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Koinos thanatosOur Purgatory

media and documentary 2.0, Essay

Koinos thanatos

20. 12. 2021 / AUTHOR: Kryštof Kočtář

An essay on the performative elements and specifics of perception of the screening of the collective film Our Purgatory, which took place at the 25th edition of the IDFF Ji.hlava.

This year's edition of the IDFF Ji.hlava took place, so to speak, in a presentational way, but the risk of moving cultural events to the digital space, where the festival took place the previous year due to the unfavourable epidemiological situation, is now hanging in the air again. As much as we might have been glad then for any alternative to the mediation 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 the collective reception of many works of art in a shared space cannot be adequately replaced by the solitary experience of watching a desktop substitute. In this text, I will therefore examine the screening of Our Purgatory at the 25th edition of the Ji.hlava IDFF as a peculiar event that possessed certain performative elements, while at the same time creating a specific modus of perception, in which the battery of expressive means of the work itself was understandably involved.

Such a departure from a purely textual analysis brings to mind Rick Altman's well-known work Film as Event, whose title makes it quite clear what the author is proposing. Altman considers a strictly textual analysis as something obsolete and reductive, so he shifts the focus of attention 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 apparent from the text below, but Altman does not come up with an exact definition of this term. Rather, in a short subsection entitled "Performance," he accentuates some of the qualities of film performance that can be considered performative. First of all, he writes about the heterogeneous form of projections of the same films in different cinemas (especially in relation to the accompanying sound in the silent era of cinema) as a result of different factors tied to a specific situation.2) This text will therefore understand performance (and the adjective "performative" referring to it) according to the definition used by Jiří Anger in his monograph Affect, Expression, Performance: Transformations of Melodramatic Excess in the Cinematography of the Body, following Richard Schechner - "the pioneer of performance art "3), 4). However, Schechner's definition is somewhat narrowed down by the requirement that in a given situation there must be contact between the actor and the audience in a shared space, which in relation to the notion of performance or performance art5) is appealed to, for example, in the dictionary Basic Concepts of Theatre6) or in the book Aesthetics of Performativity by the theatre scholar Erika Fischer-Lichte.7)

<b><i>Our Purgatory</i></b>

Despite this clarification, one can agree with Altman's premise, which reads: "[...] contemporary cinemas aspire to what could be called a zero degree of performance. "8) It is clear that festival screenings, which are often accompanied by a lecturer's introduction or a discussion with the filmmakers, deviate in some ways from the rather unified form of screening in these "contemporary cinemas", but even within them it is possible to encounter events that deliberately foreground performative elements. In this context, it is worth mentioning that Our Purgatory, which I will focus on in this thesis, is a polyscreen, ternary work, so there were two smaller screens in front of the main screen of the DIOD hall in Jihlava, one on the right and one on the left. A significant consequence of this layout was the placement of the three projectors directly into the auditorium, so they were in close proximity to the audience. It is striking that this information was not announced on the Ji.hlav website or in other propedeutic (para)texts,9) although it is a distinctive creative choice, which is certainly not standard (not only) at this film festival. The film's profile on the website contains a laconic note "format: 16 mm",10) but the information about the polyscreen character of the projection is completely absent, so the three screens in front of the auditorium surprised the unsuspecting viewers as much as the three projectors in it.

In addition to the strong presence of these technical devices, however, the audience was also close to - according to the opening credits - the producer of Our Purgatory, Martin Ježek, who gave a more than fifteen-minute introduction to the film and then operated all three projectors directly from the auditorium. Such a fact brings to mind the notion of praesentiality as defined by Erika Fischer-Lichte, which the author understands as "a quality [...] purely performative. "11) It is the presence of the phenomenal body of the actor in the space shared with the audience, which serves as a precipitator of their own sense of being made present.12) Thus, not only was the author praesentient and presenting a concrete conceptual grasp of his film, but at the same time the process of conveying this work of art to the recipients depended solely on him.13) As is well known, the procedural act of screening a film in contemporary cinemas is usually intentionally masked as much as possible in order not to disturb the audience's immersion, but Ježek draws attention to it, emphasises it through performative operations - before the screening, he jokes towards the audience that it might not be possible to run the projection on three screens synchronously and it will have to be started again, while watching Our Purgatory we can observe him operating the projectors directly in the auditorium, etc.

