June 17, 2006
Festival of the Bratislava Lyra & Marta Kubišová
One of the most dramatic posters in the Winters Collection (a poster that's hip-in-a-late-1960s way) is an oversized piece that was produced in 1967 for the Festival of the Bratislava Lyra. The poster does not carry any documentation as to . . . which company published it, who took the photograph that's been artistically manipulated for the image on it, or whose photograph it even is on the poster. In a way, the lack of information is almost fitting—it adds to the mystique of the poster's black-and-white, slightly fuzzy image.
So, what's on the poster? The face of a woman, her mouth slightly open, as if she's in the middle of a song (a microphone seems to be in front of her). She has dark bangs and eyes, and her eyes are cast a touch to her right side and a touch upward. Her face is repeated on the poster, one face beneath the other; for the next two successive shots, below the first that's at the top, the camera has zoomed in on parts of her face. The topmost portrait is a "conventional" or complete one, showing all of her face. Then underneath is a close-up of her expression, in which you still see all of her face (though no bangs and no microphone). Underneath that is a view of her mouth/lips, and then the final shot is an even smaller picture of what is at the top. One look at that poster, and you know a statement about music, culture, self-expression, and artistry is being made. This woman's pensive, knowing look (though, at the same time, uplifting) tells you she means everything she's singing.
I mention this poster, because when I was searching for more information on the Festival of Bratislava Lyra, I came across some material and lots of photographs of a singer from that era, Marta Kubišová. The pictures of her remind me of the images that make up this poster; in fact, I'd wager a tidy sum that it is Marta Kubišová's photograph on the 1967 poster. Given that Kubišová was also known as a protest singer (her recording of "Prayer for Marta" got her banned from singing in Czechoslovakia in the late 1960s/early 1970s) and that the poster is rather pop-art in style (very reflective of the times in which it was published), it's more than possible that she's the one whose image is creatively repeated & fragmented on the poster. If you're affiliated with UIUC, you can be the judge: take a look at the poster and back again at all the period photos of Kubišová and compare.
(Incidentally, if you've seen the movie The Unbearable Lightness of Being, based on Milan Kundera's book of the same name, and—like me—you bought the soundtrack two decades ago, then you might remember a rendition of the Beatles' "Hey, Jude" in Czech; well, that's Marta Kubišová voice--deep, strong, and full of feeling. If you recall the movie, the song is played during those achingly authentic black-and-white shots and scenes of a chaotic Prague in August 1968.)
Posted by at 12:34 AM