Art in Prague IV – Kafka

To conclude my impressions of the artistic sphere of Prague, I could not leave out Kafka. His icon is anyway present all around; a well salable product containing the necessary tragedy that provokes emotions but also reassures that we have it better. Coherent to this tragic context is the fact that the Czechs were the last to read his books, in their own language at least. I thought a lot about the use of coffee mugs with the face of this young man with the lost look; now I know it. We should each buy at least one mug and offer it to the most absurd or mean public servant that we have come across and who inevitably has tortured us. Maybe even better, each department should distribute them to the employees as bonuses, as an act of self-criticism and humourful self-awareness. I am sure that you don’t think that we do have it better and that Kafka’s writings refer to past realities.

With faith to the thinking of Kafka, the German artist Volker Marz set up the installation “Kafka in Israel”, a synthesis of works created from 2008 to 2012; a time when the artist traveled several times across Israel together with his Kafka figures documenting them in real setting. The main idea is the death of Kafka that occurs much later than history says, in Israel. He is executed as enemy of Israel but one year later the new government pronounces him hero and people pray for his soul. The result is that Kafka falls from his personal heaven to the void and then by mistake ends up in the personal heaven of the just departed dancer Pina Bausch where he gets trapped, once again an alien belonging nowhere, a ridiculed stranger with no escape. The absurdity of his existence continues in his death and drags along, while marking it, the place where he allegedly lived the most of his life, Israel.

The installation is part of the exhibition “Middle East Europe” presented at DOX. The exhibition is a remarkably dispassionate presentation of the problematic coexistence of peoples in the area of Israel and Palestine. Far from the usual self-centered curatorial tricks, the two creators of the project, Tamara Moyzes and Zuzana Štefková, set up a mostly visual though not less commentating source for thinking. Their path of questioning describes the content perfectly: “Can an artist comment on problems with which he/she has no personal experience? How does the reception of a work of art change when it is moved from the country of its origin to the place it is concerned with and how does this transfer change its meaning? Is there a fundamental difference between art and activism? Does art have an effect on the events it describes? And is anyone actually interested?


Kafka at DOX
view of installation “Kafka in Israel” by Volker Marz at DOX
detail of installation “Kafka in Israel”
view of the wall surrounding the installation “Kafka in Israel”

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