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11 Nov 2017 14:30

NO PLACE FOR FRIVOLITY: Communication Networks and Radical Art behind the Iron Curtain

Art historian and curator Tomáš Pospiszyl and Roman Štětina, acclaimed young Czech artist and current resident artist at LUX London, explore how Czechoslovak artists communicated with their Western colleagues across geographical and ideological borders before the internet era. Mail art, illegally distributed zines and secret exhibitions were a major part of independent artistic production from the 1960s through the1980s, functioning as an alternative platform for sharing ideas within a censored environment. Accompanied by rare extracts of archival films and correspondence among Czech artists and representatives of the world neo-avant-garde such as Fluxus.

Tomáš Pospiszyl (*1967) is an art historian, critic and curator based in Prague who specialises in contemporary Czech and international fine art of the twentieth and twenty first centuries. He has taught Art History at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague since 2003 and has worked for the art initiative tranzit.cz since its creation. He is author and curator of several exhibitions: together with Vanda Skalová he prepared the exhibition and monograph on the work of Alén Diviš (Prague, Karel Svolinský and Věra Kubátová Foundation 2005), and with Ivan Adamovič the exhibition and book Planeta Eden (Prague, Arbor vitae 2010). He was curator and author of the retrospective exhibition and monograph about Vladislav Mirvald (Prague, Arbor vitae 2010), and composed and performed the musical exhibition Július Koller Archive: Study Room (tranzitdisplay, Prague 2012). He is also the author of numerous publications.  He has edited anthologies: Před obrazem (Prague: OSVU 1998), on American art theory and together with Laura Hoptman Primary Documents; A Sourcebook for Eastern and Central European Art since the 1950s, (MIT Press, MoMA, 2002). He has written a monograph on Josef Bolf (Prague: Divus 2009), and the introduction and accompanying essay for a reprint of Kinetismus by Zdeněk Pešánek (Prague, Akademie múzických umění 2013).  Among the books he has authored are: Octobriana and the Russian Underground (Prague: Labyrint 2004), Srovnávací studie (Prague: Fra 2005) and Asociativní dějepis umění (Prague: transit.cz 2014). Tomáš Pospiszyl has also won a Věra Jirousová Prize for emerging and established critics. An English translation of his selected writings will be published by JRP Ringier this year.

Dalibor Chatrný (with Alois Piňos), The Bars, 16 mm, 11 min
The work of visual artist Dalibor Chatrný and the composer Alois Piňos introduced a great many innovative techniques and methods during the 1970s. They collaborated in the creation of the audiovisual trilogy – Statická kompozice, Mříže, Geneze. The Bars (Mříže) is the second part of this trilogy. A technically simple work based on the combination of musical and visual elements is a metaphor for the oppressive atmosphere of “normalisation” in Czechoslovakia during the 1970s.

Jan Ságl, Underground, 1972, 16 mm, 23 min
The Underground is a short film recording a common, everyday situation in the centre of the town. The camera recorded women, men and children coming up the escalator from a subway in Prague. Their faces reflect mundane ordinariness as their passive bodies are brought up to the surface in a continual stream. Through these people Ságl managed to show the resignation of Czech society during the “normalization” period. His photographs became key visual images of the Czech cultural underground and the film Underground became a film metaphor for that period.

Robert Wittmann, Celebration of the Cult of Foolishness, 1978, 8 mm, 3 min
The film captures the last, de facto private, action of Robert Wittmann performed before his emigration on 22 August, 1978. The date relates to the centennial anniversary of the birth of Czech decadent writer Ladislav Klíma, and also to the tenth anniversary of the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The event was presented as a celebration of the sun, nature and foolishness. Wittmann perceived the period of “normalisation” as an age of “abnormality” and in this sense he reacted by developing the so called Cult of Lunacy.

Jan Švankmajer, J.S.Bach, Fantasia in G minor, 1965, 9 min (extract)
Jan Švanmajer is one of the most famous Czech filmmakers and visual artists known mostly for his surreal films based on the combination of live action and animation. This stunning early short, in black and white and shot in widescreen, is one of the best examples of the marriage of film and sound. A man plays the Bach piece of the title on the organ, accompanied by images of stone walls with cracks and holes that grow and shrink, intercut with images of doors and wire-meshed windows.

Věra Chytilová, Ovoce stromů rajských jíme, 1970, (extract)
An experimental retelling of the story of Adam and Eve which then progresses into an allegorical depiction of loss of innocence. Riding the wave of Zdenek Liska's Prog Rock score, director Vera Chytilová slides the allegorical verse into vibrant surrealism, with frosty blues and rose reds bringing biblical passion to the tale. Keeping the protagonists in their surreal Garden of Eden, Chytilová releases sped-up Czech New Wave tracking shots which stylishly reveal how isolated the main characters are from the outside world.

Free entry


Part of 21st Made in Prague Festival
8 November - 6 December 2017

Related links:

Roman Štětina - Artist in residence at LUX

Call for Applications: LUX London Residency for Czech and Czech-based artists and curators

Dominik Gajarský & Roman Štětina: Animals and Machines

Roman Štětina: Instructions for use of Jiří Kolář







LUX London, Waterlow Park Centre, Dartmouth Park Hill, London N19 5JF


11 Nov 2017 14:30


Czech Center is a coorganizer of the event

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