An essay on the performative elements and specificities of perception of the screening of the collective film Our Purgatory which took place at the 25th Ji.hlava IDFF.
Ji.hlava IDFF 2021 took place, so to speak, in person, but the risk of having to move cultural events to the digital space, where the festival was held the previous year due to the unfavourable epidemiological situation, now hangs over us once again. As much as we might have been glad at that time for any kind of alternative presentation of the whole plethora of films that were part of last year’s programme, it is the works deliberately conceived for an unusual co-experience, such as Our Purgatory (2021) by experimental filmmaker Martin Ježek, that remind us most clearly and urgently that with many works of art, collective viewing in a shared space cannot be adequately replaced by the solitary experience of watching a substitute on one’s computer screen. In this text, I will therefore be examining the screening of Our Purgatory that took place at the 25th Ji.hlava IDFF as an independent event which featured certain performative elements and at the same time created a specific mode of perception, to which, of course, the array of expressive means of the work itself also contributed.
This kind of departure from a purely textual analysis brings to mind Rick Altman’s well-known text “Cinema as Event”, whose title makes it quite clear what the author is suggesting. Altman considers a strictly textual analysis to be obsolete and reductive, and so he shifts the focus from the text to the situation and comes up with twelve attributes on the basis of which cinema can be defined as a macro-event.1) For the purposes of my work, the most crucial of these attributes is performance, as will become clear in the text below, though Altman does not propose an exact definition for this term. In the short subsection entitled “Performance”, he instead highlights some of the qualities of cinematic presentation that can be considered performative. In particular, he writes about the heterogeneous form of screenings of the same films in different cinemas (especially in relation to the accompanying sound in the era of silent cinema) as a result of the influence of different factors tied to a specific situation.2) This text will therefore understand performance (and the related adjective “performative”) according to the definition used by Jiří Anger – as he built on the work of Richard Schechner, the “pioneer of performance art”3)– in his monograph Afekt, výraz, performance: Proměny melodramatického excesu v kinematografii těla [Affect, expression, performance: Transformation of melodramatic excess in the cinema of the body]. Performances are “practices that show, emphasise, and make visible the action itself, the exposure to a particular situation.”4) However, we can narrow Schechner’s definition down a bit if we require that in a given situation there must be contact between the actor and the audience in a shared space, which is called for in relation to the notion of performance or performance art,5) for example, in the dictionary Základní pojmy divadla [Basic terms of theatre]6) or in the book The Transformative Power of Performance by theatre scholar Erika Fischer-Lichte.7)
Even despite this qualifier, one can agree with Altman’s supposition that “current theaters tend towards what we might call the zero degree of performance.”8) It is clear that festival screenings, which are often accompanied by an introductory lecture or a discussion with the filmmakers, deviate in certain ways from the largely unified form of screenings in these “current theaters”, although even in such cinemas, it is possible to come across events that deliberately bring performative elements to the fore. In this context, it is necessary to mention that Our Purgatory, the focus of this text, is a multi-screen, ternary work, meaning that there were two smaller screens in front of the main screen in the DIOD theatre in Jihlava, one on the left and one on the right. A significant consequence of this setup was the placement of the three projectors directly in the auditorium, in close proximity to the audience. It is confounding that this information was not announced on the Ji.hlava website nor in other propaedeutic (para)texts,9) even though it constitutes a distinctive creative choice, which is certainly not standard at this film festival (nor others). While the profile of the film on the Ji.hlava website included the laconic note “Format: 16 mm”,10) the information about the multi-screen format of the projection was completely absent, and so the three screens in front of the stage surprised the unsuspecting audience, as did the three projectors inside the auditorium.
