Magic Art and Minor Myths: Jan Švankmajer’s Transmutation of Material Reality
This chapter discusses the Czech animator, artist, and filmmaker Jan Švankmajer’s films in relation to his cultivation of a personal mythology, interest in alchemy, and attempts to create a magic art. It places Švankmajer’s films in the context of other surrealist uses of animation, including those of Jan Lenica and Walerian Borowczyk, but argues that they are best understood in relation to his own work across the art forms. The chapter shows that Švankmajer negotiates between Czechoslovak surrealism’s focus on concrete irrationality and French surrealism’s assertion of the importance of myth and magic. The result is a creation of minor myths that can be understood as instances of what Gaston Bachelard calls the material imagination.