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Ztohoven: Crosses, not exclamation marks

pic: Tomáš Třeštík


The newest activity of the Ztohoven group caused a mild outrage in the Czech Republic: They added a 28th cross on the Old towns square – more on for example. We have a statement from the artists them self’s to explain the meaning of this action.

The Ztohoven group explain with the words of Jan Taar: 

At the beginning of each of our projects there is intuition and a lesson, or questions from past projects. What all of our projects have in common is uncovering different kinds of manipulation. Especially with the atomic mushroom cloud and the citizen K. projects. One day someone came with the idea, that if 28 people were executed in the year 1621, why do we have to look at only 27 crosses, how would Martin Fruvejn feel about that, who was probably tortured to death before the actual execution and that wasn´t convenient for them so they said he committed suicide. And because we have our own experience with criminal police, we started to like this Martin straight away.


Then we were surprised that nobody noticed this during the veneration. What kind of veneration is that? We were certain that people would find out about it, but now we are just glad that for the first time in history even almost forgotten Martin Fruvejn got his reverence. The question is if Fruvejn shouldn´t be on the plaque and in the school books. There will be an anniversary in ten years, reminding people that 400 years have passed since this event, so there is enough time to get him there.


But that is not everything, we can´t focus just on that. In the first place the cross is a symbol, which represents many meanings. We don´t want the cross to have just one meaning and force it on to people. Other people are paid for that and often professional imageologists, how the Czech writer Kundera would have said. Usually the person with power and influence builds the monuments, the one who is ruling at the moment. Allot of people then walk by the monument and pretend it´s not there, once in a year a politician smiles for a camera in front of it and then nothing for another year. We like memorials that amuse people and that give them something. That aren´t just for a monologue but allow a dialog or different ways of interpretation as well. That´s why we gave this cross to people, maybe they will give other memorials, that are around us some thought and maybe we will have new memorials in some time, that are more fun and meaningful. And maybe something that we can´t even imagine will happen.




We don´t want to give people exclamation marks or any explanation about what we do. Exclamation marks are for people with influence and power. We enjoy working with question marks and love secrets like small children. Our projects should speak in their own language. The cross was ours just for the time we were thinking about it and eventually made it happen. Ever since the cross is a part of the paving with the other 27 crosses it no longer belongs to us, but to the public. We shared it. It´s more or less a gift and what always happens with gifts is that someone makes use of it to develop something further, someone puts it into his closet and someone is disappointed, because he wanted something else.




We think that the cross can have many meanings, equal to the amount of people that actually give it some thought. If I talk only for myself, not the Ztohoven group, for me the cross represents that even if there aren´t any tortures or executions in our country, there are different, often hidden means of manipulation in the society that can be considered something like a social torture or execution. I know many artists, scientists and others who had to choose if they are going to starve or leave their profession that has sense and they are good at because of the neoliberal politics. These people are forced to do something they don´t believe in or to leave the country just to have something to eat. I find this similar to the execution of 28 citizens, knights and members of the nobility and think of it as a bloody ceremony, another step in the supranational world of Catholics and Protestants. In those days it was all about the freedom of imagination, as it is today. It´s about having a mind of your own, not a head full of delusions and advertisement, it doesn´t matter who´s service you are in.




There haven´t been many reactions yet. The journalists copy the reports of the Czech television and if someone interviews you, they ask you question like: where did you get the cobblestones from. I think that the journalists have to be tortured in some way as well, when they give such performance. I really don´t think that they are performing any kind of public service. But we would be glad if a debate evolved around this. We would like to be a part of it this time. But the thing is, do people actually care about something else then where did we get the cobblestones from?


We put the cross there, well to be precise two members of our group. The rest of us were making a distraction, although it wasn´t really necessary. I find It quite interesting with the pavers and the other workmen. I noticed that they are something like the caste of the untouchable in the Indian caste system. Nobody really looks at them, nobody thinks about them or what they are doing. I guess that people have the feeling, that they could become dirty. But in fact they have a beautiful and difficult job to do – taking care of the pavements, that´s something that deserves more respect and a higher rating. A pavement can be a beautiful thing and Prague has a lot to catch up on in this field. Try looking under your feet sometime. If Prague doesn´t make sure that the pavements are nice, people from the street like us will. The installation of the cross was quite boring. It took as two days, always an hour a day. Nobody really noticed us. A tourist from South America, that looked like a former workmen looked at it for quite some time, but I had the feeling he cared more about the crafting, that the point of it all. Then a young man arrived on one of those carts on two wheels that tourists use to get around. We did like nothing was going on and at first he tried to rent us the vehicle, then he started to put things together a then he drove off somewhere to call the police, he didn´t talk to us about it at all. It was that type that used to snitch on classmates in primary school and that did pretty well before the year 1989 (Velvet revolution). These kinds of people live among us even if they look nice on first sight.




The criminal police like our projects very much, that´s why they look into them so often. But seriously, they do the most detailed descriptions, they are our chroniclers! We would prefer if someone else could do it though, their methods aren´t really the kind we would choose. We aren´t afraid of any penalties this time, but we are still prosecuted for the Citizen K. project and soon we will be invited to court so it would be too much at once.



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