VITUS

“to observe secret police activity in files
each projectile
a broadcast medium”

Armand’s writing is a testimony, recorded in shorter & longer texts, of “the megaphones of Prague”: based on observation of these mouthpieces-of-anything, with their past & lived present: a definition of the city by way of loudspeakers, of orders & distributors of all kinds of messages, in a combination of poetry, photography, installation, collage: also an evocation of what lies beneath the megaphone, its surroundings, but also its time, as well as our personal subjective time, the moment we pass under it, what mood is affected, & the sounds we imagine the megaphone to be making. The megaphone might be mute, but it still resonates with a spectral voice. And then there’s the systematic longitudinal record, covering 25 years, creating a specific mosaic of the city, captured by way of various approaches & syntaxes, commentaries & documentary impressions: a report on a psychogeography. Josef Straka

They were once ubiquitous throughout Prague, these megaphones, lining the streets, proliferating in public squares, perched above the city like triffid sentinels, insuperable from the territory over which they presided. More proverbial “flowers of evil”: sonic weapons of Nazi propaganda & terror (screeching the deathlists), of the Soviet puppet régime (vomiting the soundtrack of Normalizace). But also of their subversion: the May ’45 uprising was transmitted over the PA system (virus-like), Prague Spring, the Velvet Revolution. Nowadays, first Wednesday of the month at 12 o’clock, civil defence sirens, uncanny enough to require a forewarning. In the course of a few decades of “Westernisation” the memory of these ranting machines has gradually abated as they themselves slowly but surely retreat from view, all but invisible now, their periodic (satiric?) eruption into music, static, public service announcement, claxon, come as if from nowhere, hinting at unbidden forces still able to supervene, a ghostly echo of His Master’s Voice that once bellowed from the sky, more disquieting because less obvious. Who knows if their day will come again? Or if it ever passed? Dispersed into the ether, the megaphone inside the head, or with a human face, written into the very substance of this place (no mere consensual hallucination), conducting a “St Vitus Dance” of its private & public realisms, like secret harbingers of the next 1000-year Reich, the corporate metaverse?

The material collected in VITUS represents a small part of an ongoing project, begun in 1996, of poetic research, guerrilla installation, appropriation, détournement, documentary, psychogeography, & various “ephemerisations,” of these banal yet eerily erotic mouthpieces of authoritarianism & insurrection, power & disempowerment, totality & obsolescence – & the fugitive consciousness of continuing to live in their shadow.

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