In addition to the striking presence of this technical equipment, however, the audience also found themselves in close proximity to the creator of Our Purgatory – according to the opening credits – Martin Ježek, who gave a more than fifteen-minute introduction to the film and then operated all three projectors directly from the auditorium. This kind of situation brings to mind the concept of presentness as defined by Erika Fischer-Lichte, which she understands as “a purely performative quality.”11) It is the presence of the phenomenal body of the actor in the space shared with the audience, which serves as a trigger for their own sense of being present.12) Thus, it was not only that the author was in attendance and that he presented a concrete conceptual understanding of his film but also that the process of conveying this work of art to the viewers depended solely on him.13) As is well known, the processual act of screening a film in contemporary cinemas is typically intentionally hidden as much as possible in order not to disrupt the audience’s immersion; however, Ježek draws attention to it, emphasises it through performative operations – before the screening of Our Purgatory he joked to the audience that projecting the film synchronously on three screens might not work and he might need to restart it, or while watching the film the viewers could observe him operating the projectors directly in the auditorium
Jay D. Bolter and Richard Grusin’s concept of hypermediacy, which consists in highlighting the medium and drawing attention to the act of mediation, also finds its apt expression in these elements.14) This “fetishisation” of analogue film in view of the audience – a kind of showcasing of the medium – is especially noticeable in an era when digital cinema is entirely dominant. In his text “Found footage efekt: Digitální Kříženecký a prasklina filmového média” [Found footage effect: Digital Kříženecký and the crack-up of the film medium], Jiří Anger points to a theoretical line of thought on the “death of film”, in the context of which he mentions André Gaudreault and Philippe Marion, according to whom such “deaths of film” have occurred eight times, the last of which took place in the 1990s with the “mass advent of digitisation”.15) Ježek is notorious for his adoration of analogue film, and in the introduction to Our Purgatory he explained why the digital medium is not attractive to him – the material from film prints has a special and irreplaceable physicality for him, which, with all the rawness contained in Our Purgatory, can only be made present using a film projector.16)
The three screens on which Our Purgatory was projected also played a specific role. Ježek introduced them as “Lenten screens”, through which he wanted to create something holy in a profane space – a certain sacred situation. Their conception was inspired by Ježek’s visit to an Austrian church during Lent, where he saw three white screens covering the altarpieces. Their purpose was to help the faithful stave off distraction during prayer and at the same time to serve as a surface for “projecting” their own inner images.17) It would be somewhat foolish to consider the changing of the status of the space as a performative statement which, in the definition of John L. Austin,18) is self-referential and constitutive and through which the theatre hall would be sanctified. It is less about hierotopy, which is Alexei Lidov’s term for the process of creating a sacred space with a complex set of component elements that are designed for sensory saturation,19) than it is about equipping the audience with a certain prior understanding of the context in which Our Purgatory can be perceived – a change in the reception framework for the sake of an atmosphere implying the numinous – and, not least of all, it is about reflecting on the potentiality of a (temporary) redefinition of the cinema space,20) on changes in its current semantic status and the related questioning of the embeddedness of the sacred21) in spaces defined as holy by a given cultural code. Ježek himself mentioned in the introduction that this work is not intended for the common cinema but rather for less typical spaces of a different type.22) For that matter, the premiere took place as a manifestation of expanded cinema at the BRNO16 film festival in the premises of a former prison in Brno, whose chapel was reconsecrated several years ago.23)
If we now turn away from the configurations and individual elements of the screening at the Ji.hlava IDFF (to return to them later) and towards the work itself, it must be mentioned, that Ježek based Our Purgatory on a 1914 collection of dream texts24) by Jakub Deml entitled Tanec smrti [Dance of death], which was later released as part of the anthology Můj očistec [My purgatory] in 1928, for this is not the first time that we can observe within Ježek’s oeuvre a certain expression of a subjective impression of a literary work (a pretext), rather than its direct adaptation. As regards the Czech expressionists, even before Ježek found inspiration in the work of Deml, he based his student film The Voice on the Telephone (2000), on which he collaborated with Martin Blažíček during his studies at FAMU, on the story of the same name by Richard Weiner.25) Although it was an experimental structural film, the fictional narrative emerged at least on an elementary level,26) as Martin Čihák points out in his book Ponorná řeka kinematografie [The subterranean river of cinema]. In contrast, Ježek’s film Dům daleko [A House Far Away] (2007), inspired by Věra Linhartová’s poetic prose, and Our Purgatory are purely non-narrative works.
