Get Decked: Wal-Art

Opinions are like assholes; everyone’s got one. The question is: What will you do to propagate and express yours? Sure, write a letter, a book, a song, but is what you have to say, sing or preach important enough for you to toss into the bonfire of collective debate? The entertainment industry is rotted clean through with half-baked, ill-conceived, bubble-gum poppycock that forces little, if any, self-provoked thought, leaving the “underground” of the movement to lead the charge with innovative expression. But in Prague, it would seem that a counter-cultural U-turn is afoot, disguising alternative art as the new “flavor-of-the-month” While the clichéd espresso-drenched expat writer myth has been debunked, our trusty English-language bookstores only serve to further distract us from a healthy legacy of regional literary contributions. In-Style and Rolling Stone squat the front racks, while Hrabel and Klima are buried round back.

Our town’s festering grand dame broadsheet doesn’t do much to condone any unique expression either. The Post’s lifeless, PC format is geared towards backpacking undergrads and Japanese tourists. Their seasoned demographics professionals have silenced opinion with banal, listless reportage and offensive corporate ideology. Radio listings and public service announcements have been unceremoniously dropped in favor of yet more pub and puppet show revues. While its not humane to hit someone while they’re down, the Post’s pseudo-journalistic fodder is unrivaled.

All this goes to show that misses generally outnumber hits when artists misstep; creating art for art’s sake, and neglecting to leave any discernable message behind. Art that affects me requires a substantive emotional or intellectual reaction. Ego and vanity projects also tarnish the waters for those more committed.

This counter-culture recoil has surreptitiously branded even hipster types with “vintage” pep-boy T-shirts, greasy haircuts and $100 Levi’s. We are being sold alternative/indie propaganda by the very powers that we choose to condemn. Only the minute few struggle to disseminate what very little is left of uncharted experimental waters. Maximum Underground on Jilská 22 and TSP Records on ?kolská 22 are both waving quality independent colors high. Both shops offer an expansive array of otherwise unavailable releases that are pushing our fledgling recording scene onto the world stage. Special orders and top-notch service are a given.

Counter-clubs like XT3, Punto Azul and Wakata will then offer innovators a real outlet to refine or test boundary breaking. Where else can you hear some wicked Bossa-breaks before some grind-core thrash followed by Retro-Dub till 5 a.m.? Pretension gets left in the sidewalk gutter as genuine contagious smiles ripple through the venue and hallmark performances are born.
Prague’s pervasively apathetic climate appears to dampen innovative output while other capital cities thrive on open forums of discussion and debate. Why is ours such a challenging atmosphere for forward-thinking non-Czech artisans? Foreign investment downtown dwarfs that of the nationals, so why don’t foreign artists and musicians seem to make a more lasting impression? While our surroundings do suggest a rich historical context, Prague would appear fertile ground for inroads of insight.

Instead, tourism and capitalism have successfully eclipsed the arts by driving Big Mac’s and cell phones down our hungry gullets. I’m cynical, yet hopeful, that EU accession will help to support some new voices in art and music. All burgeoning creative climates require feedback to grow and improve, so where’s your 2 cents? Prague’s ever-widening ethnic make-up should conceivably add a unique and spicy mélange to our city’s creative output.

As the slowest and least productive season rolls around, sucker-punch your “same-ol” into vitality and focus with your “Shit-On-Fire!” No excuses, no half measures, no watered-down version will cut it. Lend credence to your motivations with activity and discourse. Listen to others around you, then hone and master your craft until its clarity and resonance are unmistakable and true. Your contribution and critical appraisal of those artists and musicians that move you is the only reasonable road to improving our cultural climate. Be inspired. Dance, fuck, laugh or cry, just remember when you’re drinking from the mainstream.

Timmy’s Top 5 Clubs with integrity
• Akropolis / Prague 3
• XT3 / Prague 8
• Punto Azul / Prague 5
• The Bojler / Prague 10
• Wakata / Prague 7

You can hear breaks, bossa and rare groove on the High-Fidelity broadcast every Friday from 8 to 11 pm on Radio One 91.9 FM. Tim Otis’s opinions are his own; send yours to [email protected]

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