l'art d'être · laureen andalib

On JAN ŠVANKMEYER | Artist Recommendation I


Jan Svankmeyer, a multi-media artist and Czech filmmaker, was most prominent in the 1960s through the 80s. He openly enjoys surrealism no matter how exaggerated the constructed visual is, and not surprisingly, I typically enjoy Svankmeyer as an inspirational “master” who fluidly depicts (and founds) surrealist metaphors and ideas through the concrete compositions of situating objects, invented spheres, and even, creating constructivist theatrical tension behind the lens of the camera— attending to the mis-en-scene as a key factor in his work.

Though definitely eerie, forthright, and fantastical, I immediately recognised his work, Punch and Judy (1966) in which a more universal and “human” phenomenon is depicted through puppets: the notion of a couple growing tired of each other, eventually beating each other to death, while one flows “up, up, up the river”— though the fate is quite dramatic, this reminds me of a common literary allusion to the tragic (yet supposedly) romantic (yet also, somehow, a relief from the sentiment of the story endured) fates in nineteenth century English literature, such as in Wuthering Heights, and later twentieth-century Mrs. Dalloway (and also, the response to the personal relation of the river as a translation towards “liberation” from an unhappy life— this is depicted in The Hours, in which Virginia Woolf, the author of Mrs. Dalloway herself, constantly debates drowning as she is dissatisfied with her own work throughout her career).

As far as the technical elements he pursues, Svankmeyer is particularly notorious in obsessing over the classical characteristics of the Surrealist movement— yet super-imposed as a kinaesthetic when working in film: ideas which are left unresolved, hallucinatory illusions, duplicate realities, and a fluctuation between stark chiaroscuro (film-noir-like) sets a few of his other works are perhaps left dramatically unsaturated, purposely, in black and white film, to blur the clarity of what the spectator is experiencing.

On JAN ŠVANKMEYER | Artist Recommendation I

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