Michael Crockford: Chinski drak

Puppet Parade/Spectacle with Žihle Elementary School Kids
workshop with Jana Šikýřová
Fairy-Tales, 1999
Žihle and Plasy, September 27th

Two eyes in front, one in back. Two noses, one inside the other, and two mouths. One mouth is all- consuming, big enough to eat a small child, yet smiling, and there is a smaller one, for "little voices", they say. A landscape of stalagmite-like horns and canyons rise from and crease into its face, tracing and pushing of 34 distinct pair of hands. Each with its own constellation of impulses and manipulations plying this most primary materials.
One the resident artist, (not knowing that the large clay form was in fact a dragon´shead, or that it was molded by the kids), said in hushed tones to another artist: "Does Michael know? This is very Louise Borgeois! But she has done this already - maybe forty or fifty years ago! Does he know?"  So these 10 year olds from the small town of Žihle, in 1999, share some of the same impulses as Bourgeois in 1960! This is OK, even predictable, isn´t it?
The dragon´s hands tell stories like out own hands. One tells bright ones illuminated by the sun, and the other whispers evils. The kids say it´s not "good or bad" dragon, but both beautiful and ugly at the same time - "krásný - ohavný" I ask them, "is it a boy, or is it a girl?" Dissent along the gender line. One boy says it it´s a car wreck. Like so many unprettified "fairy tales" the narratives around this dragon are rather amoral.
On the meadow next to Žihle elementary school, we practiced some dragon dancing, sleeping and roaring to music the kids invented with the help of Hermit resident Mars Drum, who also painted magic symbols on each of their faces. What started out as experiment with movements and sounds turned into a real parade as the kids cried. "Lets go through town!" And so we did, and some proud parents waved from apartment balconies.
Its Sunday, September 27, and it´s the last day of the Fairy-Tales Symposium, and it is raining, and its family day, and we don´t have enough people to fill the dragon. Cancelling the parade is not considered because Martin Zet and company are easily persuaded to hurry their beers and join us. And so do Sovan, Petr, and Metagirls (Zuza, Martina, Anti) and also Toshi and Keiko. And suddently, the dragon is full again, the birds are flying, and the bandmates, dressed in their witch and wizzard hats, call everyone forward, through town.
To do things for no apparent or seemingly obvious reason? Why not? Parades for no reason counter (hopefully!) parades for worse reasons, like military victories! Although my time with the Žihle kids was limited, we had great fun. We made some kind of temporary community on international artists and youńg people from a nearby school. In my work in community settings, I try to mix direction and group- invention, always tipping the scale toward the latter. I fee a bit anachronistic, though. In this kind of work with the Žihle kids/hermit artists, I feel like what I am doing is a thousand years old! But also I am a product of univeristy education and I have one eye toward the future, too. Still, in this kind of puppets and parades, I feel a pull of something older, so much older, of which I am only vaguely aware, like it´s just dissapearing.
Special thanks: Zuzana, Adhelali, Renata Pavlíčková, Mars, Jana Šikýřová, all the children from Žihle.
For children: What I remember most: when you buried me in the sand, so I couldn't breathe. As everyone wore clay to the table, as we played blind doll, how the dragon learned to snore, and everything else. Thank and goodbye.

Michael Crockford, Plasy, September 1999