Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the most distinctive Czech cultural figures of the last century. Perhaps best-known in his native country as a poet, Jiří Kolář is also renowned both home and abroad as a creator of often playful collages – and “crumplages”, works that began with him scrunching up paper. I spoke to Richard Drury, chief curator of the Gallery of Central Bohemia, and asked him where he would place Kolář in context of Czech visual art in the 20th century.
In 1870, Antonín Dvořák, who was yet to become one of the world’s finest composers, wrote his first opera called Alfred. The piece was only performed once, in 1938, long after Dvořák’s death, and then fell into oblivion. Now, nearly seventy years after its first staging, Alfred lived to see its second premiere, this time with the original German libretto, as part of the Dvořák Prague festival.
Piotrek Gawlinski is a young Polish tour guide who has been happily based in the Czech capital for several years. Indeed, his love of the city inspired him to start Lost and Found in Prague, an excellent photoblog showcasing rare images from the pre-1989 period. We begin our tour of “Piotrek Gawlinski’s Prague” a short distance from his Vršovice home on the terrace of Vinohrady’s Gröbe Villa, known locally as Grebovka.
People in Prague will have a unique opportunity to see the city from a completely different perspective this Saturday. Dozens of streets in the capital, as well as other major towns, will be closed to traffic and turned into temporary pedestrian zones, as part of the event Zažít město jinak or Different City Experience Festival. I discussed the project with Jan Šindelář, one of its organisers:
This week, the prestigious London Design Festival gets under way in the British capital. For the first time ever students of the Glass and Product Design studios of the UMPRUM Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design will get a chance to present their work at the prestigious event. The Czech exhibitions are co-organised by the Czech Centre in London. I spoke to its director Tereza Porybná who first told me a few words about the event itself:
The music ensemble GINEVRA specializes in early music, drawing on Irish and Scottish melodies and composing their own songs inspired by local legends. The group’s name harks back to the days of King Arthur, Queen Ginevra and the Knights of the Round Table and their performances at Czech castles and chateaus bring history to life for hundreds of appreciative visitors.
The work of the novelist Marek Toman is diverse. It takes us from Jewish Prague in the 16th century all the way to the drama of the Velvet Revolution four hundred years later. He has even written one novel in which radio becomes a central character. His latest book, due to be published next year, again takes us back in time. It focuses on a notorious 17th century court case, but is far from being a mere costume drama. In the author’s work the past is always nearer to the present than you might expect. David Vaughan met the novelist.
Amanita Design is the independent Czech game design studio behind the point-and-click adventure games Machinarium and Botanicula. With beautifully hand-drawn backgrounds and richly-designed worlds, the games put players in the shoes of protagonists such as a broken little robot or a group of unusual creatures who face robotic wrongdoers and a dark parasitic force, respectively. Both titles have proven very successful. Recently, I caught up with Jakub Dvorský, and asked him not only about the games but also how he started his business.