Political art exhibition to open at Prague Castle next month

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Starting in mid-May, Prague Castle will begin hosting an exhibition of political art, called Politik-Um/New Engagement. But as Alena Skodova reports politically engaged artistic works might arouse mixed emotions among Czech artists and art-lovers alike:

The term 'political art' causes instant distrust among many Czechs, especially artists. After 40 years of political oppression by the communist regime, under which artists' creative freedom had to be sacrificed for the possibility of obtaining commissions, one cannot be surprised by such mistrust.

The upcoming exhibition will show works by 27 political artists from around the world, and will include huge installations in the open air. I asked one of the organizers, Ludvik Hlavacek from the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Prague, to define what is nowadays understood under the term 'political art':

"It is a very sensitive question, but it is in no case a limitation of an artistic attitude. It is a free personal attitude of a person, who is aware, who knows about his or her social relations to other people and to the general situation that exists in the world in which he lives."

But when we say 'political art' here in the Czech Republic, we have reminiscences of the Communist regime, so what do young artists think about political art now?

It is absolutely true, but there's a big difference - the elder generation is not able to avoid pessimism or skepticism towards this concept, because political concept and especially the concept of engagement, is connected with ideological oppression by the communists. But it is not the case now. The younger generations, especially those artists who have contacts with international art scene, are able to avoid these limitations."

Keiko Sei is responsible for the part of the exhibition that will feature foreign artists. I asked her to describe the contribution of one of the foreign participants, and as we hear from her, political art can even be fun:

"Daniel Bozhkov is a Bulgarian artist who has lived in New York for quite a long time, and he's going to make a very quick tour of Prague Castle, it will only last 20 minutes, extremely compact, and he will sell in his kiosk - a home-made kiosk - something like Kafka's 13-page book, which is compiled from all his writings, a copy of Mona Lisa and so on. So it's a kind of parody on official Prague tours, because they are about industry and economy of tourism as a consumers' item."

The exhibition of political art will open at Prague Castle from May 15th to June 10th.