Tuesday, August 17, 2010



"I have often used the term ”underground”, and twice the term ”second culture”. In conclusion, we should make clear what this is. In Bohemia, the underground is not tied to a definite artistic tendency or style, though in music, for example, it is expressed largely through rock music. The underground is a mental attitude of intellectuals and artists who consciously and critically determine their own stance towards the world in which they live. It is the declaration of a struggle against the establishment, the regime. It is a movement that works chiefly through the various art forms but whose representatives are aware that art is not and ought not to be the final aim of an artist's efforts. The underground is created by people who have understood that within the bounds of legality nothing can be changed, and who no longer even attempt to function within those bounds.

Ed Sanders of the Fugs put it very clearly when he declared a total ”attack on culture”. This attack can be carried out only by people who stand outside the culture. Briefly put, the underground is the activity of artists and intellectuals whose work is unacceptable to the establishment and who, in this state of unacceptability, do not remain passive, but attempt through their work and attitudes to destroy the establishment. Two absolutely necessary characteristics of those who have chosen the underground as their spiritual home are rage and humility. Anyone lacking these qualities will not be able to live in the underground. It is a sad and frequent phenomenon in the West, where, in the early sixties, the idea of the underground was theoretically formulated and established as a movement, that some of those who gained recogmtion and fame in the underground came into contact with official culture (for our purposes, we call it the first culturel, which enthusiastically accepted them and swallowed them up as it accepts and swallows up new cars new fashions or anything else. In Bohemia, the situation is essentially d;fferent and far better than in the West, because we live in an atmosphere of absointe agreement: the first culture doesn't want us and we don't want anything to do with the ffrst culture. This eliminates the temptation that for everyone, even the strongest artist, is the seed of destruction: the desire for recognition, success, the winning of prizes and titles and last but not least, the material security which follows.

In the West many people who, because of their mentality, would perhaps belong among our friends, live in confusion. Here the lines of demarcation have been drawn clearly once and for all. Nothing that we do can possibly please the representat~ves of official culture because it cannot be used to create the impression that everything is in order. For things are not in order.

There has never existed a period in human history which could be considered an exclusively happy one; and genuine artists have always been those who have drawn attention to the fact that things are not in order. This is why one of the highest aims of art has always been the creation of unrest. The aim of the underground here in Bohemia is the creation of a second culture: a culture that will not be dependant on official channels of communication, social recognition, and the hierarchy of values laid down by the establishment; a culture which cannot have the destruction of the establishment as its aim because in doing so, it would drive itself into the establishment's embrace; a culture which helps those who wish to join it to rid themselves of the skepticism which says that nothing can he done and shows them that much can be done when those who make the ciulture desire little for themselves and much for others. This is the only way to live on in dignity through the years that are left to us and to all those who agree with the words of the Taborite chiliast Martin Huska who said: ”A person who keeps the faith is more valuable than any sacrament”.

Ivan Jirous (Plastic People of the Universe), Prague, February, 1975