Miroslav Salava: Skin

From Malešice, past Olšanay and on to Žižkov flies the sky, torn asunder by night winds. Thus disappears winter, thus ticks down time. I just walk, and blows rain down. And what if I were to run? Would I escape? Would I reach some shelter in time? While I shuffle and consider sprinting, blows rain down. Unerringly, it is all bad. What if once: to be wrong?

                                                                                                                   (Zarakvití)

Fans of Miroslav Salava’s poetry (Mé baroko, Zarakvití, V honitbě Boží – My Baroque, Zarakvití, In God’s Hunting Grounds) are usually also familiar with his art. He has had a solo show of his wood carvings, Od vola do vola (Ztichlá klika Gallery, 2006), and participated in several group shows. Salava’s Baroqueness, his own interpretation of the tragic, existential feeling that has re-​emerged so many times in the history of art, represents the core determinant of his work. We recognize it in his wooden figures that reference both the archetypal faces on totem poles and Matthias Braun’s Zwerghaus, and we recognize it in his verses too. Antithesis, one of the dominant features of the Baroque aesthetic, is typical for both figures and words – they express terror and sneers, they joint together the religions and the mythic, the tragic and the comic, through which they attempt to escape horror.

To read Salava’s poems in their original manuscripts is an anti-​aesthetic experience of a different kind, an experience involving the simultaneous perception of art expressed through material and ideas through words. At Polička, we have on exhibit one of Salava’s notebooks of poems. As is often the case with works presented at Polička, his lyrical diary both meets and exceeds the definition of an author’s book. It exists as one unique copy, it contains a number of the author’s drawings, and it makes an impression on us through the immediacy of its graphic expression and its living, personal handwriting.

But the main point of Salava’s poems is naturally their textual content. We can of course acquaint ourselves with it in a more comfortable manner, through a classical printed book of poetry – easily accessible and legible, formally more compact, with extraneous, impassable and blind alleys eliminated by both author and editor. But in Salava’s diary we can follow two pathways – the sequence of meaning and the trail of touch.

Glued-​in poems written on receipts, transit tickets, scraps of paper, often with the exact time and place of their creation, photos, letters from literary friends, holy images, and even snakeskin allow us to not only hear the voice of poetry, but also, at least from a distance, glimpse its face, as seen by the poet in the moment of its arrival.

It may seem that the sheer amount of impressions and ideas contained in the diary could hinder our ability to follow the developmental course of its ideas. Here, more than in a printed collection, we encounter a literally physical, antithetical, all-​encompassing Baroque complexity threatening to bury us, making detachment impossible, and contradictoriness that elicits fear due to loss of orientation. It is only when we cease to expect a more or less direct flow of thought from poem to poem, when be truly begin to read, not in a linear manner, but in blanket fashion, that we begin to be able to comprehend the true structure of its meaning. 

Curator: Lucie Rohanová

The exhibition takes place at the Art Archive at DOX within the project Shelf.