Jan Švankmajer: The Inner Life Of Objects (2013)

University of Brighton Gallery
Saturday 12 October – Monday 2 December 2013

A major exhibition of the work of the legendary Czech surrealist Jan Švankmajer. Prolific across the arts, Jan Švankmajer is best known for the dark, surreal visions and macabre comedy of his films. Combining live action, puppetry and a rich range of animation techniques, he is widely recognised as one of the most original and influential film-makers in world cinema.

He was born in 1934 in Prague, the capital of magic and alchemy, where he still lives and works. A surrealist, with a background in marionette and puppet theatre, he has drawn on an enduring fascination with Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allan Poe, Freud, De Sade and Arcimboldo, court painter to the legendary 16th Century Bohemian emperor Rudolf II. Jan Švankmajer made his first film, The Last Trick in 1964 and has been a major influence on the likes of Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam and the Quay Brothers.

The world is divided into two unequal camps: those who have never heard of Jan Švankmajer … and those who happen upon his work and know that they have come face to face with genius – Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

Jan Švankmajer: The Inner Life of Objects featured sets and decors, puppets, costumes, drawings and storyboards from many of his acclaimed films including Alice, Punch and Judy, Lunacy, A Quiet Week in the House, Little Otik and Surviving Life. Alongside these artefacts from 50 years of film-making, the exhibition presented prints and sculptures from his Historia Naturae series, made by Jan Švankmajer between 1972 and 2012.

As part of the 11th annual CINECITY Brighton Film Festival, there was a complete retrospective of all Jan Svankmajer’s short films and features and an illustrated lecture by Michael Brooke. A programme of shorts toured selected UK cities during Dec 2013 and Jan 2014 as part of the BFI Gothic Season.

Jan Švankmajer: The Inner Life of Objects was seen by more than 10,000 people making it the most visited exhibition held at the University of Brighton.

Feature Films

ALICE (PG) Cz, Ch 1987. 85 mins. Czech with English subtitles.
Monday 18 November / Duke of York’s

THE CABINET OF JAN ŠVANKMAJER (CTBC) Dir: Keith Griffiths. UK 1984. 54mins.
Tuesday 19 November / Dukes at Komedia 

FAUST (12) Cz 1994. 96 mins. Czech with English subtitles.
Saturday 23 November / Dukes at Komedia / 2.00pm

LITTLE OTIK + Cinemas of the Mind discussion
(15) Cz 2000. 131 mins. Czech with English subtitles.
Sunday 24 November / Duke of York’s / 12.30pm

CONSPIRATORS OF PLEASURE (18) Cz, Ch, UK 1996. 85 mins.
Monday 25 November / Duke of York’s / 6.00pm

Tuesday 26 November / Sallis Benney Theatre

LUNACY (18) Cz 2006. 118 mins. Czech with English subtitles.
Wednesday 27 November / Dukes at Komedia

Cz 2010 109 mins. Czech with English subtitles.
Sunday 1 December / Duke of York’s

Shorts Programmes

JAN ŠVANKMAJER SHORTS (1) 1964-1968 90 mins. approx.
Sunday 17 November / Duke of York’s
The Last Trick 1964. 12 mins. / JS Bach: Fantasia in G Minor 1965. 8 mins.
A Game with Stones 1965. 8 mins. / Punch and Judy 1966. 10 mins.
Et Cetera 1966. 7 mins. / Historia Naturae, Suita 1967. 9 mins.
The Garden 1968. 19 mins. / The Flat Cz 1968. 13 mins.

JAN ŠVANKMAJER SHORTS (2) 1968 – 1972 90 mins. approx.
Wednesday 20 November / Duke of York’s / 6.30pm
Picnic with Weismann 1968. 13 mins / A Quiet Week in the House 1969. 13 mins.
Don Juan 1970. 30 mins. / The Ossuary 1970. 10 mins.
Jabberwocky 1971. 12 mins. / Leonardo’s Diary 1972. 10 mins.

JAN ŠVANKMAJER SHORTS (3) 1979-1983 75 mins. approx.
Sunday 24 November / Duke of York’s / 11.00am
The Castle of Otranto 1979. 17 mins. / The Fall of the House of Usher 1980. 15 mins.
Dimensions of Dialogue 1982. 12 mins. / Down to the Cellar 1982. 15 mins.
The Pendulum, the Pit and Hope 1983. 15 mins.

JAN ŠVANKMAJER SHORTS (4) 1988-1992 55 mins. approx.
Saturday 30 November / Duke of York’s
Virile Games  1988. 14 mins. / Another Kind of Love 1988. 4 mins.
Meat Love 1989. 1 min. / Darkness-Light-Darkness 1989. 8 mins
Flora 1989. 30 secs. / The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia 10 mins. / Food 1992. 17 mins.