js puppets

Born in 1934 in Prague, Jan Svankmajer trained at the Institute of Applied Arts from 1950-54, then Prague Academy of Performing Arts (Puppetry dept).

the last trick

The Last Trick

He taps into our wobbly subconscious, using  surreal dreamlike films which explore our deepest desires and nightmare most


A series of short films led to his critically acclaimed full-length adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland in which a child Alice morphs into Puppet Alice, upon tasting the mushroom- possibly a reference to his own drug-induced states earlier on in life (such as 1972 when he volunteered in a medical trial to take LSD). This Alice is a brutal romp through hallucinatory states, all childhood comfort and reassurance gone.

white rabbit

As if reinventing the classic children’s story weren’t enough, his take on Faust took on even more disturbing visuals, creating a singular vision of the morality tale.


Surviving Life: LEAD art exhibition

Claymation is another main facet in his films- clay heads consume each other, lascivious tongues poke and bite as the humans become othered. The figures cerated by Svankmajer are thus not idealised but fleshy grotesques: slimy, moist creatures which provoke disgust.Kill or be killed.


predominates Svankmajer’s later work. Conspirators Of Pleasure follows a seemingly disparate group of people, all united by a love of tactilism, aroused by the sense of touch and strange textures.

Pleasure 1

They include a postwoman (above) who enjoys rolling dough into balls and sticking it up her nose, a newsreader who gets off on carp nibbling at her feet and a man, obsessed with his neighbour, indulging in the creation of a home-made chicken costume.


too is an ongoing Svankmajer motif, but not always in the most obvious or delicious way. He plays with mass consumption, flesh and animal skeletons, often finding repulsion in that which should be pleasurable.Childhood cutesiness is choked in Little Otik.

Little wonder then, that he has provided inspiration for the Brothers Quay, Clout Theatre and 85a arts collective, who ran a themed night around his wonderful work. Macabre, cunning, hilarious genius. Long may he provoke, delight and disturb.One of the most subversive,original and best.

(Lorna Irvine)


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