Greetings from Prague!
I’ve been extended the honorable invitation to be one of the guest-bloggers while Jeff is out Vanderising Europe and I finally accepted the challenge after some deliberation. The main reason for my initial doubt was the fact that I haven’t yet met Jeff (I hope to have the honor sometime in August) and am not sufficiently familiar with his work and readership. Contributing to his blog would be like showing up at a party full of strangers and being asked to make a speech without knowing who’s there, what’s been going on before you got there, who you may unwittingly offend, whose jokes you may unwittingly repeat, etc. A pretty trippy blind date!
But although I don’t yet know Jeff personally, we do share two friends whom I trust deeply – the painter Hawk Alfredson and his beautiful photographer wife, Mia Hanson. (If you’re not familiar with their work I’d highly recommend visiting their sites).
Just having these common friends wouldn’t have been that convincing in itself, since they are a very popular couple and have a mind-boggling array of acquaintances. But Jeff and I apparently share a fascination with a group of Hawk’s paintings known as Circlings – a unique breed of seductively frightening creatures. Jeff, a Tallahassee-based writer and I, a Prague-based filmmaker have both gravitated to these images from distant continents and have decided, independently of each other, to incorporate them into our own work. This isn’t a question of putting too much faith in coincidences, crossed fates, etc. but it simply convinces me that our tastes and sensibilities are close enough for me to feel at home in his, and your, world. (Similar sentiments must have caused Jeff to invite me in the first place?) I hope I won’t wear out my welcome too soon.
My second cause for hesitation was the fact that I’m not a writer. I’m not even formally educated at all! I slipped through the cracks of modern civilization and roam through “the great cities” as a sort of foreign native. In the 60’s it was quite common for artists to go live with “primitive” tribes in search of untainted stimuli, and my natural possession of some of that “untaintedness” is my only real distinction. I’ve picked up some skills here and there and express my thoughts and feelings in as many ways as I find stimulating – sometimes through writing, sometimes through collages and sculptures, and most often though filming. (If at any point you become curious about my world, you can visit it at www.sirtijnpo.com. Be informed, however, that it is a very sexually explicit world.) While I’m not ashamed of my lack of formal education and, at times, I’m actually quite proud of it, I was a bit weary of a blind date with the audience of a literary master. So here’s the disclaimer: If you’re looking for “real” culture, skip my entry! If you’re looking for some zany alternative thinking, there’s a chance you’ll find a satisfying dose of it here.
In Jeff’s invitation, he wrote: “You may blog about whatever you want to blog about, whether serious or not-so-serious topics. Whatever is on your mind.“
My mind is currently dominated by zoophilia. I’m in a very happy inter-human relationship right now, but for the past 15 months I’ve been working on my first feature-length film which documents the trials and tribulations of a Czech group of zoophiles who have begun fighting for their rights, equality, etc. (NOTE: zoophiles distance themselves from bestialists who just use animals for pleasure. True zoophiles, they explain, engage in sexual acts with animals ONLY as ultimate expressions of love.) The group, which calls themselves E.F.A. (short for Equality For All - www.equalityforall.net) see themselves as liberators of all non-human creatures and intend to take their revolution worldwide.
Every film dominates you for the duration of the production, but this project has been increasingly dominating me as it nears completion.
The project is entitled COMING SOON, and the reason for this title was to inform the audience before they watch it that although it may look and feel like a real documentary, it’s all fake and is only meant to be a sketch of what the future may hold for us – sort of like a trailer for civilization’s next great debate, etc. The freaky thing is that I no longer know how much of the film is fake and how much is real! In order to lend authenticity to the film we included several real characters, experts in their respective fields, who comment on the group’s efforts, dreams, etc. But as far as I knew, the people playing the group’s members were all acting. Over the course of making the film, however, these people started confessing things to me which made me doubt my very senses. I let most of the characters improvise and even develop the stories themselves in order to produce more realistic “performances.” I knew some of these people beforehand, but I met most of them in the course of the project. Most of them heard about the project through mutual acquaintances and offered their services. Or were they looking for the perfect catharsis? As their confessions started pouring out – confessions about fantasies, dreams, experiences, plans, etc. – I started fearing that I stumbled upon a group of people who are far more subversive than I initially hoped for. They seemed to feel that if I was directing this film, as tongue-in-cheek as it seemed, they were able to talk openly, confession style. But I was only using this as a metaphor. Wasn’t it blatantly clear to them?
