Miroslav Vodrážka

* 1954  

  • “Later I went to attend evening classes at a technical school. I went on because I had good grades. But I already knew that this was the endgame and that there was no way I would continue further. I was already too entrenched in the underground culture. The youth of today won’t understand it but each career and each progress meant further compromising. So for instance we dealt with the issue when someone was already studying university whether they should attend Marxism-Leninism at all. It remains incredible to this day but some people had actually left university just to avoid taking exams in Marxism and pretend there. It is simple to criticize underground today and even I am under criticism for being too radical and intolerant. But sometimes, things in life are actually simple – either, or. Either one makes a compromise or they don’t. And back then we, driven by our radicalism, decided not to go for a compromise with the system.”

  • “There was this paradoxical moment when I thought that the times were so strange that I could actually receive an award for formerly being in the underground. And so I decided to drop it. In 1992 I made the last issue of the Vokno magazine on the topic of feminism. It was immensely interesting because despite my assumption that the underground was a very open environment and my friends open to subcultural thinking – and I considered feminism as part of a subculture and an alternative way of thought – I was all alone in that. First of all, nobody really had a clue about those topics. Moreover, I ran into resistance all around. This was a really interesting experience to realize that even the underground subculture was very constrained in this regard.”

  • “As I was inspired by all those artistic –isms, in 1970 or 1971 I wrote a short Emotionalism Manifesto. It was an artistic-political manifesto relying on – and this is once again related to feminism – an accent on the emotion. Following first and foremost visual arts I had realized that the artistic world was much freer in its emotional expression. At that time there was Art Brut and many other things. I perceived the emotion as a sort of an artistic pre-gesture. Naturally, this was driven by my dissent towards rationalization of the entire life. For me, emotion was a sort of an artistic-political subversion. In practice – it didn’t matter for me whether one knew to play music; to follow a certain musical order, harmony etc. What mattered was simply the emotion which had to be strong and significant. Upon this I had in fact established my first musical trio in the early 1970s when we began playing in the underground.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 20.05.2016

    (audio)
    duration: 02:01:11
  • 2

    Praha, 24.05.2016

    (audio)
    duration: 01:51:32
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We wanted to show the regime that we were insane and capable of anything

1980_sm.jpg (historic)
Miroslav Vodrážka

Miroslav Vodrážka was born on 13 September 1954 in Prague. He grew up in modest circumstances but nevertheless enjoyed a merry childhood. Already at young age he stood up to dominance and violence by men towards women. He even referred to himself in feminine gender. After finishing elementary school he had an idle year during which he polished his resistance towards normativity. In response to the rationalization of life under socialism he published an Emotionalism Manifesto in 1971. At the same time he became acquainted with the Jewish mystic Maxmilian Duren and leading Czechoslovak intellectuals such as Jiří Němec or Karol Sidon. He became interested in music and soon established his first underground band. In 1977 he painted Prague’s St. Wenceslas memorial with a statement for which he was interned at a psychiatric clinic for several months. There, he was exposed to insulin shock therapy. He hadn’t signed the Charter 77 as he considered it insufficiently radical and hypocritical in its demands. In spite of that, his Old Town apartment served as a meeting spot for Charter signatories and the secret police perceived him as one of them. He helped publish the samizdat magazine Vokno and organized house seminars with Egon Bondy, Milan Balabán and Michal Machovec. At the beginning of 1980s he was fired from a printing workshop and spent the following decade working as a boiler operator. For all of the normalization times he remained principally opposed to any compromise with the regime. Following the Velvet Revolutions he brought to the public debate issues related to feminism and transgender. At present he is an independent musician and journalist, still considering himself a man of the counter-culture. He works in the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes.