Graffiti in Prague

In Prague, they too have a special wall that is dedicated to graffiti. The once normal ordinary wall became the famous wall of Prague in 1980s. The famous wall was then called the John Lennon Wall, named after the famous pop star from the Beatles, John Winston Ono Lennon. Although it was named after John Lennon, the legendary pop star has never been to Prague in his life. The wall was filled with quotes, lyrics and graffiti that are all inspired by John Lennon and his band, the Beatles.

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Credit: Prague.net

John Lennon was considered as the pacifist hero for the Czech subculture during the totalitarian era (Ron Synovitz, 1998). While the communism ruled the country, western pop songs especially songs by John Lennon and his band the Beatles were banned by the Communist authorities simply because their songs were praising the freedom that doesn’t exist there and then. Some unlucky musicians who were caught playing those songs were jailed.

John Lennon becomes a hero when he was murdered in 1980. Upon hearing the news of his death, fans of John Lennon gathered and mourned his death together in Prague but were at risked of being caught and put in jail by the authorities over the offence of “subversive activities against the state”. His pictures were painted all over the wall and a group of anonymous youth group in Prague set up a mock grave for the famous pop star.

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Credit: thehaymans

The threats of prison weren’t all that successful in stopping these people from coming out at night to scrawl graffiti in honor of John Lennon. Slowly, the wall was filled with feelings and dreams of the painter as they had limited freedom of expression. The communist authorities tried every single way they could to keep the wall clean either by repainting the wall or installation of surveillance cameras or even an overnight guard was not good enough. The wall will be filled with graffiti the very next day. It was basically a war between the people and the communist authorities who cleaned the wall. The Lennon Wall represented not only a memorial to John Lennon and his ideas for peace, but also a monument to free speech and the non-violent rebellion of Czech youth against the regime (Prague.net, 2008).

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Credit: broadgairhill

What makes the John Lennon Wall special today is the history behind it, although it may have looked like any other graffiti walls around the world. The wall had to go through reconstruction of its crumbling façade in 1998, but the spirit of the wall lives till today. The famous John Lennon Wall was once filled with anti-Communist graffiti is now filled with graffiti and messages on love and peace. You can still get a glimpse of tributes to John Lennon and a yellow submarine if you looked hard enough at the wall.

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Credit: experienceprague.com

Ron Synovitz. (1998). Prague’s Lennon Wall. Available: http://www.bagism.com/library/lennonwall.html. [Accessed 10 April 13].
Prague.Net. (2008). John Lennon Wall. Available: http://www.prague.net/john-lennon-wall. [Accessed 10 April 13].

Tony Hayman, (2012), John Lennon Wall Prague [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonyhayman/8325566017/ [Accessed 10 April 13].

Experienceprague.com, (1998), The John Lennon Wall [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.experienceprague.com/mala_strana.htm [Accessed 10 April 13].

Prague.net, (N/A), John Lennon Peace Wall [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.prague.net/gallery/john-lennon-wall/pic1.php [Accessed 10 April 13].

broadgairhill, (2008), Prague – John Lennon wall [ONLINE]. Available at: http://photo.broadgairhill.com/index.php?showimage=7 [Accessed 10 April 13].

Foong Lin, Liew

The Czechoslovak State Security (StB)

The Czech state security known as the StB Státní bezpečnost (Czech)/ Štátna bezpečnosť (Slovak) was active between 1945 and 1990. The sole aim of this force was to deal with any issues that could be considered anti-communist; this usually meant arresting, torturing and even executing any citizens that spoke up against or protested the communist regime.

The StB were used as an instrument by the communist party to show their power, they intimidated, spied and even forged false allegations and evidence against anti-communists. Their aim was to keep any talk against the party and therefore chance of uprising at a minimum. One of the many visible actions they took against the Czechoslovakian people was by trying to destroy or erase any signs of their revolutionary actions against the regime. One of these was the self-immolation and suicide of Jan Palach in 1973, the StB tried to destroy any memory of his action by trying to stop the demonstrations that occurred at his funeral as well as exhuming his body after burial and cremating it. An anonymous body replaced his at the grave site, reassuring the communist party that they had deprived the Czech and Slovak people of a martyr. It is not until October of 1990 when the cremated remains were returned to their rightful resting place. Actions such as this were seen as normal for the StB, as it was very important for them to keep the communist agenda.

The StB now

Though the StB was dismantled and dissolved in 1990, their headquarters still remains in Prague. It is currently being used as the police headquarters.Image

Some members of the public that we spoke with felt that this was not a coincidence as some members of the StB still held powerful positions in companies, businesses and even the police force. This is not meant to be the case, as with its dissolving in 1990 former members of the StB and associates were banned from specific and powerful roles such as that of a police office, government official etc.

