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S.d.Ch. & Ladislav Klíma
Translated from Czech by Barbara Day
Edited by Olga Sixtová
Collage and photography by S.d.Ch.
Design by Ivan Mečl
Excerpt from book The Emergency Imitatio Christi: (...)
After one such night, two days before All Souls, when I plainly saw that the pair of urns were a pair of hungry and – why this should be I don’t know – sexual mouths, I began. I began with what I simultaneously kept hidden from myself! Every day I filled the urns with different contents that, during the night – dismayed that they did not take the bait, that my permanent anxiety did not subside and relax – I emptied, poured out and spilled on the floor of my room! Every day and every night I repeated it – through the medium of the urn I emptied first the environs of my house and then my household in one heap! The Malvazinky shadow came to claim its due, it had trapped its prey.
At the beginning, with everyday materials and natural substances brought from outdoors, it was sometimes even charming, these vessels full of acorns and chestnuts, leaves and pine needles, snail shells, moss and droppings, sand, earth and gravel. I soon however switched to food, which I intuitively perceived as a more precious filling, as a sacrifice. The sacrifice was something I could need myself, something that could relieve me. I felt ever more plainly that the emptiness required redemption. I cannot, after all, be outside this age-old and very powerful principle, I kept thinking, the question will only be the amount of this sacrifice. In hope I crammed into the urns cereals, legumes, pasta, spices, dried fruits, rice, grated fruit and grated vegetables – everything a vegetarian kitchen could supply. From honey it was just a short step to liquids. With wine and water, the pagan ritual gave way to the Christian liturgy, only to return to my room again with milk, beer and various spirits. With each new filling I pretended to myself that maybe this might be the right one, but deep down I knew that the calibre will have to be bigger than before – much bigger, that this ritual idyll must be replaced by a black mass, voodoo, or necromantic despair! I set out to buy what I never purchase, even as an exception – provisions of animal origin. I stuffed cheeses into the urns, scraped out yogurt, broke eggs, and sensed while I was doing it that I was not going to avoid the worst. My ever more obsessive obsession had to be completed, had to be crowned, by – meat! First, fish – from that time I know how many sardine tins fit into one urn (44) – then poultry and in the end meat from carnivores, above all their innards. The counterpoint of real raw tissue (the outcome of slaughter in a shambles) set against an image of the structure of ashes (the outcome of cremation) could not be more dramatic! The replacement of the body as a necessary perversion in an attempt to reverse the course of events! Two and a half kilos into each! And all that tipped onto one heap every night! Its rustic base and its cereal layer, both properly perfused and swollen, overlaid by smooth milk products from which protrude little heaps of different masses often still holding the form of the urns, had, up to Christmas Eve, involved dumping more than a hundred vessels on the floor when, already truly in despair, I brought to my apartment five kilograms of mincemeat, which maybe even Satan would not purchase on that day, and pounded them into the urns up to the brim because I was gradually convinced that my previous failure was caused by gaps between the pieces of meat. Mincemeat eliminated this inadequacy perfectly. Have you ever seen an urn full of mincemeat? Have you ever seen two such vessels side by side? The following night, known as Holy Night, was the worst of all. In the intervals between feeling that I was suffocating, I saw that the mouths of the urns were not filled but had choked to death, that they would no longer take anything. That they would take only the one thing that I had been pretending to myself I did not know what it was, although I did know. The only thing these dead mouths would take, the only filling for these trifling twenty-centimetre gulfs, these bottomless cans, was their original contents – human ashes! But in my head resounded the recurrent connection – ashes made from man! I was pressed into a still more personal position, into an ever closer confrontation, into physical participation. I therefore spent Christmas Day in my cemetery – where I had, in spite of my mental state and my obsession, carried on working through my horrors – so I could carry out the necessary steps. I felt that as the going got tough I had to experiment, to operate with only one relevant vessel, to get rid of only one utterly specific emptiness – only that utterly specific space of embarrassing emptiness profiled by the shape of Klíma’s urn! I therefore burnt the transport vessel at the collection point for wreaths and, in the warehouse of unclaimed urns, chose one on whose label only the christian name Miloslav could be read, which guaranteed the anonymity of the ashes but at the same time their masculinity, moreover the end of the name even accorded with the philosopher’s Ladislav, I didn’t even want a complete concurrence. I poured Miloslav’s ashes into Ladislav’s urn. You can imagine how the night I spent with this hybrid, the night of St. Stephen, surpassed even Holy Night in its mental devastation and gruesomeness. In the middle of the night, paralysed in the most terrible state of anxiety, in an effort to release its grip, I had to pour Miloslav’s ashes out of Ladislav’s urn into a hastily found plastic bag and, shaken with disgust which had the characteristics of a sarcophagus, breathless with an anxiety which lacked a beginning, bottom, anchoring and end, throw it on my pile! Ladislav had rejected, had thrown out even Miloslav, I had reached my goal. Thanks to my description, honoured sir, you can see my suffering and already you know that I am close. To you it is obvious, like all who look on from outside you can see the model of deliverance! But I couldn’t see it! I was a complete expert on the urn space of my mind and on urn space as such, but I had to pretend to myself that I was not; if I had not done so I would soon have known, I would have known too soon, that I had to fill this space myself! I alone, with myself! First however I had to see the plastic bag with the ashes of an unknown unfortunate lying on the mass of my domestic heap and to see it as the outcome of my life! In order to reach catharsis, realisation, and salvation, I had to see not only that plastic bag holding Miloslav but also the name on that plastic bag which did not correspond to the contents at all because the name on the bag was Julius Meinl!... That was all I needed to see it for myself. This detail, this disproportion, this little bit of Vienna, was the final drop necessary for me to see before my illumination came, before I saw myself. There are people who have to, people who need to, see the Virgin Mary or an angel or God... I had to see the little head of a black boy wearing a red fez. I understood my suffering through the suffering of my eyes! And so I finally saw myself and as with everyone who sees themselves, I was engulfed by – perceive the word – peace! Disgust peeled away and anxiety dissolved (so you see, they are different states). I could clear the heap out of my room and, because it was now the heap of my life, clear it out of my life. I looked on myself and I saw that I am such as I made myself. I saw myself as ashes in Ladislav’s urn and I saw that it was the only correct perspective, the only correct way and the only correct place for me to be at all, just as each of us has his one and only place where he can be after he has reinstated his lost balance, after he has seen everything and thus finally seen himself too, and above all the extent of his debt, which every being is in essence, and can so offer his full worth in the scales. Just as every being is a debt, so is every being guilt, because in this world every debt clings to everyone and everything like guilt! And through my decision, my illumination, my saving idea, my divine inspiration, I destroy my guilt absolutely! All my guilt that is primarily emptiness and embarrassment! The space of the urn is the space of one’s transformation and somehow its contents must correspond to the sacred proportions of the human body contained... Old undertakers called urns powder compacts, do you remember?
My debt is not metaphysical, should there be such a thing, it is in the end thoroughly physical. The only thing is, Ladislav Klíma’s urn will not then be able to use my hands to cast out my own ashes! Simply – once I am burnt to ashes I will no longer pour anything out, let alone myself!
I did not consider death at all! It should not be my death that balances my guilt over Klíma’s ashes! That is not at all important, I simply do not count with its value and still less with the worth of some sacrifice connected with it! Absolutely not! – Ashes balance ashes, that is my concise and primitive reflection. Ashes for ashes. Death is merely a single path to this realisation, an essential but secondary step. Do you understand? I would have reached peace even without death, however, that isn’t possible. I have nothing against surviving my reduction to ashes, but it doesn’t work that way.
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