Saturday, February 4, 2012

Artist Talk Part 6 Prague!

If I ever come into big money, I am going to set up a scholarship program for art students to go to Prague after graduation.  I can't imagine a better place to decompress.  Art school can be like a creativity butter churn (the student is the cream in this analogy), and after graduation, making art can seem so daunting.  Maybe because my Memphis College of Art is a school that tends to be more conceptual, but it made art feel a little heavy and serious.  I felt pressure to be making art about "issues".  But, being in Prague helped lighten things up a bit.

First off, Prague is beautiful. 

The roads are stone and go in circles, and you can't throw a rock without hitting some sort of ornamental sculpture.  There are no functional gutters, they all seem to be gargoyles, or spitting cherubs.

It feels like you are in a living, breathing fairy tale.  But, the fairy tale is more of the gothic variety instead of the Disney variety. Prague's beauty is breath-taking, but in a dark and twisty way.  I loved walking the streets and observing.  I don't know Czech, so I felt really isolated, in a way that was enjoyable.  I felt like my sense of observation was heightened because I couldn't understand what anyone was saying. 

I had cappuccinos and honey cake almost daily.  Look!  Even the cappuccinos are full of fun and whimsy.

This picture sums up Prague pretty nicely for me.  This is the Television Tower, which was built in the 80's and 90's when czechoslovakia was under communist rule.  The TV tower was resented by the people of Prague, who couldn't openly complain about such things.  
You can see how the tower is hideous compared to the rest of Prague's skyline.

But after the Velvet Revolution and in the year 2000, the city had this Czech artist do an installation involving the tower, so he added a bunch of solid black, shiny babies to it.  They are crawling all over it to this day.  Why?  Because.
Here is another sculpture by the same artist, David Černý, this is a sculpture of one of Prague's former presidents holding onto a pole above the street.

My main objective while in Prague was to take this intensive marionette building workshop taught by a Czech puppet master.  It was magical.  There were about 10 people in the class, all from different countries.  We spent 8 hours in the little workshop carving away at our designs and then in the evenings we would go see various puppet shows or puppetry museums.

In addition to making puppets, we also put on a performance so we could practice using the puppets.  This girl is playing the accordion while we practice singing. 

My puppet design was a three-headed evil business man demon.  My home-town at this point was one of the fastest growing cities in America.  All our farmland was being plowed over and turned into one giant beige strip-mall and this is who I imagined to be behind all the construction decisions. 

Here is my finished puppet.  I designed him to have a bunch of floppy legs, but Mirek, the puppet master helped me give him a unicycle instead.  It works, and the wheel is really squeaky in a way that makes him seem even more evil.

Puppet practice.

Here is our poster for out play, which was so strange that I have no memory of the plot.  I think we sang Witchy Woman, though.

This is a stage from a puppet performance we saw.  In Prague, people go to puppet shows like Americans go to movies.  It is not something strange, it is very common.  In America I mainly notice puppetry during protests and political rallies, which is fun, but I like that in Prague puppets can just be everywhere without reason.  This play was a Rocky-esque play.  Rocky was really huge in Prague while I was there.  One of the puppets was actually a slab of meat.

Here is a shot from a puppet animation studio.

Tiny furniture.

There were quite a few of these boxes outside of storefronts.  The crank on the bottom animated a scene inside.  This one showed a saint being martyred,

Weird window displays.

It snowed once while I was there.  Here is what they do with snow in Prague.

My absolute favorite place in Prague was the Divadlo Minor, Prague's children's puppet theater.  This was in their waiting area,  That room is full of pillows meant for pillow fighting.

Here is their logo.  So cute.

This picture is upside down, but here is another image of the waiting area.

My lesson from Prague was that art doesn't have to be heavy, you can and should make things just because you can.  Joy and whimsy are important.

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