Saturday, March 10, 2007

I Blame Jindřich Štyrský


This morning, for no good reason at all, I awoke at ten. Waking up at ten is acceptable if I have been up till at least three, but not otherwise. Of course, getting up at ten can be a very acceptable option if I have woken up earlier and chosen to stay in bed. It is the lack of choice in the matter that I find truly appalling.
The only explanation I can find for my having slept such a dreadfully long time is that I was, admittedly, having a very long dream about Jindřich Štyrský. Toyen had, as one might expect, a role in the dream as well, but the main character was Štyrský. Though the majority of it has gone out of my head, I can remember photographing various works, some of which he rearranged on the wall from one point in the dream to another, and working on some sort of semi-animated presentation that I kept testing on a large projection screen.
I think that what this means is that Štyrský, awakening from a drunken haze somewhere in the afterworld, has become aware that I'm working on Toyen and noticed that the parts relating to himself are in a state of dereliction while I amuse myself looking at fashion illustrations from 1909 and reading bits of Václav Černý's memoirs. As Toyen's artistic partner for twenty years, Štyrský naturally feels that her work cannot be understood without reference to his own; which I grant him is true. The fact that Toyen's career continued for nearly forty years without him does not cancel him out.
However, I might point out to both of them that I have no idea what Toyen did with Štyrský's papers after his death. I did enjoy reading his letters to Karel Michl and various other people, and appreciated the fact that his handwriting, while variable, is more legible than that of Karel Teige or Vítězslav Nezval, but I have really not found all that many letters or other papers floating about. Nor is there a catalogue raisonée for him; most of the reproduced work I've seen has been in black and white.
Therefore, I say to Štyrský that he had better direct me some new resources so that I have a little more to go on than what is currently in print (the person who did the typography for the volume of his writings apparently wanted to ensure that its readers would go blind).
I hope Štyrský realizes that I am a devoted admirer of his collages and have visited his grave. Which leads me to a somewhat unrelated question: given the early 20th-century fashion for cremation, why are so many cremated Czechs (Štyrský included) buried in graves big enough to fit a whole coffin? His grave is in a cemetery devoted to cremated remains, and only a small percentage of these are kept in urns in wall niches. Perhaps Toyen could answer this question, since she was the main person dealing with the funeral and the tombstone (the design of which is based on one of Štyrský's images).

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope Dusan Marek is still considered part of the Czech surrealist canon, though he worked in Adelaide and died in Tasmania.

- barista, via the estimable peacay.

March 11, 2007 11:25 AM  
Blogger Karla said...

I can't claim any expertise on Marek, but it appears from a cursory look at the Web that he's seen more as an Australian of Czech origin since the majority of his working life was spent in Australia.

The present-day Czechoslovak group may however claim him, I just don't know whether they do. Something to find out...

March 11, 2007 8:52 PM  

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