Jay D. Bolter and Richard Grusin's notion of hypermediation, which "consists [...] in highlighting the medium, drawing attention to the act of mediation," also finds its pregnant expression in these elements.14) Such a "fetishization" of analogue film in the eyes of the audience - a kind of putting the medium on display - is particularly evident in an era when digital cinema is completely dominant. Jiří Anger, in his text The Found Footage Effect: The Digital Crusade and the Crack of the Film Medium, 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 occurred in the 1990s with the "mass advent of digitisation".15) Ježek is famous for his adoration of analogue film, and in the introduction to Our Purgatory he explains why he sees the digital medium as unattractive - for him, the material from film prints has a special and irreplaceable physicality that, with all the rawness contained in Our Purgatory, can only be made present through a film projector.16)

<b><i>Our Purgatory</i></b>

The three screens on which Our Purgatory is projected also play a specific role. Ježek presents them as so-called Lenten screens, through which he wants to create something sacred, a certain sacred situation in a profane space. In their conception, he was inspired by a visit to an Austrian church during Lent, when he saw three white screens covering the altarpieces. Their purpose was to help the faithful banish the distractions of prayer and at the same time to serve as a surface for "projecting" their own intimate images.17) It would be somewhat foolish to consider the idea of changing the status of space as a performative statement, as John L. Austin defined it as self-referential and constitutive,18) by which the cinema hall would be sacralized. Rather than hierotopy, Alexei Lidoff's term for the process of creating a sacred place with a complex set of sub-elements that serve for sensual saturation,19) it is about equipping the audience with a certain pre-understanding, in what context Our Purgatory can be perceived - a change of the reception framework in favour of an atmosphere implying the numinous - and last but not least, a reflection on the potentiality of a (temporary) redefinition of the cinema space,20) a change of its current semantic status, and the related questioning of the anchoring of the sacred21) in sacred places defined in a given cultural code. Ježek himself mentioned in his introduction that this work is not intended for the ordained cinema, but rather for less typical spaces of a different type.22) Indeed, the premiere took place as a manifestation of expanded cinema at the film festival Brněnská 16 in the premises of the former penitentiary in Brno, whose chapel was rededicated a few years ago.23)

If we now turn away from the configurations and individual elements of the projection at the IDFF Ji. hlavá (to return to them later) towards the work itself, it should be mentioned that Ježek in Our Purgatory is based on Jakub Demel's collection of dream texts24) The Dance of Death (1914) - which its author later published as part of the collection My Purgatory (1928) - since a certain expression of a subjective impression from a literary work (a pretext), rather than its direct adaptation, is not the first time we observe it across Ježek's oeuvre. As far as the Czech Expressionists are concerned, even before Demel, the eponymous short story by Richard Weiner served as a source of inspiration in his juvenilia The Voice in the Telephone (2000), on which he collaborated with Martin Blažíček during his studies at FAMU.25) Although it was a structural experimental film, the fictional narrative appeared at least on an elementary level,26) as Martin Čihák points out in his book The Submerged River of Cinema. In contrast, The House Far Away (2007), inspired by Věra Linhartová's poetic prose, or 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 The Second League (2007) and Monstrkoncert (2008). In the case of Our Purgatory, this group character manifests itself as follows - five people were given the task by Ježek to film footage that would express their reflection on the Dance of Death, including the leitmotif of this collection, which is the anxiety of death, and at the same time their relationship to Ježek as such. According to the opening credits, the images were provided by Jan Daňhel, Jakub Halousek, Viola Ježková, Lenka Kerdová27) and Martin Klapper. The editing of the main screen footage was done by Hedvika Hansalová, who was commissioned to create a 65-minute mass from the material she received as a tribute to Jakub Demel, with the Dance of Death also serving as a source of inspiration.28) On two smaller screens there were author's cuts made by the above-mentioned five cinematographers.29) Before the screening, Ježek emphasized to the audience that although these people are not visible in the film, they can be described as the protagonists of the film and the shots we see are de facto extensions of their views.30)

