Composer from the Czech Republic
by Dan Senn
Jakub Rataj is a sound artist living in a small village near Prague, The Czech Republic. This documentary was recorded at the artist's home in the Autumn of 2017 and is one of three documentaries made of Czech sound artists interviewed for "The Christo Effect" documentary. The subjects, Lucie Vítková, Jakub Rataj, and Jiří Suchánek, are all sound artists with advanced music degrees, but are vastly different in their individual approaches to time-based art. Lucie's works tend toward musical theatre, dance, the use of found objects and may be considered an extention of the fluxus movement. Jakub is a composer of complex music scores with deep European roots, who deftly uses electronics, dancers, sound sculpture and film, etc. Jiří's works extend from the concert stage, himself a performer, to large public art works reminscent of the German-American Trimpin—an inventor of elaborate high tech kinetic instruments.
Therefore, four versions of these interview materials exist: "The Christo Effect" presenting these artists in tandem, and then stand alone documentaries for each of the artists.
Statement — "I
generally work alone, even in documentary film, transferring the
practice of composing solo in my studio, and presenting live sound and
video performances, to an otherwise collaborative medium. The downside
of this approach is the heaviness of the load and a loss of the
benefits of community discourse. The upside is a process I am at ease
with, that is, self dependency, and a disciplined focus that enables me
to interview subjects while working simultaneously behind the camera.
Working this way also allows me to do what I want without grant
obligations or budget concerns.
"The Christo Effect" was born out of a curiosity in the points of “astonishing interruption” in a person’s life. For me this life as an artist started with a sudden death of a sibling causing me to heed an inner voice to "do what is difficult". For David Means, it was a hideously wretched war and a chance encounter along the Australian Coastline in 1968 with Christo’s work. Over the years I had heard other similar stories from American artists and so I wondered "Were moments like this common amongst European artists? What about those with roots in the communist system of the Czech Republic?” Therefore, within the context of a documentary film, I set out to find the answer by interviewing three talented young Czech sound artists and what I learned was that in each case, none of them were able to point to a specific “Paulian” event causing them to abruptly move into experimental art. Yet each subject, at some juncture, had been confronted with the question, "Am I going to live fully or just as expected?" Each had an overwhelming desire to think their own thoughts, So, with a communal benefit in mind, I set out to sate my inquisitiveness by interviewing these artists, all of whom I had come to know in my Prague media festival, Echofluxx." DS, Prague, 2018
Dan Senn, the director and producer of these films, is an interdisciplinary artist working in experimental music composition, video, and sound sculpture but also makes documentary films usually with little, if any, assistance from others. He is the director of the Echofluxx media festivals in Prague and co-founder of Roulette Intermedium in New York City and lives in Prague, The Czech Republic, and Watertown, Wisconsin. Dan has directed and produced “The Exquisite Risk of Civil War Brass”, "A House on Jungmanova" and “Voices of Theresa”.
The photo banner above is of Jakub at his home outsde of Prague. Click image for a higher rez version.