Mark Ther is an artist and Chalupecký Prize winner. He is one of seven voices in our series of monologues on the city of Prague. This is the concluding installment, you can read the complete series here
Although I was born in Prague, my family’s from Broumov—pronounced “Braunau” in German—which is located in the Sudetenland. Ever since I was a small kid, I have always gone there to visit, but I never had a clue about what had actually happened there during the Second World War. My great-great aunt Berta would always claim, “I am a German,” but I could never understand how she could be German if she was from Czechoslovakia. She would always write postcards in German, as she couldn’t write in Czech. Even though I’ve spent so much time there, my interest in the lost histories and the extinct dialect of this no-longer-existent culture of the Sudetenland has only developed quite recently. The culture of this region, which had been developing alongside ours for 700 years, is now gone entirely. I also address this lost world of the Sudetenland in my work, but, instead of focusing on the painful history of the expulsions, I prefer to explore aspects of the culture that had flourished there before the war.
I am the only Praguer in my family, the rest of whom live in Germany. I think it’s still sort of a childhood trauma for me that my family didn’t stay in Germany in 1985 when we had the rare chance to visit… although I can’t exactly explain why. It’s questionable whether it would have been better there for me anyway. In any event, my home is here, in Prague. Of course, I would rather be in Berlin, just like every other artist, but now the German capital seems saturated with artists and their products. I also think it might even be good to live somewhere that isn’t exactly cool—somewhere that’s a bit off. But this doesn’t change the fact that I have always hated Prague as a city, as well as how it’s structured and how people here go about their lives. Perhaps it was a better place in the past when it had a bustling café culture and a more overtly romantic atmosphere, something that I’ve only seen in photographs. More people recognize my name after I won the Chalupecký Prize last year, which is a Czech art award given to young artists by an international jury. But to be honest, things otherwise haven’t changed that much for me. The day before yesterday I was at a bar, and my friend introduced me to someone who then said: “Yeah, I know the name.” The guy, a FAMU [Film and TV Academy of Performing Arts in Prague] student, started to comment on my work, but I just didn’t know how to respond other than saying “Uh, ok.” It’s nice, though; I didn’t actually expect to get the award. There were other people nominated whose work is probably “cooler” than mine. I think it was also the first time in history that this particular prize was awarded to a video-artist. Of course, that’s something I can be proud of. ~
This text first appeared in Electronic Beats Magazine N° 31 (Fall 2012).
Photo: Luci Lux