<b><i>Our Purgatory</i></b>

Although both in Dance of Death and more broadly in Jakub Demel's My Purgatory, despite the effect of a dream-like confusion, there are specific toponyms,31) at first we have the impression that the gazes of the five cameramen in Our Purgatory are fixed on some unlocatable, fragmentary place in time and space, an elusive rustic region. 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 multiply the number of often short simultaneous timelines, which, due to the numerous simultaneous projections on two smaller screens (the main one is projected on all the time), are already almost constantly several. It is only later that a shot of a road sign with the name of the village of Tasov makes it clear that the material was probably 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 not without interest that it is the emblem of the cross that constantly appears as part of the landscape in the film, both in connection with the sepulchral theme and as the bearer of the passio Christi motif. Thanks to the rural character of Tasovo, which Chalupecký sketches, the film is also rich in shots of the living, especially trees, plants and livestock. People appear for a brief moment only about halfway through the work, in the form of a somewhat ominous procession of masqueraders. This macabre quality is the result of experimental work with the cinematic image, which results in the transformation of objects (or subjects) from the realm of pre-camera reality into abstract figures countless times during Our Purgatory. Unformed grooves and "cracks" began to increase noticeably, especially towards the end of the film. These damages were deliberately created on the film emulsion through the imperfect removal of the so called soot layer during the negative colour developing process.34) The work is capped with the inscription "Let us sing a hymn of words that mean death in all the languages of the earth." on the front and a lapidary "Amen!" on the back.

The sonic component of Our Purgatory does not merely compete with the pictorial one; instead, it creates a similarly fascinating and varied landscape. Spoken word, music and movement all make an appearance.35) The spoken word is the least represented - at the very beginning of the work there is a quotation from Demel's Dance of Death, specifically the first sentence of the section entitled Playing the Revolver: "Do not underestimate your words when you speak in front of children. "36) Throughout the film, only the ominous episexis, the vigorously repeated word "DEATH",37) which evokes in its insistence the memorable (also iterated) "DESTROY" from Paul Sharits's structural film T, O, U, C, H, I, N, G (1968), subsequently echoes from the realm of intelligible speech. Otherwise, however, the voice in Our Purgatory is somehow freed from its communicative function, torn from the reductive confines of language. There are several instances of layered parole that give way to an urgent yet unintelligible, headless ololygmos, or we hear a ragged and wheezing breath. As for this layering, the multiplied sounds of cat purring can be heard more than once throughout the film in a similar manner. However, such noises flow seamlessly into music, or in certain cacophonous, highly dissonant passages the line between music and noises is completely blurred. Some moments could safely be classified as noise music, while at other times we get into more sensitive, touching positions, through the well-known piano melody from the beginning of Chopin's Funeral March. The music for Our Purgatory was composed by Robert Piotrowicz, who was given a similar commission as Hedvika Hansalová, i.e. to create a musical mass of about 65 minutes, not intended for liturgical purposes, as a tribute to Jakub Demel. He was also inspired by the collection The Dance of Death. Piotrowicz then set his music to specific parts, as he had a rough cut of the content for the main screen.38)

<b><i>Our Purgatory</i></b>

However much we can describe this soundtrack in words, it will never be a faithful correlate of the aural experience of the screening at the Ji.hlava IDFF, since the volume and density of sound to which the audience was exposed cannot be adequately conveyed through writing, which is perceived through sight, not hearing (ignoring the possibility of vicarious sensory perception). After the abrupt end of the film, when the sound unexpectedly abruptly stopped, one could experience a kind of moment of "loud silence" - as much as it sounds like an oxymoron, there is probably no better way to describe the persistent humming in the ears. A moment in which one seems to hear one's own hearing, to listen to one's hearing. It is what can be characterized as reflecting on the conditions of one's own perception,39) which Erika Fischer-Lichte, in her text "Towards an Aesthetics of the Performative," relates to the performative action of Reading Homer.

