Jan Ságl

* 1942  

  • “I had a photo of Paris from Trocadéro. There were golden statues in it and the Eiffel Tower flattened by a long glass. It the kind of a photo one takes hundreds of, if not thousands. It was chosen by German TV in which there was a year-round informational show about Paris and France, where the photo showed up as a symbol. Every week this picture was on the TV program. It was in all of the newspapers. It was even at the beginning of the show and everyone was paying. I built a house in Jesenice with two big studios with the money.”

  • “It happened because we had six hundred condoms at home. When the Plastic People were still under PKS, their then manager Evžen Kratochvíl set up a tour in Scandinavia. We needed to think of a stage set which could travel in an airplane. It struck me that we had already had blow-up sausage casings and that you could blow up condoms too. So I went shopping with Magor and because we were dogs we chose to go a drugstore where there were trainees. It was on Old Town Square close to where once Fafejta had a drugstore. Magor went up to the counter and asked in a whiny little voice: ‘Do you have condoms?’ The girl behind the counter started to blush and asked how many we wanted. Then I answered in my own whiny little voice: ‘About six hundred.’ She couldn’t take it anymore so she ran from the counter behind a curtain from where we started to hear crazy commotion and people cracking up. The curtains kept parting and the whole class slowly came to take a look at the crazies who wanted to buy 600 condoms. Then the manager came and sold them to us. But the concerts were cancelled, so the condoms stayed at home with us, so we told ourselves we would blow them up somewhere in the countryside.”

  • “In eighty-two we got hold of this sort of nice lady who had some foreign travel passes promised to her, and both of us got one. The voucher was one thing, because you had to still get the exit pass, which we requested immediately. Again they called me and told me: ‘You and your wife will get the pass if we manage to come to some reasonable agreement.’ I told them that we had already gone over it maybe four times, that it was nonsense, and that my wife and I were not going anywhere. And they came back with: ‘We don’t have anything on you. When someone who is employed leaves they have to at least fill out the form on foreign contacts.’ Then I answered by saying that if it was such a problem for them, I would fill out the form like anyone else. In that moment their little eyes started to twinkle: ‘So you’re for sure going to see Jiří Kolář and Pavel Tigrid.’ I stopped them: “Again we’re back right where we started. I am not going anywhere and that’s that!’ And I didn’t sign it. Maybe three days later I got the exit pass. It was of the strategies how to sow discord into families. Magor was in jail and they thought that if they only allowed his sister to leave, he would start wonder what she had told them. When they realized that it wouldn’t work, they let us both go.”

  • “It came to us when Jindřich Chalupecký got sick and gave Jiří Padrta a date – ‘I don’t have time, do an exhibition there.’ Yeah, so Jirka thought of two pairs of authors: Kolář-Kolářová and us, so like the really young ones, and he gave us a completely open space. So we made it into an atrocity. People a generation older than us from UB 12 came to see Chalupecký in the hospital, they pulled him out, and took him to Špála’s Gallery so he could see the exhibition. Chalupecký was a real aesthete and an older man, so he was mortified. There were grasshoppers all over the walls chirping and around them dissident types which also had no business being there in the gallery. Chalupecký looked at it all and said: ‘I am in the last person in the world who would ban an exhibition.’”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 19.12.2019

    (audio)
    duration: 02:02:23
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 20.12.2019

    (audio)
    duration: 01:55:39
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 3

    Praha, 07.01.2020

    (audio)
    duration: 01:30:44
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

I have a total mistrust of power

Period portrait of Jan Ságl, mid-1960s
Period portrait of Jan Ságl, mid-1960s
photo: archiv pamětníka

Jan Ságl was born on 25 March 1942 v Humpolec. His father Jan Ságl Sr. lost his business during the nationalization and franchising of the postal service and became a tractor driver for United Agricultural Cooperative (JZD). At home there was also a strong and marked position toward the totalitarian system, which would have an impact on Jan’s entire life. Already as a child he had become acquainted with Martin and Zorka Jirous. His best friend’s sister eventually became his girlfriend and a few years later they were married. At the beginning of the 1960s, all three of them relocated to Prague and became involved in shaping the underground subculture there. The Ságls collaborated in the stage design for bands like The Primitives Group and The Plastic People of the Universe. Ivan Martin Jirous was their manager and art director. Jan also contributed significantly to Zorka’s landscape actions in the first half of the 1970s, which he also photo-documented. He ended his collaboration with the underground circle in 1976 over a disagreement with Jirous. Starting in 1982, Jan’s photographs began to see good sales to media agencies in the West and the regime periodically allowed him and his wife to travel beyond the Iron Curtain. Zorka Ságlová died in 2003. Till today (2020) Jan continues his creative work and oversees the heritage of his wife.