est. July 2009

Lisa Krause's Artwork (2003-Present)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Clusterbomb Bears: the Czech Republic

Clusterbomb Bears in Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora
and overlooking Staré Město from Prague Castle.

The Ossuary in Kutna Hora contains the remains of 40,000-70,000 people who died from the plague and wars in the 14-15th century. All of the bones were dug up when a nearby town was mining the area for silver- and the cemetery was in the way. The church gave the job of stacking bones to a half-blind monk (1570s). Later the Schwarzenbergs, wealthy Bohemian aristocrats owned the church and charged František Rint, a woodcarver (1800s) with figuring out what to do with the bodies. He decided to decorate the church with them- which has things like altars, garlands, and a chandelier all formed by human bones.

Through the wars and occupations of Prague by the early 1910s, traveling folk puppeteers often kept most of the stories and history alive going from town to town putting on performances that subtly challenged or critiqued society. Some were even put on trial for their political activism, but they shifted the blame onto the puppets.

Puppets and a replication of the theater used by Katel Novak

While Prague was never bombed in WWII, it was occupied by the Nazis and later the Russians until 1989. During those periods, the Czech culture was threatened- people were stifled, jailed, and probably killed.

One such project that uses puppeteering as political commentary during the Russian occupation is Jiří Trnka's The Hand (1965):

This continued through the 1980s, and when Communism finally left Czech Republic there was a flood of creative power and freedom. While visiting, it was amazing to find how many interesting projects began in the years immediately following the occupation.

Maybe these stories don't seem to relate to my Clusterbomb Bears post, but I'm beginning to see why I pick the areas that I do for my installations. It's often because I want to relate the stories of an oppressed tribal, creative, or working class culture and unify these places through the symbolism of the Clusterbomb Bears as an absurd, immature, irresponsible, and deadly imperialistic occupier.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Marionette Carving in the Czech Republic

I was one of 12 people from 5 continents accepted into a special course in Czech style marionette carving taught by
Miroslav Trejtnar for June 2011. Mirek was trained as a wood carver in high school. After that he worked restoring woodwork in ancient churches. In the early 1980s, he began working in puppetry for Jiří Barta's studio on a famous project "Krysař (the rat catcher)".

The end of which, in all of its bad ass sonic and scenic glory is posted below:

Over the 2 weeks of this program- we designed, carved and painted our marionettes. We then took 3 days and made up a show using all of our wildly different characters. We made props, sound effects, and sets out of things we had at the workshop studio.

Tara Cooper (Austin TX)

Mirek Trejtnar helping me attach joints.

Sam Ritter (New Jersey)

Our other carving teachers included
Zdar Šorm and Sota Sakuma, and Dora Bouzková helped with manipulation and performance.
Zdar Šorm

Mirek teaches, Sota and Zdar in background

Dora Bouzková "cleaning the scene" with Kay Yasugi (Australia), Nina Prader (Austria/DC), and Abi Tucker (Australia)

Nina and Pali Diaz (Argentina)

Junko Kanayama (Japan/UK)

We then performed at the workshop endparty and then the next day at the
Prague Quadrennial Exhibition of Performance Design and Space, for their Scenofest: Street Stories program.

Leny Pinkava, me, Mirek Trejtnar, Pali Diaz, and Nina Prader

During the evenings, we saw shows at
Minor Theater, Divaldo Anpu, La Fabrika, and a small group of us went to the National Marionette Theater independently of the program. After the program, Eamon and I visited The Marionette Museum in Plzen- about two hours from Prague by train.

We also visited the home of Mrs. Varlova who has thousands of puppets ranging from the 1800s to the 1980s in her apartment. They are hung on all the walls in all the rooms, sometimes double and triple rows. Sometimes set up with the actual backdrops from the performances.

Standing: Abi, Tara, Kay, Junko, me, Leny, Nina, and Pali. Seated: Ericka Haverly, Sam, Mrs. Varlova, Peggy Rock

Mrs. Varlova, who's incredible collection began when her husband used the money they'd scraped together under communism to buy a car- on a small set of 4' puppets from the 1800s. She now has probably the largest private collection of marionettes in Prague. In her apartment. Amazing. (They never bought a car.)

This is the most incredible program for the study of traditional marionette carving techniques, costuming, and theater exercises. They also integrate many experiences for learning the history of Czech puppets, animation, theaters, and puppetry, as well as exposure to styles of puppetry and their uses in the current theater scene in Prague. I got so much more than I imagined possible from this experience and I would recommend the
Puppets in Prague program to anyone who loves Czech puppets and animation and interested in learning the art of carving a wooden marionette.

Just look how crazy happy I am...

I was impressed both by the teachers and the organization of the program as well as all of the talented women I met while in it. We came from all over the world for our own reasons and with our own stories, and became friends in this experience together. I am interested to see how our lives all go from here.

Video by Kay Yasugi

**** (UPDATE from Lisa ON FEB 2013) Hello!  Thank you for visiting my blog! ****   
Please take a moment to check out my current project, 

where I have used skills learned at Puppets in Prague, as well as Bread and Puppet.