With this reference to the spectatorial experience, we return in an arc to the performative aspects of projection and the specific mode of perception that relates both to these elements and to the expressive means of the work. As noted above in the text, Our Purgatory is a collective work, but watching it in the shared space of the cinema is also a group act. The shift from the title of Deml's ensemble, My Purgatory, to the plural Our Purgatory, therefore, indicates not only the collective nature of the film, but also a shared audience experience, which Ježek confirms to the audience before the screening begins. He says that the creative intention is to share the anxiety of death through contact with his work, an artistic representation of purgatory.40) As is well known, Martin Čihák offers an alternative etymology of the word "cinema", according to which it refers to "common life", the Latin for "koinos bios",41) but Ježek aims, somewhat emphatically, at koinos thanatos, a common death - the audience is to experience a deindividuation coming together to meet the challenging experience of exodus. Before the screening begins, Ježek even warns those present that his work is not suitable for viewers with psychological problems. In his words, it will not be an easy experience, even though it may ultimately have a therapeutic effect.42) He thus raises the fascinating question of whether it is possible for the shared experience of death anxiety to become the apotheosis of life, transformed into an affirmative force. At the same time, this intention makes us think of other concepts in the field of performative art, such as Antonin Artaud's theatre of cruelty43) and Hermann Nitsch's theatre of orgies and mysteries.44) In both, the appeal is to the liminal experience of the spectators (who in Nitsch's performances are often loosely merged with the actors). Through a ritualized event of a highly passionate and harsh nature, the displaced is to be returned and the purification, the catharsis of the human being living in a post-sacral society is to be purified.45) Unlike Ježek, however, neither Artaud nor Nitsch leans towards Christianity,46) to which the theme of purgatory explicitly refers. After all, Jakub Deml was a Catholic priest47) and, as Ježek says in the introduction to Our Purgatory, according to Deml, in purgatory there is a reliving of the pain of a whole life before entering paradise.48) Ježek also relates pain to interpersonal relationships that have undergone a certain development, with five authors who provided him with images for Our Purgatory. Before the screening begins, he explicitly tells the audience that it is this personal level that makes watching Our Purgatory painful.49)

<b><i>Our Purgatory</i></b>

The question of pain brings us to a phenomenal aspect of this screening. It is necessary to realize that the aggressive and loud soundtrack, together with the extremely fast and abrupt alternation of images on the three screens, results in a somatically demanding viewing experience that could certainly be described as painful in places. Josef Vojvodík in his book Imagines corporis: The Body in Czech Modernism and the Avant-Garde 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 explicates 'Here-now-being-this-me. "51) It is this moment of actual 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, i.e., to turn away from our own individual personality. In Friedrich Nietzsche's conceptual dyad of the Apollonian/Dionysian, the viewing of Our Purgatory is closer to the Dionysian intoxication due to the experience of reality than to the oneiric shalom of the mere appearance 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 at the same time the experience of the actual specifics of one's own perception that are the result of this intense moment. André Bazin, in his text "Theatre and Film", thinks of cinema-goers through the words "crowd" and "solitude", which, according to Bazin, are only seemingly opposite (anti)poles, whose chiasm does not, therefore, result in a contradiction and neither of which loses its essence through it: "Crowd and solitude are not antinomic: cinema is a crowd of solitary individuals. In this context, the crowd must be understood as the opposite of an organic, deliberately chosen community. "53) In the case of the audience of Our Purgatory at the IDFF Ji.hlava, it was also not an a priori and consensually constituted group, but, as already mentioned, Ježek emphasizes that the work is intended for co-experience and disrupts the usually anonymous space of the auditorium by its presence.54) There is thus a kind of relational paradox - the direct shocks across the event throw the subject into a position of hic et nunc, making his autotelic dimension present and prompting him to self-reflect on his individual perception, as the work assaults his senses directly, but the opening word, the associated priming, and the specific steps that unmask the partial elements of the projection, simultaneously remind him of the collective and processual nature of the situation, as well as of the situation itself.

<b><i>Our Purgatory</i></b>

In conclusion, these shocks form a remarkable contrast with the so-called grey aesthetics treated by Vlastimil Zuska in his book Cruel Light, Beautiful Shadow: Aesthetics and Film. He relates it to the experience of the viewer, who is overwhelmed by the plethora of omnipresent artworks that the contemporary artworld offers, until his perception of them "turns grey", in the same way that a spectral colour wheel turns grey if we spin it too fast.55) It is questionable whether, for such a viewer who has ceased to experience contact with art, an encounter with Our Purgatory, because of its specific somatic effect and the performative aspects that are associated with the screening of this film, can be a break from apathy. An idea as radical as the attempt to make the collective experience of the anxiety of death present in Ježek's rendition calls for an equally radical form, which is actually quite close to grey aesthetics, but in a kind of subversive form. In less than 70 minutes, the viewer is overwhelmed and afixed by a huge number of images that alternate at a frantic pace, his gaze is forced to flit between three canvases, and his hearing is assaulted by a very loud soundtrack, which is a jumble of countless elements whose harmony is sometimes harmonious, more often discordant. This destabilizing bodily experience, which in many ways resembles this overwhelming of art, but in an extremely compressed form, also reminds us of Gilles Deleuze's thesis, which Martin Charvát follows in his article The Film Image as a Medium of Thought Shock, according to which art does not communicate with us, but directly affects our entire body.56)