At the same time, Our Purgatory is a collective work – a tendency we could observe in Ježek’s filmography in the titles Druhá liga [The second league] (2007) and Monstrkoncert [Monster concert] (2008). In the case of Our Purgatory, this collective quality manifests itself thus: Ježek tasked five people with capturing footage that would express their reflections on Tanec smrti, including on the leitmotif of the collection – the fear of death – as well as their relationship to Ježek as such. According to the opening credits, the materials were provided by Jan Daňhel, Jakub Halousek, Viola Ježková, Lenka Kerdová,27) and Martin Klapper. The footage for the main screen was edited by Hedvika Hansalová, who was tasked with creating a sixty-five-minute Mass from the material she received as a tribute to Jakub Deml, with Tanec smrti.28) also serving as a source of inspiration. The two smaller screens displayed director’s cuts created by the five aforementioned cinematographers.29) Before the screening, Ježek stressed to the audience that although these individuals are not visible in the film, they can be described as the protagonists of the work, and the shots we see are de facto extensions of their perspectives.30)
Although specific toponyms31) can be found despite the typical dream-like confusion in Jakub Deml’s Tanec smrti and more broadly in Můj očistec, we initially get the impression that the perspectives of the five cinematographers in Our Purgatory are fixed on a fragmentary place, impossible to locate in time and space – some ungraspable, rustic territory. This impression is reinforced by the frenetic pace of the editing, unusual camera angles, deliberate manipulation of the film stock, and frequent multiple exposures, which further multiply the number of often short, concurrent timelines, of which there are already nearly always several due to the numerous simultaneous projections on the two smaller screens (while the projection on the main screen runs without interruption). It is only later that a shot of a road sign bearing the name of the village of Tasov makes it clear that the footage was apparently shot in the place where Deml spent a large part of his life – where he was born and died.32) Jindřich Chalupecký describes Tasov and its surroundings as “a hilly region with many woods and ponds, with distinctive mounds of prehistoric granite boulders in the fields and pastures, and with stone crosses by the roadside.”33) It is interesting that it is the symbol of the cross that constantly appears as a part of the landscape in the film, both in connection to the sepulchral theme and as a bearer of the passio Christi motif. Thanks to the rural character of Tasov, described by Chalupecký above, the film is also rich in shots of the living – namely trees, plants, and livestock. People only appear for a brief moment about halfway through the work, in the form of a somewhat ominous procession of masqueraders. This macabre hallmark is the consequence of experimental work with the cinematic image, which countless times throughout Our Purgatory results in the transformation of objects (or subjects) from the reality in front of the camera into abstract patterns. Formless grooves and “cracks” begin to increase noticeably, especially towards the end of the film. This damage was deliberately created on the film emulsion by imperfectly removing the anti-halation backing during the negative colour developing process34) The work is bookended by two inscriptions, beginning with, “Let us sing a hymn of the words that mean death in all the languages of the earth,” and ending with a lapidary “Amen!”
The sound component of Our Purgatory does not merely support the visuals; on the contrary, it creates a similarly fascinating and varied landscape, with the spoken word, music, and sound effects all playing a role35) The spoken word is the least represented. At the very beginning of the work there is a quotation from Deml’s Tanec smrti, specifically the first sentence of the section entitled “Hrající revolver” [Playing revolver]: “Do not underestimate your words when you speak in front of children.”36) Throughout the film thereafter, the only intelligible speech is the ominous epizeuxis, the resolutely repeated word “DEATH”,37) which evokes in its insistence the memorable (and also iterated) “DESTROY” from Paul Sharits’s structural film T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G (1968). Otherwise, however, in Our Purgatory the voice is somehow freed from its communicative function, torn from the reductive confines of language. There are several instances of paroles layered over each other, which give way to an urgent yet unintelligible and mindless ululation, or we sometimes hear ragged and wheezy breathing. As for this layering, the sounds of cats in heat multiplied in a similar manner can be heard more than once throughout the film. However, such sound effects flow seamlessly into music, or in certain cacophonous, highly dissonant passages, the line between music and sound effects is completely blurred. Some moments could boldly be classified as so-called noise music, while at other times we get into more sensitive, melancholic moods, for example, through the well-known piano melody from the beginning of Chopin’s “Marche funèbre”. The music for Our Purgatory was composed by Robert Piotrowicz, who was given a similar task to that of Hedvika Hansalová, that is, to create a sixty-five-minute musical Mass, intended not for liturgical purposes but rather as a tribute to Jakub Deml. The collection Tanec smrti was also to serve as his inspiration. Piotrowicz then set his music to specific sections of the film, as he had received a rough cut of the content for the main screen.38)
However much we describe this soundtrack with words, it will never be a faithful analogue to the aural experience of the screening at the Ji.hlava IDFF, as the volume and density of the sound to which the audience was exposed cannot be adequately conveyed through writing, which is a medium perceived through sight and not hearing (ignoring the possibility of sensory compensation). After the film’s sudden conclusion, when the sound abruptly cut off, there was a kind of moment of “loud silence” – as much as that sounds like an oxymoron, there is probably no better way to describe the lingering humming in one’s ears. In that moment, it is as if a person hears their own hearing, is listening to their own sense of hearing. It is what can be characterised as reflecting on the conditions of one’s own perception, something which Erika Fischer-Lichte relates to the performative event Reading Homer in her text “Za estetiku performativna” [Towards an aesthetics of the performative].39)
