I’m not going to lie to you all, I had a pretty shameful pre-conception of the Czech Republic. We’re talking ignorant cultural stereotyping at it’s finest. The image in my head consisted of a rather bleak sky framing a couple of eastern european men wearing dirty-white tank tops and gold chains, playing poker, and sitting next to a token rabid dog gnawing on a bone.
Mercifully, my hazy and judgemental image of a Soviet-stamped war-torn bloc dissipated before my eyes as soon as I stepped off the plane. Instead, I was greeted with a fairytale city of cobbled streets, wispy spires and stern-faced statues. I was lucky enough to spend a few days this summer in the stunning capital of Prague, exploring every nook and cranny this delightful city offered.
For all those pub quiz fans out there how about a topical anorak fact for you to salivate over? Even crazier: how about two??
1. Apart from California Prague is the porn capital of the world which, when considering the size of it, means there is a lot of kinky nookie going down.
2. Czechs hate anything vaguely ritualistic, it’s a rather secular country and any sort of ceremonial process is avoided. Hence, only around forty per cent of Czechs actually have a funeral service.
Fascinating stuff. These two gems of knowledge were gleamed from a rather helpful tour guide who took us around the city, revealing to us the delights of the winding alleyways.
Now to completely serve off on a tangent, and onto the meaty topic of this post: Street art.
Angst has found many outlets as a way of saying f***k you to ‘The Establishment’. The ‘Establishment’ that is being attacked can take any form, whether it is the government or a political body, or even who is considered cool in high school (à la The Breakfast Club).
And lets face it, the marginal is always more interesting. Hence why I am a bit addicted wherever I go to documenting street art. There is something wonderfully dissident about graffiti; it’s all ultimately a protest, a protest against conventional artistic mediums, a way of saying ‘nahah’ to the notoriously pretentious art circles. Sure, street art is in itself “mainstream” now too, but something created on an alleyway wall is always going to kick the ass of the gilded portrait hanging on the gallery wall.
Then again, maybe I’m reading into it too much. Maybe people just get spontaneously creative when they walk past a blank wall, and just happen to have a magic marker on them.
Either way, I think it’s all a pretty niffty game, and here is some of the stuff I came across in my few days in Prague.
Interestingly it seems John Lennon has had a similar impact on the world to Bob Marley (read Culture Vulture’s thoughts on him here); and while NY has it’s fancy silver circle, Prague has it’s much rougher and raw ‘John Lennon Wall’.
However, it seems the original message has got lost somewhere under the numerous epithets of the modern scribbler; ‘imagine all the people’ has now been slighted in favour of ‘Kenny woz here’.
And who said poetry was dead?
But if you step back and ignore the bastardisation of one of the greatest musicians of our age, the wall still makes an impressive sight.
…and at least this little philosophical gem has survived. Seeing as ‘marginal’ is the theme of this post, and drugs are to anti-conformists what the stick was to Gandi (read: kinda important, I guess), I shall leave this as my parting sentence: should we indeed smoke a joint every day? I open the discussion to the floor.