Monday, June 30, 2003

One weekend closer to death.… I stuck my head inside a bum on Friday. Not an actual anus, mind you, but this one:

... the most recent work of genius from Czech sculptor David Cerny.

Nic Moc has some good commentary on this but doesn't quite get the description right: The statues don't really depict Assholes-in-Chief Klaus and Knizak, since they're faceless, although they could perhaps be said to represent them. (In fact, at the opening of Futura gallery on Friday, my friend Jeff made the wise statement that Cerny obviously hasn't figured out how to sculpt faces, since almost all his statues -- minus the upside-down St. Wenceslas, which is a copy of the one on Wenceslas Square -- fudge the face. Witness the black babies now permanently crawling up and down the Zizkov TV tower, which all have big air vents where the faces should be.)

Anyway, when you climb up the ladder and stick your head inside the bum, there's a little TV inside showing Klaus (the Czech president) and Knizak (the equally arrogant head of the National Gallery) feeding each other pudding or porridge or some disgusting slop, like two invalids, with the stuff running down their faces, in slow motion to a soundtrack of (get this) "Bohemian Rhapsody."* It's playing very faintly, which means you have to really get your head up inside that sphincter to get the full effect. Inside one bum, Klaus is feeding Knizak, while inside the other they're reversed.

Actually, to really appreciate this sculpture at its finest, you have to do it when Cerny himself is around, as he was Friday, stumbling around like a sot, looking up people's skirts as they ascend the ladder.

I happen to think Cerny is the best contemporary Czech artist -- indeed, perhaps one of my favorite living artists, period. To complain that he's a shameless media whore is completely missing the point. His work is provocative, hilarious, pleasing to the eye, meaningful, and radically egalitarian.

Then we ended up at a gay bar in Smichov and I drank too much on an empty stomach.

To cure that hangover, on Saturday we drank beer at Letna with my soon-to-be colleagues from the Karlovy Vary Film Festival's Festival Daily, where myself and three others are writing the English pages for the next two weeks. Among the anecdotes we (Alex and I) related that night was walking past a buxom blonde on a side street in Old Town last weekend wearing a T-shirt that said "I wish these were brains." I mention this so long after the fact only because Steve from PragueBlog evidently ran into the same chick. Talk about a small town. (Somebody suggested that maybe the girl didn't know what the words meant, which would of course be a cruel trick on the part of whoever gave her the T-shirt.)

Speaking of small towns, here's another funny thing. While I was in the middle of writing this post, I had to trot off to GTS travel service with a big wad of cash. Never mind why. While there I picked up what seems to be the final issue of the Prague Pill. Yes, you heard it hear first! The Pill is going bust, consigned to the same oblivion shared by numerous failed English-language publications in Prague. Unless of course, this turns out not be true, in which you didn’t hear it here at all. (That reminds me of the funny time the old throwaway Think announced the closure of Akropolis, even declaring that its next issue would be dedicated entirely to the legendary Zizkov pub/club. By the time the next issue came out, Akropolis had reopened, exactly the same but with a polished floor and new management.)

Here’s something I have to get off my chest. Standing directly under one of David Cerny’s statues (Klaus or Knizak, I can’t be sure), the following exchange with my friend Jeff took place:
Jeff: “Hot news! The Pill’s going under!” (Or something like that. I know Jeff would never say "hot news.")
Scott: “Thank god!”

Just then we both noticed Pill editor Travis Jeppesen sitting right next to us. There’s no way he didn’t hear the exchange. We both felt really, really bad. Of course I’d wished I’d replied with something a bit more meaningful and less catty, like, “Well you know, they just didn’t have enough respect for writers! Tsk tsk tsk!” But the truth is, I’m not glad at all. The Pill was as close as any of those defunct freebies came to a) being a proper newspaper, b) giving the moribund Prague Post a run for its money and c) and living up to the standard set by the old Prognosis. Marek Tomin in particular was solid, as was the occasional guest writer. (To be sure, they’ve made some editorial judgments that are just plain unforgivable, and that’s coming from somebody’s who’s pretty forgiving -- having tried and failed myself to launch a new magazine here in Prague. Also, ex-Prognosite Vladan Sir came back from his parents’ place in Ceska Lipa a while back with a big old stack of Prognosises, and I was frankly shocked at the quality of the material those kids put out back in the day. So it’s really not even a fair comparison.) Any, I just want to say for the record that I think it’s a damn shame that they couldn’t make it work -- if it’s actually true -- because the Pill almost had something almost good going, for a little while, almost, give or take a few mega-doses of puerilty and unconscionably bad writing.

There was a point to this Hitchensian digression. In the looks-to-be-final issue of the Pill there was a brilliant interview with David Cerny by Marek Tomin. Unfortunately, it‘s not posted online yet, but it's killer. The sub-headline said, “Another interview with David Cerny” even though the only other English-language interview with Cerny I can recall was the one that ran -- accompanied by very similar close-ups of Cerny's goofy million-dollar smile -- in the second issue of last year’s ill-fated glossy Prague Insider, the magazine of which I was the editor for a few moments, an article written by the aforementioned Jeff, the guy who told me about the Pill closing beneath the David Cerny statue next to that guy Travis, an editor of the Pill.

See? Everything comes around.

* CORRECTION: The song playing inside the butt is "We Are the Champions," as Ohrada News reports and Cerny's web site confirms, not "Bohemian Rhapsody." I suppose either would be fitting. (Also, I myself only looked inside one of them.)