Tamás St. Auby
Barbora Kleinhamplová + Tereza Stejskalová
Unbiased reading of Silesian Songs, a book of poems by Petr Bezruč that both of us have delved into manifests how convincing and emphatic these texts are as a whole, and how incredibly strong some of the poems are. Sadly, they were spoilt for our generations by the book’s inescapable presence on obligatory reading lists, reciting at competitions and the appropriation of the already “standardized” work by the normalization ideology. Directness and overwhelming visuality, as well as specific (expressive but precise) metaphors, especially in the description of defiance in the face of suffering, unjust social order and oppression caused by it, but also objective poetic reduction and, in the case of more intimate poems, moving helplessness and ironic summary lines – all of this resonates even today. In addition, references to the classical period and Hölderlin defy fossilized views on Bezruč, as well as his trademark poetic perceptions.
The fresh reading of Silesian Songs without prejudice has led us to the identification of some basic subjects, topoi, intentions and strategies that are present in the individual poems and on which the book as a whole is built, in order to transfer them into the plan of an exhibition of contemporary art. In principle, Silesian Songs contains motifs and issues found in one form or another in contemporary art, where one can also notice and pinpoint the equivalents of what Bezruč dealt with as a poet.
However, as the project developed, we came to see the original idea to concentrate only on the text as somewhat naive. Petr Bezruč’s second life of an adored “poet of suffering and defiance”, a prominent public figure (that eventually evolved into a caricature of itself), polemics on the subject of the appropriation of other people’s writings and his unfortunate endeavours to amend and modify the poems, as well as the propaganda that created a new layer of foundation myths, can hardly be swept aside. We thus decided to approach Bezruč as an exceptional poet and an emblematic figure of Czech culture. His work and its ambivalent reception were crucial in the selection of artists (and inherent art strategies and subjects), and also specific 2014artworks that were to echo the Bezruč-esque dimension of contemporary art.
Our objective was a topical approach regarding highly abstract coordinates derived from our reading of Silesian Songs. We didn’t observe a pure method; rather, we centred on the content, idea, literary means, style, theme, poetics – without any hierarchy. “Who on my Place”, the exhibition title, is both a challenge and a question that concerns the continuity and discontinuity, identity and non-identity that define the status (role and function) of art and artists in society, but also means of expression and the meaning of art. Bezruč became for us a point of reference when contemplating various forms and aspirations of contemporary art, while contemporary art became something in the vein of a continuation of Bezruč’s poetics by different means, in a different context.
Zbyněk Baladrán, Marek Pokorný, November 2014