Prague TV is an online entertainment news magazine in Prague. In my semester abroad in Prague, I have got a chance to improve and practice my journalistic writing skills with a former editor of the L.A. Times on the contemporary culture of Prague and the Czech Republic. This is a collection of some of my published works on the site.
FRANTIŠEK SKÁLA AT THE RIDING SCHOOL: WANDERING IN WONDERLAND
May 24th, 2017, link
With his wide range of artistic talents, František Skála is a well-known Czech artist (sculptor, painter, children’s book illustrator, musician, and performer). After he completed the University of Applied Arts in Prague (VŠUP) in film and television graphics in 1982, he started as a children’s book illustrator and his illustrations were awarded the “Most Beautiful Book of the Year Prize” several times by the Czech Ministry of Culture. Along with illustrations, he also started creating paintings and sculptures. His works are mostly a combination of many different materials and techniques, reflecting nature and humanity through his unique vision.
“With a mixture of humor and graveness, sarcasm and respect, monumental-ness and tender sensitivity he creates most of his variations on natural objects,” writes Ludvík Hlaváček, a Czech curator, about Skála. “However beside sensitive communications with nature, he reflects in his works other parts of human life, i.e. the creation and processing of synthetic substances.”
František Skála’s current exhibition at the Wallenstein Riding School is one of the best “illustrations” for his unique artistic styles. The exhibit includes several small rooms with different projects on themes including tribal, dreaming, privacy, and mutation. This is why the exhibition is described as “museums within a museum.” The displayed artworks vary from paintings to mix-media sculptures. From one room to another, the exhibit takes visitors through a journey of dreams, nature, and human lives physically and emotionally, leaving visitors with curiosity and questions about the connections of the works and the artist and curators’ purposes.
The Wallenstein Riding School, known for its exhibitions of classic arts, is also an interesting choice of venue for Skála’s works. However, Skála and curator Tomáš Pospiszyl have worked to create a dreamy space with a combination of artificial and natural lights, unequal and crooked small areas, and an unconventional placement of artworks. Visitors are free to get lost in this wonderland of visual objects created from Skála’s dreams; for instance, the House of Dreams collection at the beginning of the exhibition in the Pavillon room illustrating the notion of Skála’s dream palace. The pieces are transparent, reflecting the colorful light from outdoors.
One of the most impressive works in the exhibition is Kulér in the Privat (Private) room displays a giant cocoon sleeping in a dark room with a bed, curtains, small working desks, a pair of in-house slippers, and decorations. The room gives visitors a glance into the artist’s private bedroom. The artwork presents a question of privacy and surveillance, or reality and dream. Is the room a dream of the artist or is the cocoon the artist himself dreaming?
Another highlight, throughout the exhibition, is the tribal theme. There is a room displaying tribal artifacts collected by Skála, and from there, visitors can continue on a sort of tribal dream of Skála’s with many other interesting tribal-influenced works on both floors.
The exhibition by František Skála runs until September 3 to give visitors a chance to enter his unique, artistic wonderland. Visitors can interpret the exhibition as many small pieces of art, which are not related, or as a strange dream that one might have. The exhibit leaves visitors not only with wonderment, but also awe and admiration for the artist’s massive creativity.
FASHION IS OUR CULTURAL MIRROR
March 16th, 2017, link
Fashion is constantly changing; what is new today may not be new tomorrow, for fashion trends reflect our cultural and political attitudes over time. This season in Milan, Italy, fashion collections implied messages about the current political climate. For instance, the contemporary fashion queen Donatella Versace’s collections had words splashed across hats, scarves, and shirts – “Unity”, “Love”, “Loyalty”, “Power.” Here, fashion portrays people’s attitudes of the times.
Retro, a current exhibition at the Czech National Museum (Národní Muzeum) similarly takes visitors back in time to see the gorgeous fashion items from the 19th century to the present, as a reflection of the cultural and political attitudes in Czech history. The exhibit shows visitors a nostalgic story about the past and gives credence to fashion’s timelessness. It is also a fun learning opportunity for everyone, but especially for the fashion enthusiast.
The fashion display includes clothing and undergarments through each decade combined with contemporary fashion designs inspired by the past. Monika Drápalová’s short-sleeve light grey “princess” dress with signature vintage round Peter Pan collars, hour-glass silhouette, and a leather belt seems to be an elegant dress from a girl’s closet in the 1940s, but instead, it is a 2013 design of Free Circle, a Czech casual fashion brand.