<b><i>Our Purgatory</i></b>

In this text I have focused on the screening of Martin Ježek's triptych Our Purgatory at the Ji.hlava IDFF 2021 as a specific collective event that possessed concrete performative elements. At the same time, I also took into account the set of expressive means of this work - without ignoring the original authorial intentions - as both factors, performative and expressive, contributed to a specific spectatorial experience. The implications of the co-presence of the actor with the recipients in the shared space of the cinema hall were taken into account, as well as certain performative operations and deployments of technique, which, in addition to the film presented, also focused the attention of the audience on the process of mediation of this artwork itself and on the analogue medium that carries it. However, the viewing of Our Purgatory as such, a certain phenomenal aspect of the viewing experience, was also "laid bare", as the aggressive nature of the visual and aural aspects of the work encouraged reflection on one's own perception.57)



Rick Altman, "Film as Event. In: Petr Szczepanik (ed.), The New Film History. Prague: Hermann & synové 2004.

Jiří Anger, Affect, Expression, Performance: the transformations of melodramatic excess in the cinema of the body. Prague: Charles University, Faculty of Arts 2018.

Jiří Anger, "Found footage: digital Križenecký and the rupture of the film medium". Illumination 31, 2019, no. 2.

Jiří Anger, Melodramatic Imagination and the Theatre of Cruelty: In a Year with Thirteen Full Moons. Prague 2014. Bachelor thesis. Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague. Supervisor Petra Hanáková.

André Bazin, What is Film? Prague: Czechoslovak Film Institute 1979.

Ivo Bláha, Sound dramaturgy of an audiovisual work. Prague: AMU 2006.

Jay David Bolter - Richard Grusin, "Immediation, Hypermediation, Remediation". In: Tomáš Dvořák (ed.), Chapters from the History of Media Theory. Prague: AMU 2010.

Stan Brakhage, Metaphors on vision. New York: Film Culture Inc. 1963.

Martin Čihák, The Submerged River of Cinema. Prague: AMU 2013.

Jakub Deml, My Purgatory. Olomouc: Votobia 1996.

Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane. Prague: Oikoymenh 2006.

Erika Fischer-Lichte, Aesthetics of Performativity. Mníšek pod Brdy: NA KONÁRI 2011.

Erika Fischer-Lichte, "For an Aesthetics of Performativity." In: Kateřina Krtilová and Kateřina Svatoňová (eds.), MEDIENWISSENSCHAFT: Background and Current Positions of German Media Philosophy and Theory. Prague: Academia 2016.

Sigmund Freud, "Something oppressive". In: Jiří Kocourek (ed.), The Collected Writings of Sigmund Freud: Writings from 1917-1920. Prague: Psychoanalytic Publishing House 2003.

Jindřich Chalupecký, The Expressionists. Prague: Torst 2013.

Martin Charvát, "The Filmic Image as a Medium for the Shattering of Thought". Media Studies 8, 2014, no. 2.

Martin Charvát, Gilles Deleuze. Asignifying Semiotics. Prague: Togga 2016.

Květoslav Chvatík, Structuralism and the Avant-Garde. Prague: Československý spisovatel 1970.

Tomáš Jirsa, Face to Face with Formlessness: Affective and Visual Figures in Modern Literature. Brno: Host 2016.

Lenka Jungmannová - Petr Pavlovský. "Performance". In. Basic concepts of theatre: Teatrologický slovník. Libri 2004.

Tomáš Kubart, Inter faeces et urinam purgamus. Brno 2021. Philosophical Faculty of Masaryk University in Brno. Thesis supervisor Martina Musilová.

Alexej Lidov, "Hierotopia, the Creation of Sacred Place as an Object of Cultural History and a Form of Creative Activity". In: Ján Husár (ed.), Byzantine Review. Prešov: University of Prešov 2009.

