[ excerpt ]
series: image to word 4
also by the author:
Responses • Kafka’s Prague
|a user’s manual
by Jiří Kolář
translated from the Czech by Ryan Scott
artwork by the author
Written in the 1950s and ’60s, the “action poems” comprising a A User’s Manual were published in their complete form in 1969 when they were paired
with the 52 collages of Weekly 1967, the first of Kolář’s celebrated series in which he commented visually on a major event for each week of
the year. Taking the
form of directives, largely absurd, the poems mock communist society’s officialese while offering readers an opportunity to create their own poetics by performing the given directions.
The collages on the facing pages to the poems are composed of layered documents, image cutouts, newspaper clippings, announcements, letter
fragments, reports, or decontextualized words, oftentimes forming concrete patterns or the outlines of figures, to create a sort of “evidential” report on the year.
Text and image taken together, the volume displays Kolář’s enduring interest in extracting poetry from the mundane to demolish the barrier separating art from reality,
or even to elevate reality itself through this dual poetics to the level of art. What art historian Arsén Pohribný wrote about Weekly 1968 equally applies to Weekly 1967:
it “shocks with its abrupt stylistic twists” and is “a Babylonian, hybrid parable of multi-reality.” The volume also includes the complete Czech text as an appendix.
The poems are instructions (or suggestions) – not so much exhortations to action as prodding to more playful exercises of sorts,
action-experiments as thought-experiments; much of this is reminiscent of Yoko Ono's Grapefruit with its performance-piece / conceptual art instructions. [...]
A User's Manual is a lovely book – another beautiful volume from Twisted Spoon, who are always attentive to the physical feel and look of their books –
and a fine introduction of the work of Jiří Kolář. The poetry is enjoyable -- quite amusing, and some of it very effective – and the collage-pieces often
impressive – though readers are encouraged to seek out more samples: Kolář was a very talented artist, and much of his collage-work is stunning.
— M.A. Orthofer, The Complete Review
The collages are extraordinary, among the technique’s most inspiring. [...] We’re fortunate to have in English, at last, a real taste of Kolář’s wry, writerly sensibility.
Ryan Scott and Twisted Spoon are to be commended for reviving this particular book, a neglected but significant work of Eastern European visual literature.
— M. Kasper, Rain Taxi Review
Each of the accompanying artworks are also to be contemplated slowly, their composition miniscule but perfect, order coming from the chaos, articulation of world events.
They alone could make up a book, but it is through the alignment of small acts of insurrection and art of social commentary that the repetitiveness seeps through.
— Tony Messenger, Messenger's Booker
For the most part Kolář’s poems avoid any overtly political calls to rebellion or insurrection. They demonstrate how
individual people can exhibit their displeasure in small, daily surreal acts.
— Chris Oleson, Bookmunch
As unusual as they are, many of the poems are oddly practical enough that they could serve as inspiration triggers. The language is spare,
reasons and explanations are not offered, but therein lies the charm. Some are even strangely beautiful.
— J.M. Schreiber, roughghosts
If we only regard Kolář's oeuvre as an assemblage of artworks we would miss its meaning, which lies in its overall message, in its synthesis of word and image,
and most of all in its highlighting the fluid, protean, ambiguous nature of reality ...
— Marie Klimešová, Grimace of the Century
142 pp., 17 x 20 cm
hardcover with ribbon marker
52 halftone and color illus.
poetry : art : avant-garde
UK: September 25, 2019
US: December 2, 2019
airmail postage & handling incl.
or order from:
Shakespeare & Sons