s e j n b o h e m i ae r o s a
B o h e m i a e R o s a 4 BECHYNE MONASTERY / LUZNICE RIVER
21 - 28 August 2001
Open-Air Workshop for dancers and artists exploring the relation among body –
art and landscape by Milos Sejn – Frank van de Ven and guest teacher Vaclav
Cilek – Bohemiae Rosa Project – Academy of Fine Arts in Prague
Bechyne Monastery Association
Daybook of Participants
Václav Cílek: from Innner and Outer Landscape
Vaclav Cilek wrote this article about his participation in Bohemiae Rosa. It was published in his book ‘ Inner and Outer Landscape – publisher date chapter
As a geologist and a man focused on landscape I have participated in actions connected with Bohemiae Rosa for three years. I have slowly got out of a hole like a spermophile. In the Czech Karst I dedicated myself to the landscape of a large quarry where I was supposed to propose two new preserves. In the night I was drawing on a ledge with a piece of a wood and I was looking at birds bravely flying above the massif. In Bechyne I was quarrelling with a cloister and I was touching my life like earth. Many months after the return I felt deep in myself that the training was an influence, which I cannot name, so it had to touch the area of spirit where we cannot call things with their names yet. I stopped buying art and instead of this I started stamping my feet on papers placing them into the landscape and looking at their colours. I put aside the history of art by Beuys (“don’t be afraid of Beuys”), whom I have not understood, and whom I called “Mensch – Natur – Kosmos”.
Coming closer to the landscape
At the end of the summer holiday in 2001 there was a lot of action in the Minorite Cloister in Bechyne. “Bohemiae Rosa – The Exploration of the Landscape and the Body” took place, led by professor Milos Sejn from The Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and by Dutch dancer and choreographer Frank van de Ven, who was on with the Japanese ensemble of Min Tanaka for ten years. What do a professional dancer of modern symbols and an abstract artist have in common with this landscape?
The main function of the artist in the 19th century was to make a work of art which could be put in a golden picture frame on the wall. Gradually the second function of art appeared – to teach people to be sensitive to colours and things. In the 20th century the importance of art is to get to know the world. As can be seen in documentary photography, which can symbolize the essence e.g. of sociology. Modern art is similar to modern science – both learn about the world and both do this often in a way not common to ordinary people. More than half of the work of science is never quoted and a big part of contemporary art is not needed. But this is a normal way of life.
The architect Christian Norbert-Schulz, the author of the famous book about genius loci, says that contemporary man is led to pseudoanalytic thinking by education and that their knowledge is made of so called facts. Their life is losing purpose…”Art education is needed today more than before and a work of art as a place that gives us identity, should be the basis of our education.” As if putting part of a landscape instead of pictures in the National Gallery and teaching people how to look at it.
Something similar took place in Bechyne, where people from many countries came together. The main concentration was on the body and landscape as tools of perception. No lasting work of art came into existence here. Water statues were the closest to traditional art. Few drawings were focused on the river slowly passing by. An eye was not looking at paper and a hand was moving as fast as nature. The dancer Frank van de Ven was doing the simplest trainings – for example slow, fifteen minutes long 360 degree single rotation around our vertical axis, while watching the line of the horizon. A strange experience was picking up natural objects – like mushrooms and mud and mosses - and highlighting and giving names to their colours. It was a new dimension in perceiving the artist role in landscape. “And I heard two big silences…” said Irishman Fergus after night training.
Early 19th century artist Josef Manes was aware of the fact that he couldn’t express everything in the picture just by colours so he wrote notes to his sketches. He was fascinated by flowers and his painting brush helped him to know the landscape. He wanted to do more than just paint a good picture. What can an artist (or a layman) do if they refuse a traditional way of drawing? Milos Sejn’s way is using natural pigments, drawing with black berries or with leaves. The aim is not to make “art” but to catch the feeling from a particular place often with eyes closed. The result is still very often aesthetic. It is a long process of going through the landscape reading K.H. Macha or H.D.Thoreau. The question is whether this is the continuation of e.g. Kosarek’s way of painting landscape – but not in the sense of evaluation of the work but the relationship with landscape of home. The seminar was partly the return to the experience of peasantry who knew from touching the earth if there was good harvest. “I learnt something from my father, something from a horse…” used to say a peasant.
Waiting for serious changes of climate we understand how important is education and that we need to know languages and computers. But it happens that a student who wants to study ecology at the university has never seen a goat before. He or she will use Internet and will learn everything they need about animals and landscape without experience of life, colours and shapes. Through time we learn to award all the folk courses where we used to touch real materials and colours. If we would now fight against globalization we would probably choose the landscape of our heart, we would step inside and look around us for a long time to know what we do not want to miss. This is a very human way of art which breaks the boundaries between a picture in a gallery and everyday life.
Milos is a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts; otherwise he is better a mole or a slug who dips into the ground to be a part of it. Formerly he was drawing realistic pictures of landscape, then he began to understand it as clusters of colours, then he laid aside the drawing brush and since he has been drawing with leaves and mud. I think he continues in merging together with landscapes using contemporary tools.
