09 April 2010

Miroslav Tichý

I went to the Miroslav Tichy exhibit at International Center of Photography a few weeks ago, and then I went back again last Friday. Miroslav Tichy is an old Czech, born in Kyjov, Moravia, in 1926. He went to art school, and then stopped painting sometime in the late 1950s. He became very unkempt, dressed in rags, and started wandering around Kyjov with cameras he constructed out of garbage—shoe boxes, twine, lenses from broken eyeglasses. According to some of the local residents who were interviewed for a documentary on Tichy’s life, most people didn’t believe his cameras were real; those who did would call the police whenever he began “taking pictures”—mostly of women’s feet, legs, and butts. The police also hauled Tichy off to the local insane asylum whenever he showed up for the annual May Day parade, because they didn’t want the village weirdo spoiling their proper celebration.

Art The images Tichy made are pretty great, because his cameras and his enlarger were made out of trash, and also because of Tichy’s obsession with his subject matter. Last Friday I watched a couple looking at the first few photos at the ICP exhibit; the young woman turned to her date and said, “He sure liked booty, didn’t he?” Clearly he did, which is pretty obvious to anyone who just looks at the pictures. But if you read the accompanying text for the show, written by some curator, you will discover that these images are all about esthetic choice as to how best to represent the experience of village life, or some such nonsense. Instead of shooting interiors or church scenes, Tichy chose to shoot at the local swimming pool for some esthetic reason or other. The fact that there are usually not a lot of half-naked babes at the church didn’t enter into it at all, apparently. But Tichy himself, in an interview in the documentary film that’s showing in conjunction with the exhibit, just goes on and on about sexuality, atoms screwing, dinosaurs doing it—he doesn’t say a word about his “esthetic choices.” He does say, “To be famous, you have to be worse at something than anyone else in the whole world.” So he’s not stupid.

I don’t understand why we have to do the Henry Darger on these guys. Nobody goes to all the trouble of making cameras out of trash unless their passion forces them to make those images. Why can’t people just look at the photos and appreciate them for what they are? It doesn’t lessen the power of the photos to accept that the photographer was the local creepy weirdo, or that any “esthetic choices” were being made by Little Miroslav.

Thanks for reading my blogpost this time, and may God bless.

Stolen From WFMU's Beware of the Blog, post by Iowa Firecracker

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