Myths and Present Time - New Old Idols

        If we define a myth as a ”sacred speaking”, which expresses a scope where our experience is being made in a form of ideological and verbal receptivity, we can see the birth of new myths in the present time. These new myths are not conditioned by theological ideology but are closely connected with the common life of common people. Not only has the situation come out from the vehement scientific and technological evolution of the human race in the last three hunderd years but also from the liberalization of society and a ”bankrupt” of traditional ideological values which began with the enlightenment of the18th century and ended with Marxism-Leninism of the 19th and the 20th century.

        If a myth is connected with a specific culture in which its value systems of existence and its perspectives are demonstrated, we can conclude that modern myths were or still are being established in a totalitarian dictatorship based on the adoration of great leaders (Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao). In a democratic society myths are products of mass medial popculture where an ”idol” of people is a successful sportsman, a singer or an actor with big support from mass media advertising. For example, here we can mention ”Marylin Monroe”. Different stories about her were being spread during her life and culminated after her murky death. As in the Antiquity , where myths were petrified in the fine art, famous personalities of the contemporary art have become the frequented iconographical motif. In the case of Marylin Monroe we can mention pictures by an american pop-artist of the Slovak origin – Andy Warhol.

Contemporary revival of the classical culture

        In spite of that, art can be considered as a ”myth”. Another interesting question from the contemporary art is quoting of themes from the history of art, mainly from the Antique mythology. Here we can refer to a poetical transformation of old myths which can be found not only in music, for example Bohuslav Martinu’s ”Gilgamesh”, Michael Kocab’s ”Odysseus”, but in the American film production, too. We do not speak about superficial action series about Hercules and Xena but about a very interesting two-part film ”Iason and Medeia” which shows the quest of the Argonauts. An artistically valuable film ”Prosper’s Books” by Peter Greenway (1991) based on the motives by Wiliam Shakespeare’s drama ”The Storm” preceded this popular wave. Chaotically the pictures of mythological and historical figures are overlaping in the film.

        The revival of using the motives from the classical art started in the 1970s (the movement D’Aprés” iniciated by P. Picasso or the Italian Transavantgard). In fact, it was Albin Brunovsky who was engaged in these principles of citation even in the 1960s. Above all, we can demostrate it on a scene from Antique mythology ”Léde with the Swan” (litograph, 1968) where Dios is shown in an abstract naturalistic form. Dios, in the form of Swan fecundated Léde, the wife of Sparta’s king Tyndareos. She gave birth to two eggs. From the first egg, Helené and Polydeukés hatched out and from the second one, Kastór. We can consider A. Brunovsky to be an anticipator of ”citation art”, which is one of the contemporary movement of ”the Western art”, as we can see it in P. Greenaway’s example. Naturally, Albín Brunovský influenced his students by this side of his production. We can mention, for example, Peter Klucik and his graphic ”Daidalos and Ikaros”, but above all, Igor Piacka’s production, which is presented at this exhibition.

        In his work of art, not only can free imaginations from the Greek myths (graphics ”Minotaurus” and ”Abduction of Europa”) be found, but also plain quoting of Theseus struggling with Minotaurs in ex libris ”Theseus”, inserted into a round picture in accordance with pattern of the Greek redfigure vase-painting, from the production of Etrusks’ workshops. Secondlly, we have to mention Igor Piaèka’s ilustrative production in which the proposals of book covers dominated, e.g. novels with motives from the Greek and Etrusk mythology – ”The Song of Troy” – Colleen McCullough, ”Immortal Turma” – Mika Waltari and also historical novels from the old Roman environment ”Caesar’s Womans” – Colleen McCullough, ”Octavia from Rome” – Gerhard Herm and the others.

Myths and Present Time

        However, it is necessary to highlight that every civilization has, respectively had, its own mythology. For example, ”Stories of Dragoon Emperors” – ”Old China’s Myths”, which were ilustrated by Piacka in 1993. It is difficult to find its paralel in the European environment, despite the fact that the oriental religions , both monotheistic and polytheistic, became very popular in the Euro-American culture at this time. The reason is that the trend is connected with the ”contemporary primitivism”, which is reflected, among others, in ”sacred” decorations of a body with tattoo, piercing or burning. In this case, it is almost impossible to speak about a religiously motivated expression, but only about a shallow popcultural fashion.

        If we are about to talk about the Oriental mythology, it is necessary to mention the mythology of our forfathers, the Slavs, which was not documented by historical literature of that time, it was preserved in folk customs and verbal arts. Later in the19th century, it was documented by Pavol Dobsinsky in a large-scale work – Slovak legends.The legends have become the source of rich inspiration for the contemporary Slovak belles lettres, for example Bozena Lencova and her novel ”Forfathers’ Cave”. The book was ilustrated by Igor Piaèka in 1999.

        Not only is mythology a complex of myths, which have been created by differenet civilization, but it represents also a science concerning theories of myths which is included in its name (logos – word, science). A new science has started to be the ”Svejkology”, applied on the earnest investigating fictive facts about the author of this hero, Prague writer Jaroslav Hašek. This is documented by a new ”Encyclopaedia for Svejk’s Lovers”. It is more than remarkable that the book ”The Lots of the Good Soldier Svejk” was translated into more than 50 languages. The author characterized this tragicomical figure as follows: ”The great age is asking for great persons... Today, we can meet a worn man in the streets of Prague and he does not know what he represents in the history of a New Great Age... He is modestly making his way, not bothering anybody and is not harassed by journalists who are asking him for an interview... He did not burn the temple of the goddess in Ephesos, as stupid Hérostrates did because he wanted to be in a newpapers and school reading books. And that is enough.” We have reached the beginning of Igor Piacka’s work of art by this quoting in the frame of mentioned premise from the myth to the logo. He depicted ”The Lots of the Good Soldier Svejk” in his semestrial work, during his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in 1998, under the leadership of Albin Brunovsky.

English by Marcela Vancova and Mgr. Viera Radziwill-Anoskinova

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