Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Velvet Evolution

by Drew Martin
In 1968, on the night of August 20/morning of August 21, armies from the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary invaded Czechoslovakia. 200,000 troops and 2,000 tanks entered the country. The engineer-turned photographer Josef Koudelka captured the most startling images of that hellish week, including this image for which he took a picture of a passerby's arm and wristwatch, with Wenceslas Square in the background, to show the exact time that troops invaded Prague. It was a repressive era that lasted four decades until the Velvet Revolution led by people such as Vaclav Havel, who died today. I liked Havel. I lived in Czech for five years of his presidency. He was a playwright, a musician and an artist. Culture was very important to him. I remember watching the news one night while he was on a trip to Australia. There was footage of him dancing bare-chested with the Aborigines. His aides and others were appalled - he did not care. I saw him a few times on the street and had the pleasure talking to him at a club opening where I had made and installed a sculpture of a human-sized angel. He even made a point at that time to show up at and support such events.