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Kafkas Immense Head Oscillates Continually on a Square in Prague


Like the darks and lights in the psyche of Prague’s most famous writer, the sculpture turns on questions still surrounding his life and work.

Outside the Quadrio shopping center in Prague, an enormous bust rotates, some ten meters in height, a portrait of Franz Kafka in a continual state of change. Every few seconds, steel mirrors divided into 42 layers, rotate and then converge to resemble the Prague writer, before again rotating to a state of line, reflection and distortion.

Roland Barthes might say that the statue is one huge sign put to the question of other signs. In this case, to the question of the bureaucratic buildings, and all the Kafkaesque lights reflected in the hundreds of rotating mirrored surfaces (Kafka, who like this grand countenance, ranged between silence and common words, between loneliness and the law).

The piece is by David Černý, a Czech artist known for subversive interventions into public spaces. He became widely known in 1991 when he painted, bright pink, a monument to Soviet tank crews. The Pink Tank delighted Czech society but further exacerbated relations with a Soviet Union then on the brink of collapse.

With the rotating head of Kafka, Černý refers to Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” and to the very psyche of Franz Kafka; a portrait in a continual state of change.

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