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Jan Švankmajer

Artist and film-maker

Prague, 1934

The Czech film-maker Jan Švankmajer is deemed to be a singular artist, perhaps the most complete and coherent of his generation. His films, for example Dimensions of Dialogue (1982), Alice (1988) and Conspirators of Pleasure (1996), uniquely illustrate the therapeutic, transgressive and resistant roles taken on by art on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

Lack of communication, bureaucracy, sex, digestive processes, scatology, terror, decomposition, death, the absurd and black humour are some of the central thematic elements of his subversive films. Nevertheless, the talent and importance of Jan Švankmajer, who explicitly situated himself within the surrealist tradition, transcends his work as a film-maker because of the artistic production closely linked with his films (and, in many cases, their inspiration), together with a theoretical body of works that demonstrate his undeniable greatness in the conceptual domain as well.

Thoroughly grounded in the fertile tradition of Czech marionette theatre, his work amounts to a remarkable avant-garde reference with many different sources of inspiration (from hermeneutics to André Breton, via symbolism, or the works of Sade and Carroll) while also drawing on his own totally original personal obsessions.

Jan Švankmajer has made more than thirty films (five of which are feature length), most of them animated. He is revered as a film-maker and this recognition has extended in recent years to the sphere of the plastic arts with ever more monographic exhibitions of his work in museums all around the world, for example in the Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture in Moscow, The House at the Stone Bell in Prague and the Kunsthalle in Vienna.

Contents

Publications

Xcèntric Cinema

Conversations on the creative process and the filmic vision

Has participated in

Illuminating Vision (II): Between Images

The CCCB's cinema

Sublime desire

Games and enigmas

The rebellion of objects

Fantastic tales III

Fantastic tales II

Fantastic tales I

Possibilities for dialogue

An encounter with Jan Švankmajer, the Quay brothers and Léona-Béatrice Martin-Starewitch, granddaughter of Ladislas Starewitch

Surreal/Political

Welcome to the secret society II.

Natural histories, of animals and expeditions (for Joan Fontcuberta)