. He studied at the Academy of Arts in Banska Bystrica in the studio of digital media, and at the Academy Sztuk Pieknych in Warszaw. In 2011 he won the Oskár Čepan award and was invited for the residential stay at the International Studio & Curatorial Program in New York. In 2012 he participated on Berlin Biennale 7, as co-author of "Breaking the News" and curator of "Art Covers Politics" projects. His first solo exhibition "Respect Existence or Respect Resistance" was held in 2012 in SNG Bratislava. In 2013 he published a project "Sport Walls / New Nationalism in the Heart of Europe", as part of the 6th Prague Biennale art show.
Curators: Markéta Dolejšová, Lenka Kukurová, Petr Motyčka, Zuzana Štefková