Frank is a cosmopolitanist from Holland. He lived with Min Tanaka in Japan for ten years and he devoted much of his time to Butoh – a modern dance of expression. He does not like technicians, he hates guru’s, he does not believe in words, he doesn’t call his work “Butoh”, because it is his life and not a discipline. He drinks beer and he likes to laugh.
I am here because of words and landscape. I pay attention of not meeting silent Frank but on the other hand, we – Europeans – need words. I took my daughter Kristina to M. cloister or she took me because she is home there; she goes drawing there to Honza’s place two times a week. Milos created Bohemiae Rosa from the map of the Czech Republic which is done as a rose and is in Balbinus “Miscellanei”. The Bohemiae Rosa workshop takes place every two years. The aim is to understand colours and shapes of this world. There are about fifteen participants every year. The following text is from my diary which I wrote right after my return home. I met Milos a week ago and he said: “I am still half in Bechyne.” And I am too. My wife went on her life tour to Ladakh and if I should compare our experience we go to south Bohemia next year.
Day after day I was writing what was happening at the workshop not to forget my thoughts. I am writing now right after I came home when I am still full of darkness, people, stones, structures.
The most powerful moment was when I, in the same instinctive way, in which we later touched the earth, touched life.
Monday – arrival
We look at a panorama of the town from Bechyne bridge. We slowly go down, watch each other and prepare tea. There are fifteen of us. A slim dancer Salta and Kim from Kazakhstan, Fergus from Ireland, Ema from Australia, Czechs and Slovaks. Smiling Frank van de Ven and Milos Sejn. It gets dark and so does the cloister. We whistle to each other from different places, the sound goes through the air.
We live in a cloister, the number of us is the same as the number of Minorites years ago, we eat in the same place as they did. We go through the cloister and maybe speak about similar things as they did. We do training in the monastery.
Tuesday – expectation
We start with cleaning the rooms, we learn to live together. We whisper. We expect. First we walk for an hour, then we jump and then I have cramp and I can’t do anything else the whole day.
Basis of walking:
Then we make short and long steps, mixed, in different speed, backwards. The axis of the body is fixed to the ceiling.
In the afternoon we go along the river, we stop and slowly turn around for 15 minutes looking in front of ourselves. Landscape goes inside of us. Reflection: the measure of familiarization with landscape is getting bigger – first it’s just a horizon then details appear as ways, stones. And then we want to know it just being tourists.
In the evening in the church. We look at a CD-rom with Thoreau, amazing, everything free on the internet. Milos says there is something similar about Shakespeare.
Wednesday – On the road
We go to Tyn nad Vltavou by bus and then we go to the confluence with the Luznice, nice place, a small chapel is here. A highwayman was executed here; there are many sites of a settlement, right at the confluence was a settlement from the Bronze Age, which is not common in this area.
Training: Two persons opposite each other, one a leader, repeat movements after each other. I don’t have a partner so I try the same with a grass in wind. Then the roles change.
I watch the river and think of rafts.
We go through the forest to Kolodeje, where we want to pick up pigments for drawing. It is a long way around. We have lunch in the forest which is covered with lichens.
We go down to the Jude’s ditch. We pick up natural objects. The Jude’s ditch is beautiful, big yellow lichens, violet heaths.
Training: to watch one square meter for ten minutes. Very hungry and in a good way exhausted we reach the cloister. In the evening we install the nature objects which have become La Tour’s hybrids, lovely.
Later we talk at the river side and we watch the moon going through the tree branches, a hangman’s house and a mill, exactly the primitive romanticism I like. It would be possible to write more but it isn’t. How were the older careful! Like when we cross the frozen river in winter.
Thursday – colours
In the morning we stretch and then I go to see a palace. Then wonderful handling training, which I still feel after several hours. The training is also about learning about the body of someone else and about learning about my own body from reactions of others. Then we bring the tables with nature objects. We are supposed to name them without consideration. One thing is to see colour, the other to name it. There are many colours but there aren’t so many names for them. Some colours are possible to name only by our own language.
Colours: think for a while that I don’t need colours that the only thing I need is to name the thing I see that I don’t need the colour that it serves only to recognize an object. I can’t name the colours so I write to a bird feather “silence”, to a mushroom “secret life”, but secret life is violet and I by this act change the yellow mushroom into the violet.
Dinner, we see the museum of ceramics, listen to parrots in the garden and go back to the cloister. Don’t think about Abion.
I. Training: Skeleton standing, stand for ten minutes, watching each other, first relax, then don’t think about anything. It is a nice training, Fergus loves it, it is possible to do it in twos, the atmosphere changes, Frank calls it implosion. Fergus says that he heard two big silences.
II. Training: we are empty; we wait for an animal and then become it.
Then a storm arrived, the Luznice is Chinese again. Long supper, strong end of the day. Everybody gets a plate with clay and made tree sculptures:
· With the right hand squeeze, the moment of grasping – knowing.
· Slow flow through (5 minutes) fingers of the left hand, interface of a man and clay.
