Ambitious exhibition project “Other Air” brings surrealist art to Prague

«Иной воздух»

Something is in the air in Prague’s Old Town Hall: An exhibition titled “Other Air” gives the public a chance to see both a retrospective of Czech and Slovak surrealist art from the last two decades, as well as surrealist works from renowned international artists. In addition, the exhibition features a rich accompanying program with surrealist films and readings and a bilingual catalogue with surrealists texts. The ambitious project kicked off in February and will be running in the Czech capital until April. We spoke to artist and member of the Czech surrealists, Kateřina Piňosová, about the exciting and unusual project.

“There are about 450 works on display, not only by members of the Czech and Slovak surrealist group, but also by friends from abroad. We have a Kathleen Fox here, from England, who I consider a marvelous creator, then we have Bill Howe, his drawings are on exhibit here, and also Stephen Clark. The most famous names of course are Jan and Eva Švankmajer.

“We have four sections: the first is called ‘The Object’, the second ‘The Magnet’, the third ‘The Spring’, like a spring well, and the last one is called ‘The Lightning’, which is very important, that is the opposite of love and death, or in Greek, eros and thanatos. We created something which could be called a porn grave, because for us, that represents the opposite poles of love and death. And also we have this aspect of defenestration, because one of the most significant defenestrations in history happened here, in this Old Town hall.”

The project “Other Air” is quite ambitious in its scope –what other events are linked to the exhibition?

A work by Jan Švankmajer
“There are films showing in the Ponrepo cinema every Tuesday at 8 p.m. Films by Jan Švankmajer or David Jařab, they are members of our group but they are filmmakers as well. Then we have a French director, Nicola Sornaga, his film is showing in French on the 6th of March, and we also will be showing short films by Jan Daňhel and Martin Číhák’s short films. And every Thursday we have readings and projections, where we read work by members of the surrealist group.”

How would you describe surrealist art and the Czech contribution to it?

“It is always very difficult to explain what surrealism is for us, who actually participate in collective activities and share that view, it is not a real movement, not in the sense of these –isms, like expressionism and so on. I think it is a way of life, and a way of perceiving the world, how deeply you are prepared to go to explore yourself and the world. It is not just about the unconscious, it is about all human being, all sensibilities. So this is what we share, and I think that the exhibition shows it pretty well. It is not bizarre, it is not about fantasy; it is what we call reality in reality. So individuals explore, then we share and combine our experiences and collectively play with that.

A work by František Dryje
“I would say that our group has the most members worldwide, in terms of the number of individuals who are really active, creative and work together. I think for many foreigners, we represent a sort of island in the world, where they can go and things are really happening, within the realm and the sensibility that they are looking for.”