Michaela Spružinová, a Czech artist born in Děčín, North Bohemia, forms her work as a critical commentary on contemporary popular culture and its opulent visuals. Singer Beyoncé, rapper Kanye West, tennis player Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian and other stars of modern popular culture are significant sources of inspiration for her. The underbelly of pop culture has also birthed her specific artistic interest in sports, which she grasps with sharp humour and ironic satire.
Michaela has always been interested in the visual self-presentation and self-stylization of pop culture stars, including how their audience. The name of tennis player Serena Williams does not appear in this list by chance. Sport is a common part of popular culture, and its connection to the fashion, entertainment and advertising industries profits all parties involved. This fusion of sport and visual spectacle has had an enormous impact on the formation of people’s personal and collective identities and conceptions of physicality.
Michaela’s work focused on the relationship between sport and shaping of the body with a covid-specific installation for the exhibition Czech Glass Quo Vadis?!, which took place in the autumn of 2021 in Venice, Italy, as part of the international glass festival The Venice Glass Week. For this installation, the artist created several glass objects with sports themes, aptly naming the installation Hot body challenge. She responded to a project of the same name by Kim Kardashian’s personal trainer, who devised a series of exercises for the media star to do at home during the lockdown. Michaela specifies that the exercises were available on Instagram, people could practice them, take pictures and send them to the project’s authors. Michaela commented on her art installation, "My work explores the evolution of body care at home during the Covid-19 pandemic. The 'Hot Body' series of exercises taught by Kim Kardashian’s personal trainer allows you to keep your body sexy even if you can't go to the gym."
Michaela approached the Hot body challenge project in her own original way: she transformed the sports theme of home exercise into the topic of her own work’s nature shifting during the pandemic lockdown - she had to create art at home under improvised conditions without the possibility of renting a large glass furnace. She explains that she tried to compare this altered state with the "intimate activity of exercising at home".
In the installation for the Venice exhibit, the artist incorporated gymnastic rings, a tennis racket titled Serena, a barbell and a Yogi. However, looking for tennis among the sporting activities designed for Kim Kardashian would be a waste of time. According to the author, the connection between tennis and the Hot Body Challenge is rather vague.
Michaela explains, "The tennis racket, titled Serena, is there for a reason because Serena, Beyoncé and Kanye West are friends who make music and create videos that feature Serena." Here we return to the author's pop culture inspiration, to which she adds a personal layer of narrative. In her own words, "I played tennis in elementary school, so I lent my personal story to this project and that way it all fell into place. I liked the visuals, the court, the colourful clay surface, the dress code... that everything was thought out in detail. And I especially liked how the graphics on the racket strings and the grip started to get sophisticated in the 90s. It was a pretty trendy sport at the time, with high standards."
These art pieces are made of glass, using a unique technique of drawn glass threads. Michaela works with the glass threads as a kind of weave or mesh, sewing them together with coloured wire. Michaela leaves the hanging glass objects to fuse in the kiln. The resulting product is extremely visually captivating, but above all, it is extremely demanding in terms of craftsmanship, preparation and overall time investment. The slowness and complexity of the artistic process are one of the key strengths of her work. She works exclusively with recycled glass, which - although not perfect in appearance - corresponds exactly to her idea of the final product’s resulting qualities. The material’s imperfection is an important aspect of her work. However, it is not only about the imperfection of the material, but also, in the context of sports themes, about the imperfection of the body, a topic that the artist has been dealing with in her projects for a long time.
When Michaela Spružinová won the International Glass Biennial in Dublin, Ireland, this May, she posted a message on Instagram that underlines the theme of (not just physical) perfection and imperfection. In the message, she said, "Stay sustainable, don't be spoiled too much and don't waste your time with something what you cannot have."
Michaela Spružinová (1983) is an intermedia artist who currently teaches at the Glass Design Atelier at Tomas Bata University in Zlín, Czech Republic. She graduated from the Secondary School of Art and Design in Kamenický Šenov, then studied at Ilja Bílek’s Atelier of Glass at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Jan Evangelista Purkyně in Ústí nad Labem, where she studied Curatorial Studies. She has exhibited in the Czech Republic and abroad, where she has recently enjoyed considerable success.