The Plastic People of the Universe are known around the world for their refusal to comply with the Czechoslovak communist authorities throughout the 1970s and 1980s - and their particular brand of Czech psychedelic rock as well. In recent years, former band member Ivan Bierhanzl and filmmaker Keith Jones have embarked upon an ambitious project to sort through the hours and hours of historic footage of the group to make a series of DVDs dedicated to the ‘Plastici’, but not, necessarily, as you know them.
The Catalonian musician Jordi Savall has been a major force in the promotion of early music for some forty years now and has been the key figure in bringing some ancient instruments out of the museum and back to the stage, particularly the viola da gamba. One of the star performers of this year’s Prague Spring International Music Festival, Mr Savall and his three ensembles have recorded well over a hundred records and scored a number of films, including the acclaimed 1995 film All the Mornings of the World, which won him a César award, the French
The 62nd annual Cannes film festival has come to a close and things couldn’t have gone better for Czech filmmakers. First, young filmmaker Zuzana Špidlová’s 21-minute short feature Bába was voted best film in the Cinefondation section, recognising young new talent; and the seasoned Czech documentary filmmaker Helena Třeštíková clinched the Media European Talent award.
Wolves in Poland, Shakespeare in Japan and the pitfalls of literary translation. These are just three of the many subjects that came up when I visited to the Bookworld international book fair in Prague last week. Bookworld is a huge and diverse event, by far the biggest of its kind in the Czech Republic. It would be impossible to cover everything that was going on, even during the few hours that I was there, but here at least is a taste of the event.
An exhibition of works by Britain’s Damien Hirst has just opened at Prague’s Rudolfinum. He is the richest living artist the world has ever seen, and perhaps best known for placing dead animals in formaldehyde and covering a human skull in diamonds. The new show is curated by Gunnar Kvaran from the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo. At its opening, I asked him what it was about Damien Hirst that made him such an art superstar.
Amanita Design is a Brno-based, award-winning game development studio whose creations have become a huge hit on the internet. Their games combine elements of the technical world with nature in a way not seen before. Their signature game, Samorost, takes you to a universe composed of rusty parts of old, derelict machines and mossy, gnarled stumps of rotting wood. In this edition of the Arts, we meet the studio’s founder Jakub Dvorský.
At least in terms of the musicians he has played with George Mraz (born Jiří Mraz in Písek, south Bohemia in 1944) may well be the most successful Czech in the history of jazz. Indeed, the list of people the acoustic bass maestro has accompanied reads like something of a Who’s Who of jazz, including Dizzie Gillespie, Stan Getz, Oscar Peterson, Chet Baker and Charles Mingus. Incredibly, George Mraz has appeared on over 1,000 albums. When the New York-based musician was in Prague recently, we discussed his beginnings in jazz, as a teenager.