Michal Novotný: Do you regard the documentation of the theatre production Jakob Mohr’s Judicial Murder as an autonomous work? For example, could you imagine it circulating round world exhibitions like a video?
Eva Koťátková: In fact that’s already happening. I see the film as another layer of the whole. It records the performance, but this documentation is governed by the logic of a drawing – which means for example that the camera never looks to the side, doesn’t wander through the auditorium and so on. It is directed only to the figures coming to life in the particular moment – a little like the gaze of a viewer who looks at the figurines that appear in front of him on an astronomical clock. Or when we look at a postcard.
MN: Is it important for you that this is a classical format for documenting a stage play, or can you imagine the production being rehearsed off-stage while retaining the script so as to be more like a film in format? Did you consider making the recording without an audience? Or is it on the contrary important that the audience should be there as a certain disruptive yet realistic element?
EK: Of course I could imagine different forms of treating Mohr’s drawing. It could be done as an animation, or a puppet production or it would be shot like some highly stylised television adaptation. Maybe something between Hermína Týrlová’s1 The Handkerchief and Lars von Trier’s Dogville… But here it was fundamental that the drawing was brought to life and transposed into three-dimensional space at the Prague Psychiatric Hospital Bohnice Theatre and just for a few hours one evening. This meant it was a longer and rather more complicated, structured, living tableau set in a concrete context. The audience, at least from an overall view from above, ceased to be simply spectators of a performance and took the part of a court, like associate judges. If they had not come and filled the seats the tableau would not have been complete. Their natural movement, scraping of chairs, rustling and whispering, and in one case I noticed sleep, didn’t undermine the work and could even be seen as itself staged. Like a performance of Theatre by Jiří Kovanda…
MN: Were you involved in directing the film or the editing? If so, was there anything that struck you as difficult in view of the original work?
EK: Tomáš Luňák took on the direction of the film. I think he did it with great sensitivity, and he brought his whole team with him. I only intervened when the camera shot something that didn’t suit the content of the text.
MN: Did you work with video in relation to your own performances before as well? Do you see some similarity there, or difference?
EK: I used video in my early works, to record experiments with my own body in relation to the surrounding environment, for example in the work, Behind between over under in (the room) 2007. That was something completely different, but one might see a similarity in that there too there were deliberate limits on the documentation, given by the fact that everything took place in a small apartment, where the camera’s view was constructed by the walls, and by the fact that I was shooting myself by myself. But generally it can be said that most of my video works are static in nature, as it were animated pictures, scenes with some duration.
MN: Is there a chance that the production will be staged again in a different place, or in view of its specific conditions (the involvement of patients in the structure of the work and the spirit of the setting), is that impossible, or something that you would not artistically approve of?
EK: I can’t imagine the production being put on classically in the theatre or as a touring performance. The same can be said for the series of “tableaux vivants”, living pictures. The only place where it might work, in my view, is the Prinzhorn Collection in Heidelberg, from where Jakob Mohr’s drawing comes. Its exhibition rooms are very distinctive, and it even has a small balcony offering a view of the stage from above and so the situation of the court would be relatively easy to reconstruct, or more precisely to recreate.
Michal Novotný is a curator and critic of contemporary art.
1 Hermína Týrlová (1900–1993) was a prominent Czech animator, screen writer and a film director (editor’s note).
Jakob Mohr, Justizmord (Judicial Murder), 1909–1910, ink drawing, pencil and coloured pastels on drawing base, 33,3 x 49,9 cm, courtesy of the Prinzhorn Collection, University Hospital in Heidelberg. Eva Koťátková Justiční vražda
Jakoba Mohra (Jakob Mohr’s Judicial Murder), 2015, video, 1:03:00 directed by Tomáš Luňák.