Support for the opinion that this rule has not been adhered to exists in a lot of sources some of which can be seen at the bottom of this post, showing that perhaps the StB still has former members in powerful positions.

http://www.jrnyquist.com/bolshevik_inquisition_3.htm

http://www.prague-tribune.cz/2003/9/7.htm

                                                             Mwen Fikirini

Panelaks (Part 2)

Jan Sladek about the panelaks:

Source: Photographing Prague Architecture (1922-1968)

Source: Photographing Prague Architecture (1922-1968)

“One of the symbols of communism, everyone who been around Europe knows panelak can be found in France, if you look at south cell it’s one of the biggest panelak in France, in Czech republic it depends on the location, you can be part of the cities with panelak which are beautiful with good transports and some that are isolated. Now I talked about shortage, the same shortage that there was with wages was the same with housing, I remembered that my family, it was so hard for them to get a flat because they could not buy a flat. So we had to wait for the regime to build a new one and it took the regime 15yrs to build a flat… for some people that was quite a long time.

Yes it was a solution to quiet a massive shortage in housing and people were all glad for having this, not all the buildings were that bad, some of them were in beautiful location. What the problem was…the management of the building where you have 8 buildings and 40 flats. (I am talking about the panelaks where I grew up) I remember several things when the lights went out, it took days for someone to get it fixed because you had to call to get it fixed, there was no private sector who would fix the problem, you had to call the municipality  and they would say we would put you on the waiting list, our electrician would come and solve the problem in a few days, the same with the lifts systems as well. These are for common places as well as flats.

The flat was also owned by the state so the state was responsible for fixing it, this happened frequently that the people started to help themselves; I would say this was irresponsible form the government, under normal setting, you are a tenant, and you are investing in fixing up the place. People started developing close ownership of the flat. So when the regime failed on of the first question was to what is there to do with all this state flat, they had to find a way to give it out to people so the flats were privatised, so people where glad that they had one secured thing in their lives which was housing.

Again I am coming to my flat 8 stories 40 flats, 40 families. In 1994 each family got the chance to buy the flat which was on the condition that all families would do this, which not everyone wanted to stay or to buy. So there was a huge negotiation we had to renovate all the building, this went okay but there was no law about the management of the public space. So again the problem of lift and light management was still the same, it took some time to develop a strategy on how to solve the problem even though it did not work, one of the problem was, that we shared difference flat but who share the ground beneath the building all this little things lead to do with the ill management of the building and it started to de-tolerate which again was a huge contribution to all the bad image of housing.

The interesting thing about Czech panelaks which is difference from British housing, French housing, I would say even American housing, was giving their housing shortage which was distributed all around society. We had very great mix of social demographic mix in one building it was not like only poor people would leave there, we got professors, physicians and workers in the same building.”

Marina Gogeanu

Interview transcribed by: Lesoda Otu-Iso

Man hanging out (David Cerny)

“In Man Hanging Out (1996), Černý depicts psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud suspended by one hand from a pole high above the ground. Freud was born in Freiburg, now part of the Moravian region of the Czech Republic. Freud is credited with having completed his most creative work in his 40’s, when he was suffering from psychosomatic illnesses and a number of phobias including the exaggerated fear of dying. At the age of 83 and suffering from mouth cancer, Freud called upon his personal doctor and his long-time friend Max Schur to assist in his suicide by helping to administer doses of morphine.

Černý created the piece in response to the question of what role the intellectual would play in the new millennium, as Freud was, in Černý’s words, “the founder of psychoanalysis – the intellectual face of the 20th century”. Like his other works, Man Hanging Out starts as a surprise to ordinary sensibilities, then intimates the artist’s frustration with the way things are (or were) and, for those in tune with the message, insinuates the personal questioning of the status quo. Man Hanging Out is a fine example of the reason why Černý is considered a leading sculptor and a pop-culture icon.” (OpenConceptGallery n.d.)

Reference: OpenConceptGallery (2012) Man hanging out by David Cerny [online] available from <http://www.openconceptgallery.org/portfolio/man-hanging-out-by-david-cerny/> [22 April 2013]

Man hanging out 1-_DSC0074 1-_DSC0075 2-_DSC0078

Marina Gogeanu

Hotel Crowne Plaza

Klara Mergerova:

“This hotel is known in Prague under the name of Hotel Internazional, which was the original name. It is a hotel which was constructed in the early 1950s, which was a period of the style called ‘socialism realism’ and this was after the communist regime took the power in the 1948. This was the only official style of the early 1950s, so new buildings and new housing estates were built only in this style which was a style that took elements from the history and also linked it to some decorative elements, and it was meant for the working class, for the working people to bring joy into their everyday lives.”

Marina Gogeanu

Le Corbusier and the governmental buildings

We’ve asked Pavel Kalina if the governmental buildings have any relation to Le Corbusier and his beliefs about the rypolin:

“I don’t think so. He’s an icon in Czech avant-garde, but after the war, I think there was no interest in the work of Le Corbusier in Czech lands.

There’s the exception of the free plan, applied to settlements, not to houses, but to settlements… The free organisation of housing, I mean bizarre restrict street system, from compact cities. It was a Corbusier inspiration, but it was not that much applied to the governmental buildings.  The official architecture was influenced first by the so called “socialist realism”. This lasted for several years in the 1950s. It was a real influence by, as I said, the previous tradition, by the brutalism of the 1950s. So, I would not say that there was any specific relationship to Le Corbusier.”

Marina Gogeanu