Arts, Old and New, in the Czech Republic

hip hip.By PAT HARTMAN
News Editor

Over in Moscow, graffiti artists had the chance to lay aside their outlaw status for a while, and join with art students and students of all kinds to embellish dozens of heating units throughout Russia’s capitol. Ksenia Galouchko tells us in The Moscow Times:

Heating units can be found in most courtyards and are usually squat, drab, utilitarian buildings with little architectural value. The only people attracted to the buildings seem to be the homeless and graffiti artists whose art work has never, until today, found favor with the energy companies who own the buildings.

This time the spray paint has been deployed with official approval, and each contestant hopes for a very special prize: passage to the Czech Republic, where the team will represent their country at an international music and lifestyle festival. The Czech city of Hradec Kralove is gearing up for the onslaught of thousands of energetic kids for the annual Hip Hop Kemp, scheduled this year for August 20-22, with plenty of allowance on both sides for before-parties and after-parties.

An artist herself, Ksenia Galouchko also writes for The Stanford Daily and is a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, as well as treasurer and V.P. of Artspan, a program for underprivileged and developmentally challenged children.

But now, to an older art form, in nearby Prague. I found a mystery in The Third Tower Up From the Road. When Kevin Dolgin went to Prague, he saw the Orloj, or astronomical clock, a very fancy timepiece with many moving figures, including the Christian Apostles and a skeleton (representing Death). This incredible piece of technology/art was created back in the year 1410. That’s almost 600 years ago. Anyway, here’s the interesting part. Quoting Kevin,

Legend says that Ruze’s eyes were put out after he finished so that he could never build a clock that would rival it. No one else ever did.

Yikes! However, closer attention reveals that Jan Ruze didn’t build the clock, and nobody put his eyes out. That’s why they call it a legend.

The point is, when I was a little kid, one of the standard family excursions was a trip to the museum in Buffalo, NY, 20 miles away, to see a clock very much like this one. Was there really never another clock like the Prague Orloj? Could it have been sent over to the States on loan? Because, going by the description, this clock sounded a lot like that one.

But no, this is not the same clock at all. A little research shows that the Prague Orloj is outdoors, for heaven’s sake. It’s a permanent installation. And it was attacked by tanks in World War II. And it’s a different shape. (Here’s a cool animated computer model of how the dials move.)Orloj The picture here is of a couple of the figures, and part of the dials.

The astronomical clock in the museum of my youth was housed in a wooden cabinet, like your standard-issue grandfather clock. The apostles were on a circular track and they came out from the interior of the clock’s case, past the figure of Jesus in the middle, which they all bowed to, except one. And Satan popped out like a cuckoo, from a little door. That’s how I remember it, anyway. As it turns out, there is such a clock. Myles Hughes built it, nowhere near 600 years ago.

There’s another Apostle Clock in Oshkosh , Wisconsin, pretty much like the one Hughes spent 35 years building, only this one was built by Mathias Kitz and it only took him six years. And it has an angel instead of the devil. And here it is not Peter who turns away, but Judas, bag of silver coins in hand. In the United States, about 25 of these “monumental clocks” were made altogether.

Also in Prague, the Kafka Musuem has opened, and you might be interested to know that the great author referred to his hometown as “a dear little mother with claws.” Last month, the cinephiles of Prague were delighted to welcome John Malkovich to the 44th International Film Festival where he taught a master class and received a Crystal Globe Award. Another festival, the Prague Biennale, has lost all its funding and the spring 2009 edition was sponsored by artists and curators. On the positive side, amazingly, Bernard’s Summer School of Irish Dancing is enjoying its successful 9th year in Prague.

Hip hop photo courtesy of .:martu:. , used under this Creative Commons license, Figures photo courtesy of Jorge-11, used under this Creative Commons license, Clock face photo courtesy of Jorge-11, used under this Creative Commons license

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