Are they just playing with me? Or were they playing with me before we began filming? Did they coax me into telling their story by claiming it was all a great joke, or are they yanking my chain now? Or did it start out as a joke and, perhaps due to the film’s influence, slowly become real? Did their year of joking unleash hidden tendencies? I swear to you that I can no longer tell!
Prague is notorious for practical jokes. But Prague is also notorious for its atheism, experimentalism, decadence, mysteriousness and who knows what else. I initially came out here 8 years ago to work for my favorite filmmaker, Jan Svankmajer. I ended up staying here because of a gorgeous genius who’s been letting me seduce and love her. The first six years here were an absolute, and primarily unpleasant, mystery. I absolutely couldn’t find my bearings in this society. I’ve traveled my fair share and never had trouble finding my little niche in any culture I encountered. Not that I immediately understood them all, but I was able to figure where I do and don’t belong. Prague is a creepy puzzle. People here are very intelligent, cultured, creative, etc. and the artist’s life is more the rule here than then exception. Yet, I’ve never been anywhere that seemed as dysfunctional or chaotic. I’ve been shown the most intense kindness as well as the harshest cruelty – oftentimes within one act. At times you feel as though you’re roaming through bohemian heaven, only to suddenly discover hellish streets full of human-looking devils. For six years I couldn’t figure out what system these people live by. Had that one exquisite creature not loved me, I’d have been off long ago.
Over the past few years, however, I started feeling as though I was getting in on the joke. I didn’t understand the system or patterns but I was increasingly able to at least intuit my way through the madness. My command of the language was increasing as was my knowledge of the local history and folklore and I actually started enjoying the mess.
But now I’m totally confused again. The people who I finally thought I “got” are now as mystifying as ever. I finally have my first film ready and instead of rejoicing I find myself trying to figure out exactly what it is that I have.
I showed an unfinished version of the film at a festival here this past April and the audience kept asking me how much of it was real? I laughed to myself and was proud of my ability to create a perfect illusion. The Student Jury awarded us with a special award, citing the film’s originality and defense of suppressed minorities and I laughed at how seriously they took the film. And now I’m beginning to wonder if the joke isn’t on me! I tried demonstrating that all groups can argue their right to acceptance and equality, but now I feel as though my demonstrative arguments really worked. People seem to be taking this so seriously to the point that they are coming out of the closet – a closet which wasn’t supposed to really exist. A fake revolution may actually be forming. And maybe it’s a good thing! Maybe zoophiles really do deserve the same rights as everyone else. Perhaps they’ve been persecuted and suppressed only due to millennia worth of stigma which no one ever bothered to address, or fight. Who would have dared to do so? They themselves are too small a group to fight for themselves. Perhaps it needed an uneducated filmmaker to come along and unwittingly make their plight palatable enough for it to finally end?
It’s getting late in these parts of the world and I have to go, but this is what I have on my mind right now. I’ve been compelled to search my own soul for clues and hidden impulses which may have led me to this subject-matter in the first place. I’ll continue my thoughts next time. Until then, Indulge!
Sir Tijn Po
sirtijnpo -[at]- sirtijnpo -[dot]- com
P.S. I noticed a minor mix-up on Jeff’s July, 19th blog entry. He says Shimon Shertov has a scandalous website and then puts a link to my site. I’m not him and he’s not me. No harm done though!