Rus Wall
"roos wall dot tsay zed"

. CZ  (see sample video) *use headphones
4K Video and Stereo Sound by Dan Senn

duration 5:27

Rus Wall . CZ (2023), pronounced “roos wall dot tsay zed” was filmed August 30, 2023 in Holešovice, Prague at the corner of U Městských Domů and Kouteckého. It is video of a portion of a retaining wall adjacent to the long row of storage garages filmed in Danger Alley six months earlier. The sound track is an adaptation of ACTION SPEAK for fixed stereo or quad mixed media composed in 2022 at using a Korg MS-20 clone, the Behringer K-2.

A Short Essay

Rus Wall . CZ
, the title, came from wisps of thought while walking by this crumbling wall at the end of Danger Alley. The wall, constructed from now powdery concrete block, triggered memories of the Berlin Wall I’d climbed, the western side only, in August of 1971 while traveling with an American University choir. And now I muttered "Rus wall", as I passed by thinking I might make a piece of it as I had in Of One Mind a month or so earlier in Wisconsin. And yet, the mortar markings were not so interesting and verged on the horry. Then it rained for several days darkening and enriching the colors and so, the day before filming, by chance, I stepped extra close in the mud, looked upward and noticed the broken and exposed concrete blocks at the top against the clear blue sky. “Ahhh. A starting point?” I went to work the next day.

And then there is that raging Russian invasion in Ukraine...  Immersed daily in news reports, while keenly remembering the anger I’d encountered from Czechs in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1971, I drew connections between the Berlin Wall, the Cold War, Ukraine, and this dilapidated structure likely built in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I have no data supporting these dates except that my nearby studio is in a building erected in 1938, and the sports field this wall is connected to was probably built just after WW2. In any event, my memories, hardened by my soldiering father’s wartime experiences as coupled with my observations in 1971, a connection was made and sent to the background of my mind.

The words written above are a true in the wispy context presented but pale in contrast to other considerations. As mentioned, the rain soddened wall had become intriguing. The ground was muddy, sloped, bit slippery, but stable enough with plenty of room for my tripod. The shooting area was just far enough from the road and sidewalk providing a modicum of privacy—there would be plenty of walk-bys but Czechs are polite and respect artists. Unlike Venting on Stupkova and Danger Alley, I would not have to contend with people walking through the image field. Given the location, it’d be best to shoot in the morning, say, between 8a and 10a. And I would start at the top of the wall moving downward with lots of recursive gestures. The narrative sense of the object, its geography, would guide my improvised path of the shoot—this being the backbone of an aesthetic where messaging barely pops its head up if at all.

Thus, a retrofitted simpatico is barely befitting as the mere clumsiness of the shoot is doubly encumbered by using just-professional gear. This alone is an obstacle sufficent to push away the fleeting (wispy) nature of meaning-schmeaning into gray-matter-obscurity. The paradox here is that to have the “right” gear would take such fringe projects out of range financially while erasing personal and social relevance.

With the just-professional gear I have, focusing the lens is difficult as the view finder is small and unblinkered. Smooth movement between stationary image points is rugged. And there is no crew to protect the camera man from being interfered with as intense concentration is required. Indeed, such things can overwhelm a shoot begging the question "Why do this work in the first place?" The answer is "Because difficulties repress imitation while keeping the devil at bay.

I use the word "difficulties" in the sense of the ancient practice of Raku pottery, or as Thoreau and Cage understood, to assist producing useful artifacts. Every moment of the work was impacted as I made do with the gear I had which, to be clear, was not nothing and yet a distance from the rococo-ridden status quo. My partner and I are not suffering in Czechia as I look for crooked vents, a crack in a pillar, and a horry bulging wall, perhaps, a remnant of the Young Pioneers, to make art that pushes my skills to new limits while seen by a few. Why? Because it is difficult and as I grow older, I know this is correct.

Finally, the meaning intended in this work does not disallow interpretations unique to every viewer including myself as I revisit the work in the future. I do not warm to art that seeks to control my interpretation or that of others. What I’m thinking is my business. "Tell me something I don't know" a phrase often voiced by Sal Martirano as he ignored the writing on the museum wall. And yet, I realize that trying to send hidden messages to others using art, is sometimes critically necessary in a malfunctioning society (Václav Havel) and also occasionally instigates invention. Yet, in a gentler society, it too often represents nothing but a big fat embarrassing lie—a retrofitted metaphor meant to sell some tribal bullshit. Intended meaning is too often used as a battering ram to separate the special people who “know” from the idiot who sees to well that the king undressed. In this sense, my need to describe what I’m doing here in Rus Wall . CZ is utterly hypocritical except that I cannot get beyond my ascent to the top of the Berlin Wall in 1971. Dad was right. DS 090423

Dan Senn (Prague-Watertown) is an intermedia artist working in music composition and production, kinetic sound sculpture, experimental and documentary film. He has been a professor of music and art in the United States and Australia and travels internationally as a lecturer, performer and installation artist. He lives in Prague where he directs the Echofluxx festivals, and Watertown, Wisconsin, the USA. Dan's work moves freely between expressive extremes and languages depending upon the aesthetic joust at hand. Dan is cofounder of Roulette Intermedium in New York City, Cascadia Composers of Portland Oregon, and the Echofluxx media festivals in Prague. (read more).