With this mention of the audience experience, we circle back to the performative aspects of the screening and the specific mode of perception that is related to these elements as well as the expressive means of the work. As noted in the text above, Our Purgatory is a collective work, but watching it in the shared space of the cinema is also a communal act. The shift from the title of Deml’s collection, Můj očistec [My Purgatory], to the plural Our Purgatory, thus suggests not only the collective nature of the film but also a shared viewer experience, which Ježek confirmed to the audience before the screening began. He said that the creative intention was to experience the fear of death together through contact with his work, which is an artistic representation of purgatory.40) As is well known, Martin Čihák offers an alternative etymology for the word “cinema”, according to which it stems from koinos bios, “common life”,41) but Ježek aspires – speaking somewhat emphatically – to koinos thanatos, a common death; the audience is meant to experience a deindividualising unity in the act of encountering the arduous experience of death together. Before the screening began, Ježek even warned those in attendance that his work is not suitable for viewers with psychological issues. In his words, it would not be an easy experience, although it may ultimately have a therapeutic effect.42) This begs the fascinating question of whether it is possible for the shared experience of the fear of death to become the apotheosis of life, to be transformed into a positive force. At the same time, this idea brings to mind other concepts from the field of performative art, such as Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty43) and Hermann Nitsch’s Orgies Mysteries Theatre.44) Both make an appeal to the liminal experience of the spectators (who in Nitsch’s performances often freely blend with the actors). Through a ritualised event of a highly passionate and brutal nature, there is to be a return of the displaced and a purification – a purgatorial catharsis – of the human being living in a post-sacral society.45) However, unlike Ježek, neither Artaud nor Nitsch leans towards Christianity,46) to which this theme of purgatory explicitly refers. After all, Jakub Deml was a Catholic priest47) and as Ježek explained in the introduction to Our Purgatory, according to Deml, in purgatory one must relive the pain of an entire life before entering heaven.48) Ježek also relates pain to his interpersonal relationships with the five authors who provided him with the footage for Our Purgatory – relationships which have undergone a certain evolution. Before the screening began, he told the audience explicitly that it is this personal level that makes watching Our Purgatory painful for him.49)
The issue of pain brings us to the phenomenal aspect of this screening. It is necessary to realise that the loud and aggressive soundtrack, together with the extremely rapid and abrupt alternation of images on the three screens, resulted in a somatically demanding viewing experience that in places could certainly be described as painful. In his book Imagines corporis: Tělo v české moderně a avantgardě [Imagines corporis: The body in Czech modernism and the avant-garde], Josef Vojvodík draws attention to the German philosopher Hermann Schmitz, who, in his reflections on the phenomenology of corporeality, argues that it is especially in moments of pain or fear that we most intensely perceive our bodily being-in-the-world here and now,50) to which Vojvodík adds: “Schmitz speaks of a state of total primitive presence, expressible by the explications ‘Here-now-whereabouts-of this-I.’”51) It is this moment of the present intensification of the Dasein – of turning inward through suffering, of reflecting on one’s own body and sensory experience – that distinguishes Our Purgatory from narrative fiction films, which construct the illusion of a kind of false reality, a temporary simulacrum, and usually ask us to identify with the characters on the screen, that is, to turn away from our own individual personality. In Friedrich Nietzsche’s conceptual dyad of the Apollonian and the Dionysian, the viewing of Our Purgatory falls closer to Dionysian intoxication as a result of experiencing reality than to the oneiric daze of the mere semblance of Apollonian mimesis.52)
However, it should be mentioned that this factor leads to a somewhat paradoxical situation. There is a tension, a certain oscillation between the collective character of the event – the common sharing of an intense moment – and the simultaneous experiencing of the current specifics of one’s own perception resulting from this intense moment. In his text “Theater and Cinema”, André Bazin reflects on cinemagoers using the words “crowd” and “solitude”, which in his view only seem to be opposite poles; their intersection thus does not result in a contradiction, and neither of them loses its essence through said intersection: “Crowd and solitude are not antinomies: the audience in a movie house is made up of solitary individuals. Crowd should be taken here to mean the opposite of an organic community freely assembled.”53) The audience of Our Purgatory at the Ji.hlava IDFF was also not an a priori and consensually constituted group, but, as mentioned above, Ježek emphasises that the work is intended for co-experience and disrupts the usually anonymous space of the auditorium with his presence.54) There is thus a certain relational paradox – the direct shocks throughout the event throw the subject into a position of here and now, making their autotelic dimension present and provoking them to self-reflect on their individual perception because the work assaults the senses directly; however, the introduction, the priming associated with it, and the specific steps that unmask the component elements of the screening simultaneously keep drawing the subject’s attention to the collective and processual nature of the situation as well as to the situation itself.
