Fotograf Magazine

Local and Global: Avant-Garde in Brno

Brněnský Devětsil: multimediální přesahy umělecké avantgardy (Brno Devětsil: Multimedia Overlaps of the Artistic Avant-Garde) has been published by the Moravian Gallery in Brno to accompany the eponymous exhibition. Peter Ingerle, co-author of the book and curator of the exhibition, regards the Brno Devětsil as the “most important expression of the left-wing intelligentsia in the Brno region during the 1920s,” something which represents a “remarkable and unjustly overlooked chapter in the cultural life of Brno.” As he writes in his introduction, both the exhibition and the book offer a survey of the subject for the very first time, with the added value of presenting new information gleaned from archival research.

Petr Ingerle’s contribution to the volume outlines a possible interpretation on the topic by tracing interaction between the local and the global, highlighting the diverse approaches undertaken in regard to research to date. Thus one learns, for example, that the Brno group emerged in relation to the Prague Devětsil group, as a result of their contacts with the Prague-based avant-garde (above all with Karel Teige), and that it was founded by Arnošt Černík in an effort to “do something” outside of the capital city. The second part of the book was authored by film historian and critic Lucie Česálková, who discusses the activities of the Brno Devětsil circle in a broader artistic, political and film-related context.

Members of the Brno Devětsil were engaged in both publicizing activity and criticism, and the present book therefore includes an extensive appendix containing the founding documents of the society, invitations to lectures and thematic evenings, letters addressed to Arnošt Černík by various eminent cultural figures (e. g. Josef Šíma, František Halas, Jaroslav Seifert), as well as correspondence testifying to Černík’s international contacts (e. g. Moholy-Nagy, Hannes Meyer, Lajos Kassák). Illustrations include reproductions of the covers and excerpts from Pásmo magazine, along with other seminal periodicals of the era (Horizont, Fronta, Der Sturm, De Stijl, Merz). The book also includes a bibliography and an English-language summary.

The above should make it clear that the present book is no mere exhibition catalogue – on the contrary, both contributions can be regarded as stand-alone and yet mutually complementary projects. The publication achieves the aims which it sets for itself through its methodical approach and extensive archival research, showcasing the significance of the Brno Devětsil group in both the local and international context. The graphic design by Tereza Hejmová and Adéla Svobodová combines avant-garde elements with contemporary minimalism, most aptly contributing to the pleasant overall impression that the book conveys.

Tereza Špinková