Barbora Machová, Theatre of orgies and mysteries. Olomouc 2017. Thesis. Philosophical Faculty of Palacký University in Olomouc. Thesis supervisor Jitka Pavlišová.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music. Prague: Gryf 1993.

Jan Švankmajer, Paths of Salvation. Prague: Dybbuk 2018.

Josef Vojvodík, Imagines corporis: The Body in Czech Modernism and the Avant-Garde. Brno: Host 2006.

Peter Weibel, "Viennese Formal Film". In. Beyond art: A third culture, Vienna: Springer-Verlag 2005.

Vlastimil Zuska, Cruel Light, Beautiful Shadow: Aesthetics and Film. Prague: Charles University 2011.

Sound Recordings:

Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29 October 2021. Sound recording by Kryštof Kočtář.


1) ALTMAN, Rick. „Film as Event“. In: SZCZEPANIK, Petr (ed.). The New Film History. Prague: Hermann & synové 2004, p. 133-146. These attributes include multiplicity, three-dimensionality, materiality, heterogeneity, intersectionality, performance, multi-discursivity, impermanence, mediation, choice, dissemination and interchange.

2) Ibid, pp. 139-140.

3) ANGER, Jiří. Performance: transformations of melodramatic excess in the cinematography of the body. Prague: Charles University, Faculty of Arts 2018, p. 32.

4) Ibid, p. 32.

5) Performativity and performance are essentially correlative concepts. On this affinity, see FISCHER-LICHTER, Erika. The Aesthetics of Performativity. Mníšek pod Brdy: NA KONÁRI 2011, pp. 37-38.

6) JUNGMANNOVÁ, Lenka – PAVLOVSKÝ, Petr. „Performance“. In: PAVLOVSKÝ, Petr. Basic Concepts of Theatre: Teatrologický slovník. Prague: Libri 2004, p. 214.

7) See FISCHER-LICHTER, Erika. The Aesthetics of Performativity. Mníšek pod Brdy: NA KONÁRI 2011, pp. 51-55.

8) ALTMAN, Rick. „Film as Event“. In: SZCZEPANIK, Petr (ed.). The New Film History. Prague: Hermann & synové 2004, p. 140.

9) I am referring to the film's annotation on the official website, the "Festival Special: Anniversary book 2021" or the "Press kit of the 25th IDFF Ji.hlava".

10) Our Purgatory. Ji.hlava IDFF. [Vid. 13. 11. 2021]. Available from:

11) FISCHER-LICHTER, Erika. The Aesthetics of Performativity. Mníšek pod Brdy: NA KONÁRI 2011, pp. 138-139.

12) Ibid, p. 139.

13) On the same evening as the screening of Our Purgatory, i.e. on 29 October, Martin Ježek operated the projection machine during the screening of the short film ANTFILM (dir. Tetsuya Maruyama, 2021). On the website of Ji.hlava, ANTFILM is erroneously listed in DCP format, because, as we learned immediately before the screening, an 8 mm film strip with this title arrived unscheduled at the last minute. On its emulsion the author glued the bodies of dead ants, which may evoke Stan Brakhage's experimental film Mothlight (1963), where a subversive work with the indexicality of the film image is done in a de facto identical way.

14) BOLTER, Jay David – GRUSIN, Richard. „Immediation, Hypermediation, Remediation“. In: DVOŘÁK, Tomáš (ed.). Chapters from the History of Media Theory. Prague: AMU 2010, p. 69.

15) ANGER, Jiří. „Found footage: Digital Križenecký and the crack of the film medium“. Illumination 31, 2019, no. 2, p. 97.

16) Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29 October 2021. Sound recording by Kryštof Kočtář.

17) Ibid.

18) FISCHER-LICHTER, Erika. The Aesthetics of Performativity. Mníšek pod Brdy: NA KONÁRI 2011, pp. 29-30.

19) LIDOV, Alexej. „Hierotopia, the creation of sacred space as an object of cultural history and a form of creative activity“. In: HUSÁR, Jan (ed.). Byzantine Review. Prešov: University of Prešov 2009, pp. 41-42.

20) Ježek works with this theme already in the first seconds of the introduction to Our Purgatory, when he declares the cinema hall his home and invites the audience to behave accordingly as he sees fit – Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29 October 2021. Sound recording by Kryštof Kočtář.

