MALIK URVI II. Project Logo, 2010

MALIK URVI II. Project Logo, 2010

MALIK URVI II., Installation view, Dox - Center for Contemporary Art, Prague, 2010

MALIK URVI II., Installation view, Dox - Center for Contemporary Art, Prague, 2010

Gen No. 001765, Collage and acryllic on canvas, 2010

Gen No. 001765, Collage and acryllic on canvas, 2010

Gen No. 010045, Collage and acryllic on canvas, 2010

Gen No. 010045, Collage and acryllic on canvas, 2010

Gen No. 000234, Collage and acryllic on canvas, 2010

Gen No. 000234, Collage and acryllic on canvas, 2010

Gen No. 008934, Collage and acryllic on canvas, 2010

Gen No. 008934, Collage and acryllic on canvas, 2010

MALIK URVI II., Installation view, Dox - Center for Contemporary Art, Prague, 2010

MALIK URVI II., Installation view, Dox - Center for Contemporary Art, Prague, 2010

Front page of the major daily LIDOVE NOVINY the day after the opening in Prague's DOX, 2010

Front page of the major daily LIDOVE NOVINY the day after the opening in Prague's DOX, 2010

MALIK URVI II., 2010

Ten years after, the artistic group Pode Bal has prepared a sequel to their famous and controversial exhibition Malík Urvi (a pun meaning literally “tear off the little finger” and implying “little whores”). The original exhibition took place in January 2000 at the Václav Špála Gallery, displaying 36 portraits of former collaborators with the StB police, KGB, StB officers and communist officials who maintained their important positions in Czech society after the Velvet Revolution. The portraits included a biography of the relevant person with information about his/her pre- and post-revolution activities. The exhibition had an extraordinary viewership and met with unheard-of interest from both the media and the general public. The project launched a discussion in artistic circles and became a key event in art focusing on the political and social aspects of the Velvet Revolution. 

http://www.doxprague.cz/en/exhibition?24/about 

The project MALIK URVI II consists of 30 portraits of actual judges and public prosecutors, chosen simply as a cross-section of the dozens of events that invite reflection about the problematic dependence between individuals and the system of power. Those who had a hand in the political trials of totalitarian systems generally defend themselves in the same way: “I was only doing my job. I always acted in accordance with the law.” Individuals understand their actions as part of the system and therefore they do not admit any direct, personal responsibility. Every system is dependent on specialists, who “merely do their jobs”. Every system is capable of creating them. Some of the specialists then act with particular zeal, while others maneuver through the structure of the system, believing they can reduce its aggressivity. The project seeks essentially to probe the system and therefore the range of selected individuals and their involvement in political trials is fairly broad. They all have one thing in common: they are all still involved in the judiciary, often at the highest levels. Pode Bal states in this connection: “A system based on the functional integration of the administrators of the previous system’s violence, is preset to permit the use of such violence to return."

 

