Vlasák Robert


Author of the photographs Lukáš Jasanský



Author of the photographs Filip Trubač



Membrane 2023/2024
installation, metal, concrete, sketches for the project, photos


The work Membrane, prepared for the exhibition Gardening of Soul by Robert Vlasák, is part of a project aimed at supporting activities carried out in the Předlice district of Ústí nad Labem by the non-profit organization People in Need, o.p.s. The NGO, which focuses primarily on field social work, social activation services, tutoring, counselling for adolescents and running a low-threshold facility for children and youth in this socially excluded locality. The organisation’s headquarters and its immediate surroundings provide a natural setting in which the communities of children and young people living there come together.

The author proposes and gradually creates functional objects for this place, conceived as imaginary and real “gates” located at the interface of two diametrically opposed environments, previously separated by a wire fence. The enclosure of space can be perceived as a hostile barrier preventing further progress or passage, or as a partition beyond which lies a world that beckons to be explored. Robert Vlasák is capitalizing on the potential of the local community’s curiosity to legitimize their hitherto “illegal” entries into the People in Need’s secure compound during hours other than the officially established opening hours.

The motif of the figure breaking through the rib gate and allowing comfortable passage thus stands in opposition to the initially negatively defining, preventing, wounding construction (Membrane 1). The hatch in the fence, evoking a child’s climbing frame, then renders the facticity of the enclosure absurd, as it can now be understood as part of the “play” associated with overcoming it (Membrane 2).  Newly opened passageways to a safe environment at any hour of the day or night invite clients of the low-threshold centre to share, converse and play together. As part of the Gardening of Soul exhibition, Robert Vlasák then adds another level to the Membrane project, drawing attention to the deep roots of social exclusion present in Ústí nad Labem. A segment of the wall from Matiční Street (Membrána 4),  on loan from the Ústí nad Labem City Museum, refers to the unfortunate experiment by which the local political representation in 1998 and 1999 attempted to respond to the problem of coexistence between the old residents of the Krásné Březno district and the socially excluded residents who were artificially concentrated there by moving into undignified holobytes.

Although the originally planned massive “noise barrier” wall was reduced and aestheticized before it was built, it became a symbol of the inability of the majority society to listen to and responsibly address the problems of marginalized communities. An inability that is part of the political and social reality in the Czech Republic to this day, and which has a pressing impact on the current atmosphere of life in Ústí nad Labem. The membrane, meme, gate, meme-gate by Robert Vlasák, which attracts the inhabitants of Předlice to enter the premises of the People in Need organisation, encourages them to actively participate in their own future, to cooperate, communicate and perhaps also to improve the shared environment, for example by planting ivy together, which will hopefully become part of the social ecosystem transforming the original fences and barriers into permeable membranes offering mutual understanding and respect in the near future.