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.

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