21) According to Mircea Eliade, the "sacred" is one of two basal modalities of human experience, two different existential situations - see ELIADE, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane. Prague: OIKOYMENH 2006, pp. 14-15.

22) Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29 October 2021. Sound recording by Kryštof Kočtář.

23) Source: email correspondence with Martin Ježek from November 2021.

24) In his book The Expressionists, Jindřich Chalupecký points out that Demel's dream texts cannot be simplified into mere descriptive transcriptions of dreams: 'Demel's prose is rather the unfolding of a dream, its transposition into a verbal medium; it is a dream that turns into a poem.' See CHALUPECKÝ, Jindřich. The Expressionists. Prague: Torst 2013, pp. 103-104.

25) On the issue of the usually self-evident classification of Weiner's literary work as Expressionist, see e.g. JIRSA, Tomáš. Facing Formlessness: Affective and Visual Figures in Modern Literature. Brno: Host 2016, p. 57.

26) ČIHÁK, Martin. The Submerged River of Cinema. Prague: AMU 2013, p. 64.

27) On the profile of Our Purgatory on the official website of the IDFF Ji.hlavy, she is mistakenly listed as "Lenka Kedrová". See Our Purgatory. Ji.hlava IDFF. [Vid. 13. 11. 2021]. Available from:

28) Source: email correspondence with Martin Ježek from November 2021.

29) Ibid.

30) Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29 October 2021. Sound recording made by Kryštof Kočtář. As far as sight is concerned, experimental cinema offers many remarkable forms of the concept of the camera as eye and the (point of view) shot as gaze. Among the films that were screened at Ji.hlava, we can mention The Last Picture (Das Letzte Bild, dir. Judith Zdesar, 2020), which was part of the programme during the twenty-fourth edition. This experimental documentary about blind people features an approximately three-minute suggestive sequence that visualizes the gradual deteroriation 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 through the physical interference with the filmic matter - reminiscences in which one can at least partially recognize a loved one are gradually replaced by abstract images from which the outline of a landscape or a person rarely emerges, but even these residues 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". This is the idea of a specific perception that is free from the (according to Brakhage, limiting) semantic network that, according to linguistic relativism, covers the surrounding world through language without exception - see BRAKHAGE, Stan. Metaphors on vision. New York: Film Culture Inc. 1963, p. ca. 29 (the book lacks pagination).

31) DEML, Jakub. My Purgatory. Olomouc: Votobia 1996 - e.g., America (p. 85), Prague (p. 104), Stránka (p. 118), Tasov (p. 151), Třebíč (p. 240), etc. Across the book, Deml's Tasov birthplace (including his birthplace) has a fascinating status, where the author feels mostly pain or fear - see, e.g., DEML, Jakub. My Purgatory. Olomouc: Votobia 1996, pp. 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 "Something Oppressive" - see FREUD, Sigmund. „Something Oppressive“. In: KOCOUREK, Jiří (ed.). The Collected Writings of Sigmund Freud: Writings from 1917-1920. Prague: Psychoanalytic Publishing House, p. 175. However, I will not go further into any psychoanalytic diagnoses. For one thing, it would be beyond the scope of this text, and for another, I would go against the views of Demel himself, for he, as Jiří Olič points out in the afterword to My Purgatory, wrote in the 1930s: "Yes, these are my dreams, unfortunately a thousand miles away from all Freuds and Bretons [...]." See DEML, Jakub. My Purgatory. Olomouc: Votobia 1996, p. 253.

32) CHALUPECKÝ, Jindřich. The Expressionists. Prague: Torst 2013, p. 87.

33) Ibid., p. 87.

34) Source: email correspondence with Martin Ježek from November 2021.

35) 3 basic types of sound devices in an audiovisual work according to Ivo Bláha - see BLÁHA, Ivo. Sound dramaturgy of an audiovisual work. Prague: AMU 2006, p. 12.

36) DEML, Jakub. My Purgatory. Olomouc: Votobia 1996, p. 111.

37) To be precise, the first time it is repeatedly uttered it is preceded by the sentence "Death met him", which also occurs at the beginning of Playing the Revolver (Ibid., p. 111).

38) Source: email correspondence with Martin Ježek from November 2021.

39) FISCHER-LICHTER, Erika. „For an Aesthetics of the Performative“. In: KRTILOVÁ, Kateřina a SVATOŇOVÁ, Kateřina (eds.). MEDIENWISSENSCHAFT: Background and Current Positions of German Media Philosophy and Theory. Prague: Academia 2016, p. 319.

40) Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29 October 2021. Sound recording by Kryštof Kočtář.

41) ČIHÁK, Martin. The Submerged River of Cinema. Prague: AMU 2013, p. 16.

42) Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29 October 2021. Sound recording by Kryštof Kočtář.

43) In the domestic sphere, the topic of the theatre of cruelty was dealt with in an extremely engaging and at the same time highly erudite manner in his bachelor thesis by Jiří Anger - see ANGER, Jiří. Melodramatic Imagination and the Theatre of Cruelty. Prague, 2014, pp. 66-76. Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague. Thesis supervisor Petra Hanáková.

44) In his almost five hundred page dissertation, which was defended this year, Tomáš Kubart points out that the affinity between these two concepts is not at all accidental. According to Kubart, Nitsch "does not mention Artaud's influence in the text The Architecture of the Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries, probably because at the time of the conception of the theatre of orgies and mysteries, he was so interested in reading Artaud (probably in French) that he immediately adopted it as his own concept." - See KUBART, Tomáš. Inter faeces et urinam purgamus: Viennese Actionism as a Facsimile Syndrome of Postwar Austria. Brno, 2021, pp. 58-59. Dissertation. Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University in Brno. Thesis supervisor Martina Musilová.

45) Among Czech artists, we can point to Jan Švankmajer, who most appreciates those artists who emancipate the primordial function of art - they place the ritual act of creation above the resulting artefact and attempt to "restore to art the magical role it once had at the very beginning of human history and which it gradually lost during the process of civilisation." - See ŠVANKMAJER, Jan. Paths of Salvation. Prague: Dybbuk 2018, p. 70. The primordial function of art, which was linked to "magic and ritual ceremonies", is also pointed out, for example, by Květoslav Chvatík - see CHVATÍK, Květoslav. Structuralism and the Avant-Garde. Prague: Československý spisovatel 1970, p. 93.

46) Hermann Nitsch does use Christian symbols, but mostly subversively. In his actions, moreover, they are only parts of a complex whole, which also mixes influences of pagan rituals, Dionysian orgies or Freudian psychoanalysis - see MACHOVÁ, Barbora. The Theatre of Orgies and Mysteries. Olomouc, 2017, pp. 5-6. Thesis. Faculty of Arts, Palacký University in Olomouc. Thesis supervisor Jitka Pavlišová.

47) CHALUPECKÝ, Jindřich. The Expressionists. Prague: Torst 2013, p. 87.

48) Martin Ježek, Introduction to the film Our Purgatory. Jihlava: 29 October 2021. Sound recording by Kryštof Kočtář.

49) Ibid.

50) VOJVODÍK, Josef. Imagines corporis: The Body in Czech Modernism and Avant-Garde. Brno: Host 2006, pp. 31-32.

51) Ibid., p. 32.

52) NIETZSCHE, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music. Prague: Gryf 1993, pp. 13-15.

53) BAZIN, André. What is Film? Prague: Czechoslovak Film Institute 1979, p. 124.

54) As discussed above in the text in relation to Erika Fischer-Lichte's notion of praesentience, Ježek's presence also serves as a trigger for the audience's sense of self-presentation.

55) ZUSKA, Vlastimil. Cruel Light, Beautiful Shadow: Aesthetics and Film. Prague: Charles University 2011, p. 76.

56) CHARVÁT. „The Film Image as a Medium for the Shattering of Thought“. Media Studies 8, 2014, no. 2, p. 113. On this topic, see also – CHARVÁT, Martin, DELEUZE, Gilles. Asignifying Semiotics. Prague: Togga 2016, pp. 46-47.

57) Following Peter Weibel's dissociation between cinema, the writing of movement, and opseography, the writing of perception, Ježek's work can be convincingly placed in the latter category - see ČIHÁK, Martin. The Submerged River of Cinema. Prague: AMU 2013, pp. 51-54. or WEIBEL, Peter. „Viennese Formal Film“. In: A third culture. Vienna: Springer-Verlag 2005, pp. 146-147.

The text was also published in an edited version in the journal Film a doba. 

This article is a result of the project Media and documentary 2.0, supported by EEA and Norway Grants 2014–2021.