Friday, December 3, 2010

Emilie Comes to Me in a Dream by Jindřich Štyrský

While in Prague last Spring I found a facsimile reprint of Jindřich Štyrský's Emilie přichází ke mně ve snu (Emilie Comes to Me in a Dream) published by Torst in 2001.

Originally published in 1933, only approximately 20 known copies remain of Emilie přichází ke mně ve snu. Štyrský was a painter, poet, photographer, collage artist and editor. A founding member of The Surrealist Group of Chechoslovakia he edited for the Erotiká Revue that included illustrations by well-known Czech artists and had an imprint called Edice 69 (Edition 69) where Emilie přichází ke mně ve snu appeared as volume 6.

Štyrský was fascinated by dreams and recorded his own through writing, and later, drawings. For him, the dream state was a storehouse of motifs that he would join together in collage and painting until his death in 1942.

Styrsky's imagery is a blurring between the erotic and the morbid. Using hardcore porn clipped from German and English stereo-cards and books, Styrsky disassociates sex from procreation and conceives of it from a purely pleasure giving point of view. The incongruous elements of plant details, a parachute and starry backgrounds emphasize the orgasmic while skeletons, men in gas masks, coffins and disembodied eyes draw a more sinister tone. Styrsky may have been poking fun at puritans who certainly would have been enraged by the montages by including the darker elements. As Bohuslav Brouk wrote in his afterword for Emilie; "People who hide their sexuality despise their innate capabilities without being able to rise above them. They deny their mortality...Any illusion to to their animality, not only in life, but also in science, literature and art, wounds them because it disturbs their day-dreaming."

This reprint brings together 12 photo-montage, the introductory erotic dreamscape written by Styrsky about Emilie, the afterword by Brouk and a modern essay by Karel Srp written in 2001. The original edition included just 10 photomontages, Styrky's story and the Brouk afterword. Two plates from the series which were edited out of the original might have been excluded because of suspected child pornography. Those two have been included here.

The book is printed on paper I imagine was chosen to reflect the original, it is matte in finish and the typesetting seems to also reflect the older edition as well. The original however consisted of the ten plates tipped onto the page and not printed.

Another edition I discovered of Emilie přichází ke mně ve snu was printed for the Ubu Gallery in 1997. This edition features a black cover, is slightly larger in size than the original (only about 1/2 to 3/4 inch in height and width) and is printed on a glossier paper stock. This edition includes the same texts as the original translated into English. The original texts were in Czech. This edition also includes the two additional controversial plates. It was published in an edition of 1000.

Note: Thanks to Charlie Rhyne for informing me about the Ubu Gallery edition.