New sculpture by leading Czech artist pays tribute to Prague suicide victims
For decades, most Prague residents would automatically associate the tall Nusle Bridge, which connects a motorway with the city center, with the suicides that occurred there. Some 300 people are said to have jumped to their death from it. Now, a leading Czech artist has installed an unusual work right under the bridge, which towers over a park in the city’s Nusle neighborhood. The sculpture is meant as a reminder of those who lost their life there.
Now, Krištof Kintera, one of the Czech Republic’s leading contemporary artists, has built a sculpture under the bridge – where I met him and asked him to describe his work to me.
“So we are standing just in front of it. It used to be an ordinary lamp, but now it’s an extraordinary street lamp. And what makes it extraordinary is that it is the only street lamp on the planet which is enlightening the sky, not the earth.”
Krištof Kintera was one of the collaborators on David Černý‘s controversial Entropa installation. He ranks among the most original Czech artists working today. One day, when he was passing by the park under the Nusle Bridge, he had the idea to install a sculpture at this very spot.
“Whenever I pass this bridge I always think about this dark history of the bridge, and so it came to my mind that it would be nice to remind other of these people, to do a work of memento mori, so that was the decision. But, I didn’t know how to do it, because the theme is really complicated and it is delicate.”
“Many people before tried to get the exact number, but it is difficult to get, the estimate is something between 250 and 350 deaths, and statistics were only really kept from the beginning of the nineties. Before, during socialism, they did not keep exact statistics, so there actually are no precise figures.”
The lamp is connected to the same electricity circuit as all other lamps in the city. Krištof Kintera says that to realize this, he had to get so many different permits that he almost lost hope it would ever actually happen.
“I must say, I feel that it is a miracle that is here. According to the fact that we see a lot of stupid things happening in the city administration, I didn’t believe that the city will agree. It was a two-year process, and at the end of the day, it is very simple, it’s not that difficult.”
“I saw some discussion on the internet, which was really horrifying for me, because the reaction of some people was quite nasty, but I try not to think about it.”
The mayor of the Prague district where Kintera’s memento mori street lamp stands will be in attendance next Thursday, when the work is officially unveiled.