The most timeless dresses are from the roaring 20s, La Garconne, also known as the flapper dress emphasized a new freedom of movement in women’s fashion with shining, fringed details, and bralettes. Women were freed from the corset and crinoline of the late 19th century, no longer expected to fit a certain mold. However, the fashion of the 20s did not die after the huge hit of the next dominant trend for women’s dresses–Coco Chanel’s little black dress of the 30s. Recently many Czech contemporary fashion brands, such as Lazy Eye, Jana Zielinski, and Free Circle are most inspired by these 1920s and 1930s vintage fashion trends.
A highlight of the exhibition is a small, hidden room at the far end of the fashion section, showcasing retro accessories and their inspirations for contemporary fashion. There is a pair of 1930s women’s black high-ankle boots next to a grey pair of boots, from 2015, though they look identical. These are among the best illustrations of the timelessness of fashion.
The exhibition also has another area for retro toys, and technologies like older televisions, gramophones, and typewriters. A large retro playroom also lets visitors play with retro technology. In this area, visitors can dress a human-sized mannequin, listen to old recordings, and learn how clothes were made back then. The curators believe that this exhibition is not only to educate the younger generation but also to remind the older generations of their youthful time. Retro is open until April 30 to showcase interesting items that have marked history.
NAFILM: BUILDING THE FIRST CZECH NATIONAL FILM MUSEUM IN PRAGUE
April 13th, 2017, link
Films are our pop-culture means of entertainment. Films also record the significance of history, but film history is usually forgotten. So, the lack of a museum to honor film history in Prague inspired students of the Film Studies department at Charles University to found NaFilM, their own Czech National Film Museum.
NaFilM is currently housed in Prague’s Palác Chicago, and their exhibit, “Locomotion,” unfolds the history of Czech film and the mechanisms behind the making of motion pictures. This project started four years ago as a collaboration between students and faculty. Their first exhibit was held in 2015 at Museum Montanelli, focusing on Czech film’s heritage. “Locomotion” is the second stage of their efforts toward realizing an actual Czech film museum.
From an optic disc to a 19th century virtual reality device and hologram projector, the exhibition takes visitors back in time to see the evolution of film. It all begins with simple physics and the mechanisms of moving pictures. In the late 19th century, the zoetrope was a new device including a disc with a set of sequenced pictures and a spinning cylinder with many vertical slits, which allowed viewers to look into the slits to observe an illusion of movement. Along with the stroboscopic effect, this was the first and crucial means for projecting films on a screen. Visitors can experience these early motion optic devices in operation at the exhibit
Of course, film technology is constantly changing and improving, and the exhibit shows this process through the early 20th century. Some of the first movies in film history such as How It Feels to Be Run Over are projected, while visitors can see and hear a hologram talking-image of Alexander Hemala, a renown Czech film commentator. In this way, the exhibition is a combination of nostalgia and novelty, which creates a more holistic film experience for visitors.
A highlight of the exhibit is the section on the Czech avant-garde, with their surrealistic cinematic style of the 1920s-30s. In contrast to the growing popular film industry, the surrealists believed that films were killing imagination, because everything was shown and told. Thus, the Czech Surrealists made films of everyday life, seeking out the most ordinary and familiar things in meaningful ways. Surrealistic films such as “Hands on Tuesday” (1935), “The Prague Castle” (1934), and “The Thaumaturgic Eye” (1939) are projected in a screening room of the exhibit.
The exhibition claims to be a living center for film study for the general public, as well as for film students. Adéla Mrázová, Jakub Jiřiště, and Terezie Křižkovská, as the founders and main curators of the exhibition, hope to maintain and record the changes in Czech history via film’s history. Tours in Czech and English are provided along with interactive workshops, screenings and discussions about films. The workshops include animation production themes with various techniques such as the use of puppets, drawings and pixelation. Křižkovská encourages visitors to play and interact with the experience in this exhibition, because it provokes learning and understanding.
“We are film students. We have no experience or expertise with curatorship. We just know what we like when we visit museums, and we’ve created our own. It is quite a risky thing,” says Terezie Křižkovská.
NaFilM should run until April 30th, but the curators hope to prolong the exhibition till the end of the year. They are also planning to continue the series with a different exhibition, which will start from the end of this year or possibly move to a different and permanent location for their Czech National Film Museum.