– Spring/Summer 1999

Sunday February 30

Desa Philippi

Pavel Buchler, High Seas Short Waves Deep Sorrow Long Silence, 1996, light bulb, receiver, dimmer. Courtesy the artist.

Ordinary facts are arranged within time, strung along its length as on a thread. Yet what is to be done with events that have no place of their own in time: events that have occurred too late, after the whole of time has been distributed, divided, and allotted; events that have been left in the cold, unregistered, hanging in the air, homeless, and errant?
Could it be that time is too narrow for all events? Could it happen that all the seats within time might have been sold? Worried, we run along the train of events, preparing ourselves for the journey.

- Bruno Schuiz

Pavel asked me if I remembered the beginning of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. He likes to evoke that story when talking about his work. Milan Kundera's book starts with the description of a historic scene - the communist leader Klement Gottwald addressing the nation from the balcony of a Baroque palace in Prague in 1948. It was a cold day in February, snow was falling and Gottwald had borrowed the fur hat of his foreign minister, Clementis, who appeared standing next to him in the photograph which commemorated the famous event and subsequently appeared in newspapers, magazines and schoolbooks across the country. Four years later, Clementis was tried for treason and executed. Swiftly, the propaganda department eliminated him from the historical record, and he was airbrushed out of the photograph where only his fur hat remained on the head of the communist leader.

This kind of indexical trace evidences the stubbornness with which reality invariably exceeds confinement within the limits of official speech. By extension, the fur hats of

  1. Geneviève Benamou, Pavel Büchler: Work from Czechoslovakia 1973-1981, unpublished essay, Paris, 1986

  2. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish. The Birth of the Prison, Alan Sheridan (trans.), London: Penguin Books, 1991, p.250. Foucault describes the star shape as one of the variations of the Benthamite Panopticon. See also chapters on 'Panopticism' and 'Complete and Austere Institutions', pp.195-256

  3. lan Hunt, Pavel Büchler: Subsequent Purchasers, Portfolio - The Catalogue of Contemporary Photography in Britain, no.22, December 1995, pp.54-55

  4. I am referring to the following pieces: No Easy Answers (1995), High Seas Short Waves Deep Sorrow Long Silence (1997) and Untitled (1998), a lightbulb installation as part of the group show Disquieting Strangeness, CFAR, London.

  5. Freedom, an Amnesty International Glasgow Groups Exhibition which travelled to Belfast, Southampton and Dundee between 1995 and 1997.

  6. Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, Hannah Arendt (ed.), Harry Zohn (trans.), London: Fontana Press, 1970, p.39