In conclusion, it could be added that these shocks form a remarkable contrast with so-called grey aesthetics, which Vlastimil Zuska deals with in his book Kruté světlo, krásný stín: Estetika a film [Harsh light, beautiful shadow: Aesthetics and film]. He likens it to the experience of the viewer who is so overwhelmed by the plethora of omnipresent works offered by the contemporary art world that their perception of them “greys” in the same way that a spectral colour wheel turns grey if we spin it too quickly.55) The question remains as to whether an encounter with Our Purgatory, given its specific somatic effect and the performative aspects that are associated with the screening of the film, can rouse such viewers, who have ceased to experience contact with art, from their apathy. An idea as radical as the attempt to manifest the collective experience of the fear of death requires an equally radical expression in Ježek’s rendition, which is actually quite close to grey aesthetics, although it takes a kind of subversive form. Over the course of not quite seventy minutes, the audience is bombarded with and affected by an enormous number of images, which alternate at a frenzied pace, with the viewer’s gaze forced to flit between three screens while their hearing is assaulted by a very loud soundtrack composed of a jumble of countless elements whose resonance is sometimes harmonious but more often discordant. This destabilising bodily experience, which is in many ways similar to the inundation of art, albeit in an extremely compressed form, also brings to mind the thesis of Gilles Deleuze, which Martin Charvát builds on in his article “Cinema screen as a medium of rupture in thought”, according to which art does not communicate with us but rather directly impacts our entire body.56)
In this text, I have focused on the screening of Martin Ježek’s triptych Our Purgatory at the 2021 Ji.hlava IDFF as a concrete collective event that possessed specific performative elements. At the same time, I also considered the means of expression of this work, without ignoring the original authorial intentions, because both factors – performative and expressive – contributed to the specific viewing experience. I examined the impact of the joint presence of the actor and the audience in the shared space of the theatre hall as well as certain performative operations and the placement of the equipment in the space, which focused the audience’s attention not only on the film being presented but also on the very process of mediating this artwork and on the analogue medium that bears it. Of course, the viewing of Our Purgatory as such was also “exposed” – a certain phenomenal aspect of the viewing experience – because the aggressive nature of the work’s visual and audio components prompted reflection on one’s own perception.57)
Rick Altman, “Cinema as Event”. In: Petr Szczepanik (ed.), In: Rick Altman (ed.), Sound Theory, Sound Practice. New York: Routledge 1992.
Jiří Anger, Afekt, výraz, performance: proměny melodramatického excesu v kinematografii těla. Prague: Univerzita Karlova, Filozofická fakulta 2018.
Jiří Anger, “Found footage efekt: Digitální Kříženecký a prasklina filmového média”. Iluminace 31, 2019, no. 2.
Jiří Anger, Melodramatic Imagination and the Theatre of Cruelty: In a Year with Thirteen Full Moons. Prague 2014. Bachelor’s thesis. Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague. Thesis advisor: Petra Hanáková.
André Bazin, What is Cinema? Berkeley: University of California Press 1967.
Ivo Bláha, Zvuková dramaturgie audiovizuálního díla. Prague: AMU 2006.
Jay David Bolter – Richard Grusin, “Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation”. In: Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 2000.
Stan Brakhage, Metaphors on Vision. New York: Film Culture Inc. 1963.
Jindřich Chalupecký, Expresionisté. Prague: Torst 2013.
Martin Charvát, "Cinema screen as a medium of rupture in thought". Mediální studia 8, 2014, no. 2.
Martin Charvát, Gilles Deleuze. Asignifikantní sémiotika. Prague: Togga 2016.
Květoslav Chvatík, Strukturalismus a avantgarda. Prague: Československý spisovatel 1970.
Martin Čihák, Ponorná řeka kinematografie. Prague: AMU 2013.
Jakub Deml, Můj očistec. Olomouc: Votobia 1996.
Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company 1959.
Erika Fischer-Lichte, The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics. New York: Routledge 2008.
Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny. London: Penguin 2003.3.
Tomáš Jirsa, Tváří v tvář beztvarosti: Afektivní a vizuální figury v moderní literatuře. Brno: Host 2016.
Lenka Jungmannová – Petr Pavlovský. “Performance”. In: PAVLOVSKÝ, Petr. Základní pojmy divadla: Teatrologický slovník. Prague: Libri 2004.
Tomáš Kubart, Inter faeces et urinam purgamus: Vídeňský akcionismus jako faxensyndrom poválečného Rakouska. Brno 2021. Dissertation. Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University in Brno. Dissertation advisor: Martina Musilová.