MALÍK URVI II: THE SYSTEM ISSUE
Do individuals create a system, or is it the system that creates its individuals?
In the early stages of building utopian regimes, coercion inflicted on opponents is regarded as a necessity, or at best, a necessary evil. In subsequent phases, such as the period of “Normalization” led by Gustav Husák in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, even that “extenuating” explanation of the regime’s coercion no longer existed. Even the administrators of the regime could no longer doubt the bankruptcy of all the ideas of social engineering – the system was overtly described as “totalitarian”. The people who helped shape the political trials in the “normalization” period were - and remain - products of the system. They generally defend themselves in the same way: “I was doing my job. I always observed the laws in force.” They do not admit any direct responsibility, they simply acted within the framework of a system whose rules were pre-set. Every system is dependent on these specialists, who “merely do their jobs”. Every system is capable of creating them. Some of the specialists then act with particular zeal, while others steer their way through the structure of the regime in the belief that they will manage to attenuate its aggressivity. Since such behaviour operates solely within the system (there is no such position as “outside“), it is very difficult to gauge the significance of such behaviour. Understanding the activity and role of individual participants is commonly subject to distortions. The beating up of a prisoner by a prison warder was fairly easy to construe, whereas a judge who passed a suspended sentence on someone for grousing in a public house about the regime could be perceived as “fair”. But the prison warder in question was expendable to the regime. In some instances a collective expression of the “Stockholm syndrome” occurs when the victims willingly identify with the aggressors, as well as the phenomenon when certain administrators of the system sympathize with their victims and try to minimize their suffering as far as the system’s configuration will allow. Naturally they will use coercion - for two reasons: firstly, because they “must”, and secondly, because they rightly fear that if they did not use at least the minimum of coercion, the system would be dissatisfied and someone else will replace them and perform the task more vigorously. The victims of the old regime were affected by both syndromes. In the trial of the Jazz Section, Judge Stibořík “sided” with the defendants and helped the defense prove that they had offended to a much less serious degree than the prosecution asserted. In the end he plumped for prison terms of “only” 16 and 10 months, as well as three suspended sentences. Another judge could have given them double. One of those convicted, Karel Srp, has praised judge Stibořík for the way he conducted the trial. The activity for which they were convicted, namely the publishing and sale of arts publications, is regarded highly in the present system.
Judge Novák, who was associate judge in the trial of Lenka Marečková, who was eventually sentenced to eight month’s imprisonment for reciting discomforting poems, imposed “only” a suspended sentence at the initial trial. So what, that Marečková lost her job and was held in custody? The “hard time“ verdict was imposed on the court by the Minister of Justice of the Communist
regime himself. The court “had no choice”, in fact.
Judge Huťka, who sentenced Petr Pospíchal to 18 months’ imprisonment for having criticised the system during his military service (e.g. for saying that there was no freedom of speech under the regime), was assessed by Pospíchal presently as having been “relatively fair”. He didn’t interrupt his statements during the trial, and didn’t even raise his voice or insult him… Judge Lišková sent Ladislav Černega behind bars for six months for taking a photograph of himself with a portrait of the system’s President, Gustav Husák. Černega and the persecutor both filed an appeal and in the second instance, judge Šindelář changed the verdict to a one year unsuspended sentence.
Judge Horváthová helped engineer the Communist regime’s last judicial murder. She sent Pavel Wonka back behind bars for failing to report to the police. He was unable to – he was near death following lengthy imprisonment and beating by prison warders. He was brought into court on a wheelchair and the prison doctor declared that he was pretending. He died in prison six days later. He was originally convicted for having tried to stand as an independent parliamentary candidate in 1986, something that was even officially permissible under the legal code of the Communist system.

The system issue
Horváthová still serves as a judge in Trutnov and like all the others presented at this exhibition, decides on the fate of other people. Twenty years after the Communist system was declared criminal, judges refuse to reveal whether or not they were members of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. When this information is demanded by citizens who fear the possible bias of such judges, other judges rule that the public have no right to such information. How did these judges behave in their regime-sanctioned posts before the change of the system and why do they need to “protect” such information from the public? Social systems are created by individuals that are compatible with the program. Maybe they are simply reliable hardware that is capable of dealing with all kinds of software without deviating from the program. Whether or not this is the case, it does point to one fundamental factor: a system based on the functional integration of the administrators of the previous system’s coercion, is pre-set to permit the use of such coercion to return at any moment.


Petr Motyčka, Pode Bal

Footnote:
Although the project Malík Urvi 2 consists of portraits of actual persons, they are selected simply as a cross-section of the dozens of events that were too complex to permit a categorical interpretation. As Ivan Medek observed in his speech at the opening of the Malík Urvi exhibition at the Špála Gallery, if the exhibition were to include all similar “samples“, there would be far more of them – in respect of judges and public prosecutors who are still active, they could run into the hundreds. (One category that is particularly uncharted are the military judges and prosecutors who dealt with major political cases and were not recorded in the archives of VONS – The Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted.) Moreover, many have gone into the private sector, and are prospering, such as the particularly zealous Communist prosecutor Josef Monsport. The stories of the individual judges and prosecutors presented here are nothing new. This is information that is publicly available and in most cases has been published many times before. The project’s aim is not to present previously unknown cases, but instead, as with the first project in 2000, it is a matter of recycling and concentrating the available information and working with it as material for the artistic context of a gallery.