Still from Karel Plicka's film The Earth Sings

Artwork of the Month, May 2022: The Earth Sings by Karel Plicka (1933)

In 1934, two Czechoslovak films were sent to the Venice Film Festival. The first was Gustav Machatý’s Extase from 1933, which not only brought its protagonist, the young Hedy Lamarr, to fame, but also caused outrage for its explicit presentation of female sexuality. The second film was altogether different: it had no stars, no dramatic narrative arc, no great love story. It was not even a box office success, though critics lauded its artistic value as a ‘film poem’ that, as museum director Josef Polák claimed in the Prague daily Lidové noviny, exemplified ‘what cinema could be when the moving shadows are not simply a commodity’:[1] The Earth Sings (Zem spieva, 1933), written and directed by Karel Plicka (1894–1987), interwar Czechoslovakia’s most influential artist­­-ethnographer.

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Discussion with Karla Huebner about her book on Toyen

CRAACE is please to co-host this online event with Fulbright Czech Republic and Společnost pro queer paměť.

 On 11 May 2022 at 8 pm CET

Dr. Karla Huebner, author of Magnetic Woman:Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020)

will discuss this gender-ambiguous Czech surrealist artist, who was born Marie Čermínová (1902–1980). Toyen’s early life in Prague made it possible to become a force in three avant-garde groups – Devětsil, Prague surrealism, and Paris surrealism – and also to emphasize erotic themes in many works of visual art. Dr. Huebner will focus on Toyen’s construction of gender and eroticism in relation to the artist’s historical context as a gender nonconforming person and probable sexual minority during the First Republic.

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Toyen: The Paradise of the Blacks, 1925

Artwork of the Month, March 2022: The Paradise of the Blacks by Toyen (1925)

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a negrophile is ‘someone (especially a white person) who is very sympathetic to or supportive of Black people, their culture, or their rights and interests.’[1] The levels of sympathy and support may, indeed, differ and be open to interpretation. Negrophilia, then, is the attraction to Black culture and Black people, often linked to the fascination of the interwar avant-garde with Africans and African Americans in European metropolises.[2] Between the wars, Black culture became a subject of inspiration, captivation but mostly exploitation by many writers, poets, painters, musicians, or dancers from Paris to Prague.

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Bohuslav Fuchs Deml villa

Artwork of the Month, February 2022: The House of Jakub Deml by Bohuslav Fuchs (1921–22)

In the western outskirts of the provincial Moravian town of Tasov lies a picturesque three-storey house, set back from the road and distinguished from the surrounding buildings on a separate plot of land surrounded on all sides by greenery. It is not a very remarkable house, but it is noticeable because it is in a slightly elevated position and because the rest of the lane where it is situated is populated by modest single-storey cottages. Further enquiry reveals that it is the former house of the poet and writer Jakub Deml (1878–1961). Built in 1921–22, it is listed by the National Monument Institute as a protected cultural monument (registry no. ÚSKP 15415/7-3089). The house is listed, one assumes, less because of the significance of the design and rather more because its owner was one of the most prominent Czech authors of the first half of the twentieth century.

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