Alexej Lidov, "Hierotopia, the Creation of Sacred Place as an Object of Cultural History and a Form of Creative Activity". In: A. Lidov (ed.), Hierotopy: Creation of Sacred Spaces in Byzantium and Medieval Russia. Moscow: Progress-tradition 2006.
Barbora Machová, Divadlo orgií a mystérií. Olomouc 2017. Master’s thesis. Faculty of Arts, Palacký University Olomouc. Thesis advisor: Jitka Pavlišová.
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2000.
Jan Švankmajer, Cesty spasení. Prague: Dybbuk 2018.
Josef Vojvodík, Imagines corporis: Tělo v české moderně a avantgardě. Brno: Host 2006.
Peter Weibel, “Opseography Instead of Cinematography”. In: Peter Weibel (ed.), Beyond Art: A Third Culture. Vienna: Springer-Verlag 2005.
Vlastimil Zuska, Kruté světlo, krásný stín: Estetika a film. Prague: Univerzita Karlova 2011.
Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29.10.2021. The audio recording was made by Kryštof Kočtář.
ANTFILM (dir. Tetsuya Maruyama, 2021)
Druhá liga (dir. Martin Ježek, 2007)
Dům daleko (dir. Martin Ježek, 2007)
The Last Image (dir. Judith Zdesar, 2020)
Monstrkoncert (dir. Martin Ježek, 2008)
Mothlight (dir. Stan Brakhage, 1963)
Our Purgatory (dir. Martin Ježek, 2021)
T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G (dir. Paul Sharits, 1968)
The Voice on the Telephone (dirs. Martin Blažíček, Martin Ježek, 2000)
1) ALTMAN, Rick. “Cinema as Event”. In: ALTMAN, Rick (ed.), Sound Theory, Sound Practice. New York: Routledge 1992, p. 1–14. These attributes include multiplicity, three-dimensionality, materiality, heterogeneity, intersection, performance, multi-discursivity, instability, mediation, choice, diffusion, and interchange.
2) Ibid., p. 8–9.
3) ANGER, Jiří. Afekt, výraz, performance: Proměny melodramatického excesu v kinematografii těla. Prague: Univerzita Karlova, Filozofická fakulta 2018, p. 32.
4) Ibid., p. 32.
5) Performativity and performance are essentially correlative concepts. For more on this relationship, see FISCHER-LICHTER, Erika. The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics. New York: Routledge 2008, p. 28–29.
6) JUNGMANNOVÁ, Lenka – PAVLOVSKÝ, Petr. “Performance”. In: PAVLOVSKÝ, Petr. Základní pojmy divadla: Teatrologický slovník. Prague: Libri 2004, p. 214.
7) See FISCHER-LICHTER, Erika. The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics. New York: Routledge 2008, p. 38–40.
8) ALTMAN, Rick. “Cinema as Event”. In: ALTMAN, Rick (ed.). Sound Theory, Sound Practice. New York: Routledge 1992, p. 9.
11) FISCHER-LICHTER, Erika. The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics. New York: Routledge 2008, p. 96.
12) Ibid., p. 96.
13) On the same evening as the screening of Our Purgatory (29 October), Martin Ježek operated the projector during the screening of the short film ANTFILM (dir. Tetsuya Maruyama, 2021). The Ji.hlava website erroneously lists the format of ANTFILM as DCP because, as we learned immediately before the screening, at the last moment an 8 mm film strip containing the work arrived unexpectedly. The author created ANTFILM by gluing the bodies of dead ants to the film strip’s emulsion, which may evoke Stan Brakhage’s experimental film Mothlight (1963), in which subversive work with the indexicality of the cinematic image was achieved in a de facto identical way.
14) BOLTER, Jay David – GRUSIN, Richard. “Immediacy, Hypermediacy, and Remediation”. In: Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 2000, p. 31–44.
15) ANGER, Jiří. “Found footage efekt: Digitální Kříženecký a prasklina filmového média”. Iluminace 31, 2019, no. 2, p. 97.
16) Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29.10.2021. The audio recording was made by Kryštof Kočtář.
18) FISCHER-LICHTER, Erika. The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics. New York: Routledge 2008, p. 24–25.
19) LIDOV, Alexej. “Hierotopy: The creation of sacred spaces as a form of creativity and subject of cultural history”. In: LIDOV, Alexej (ed.). Hierotopy: Creation of Sacred Spaces in Byzantium and Medieval Russia. Moscow: Progress-tradition 2006, p. 32–33..