· Clay between
In the evening long walk through Bechyne by night, fog and trees, flowing river, sitting in the corner at Abion, I can’t sleep at night, I look for cloister keys. I find them in the morning in my pocket in which I looked many times.
Friday – stairs
Morning training on Bechyne stairs, everybody has a feeling that they stretch well, that they like it. We go up and down in different ways. In a fast way, slowly, other way round, blind.
Then stairs in the cloister. Bodies are going down the stairs. Very emotive. We have half an hour to get down from the first floor. Then we move as quickly as one centimetre a second. I lie on a well.
Next: we choose an object and watch it for a long time and walk on it.
In the afternoon we walk along the river, which is very beautiful. We sit down next to the side of the river and then we swim, blind, for 20 minutes.
Talking and feedbacks. Having beer with Frank and Milos.
Saturday – a cellar
We are having breakfast and we try to walk on a thread placed on the floor. Easy trainings are better like letters from the alphabet, everything is possible to make from them.
One training: short steps, nod our heads, slowly, more and more, the movement moves to the spine, down and down.
Trainings in a cellar – too many and too complicated.
In he afternoon there is a discussion over projects: Frank says that a project should be a group work, it can be individual but it should come back then and help everybody. Otherwise it would be possible to set the project by mail. Frank sees individual training as forming the group. We work as individuals but still as a group.
In the evening: drawing with Milos, long watching an object (10 minutes) then paper on breast, don’t watch it and draw in one line. One can sit, lie, walk.
Evening walk to the confluence. Talking about long term loan to the National Gallery. Once an artist will sit in a gallery, people will come and he will draw with them or dance or make golden dwarfs. There won’t be any pictures.
Sunday – earth
In early morning the sun rises on the Bechyne bridge, we go down to the weir, we draw without looking continual line anti movement of level of the river and morning fog. A hand moves as quickly as the nature. I am not able to do it.
Then I dip the paper into the water and I draw objects in the river. That’s better.
Tim looks for snakes, we are having a bath in the morning river.
Here my notes are not complete, I gave them to Milos.
Short talk about gardens.
Something strange happens to me. I lean against the rock and I smash a slug. I have two bands on my T-shirt – one grey, very nice and the second orange and yellow with green ending. Both have the “Sejn” poetics and I was the closest to it as I have never been before.
Night from Sunday to Monday
I am very tired, I didn’t sleep more than three hours and I was three times interrupted. At about eight in the evening we go to the Jude’s ditch. We sit on a small bridge over a ravine. Beautiful silent place, I have a feeling of danger and angriness, I don’t have it very often. R. starts to cry, he must go back.
We continue in almost complete darkness through the ravine, we go back, the moon is still on the sky, there are lighting beetles everywhere. We find a ledge and with difficulties make fire. We talk and then do the training:
Frank says, go to the forest to the water, sit for five minutes, look around you, put off your clothes, go to the water, do what you like. Don’t forget where you have put your clothes. Then I whistle. I have hallucination, I hear Kristina calling me with a child voice.
In the forest I find naked Fergus who found nettles instead of clothes. I have a light, I find the clothes. The speciality of this training is again its individual – collective sense.
We sit next to the fire, we drink one homeopathic bottle of wine for 14 people. Two o’clock in the morning, silent way home.
In cloister we find R. broken down, he can’t speak well, he can’t walk well. Frank talks to him, Radka takes care of him. Marcela comes but Fergus is lost. We are 22 hours awake and we have two problems, the cloister is silent we are afraid. A short talk with Frank, Milos, Marcela, Radka. I know what I want to say and I say it and I am afraid.
Milos and Marcela go to look for Fergus, Radka looks after R., I with a light lie next to the gate, I sleep and wait.
Milos comes back at five, Fergus after six – Thanks God! – Dasha with food after eight. I get up and go to the railway station. Without connection with the situation, the moment I leave the cloister I think of Sádí rhymes:
You love life,
But I say to you,
That string of pearls on your neck
Will once strangle you to death.
I think the cloister forces them to appear to me as a goodbye. You beast, I will be watchful next time! Or I will go to see a mass.
I call home to Eliska from Tabor. She says that our cottage has been burgled and that they took everything including my books and pictures. I had there almost 2.000 books collected all my life, Rilke, Nerval, Holan, Francis James, and many loved books. I feel it is logic, it is the continuation of the workshop. This year it is my second death of what I have been. Last shock of this kind came last week.
Sad happiness – how many beautiful books will come to people’s hands.
But also freedom and relief (I write in a train). I think of people more now than of letters.
Regret over my books comes in the evening; I read my books in my memory: Kafka, Hrabal with dedication, books with Šíma’s illustrations, many poems, almost all books by Holub, Vrchlicky, Macha. Sore I call my grandfather if something remained. It appears that my library is intact and that only an arbour was burgled.
In my life I like this sense of humour. I can’t be blind after these two weeks.
I don’t read it for the second time, it is evening 27th August 2001, I go to sleep, the house is hot, maybe a storm will come. A tom-cat throws down a flower pot with blue glazing
It is from Silezia: I don’t believe in death – I have to die in every minute – meanwhile – did I live in a better way?
Translated from czech by Radana Jakubcová