RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Saturday, February 26

LEARNED ELDERS: Miroslav Tichy

I'm not sure anyone on this fat, bloated earth really exemplifies the philosophical idea behind The Learned Elders of Rojonekku building more than Miroslav Tichy. A lifelong balance of living the life of an outsider, perhaps starting as an outcast, or perhaps just feeling an alienation from the way the human world seems to naturally spin, and pulling yourself out of it. And then much like the fickle creature it is, civilization tries to force it's way into his world, expects to be embraced.
Nowadays, Tichy is an old dude - 75 years old, trying to live a vaguely hermetic lifestyle, but has now been "discovered" (which I'm fully part of, and furthering with this, but that's part of the lesson with Tichy's tale), disrupting his elder years in the Czech Republic.
Although he is considered one of the great international self-taught artists, he actually received fine arts training in communist Czechoslovakia, and after doing the required military bid as a young man, started to become a fairly promising modernist painter. But his works and attitude made him seem a threat to the paranoid Communist powers in charge, so Tichy was treated as a dissident, monitored closely, harassed, and the effect was he pulled back.
Sometime in the '60s, Tichy then being a man in his 40s, he built a homemade camera from scrap objects - toilet paper rolls, duct tape, cardboard - really, if you look at a picture of what he was taking pictures with, it's amazing and inspiring. (I fully plan on building a camera this summer as well and taking pictures of junk cars at this junkyard in Buckingham, because it makes sense really. Trash pointed at trash, and something hopefully neat-looking or beautiful and visually exciting coming from that. It's like artistic compost almost. You can find directions for building cameras from scrap objects online, and in fact, when I was in elementary school, we still did the oatmeal box pinhole camera experiment in public schools.)
Tichy started wandering his hometown of Kyjov in the '60s, taking pictures of unsuspecting beautiful women, often times in bathing suits, and lots of the times, they had no idea. (There is a certain stalkerish nature to his work, which now that he's an old ass man with a wild long beard, you can write off as just good-natured appreciation of the female form. But I would imagine if he was still a 40-year-old dude of normal health and virility, it would be a lot creepier.) Sometimes, he'd get posed photos as well, because the woman in the picture wouldn't believe he was actually taking a picture with the duct taped cardboard contraption in his hand. He wandered, taking these pictures on through the 1980s. He was still on the Communist government's watch list, so never got any recognition for his homemade pictures, which he developed as well using relatively primitive techniques, creating sepia tones with brown blotches at times, which just added to the ambiance in retrospect. All of it had never seen the eyes of other humans until an old neighbor, Roman Buxbaum, became friends with Tichy, discovered all these pics this dude had been taking, and started collecting them, feeling they should be preserved. Tichy would give the guy big bundles of these secret photographs, and Buxbaum even bought pictures Tichy gave to the elderly woman who was his second moms at the time, another neighbor.
Then the Communist regime fell, and the Czech Republic turned into a more vibrant artsy ass place, centered in Prague, which became a sort of 1990s version of Paris when all the expatriate American writers were living there back in the day. Eventually, Tichy's work was "discovered" at a show curated by Buxbaum in 2004, and his fame exploded. His pictures became a hot commodity in the outsider art/art brut world, which is understandable, and a Tichy Ocean Foundation was set up to be an official place for his art to be disseminated and circulated.
The thing is, Tichy never wanted any of that. He has, in fact, broken all ties with Buxbaum, and says that nobody other than him, the older woman neighbor he gave pictures to over the years, or his lawyer has a right to sell or propagate his works.
Of course, the art world moves much like the rest of our civilized world - without much concern for the person behind the message so much as ready to materially embrace the message. So his works have become more popular than ever, interviewers and fans continually bother the old man at home, and you can go to the Tichy Ocean Foundation website and buy a print yourself if you can afford it. An ostracized man builds a camera from scraps to take haphazard pictures of beautiful women, keeps the thousands of pictures to himself and closest friends, just trying to find some steady inspiration for life, something to happily get out of bed every day and enjoy his life in his own way, and eventually once the marketability of it is discovered, it overtakes that simple life that he so cherishes. Ultimately, this is how you are rewarded for your creative endeavors in our human civilization as it stands. And as many of the kids who are in the Rojonekku plan have dreams of being famous for this or that type of creative expression, that's an important lesson to remember. Fame is not more golden, just because a thousand cameras flash against it. A golden life can shine just as brightly dwelling in the shadows nobody thinks to look. And, in fact, it is in those unseen shadows where that golden life can shine without anyone ever noticing the value of it and trying to commodify it out of your own grasp.


Joel said...

Did you read in the "Problems" section of Tichy Ocean where the old woman is trying to make a buck off of Tichy's work and he's too senile to even authenticate the documentation? A sad state for some photography that shows your $50,000 400 megapixel Decepticon will never match up to artistic skill.

Raven Mack said...

did not see that, but not surprising. he's a good hero for me as I think about ways to try and be paid for what I'd like to do... but really I'd just like to sit in my camper and doodle nonsense on magazine pictures I tore out of easyriders from 1978. at some point, you have to decide either, "I am going to compromise my real desires to get this money," or just embrace the fact that you like to do something completely fucked up and detach yourself from any bullshit American dream to get rich or die trying. And I think there's a happy medium as well, which hopefully I can achieve to subsidize sitting in my camper and doodling nonsense on 1978 easyriders to my heart's delight, 10 hours a day. that's the dream.