THE ELDER GENERATION &
ORIGIN OF THE SUMMER SCHOOL
photographs by Jack Laing Aiken and Lukas Maar
interviews / texts by Jack Laing Aiken, Lukas Maar and Philip Chemayel
Educated as a metalsmith at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague, Martin is a sculptor and the last permanent resident of Maříž, where he also has his studio in the former school. He was a part of Summer School as a lector since 1992.
“Formally, we called the Summer School a “Spiritual Experiment” where people should learn how to express, also nonverbally - through their work, movement or anything. And so whenever one gets into it, it might change their values completely, at least that’s how I’ve always seen it. It all took place in Slavonice, in the old barn behind Besídka - now there is the hotel instead. The students just used what was around. All kinds of garbage, from which they did kind of plastic collages. For instance, somebody made a dog out of a bag, with car lights as eyes. But yeah, we had some plaster, wire and a few other basic materials and the students were just working with what there was. The first year, there were even some busts of Stalin and Lenin and the students were transforming them. Sometimes we were doing a day of totalitarianism for those that didn’t know it - morning exercise, terrible food, punishment. We took it all with humour though. [...] Those ten years blended in my head into one long Summer School.”
One of the founders of Keramika Maříž as well as the former Summer School and a part of theatre Sklep, Jan is restoring the renaissance building of Besídka since 1991 into a restaurant and hotel that has sheltered the community of incoming artists ever since.
“It takes me back to where it used to be. It is really unbelievable how similar it is to the former Summer School. “Summer School of Spiritual Experiment in Theory and Practice” is simply a nonsense that nobody understands, not even us back then. It was meant to sound very noble, but without any one clear meaning, and that allowed for the freedom of creativity. It’s about giving a bunch of young people a space and freedom to work, interact and communicate. We simply wanted to have some fun. It all comes from the atmosphere in the Sklep theatre. It was quite punk, and we just took everything with humour, without any higher ambitions. Just whenever we saw that it made sense and that people were actually learning something, we started to do it a bit more professional, but to be honest, the first year was the most fun.
The main difference is that back then in the 90’s you could easily distinguish Czechs from foreigners, in the way that the Czech students, and also lectors were a bit cauti- ous, not so free. But, whenever I look at the students that came this year, I don’t see the difference at all. I don’t know where they all came from - Germany, Canada, Slovakia or Romania? They all look and act the same now, they are all just young people that came from one world, not only Europe but one world.”
Gisela is a practiced painter now based on the shores of the Balaton Lake in Hungary. Previously, she was a resident in the Wiede-Fabrik art district in Munich, and in 1995 she came across the former Summer School as a participant with the then new-born Nicolas.
“The people who started the fist summer school, started everything. They actually started a new era in Czech art, but in the 80’s already, not only in the 90s. It was around the Sklep theatre. It was a big theatre community and during communist times, they were an underground theatre group. We had a lot of funny evenings which developed like a theatre play, but without a director. It was very much like nobody cared. Sometimes, some of the people from the theatre wore costumes to show up in a funny way and make it more like a happening and that was funny, but nobody was forced into this. Sometimes the flame jumped over to somebody who just showed up suddenly and he was so fond of it that he took part. We had a lot of people coming from abroad. From the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, France and they stayed here, they bought houses because everybody felt like they were accepted as they are. It makes you very satisfied and easy going.” “When I joined the workshop, we went into the woods and I found a piece of the iron curtain, I still have it. It’s a memory of those times, and it was very close to that time. Everybody had connections to this middle-eastern part of Europe, we knew the border and the feeling of separation. I liked it very much to be in such a forgotten place. It was between the borders and nearly all houses were empty because people didn‘t want to live here as they would have had to tell the police and move on to Slavonice because it was right at the border.”
Peter Coreth is an Austrian art collector and founder of the ‘Museum Humanum’ which is situated in the small town of Fratres, just across the Czech-Austrian border.
He worked for many years as an editor of foreign affairs in Salzburg until he decided to go to London, a true melting pot of cultures. After London, Munich became the city where he oriented himself and discovered his passion for art. During these formative years, he felt the ever-increasing urge for a museum with a transcultural comparison of archetypal themes and motifs, or as he describes it, “an atlas of gestures and meanings“. Whilst in Munich, the Münchner Völkerkundemuseum encouraged Peter to pursue his individual idea of a museum that brings together the different cultural worldviews. In 1992, Peter found an old farm in Fratres which would swiftly become home for the artifacts he had been collecting for a number of decades. Today, the collection at ‘Museum Humanum’ continues to grow, serving as a truly honest cultural bridge and anthropological asset. Peter allows past and present to intermingle, completely discarding a culturally split curation for his museum, instead opting to draw a bow that reflects the similarities of the individual epochs, religions, cultural phases and myths. ”I want to guide the viewer through the similarities and synergies. Worldviews trans- form to others and motives are not discarded. They are defined and changed differently. Connection of form and meaning. No form is random. No style falls from the sky; All an expression of worldviews. When one thing changes, the shape changes.”
Zuzana studied, as a textile artist, at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague, where she met Kryštof Trubáček, one of the co-founders of the former Summer School. He introduced Zuzana to the ceramics and the Summer School in Slavonice. In 1994, she moved there permanently and besides the ceramics she practiced her textile work.
It was a great place for her. “The Summer School, it was all together, the place - Slavonice, it was the relationship with my colleagues and friends, and making a new relationship with the people who live here. It was an interesting community, the place where I can stay throughout the year and do my work. It all played together, I was not thinking so much about it at the time.“
She grew up a business - creating craft pieces for normal people. The time was right for her new ideas. She always focused on simple pieces for use, and that goes back to her studies in Arts and Crafts. Slowly she established a group of people who were working for her. It was working well and the people were hungry for this. It was the same with ceramics; it was colourful, different and the people can do it on their own so they can see if they have some artistic potential.