20) Ježek worked with this theme even in the first seconds of his introduction to Our Purgatory, when he proclaimed that the theatre hall was his home and invited the audience to behave as they saw fit. Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29.10.2021. The audio recording was made by Kryštof Kočtář.
21) According to Mircea Eliade, “the sacred” is one of the two basic modalities of human experience, two different existential situations. See ELIADE, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company 1959, p. 14–16.
22) Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29.10.2021. The audio recording was made by Kryštof Kočtář.
23) Source: e-mail correspondence with Martin Ježek from November 2021.
24) In his book Expresionisté [The expressionists], Jindřich Chalupecký points out that Deml’s dream texts cannot be reduced to mere descriptive transcriptions of dreams: “Deml’s prose is more the development of a dream, its transposition into a verbal medium – a dream that turns into a poem.” See CHALUPECKÝ, Jindřich. Expresionisté. Prague: Torst 2013, pp. 103–104.
25) On the problem of the usually matter-of-course classification of Weiner’s literary work as expressionism, see, for example, JIRSA, Tomáš. Tváří v tvář beztvarosti: Afektivní a vizuální figury v moderní literatuře. Brno: Host 2016, p. 57.
26) ČIHÁK, Martin. Ponorná řeka kinematografie. Prague: AMU 2013, p. 64.
27) On the profile of Our Purgatory on the official Ji.hlava IDFF website, she is erroneously listed as “Lenka Kedrová”. See Our Purgatory. Ji.hlava IDFF. [Accessed 13.11.2021]. Available at: https://www.ji-hlava.cz/filmy/nas-ocistec
28) Source: e-mail correspondence with Martin Ježek from November 2021.
30) Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29.10.2021. The audio recording was made by Kryštof Kočtář. As far as perspective is concerned, experimental cinema offers many noteworthy forms of the concept of the camera as an eye and the (point-of-view) shot as a perspective. Out of the films that have been screened at Ji.hlava, we can mention The Last Image (dir. Judith Zdesar, 2020), which was part of the programme of the twenty-fourth edition of the festival in 2020. This experimental documentary about the blind features a roughly three-minute-long suggestive sequence that visualises the gradual deterioration of the ability of a man who has lost his sight to retain images of external reality in his memory. The desired result is achieved by physically tampering with the film materials – memories in which one can at least partially recognise a loved one are gradually replaced by abstract images from which the outline of a landscape or a person only rarely emerges, but even these vestiges are soon displaced by a purely amorphous chaos. From the classics of the cinematic avant-garde, let us recall Stan Brakhage’s concept of the “untutored eye”, which is the idea of a specific perception that is liberated from the (in Brakhage’s view, limiting) semantic network with which, according to linguistic relativism, we cover the surrounding world, without exception, through language. See BRAKHAGE, Stan. Metaphors on Vision. New York: Film Culture Inc. 1963, ca. p. 29 (the book is unpaginated).
31) DEML, Jakub. Můj očistec. Olomouc: Votobia 1996. For example, America (p. 85), Prague (p. 104), Stránka (p. 118), Tasov (p. 151), Třebíč (p. 240), and so on. Deml’s birthplace of Tasov (including his family home) has a fascinating status throughout the book. It is a place where the author feels primarily pain or fear (see, for example, p. 130–136). Deml does not portray this place as an idyllic, nostalgia-triggering locus amoenus; on the contrary, he perceives it as a kind of oppressive “locus suspectus”, a phrase mentioned by Sigmund Freud in his famous text “The Uncanny” (see FREUD, Sigmund. The Uncanny. London: Penguin 2003, p. 125.). However, I will digress no further into any psychoanalytic diagnoses. For one thing, it would be beyond the scope of this text, and for another, I would be going against the views of Deml himself, for as Jiří Olič points out in the afterword to Můj očistec, in the 1930s Deml wrote: “Yes, those are my dreams, thankfully a thousand miles away from all the Freuds and Bretons […].” See DEML, Jakub. Můj očistec. Olomouc: Votobia 1996, p. 253.
32) CHALUPECKÝ, Jindřich. Expresionisté. Prague: Torst 2013, p. 87.
33) Ibid., p. 87.
34) Source: e-mail correspondence with Martin Ježek from November 2021.
35) According to Ivo Bláha, these constitute the three basic types of sound in an audiovisual work. See BLÁHA, Ivo. Zvuková dramaturgie audiovizuálního díla. Prague: AMU 2006, p. 12.
36) DEML, Jakub. Můj očistec. Olomouc: Votobia 1996, p. 111.
