Tuesday, October 29, 2013

He Gave Prague Castle the Bird

Michal Cizek/Agence France-Presse-Getty Images
Life is Elsewhere is the title of a novel by the Czech, novelist, dissident and pornosopher Milan Kundera, The title was taken from an expression graffittied on Paris walls during the '68 riots, which coincided with the soon to be repressed Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia. Now the former Czechoslovakia is made up of The Czech Republic and Slovakia and though both are free of the Communist party, they are not, in the opinion of a whole new generation of artists and dissidents free of corruption. Materialism of the undialectical sort brings is own form of oppression. The Times ran a story about the Czech artist David Cerny who is literally pointing his finger at the ruling party of Czech president Milos Zeman (“Angrty at Prague, Artist Ensures He’s Understood,” NYT 10/21/13). “He installed on the Vlatava River a 30-foot-high, plastic purple hand with a raised middle finger…that points directly at Prague Castle.”  Cerny, in general, according to the Times, doesn’t pull his punches “depicting Germany as a network of motorways resembling a swastika” and “displaying a caricature of a former Czech president inside an enormous fiberglass rear end.” Jonathan Franzen recently published a volume of essays by and commentary on the great l9th century satirist and editor of Die Fackel (“The Torch”), Karl Kraus, The Kraus Project: Essays by Karl Kraus. Kraus excoriated the foibles of Viennese society (“psychoanalysis is that mental illness for which it regards itself as therapy” is one of  his gems). Vienna is only a stone’s throw from Prague and one wonders if Kraus’s spirit doesn’t live on in Mr. Cerny’s freewheeling attacks.

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