New location gives London Czech Centre space for exhibitions

Photo: Ian Willoughby

The Czech Centre in London has in recent years devoted a lot of its energies to bringing cutting edge Czech art and design to the UK capital. Now it’s able to do so on its own premises, after relocating to the same building as the country’s embassy and other institutions in the Notting Hill district. I recently stopped by to discuss the Czech Centre’s new location, and some of its projects, with director Tereza Porybná.

Viktorie Langer - 'Hormones Harmony',  photo: Ian Willoughby
“We’re happy because we finally have a space to work with. It’s tiny. It’s a window gallery with the working title ‘vitrinka’.

“It’s something new for us. And I think it also brings more joy to the office work, when you have an art gallery downstairs.”

Please tell us about the exhibition that’s here now, Hormones Harmony by Viktorie Langer.

“It’s a mixed media exhibition featuring canvases and textiles by created by the young Czech artist Viktorie Langer.

“Viktorie studied in Prague at the Academy of Fine Arts in the studio of Vladimír Skrepl and she is one of the five nominees for the Jindřich Chalupecký Award this year.

“The reason we chose her was specifically her interest in paintings and these various techniques she uses in working with textiles.

“We thought it creates actually a nice contrast to the concrete and glass building, something a bit natural or archaic maybe, in some symbolic way.”

Tereza Porybná,  photo: Ian Willoughby
On December 6 you have an event dedicated to the great Czech underground poet Ivan Martin Jirous, known as Magor, as part of your Made in Prague season. What will that involve?

“This year is the 40th anniversary of Charter 77, so of course within the Czech Centre team we talked about what to do and how to approach this yet again, because of course the Czech Centre has done projects around it before.

“I have a personal affiliation to Magor. I love his poetry and always found him interesting and inspiring.

“And we realised there was no proper English translation of his poetry, so we decided to do it.

“We partnered with Divus, which is an independent publishing house, and we approached Martin Tomin, who’s an award-winning translator, and he agreed to do the job.

“We will launch the book on December 6 and we hope to also do a US launch next year.”

Next year is of course a big year for the Czech Republic with these big anniversaries: the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia and the 50th anniversary of the Soviet invasion. What is the Czech Centre in London planning to do for those major anniversaries?

Embassy of the Czech Republic in London | Photo: Ian Willoughby,  Radio Prague International
“We will do a combination of I guess obvious conservative programming of films or lectures that directly address the anniversaries, of course always in partnership with our UK partners, such as University College London or other academic institutions.

“But we also want to look into more maybe creative ways of commemorating 1968 especially.

“We’re thinking about again combining that with the contemporary scene in London and looking for topics around how that somehow is reflected today.

“One of these categories will definitely be performance and protest and how performance can sort of enter the arena of political opposition.

“We will also be working in Glasgow and Edinburgh and trying to spread our programme as much as we can out of London.”