37) To be precise, the first time it is repeatedly uttered, it is part of the phrase “He was met by death”, which also occurs at the beginning of the section “Hrající revolver” (ibid., p. 111).
38) Source: e-mail correspondence with Martin Ježek from November 2021.
39) FISCHER-LICHTER, Erika. The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics. New York: Routledge 2008, p. 20.
40) Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29.10.2021. The audio recording was made by Kryštof Kočtář.
41) ČIHÁK, Martin. Ponorná řeka kinematografie. Prague: AMU 2013, p. 16.
42) Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29.10.2021. The audio recording was made by Kryštof Kočtář.
43) In the local context, Jiří Anger dealt with the topic of the Theatre of Cruelty in his bachelor’s thesis in an extremely engaging and at the same time highly scholarly manner. See ANGER, Jiří. Melodramatic Imagination and the Theatre of Cruelty: In a Year with Thirteen Moons. Prague, 2014, p. 66–76. Bachelor’s thesis. Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague. Thesis advisor: Petra Hanáková.
44) In his nearly five-hundred-page dissertation, which he defended this year, Tomáš Kubart points out that the affinity between these two concepts is not at all coincidental. According to Kubart, Nitsch “does not mention Artaud’s influence in the text Die Architektur des Orgien Mysterien Theaters most likely because at the time of the conception of the Orgies Mysteries Theatre, he was so engaged in reading Artaud (probably in French) that he immediately adopted the concept as his own.” See KUBART, Tomáš. Inter faeces et urinam purgamus: Vídeňský akcionismus jako faxensyndrom poválečného Rakouska. Brno, 2021, p. 58–59. Dissertation. Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University in Brno. Dissertation advisor: Martina Musilová.
45) Among Czech artists, we can point to Jan Švankmajer, who most appreciates those artists who emancipate the primordial function of art – who place the ritual act of creation above the resulting artefact and attempt to “restore to art the magical role it once had at the dawn of human history and which it gradually lost during the process of civilisation.” See ŠVANKMAJER, Jan. Cesty spasení. Prague: Dybbuk 2018, p. 70. Květoslav Chvatík also points out the primordial function of art, which was connected to “magic and ritual ceremonies”. See CHVATÍK, Květoslav. Strukturalismus a avantgarda. Prague: Československý spisovatel 1970, p. 93.
46) Hermann Nitsch does use Christian symbols, although mostly in a subversive way. Moreover, in his actions they are merely parts of a complex whole, which also mixes influences of pagan rituals, Dionysian orgies, and Freudian psychoanalysis. See MACHOVÁ, Barbora. Divadlo orgií a mystérií. Olomouc, 2017, p. 5–6. Master’s thesis. Faculty of Arts, Palacký University Olomouc. Thesis advisor: Jitka Pavlišová.
47) CHALUPECKÝ, Jindřich. Expresionisté. Prague: Torst 2013, p. 87.
48) Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29.10.2021. The audio recording was made by Kryštof Kočtář.
50) VOJVODÍK, Josef. Imagines corporis: Tělo v české moderně a avantgardě. Brno: Host 2006, p. 31–32.
51) Ibid., p. 32.
52) NIETZSCHE, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2000, p. 19–23.
53) BAZIN, André. “Theater and Cinema”. In: What is Cinema? Berkeley: University of California Press 1967, p. 99.
54) As mentioned above in relation to Erika Fischer-Lichte’s concept of presentness, Ježek’s presence also serves as a trigger for the audience’s sense of their own presence.
55) ZUSKA, Vlastimil. Kruté světlo, krásný stín: Estetika a film. Prague: Charles University 2011, p. 76.
56) CHARVÁT. “Cinema screen as a medium of rupture in thought”. Mediální studia 8, 2014, no. 2, p. 113. For more on this topic, see also – CHARVÁT, Martin. Gilles Deleuze. Asignifikantní sémiotika. Prague: Togga 2016, p. 46–47.
57) Building on Peter Weibel’s distinction between cinema, the writing of movement, and opseography, the writing of perception, Ježek’s work can be confidently placed in the latter category. See ČIHÁK, Martin. Ponorná řeka kinematografie. Prague: AMU 2013, p. 51–54. or WEIBEL, Peter. “Opseography Instead of Cinematography”. In: Peter Weibel (ed.), Beyond Art: A Third Culture. Vienna: Springer-Verlag 2005, p. 146–147.
This article also appeared in an edited form in the magazine Film a doba.
This article is a result of the project Media and documentary 2.0, supported by EEA and Norway Grants 2014–2021.