I recently stayed at the Boho hotel in Prague. As usual, I had done little preparation so I was delighted to discover that it had a strong art connection; a ‘bohemian and artistic space’ as described on its website.
The main theme is a series of 57 photographs of Prague created by the artist Jordi Llorella using a pinhole camera made from a Russian doll, a Matryoshka.
Known as Project 57, the work is a response to the continuing popularity of Russian dolls with tourists in Prague.
Conversely, the unpopularity of Matryoshka amongst the local population must be viewed against the historical backdrop of the 1968 Russian-led invasion of Czechoslovakia.
In his introduction to the book, BOHO, Llorella says:
The Matryoshkas in Prague are a non-object… a toy or souvenir in search of a place in the city… a difficult task, when their past raises bad memories among the population. However, they absurdly resist the passage of time, transforming into soccer players, talented politicians and celebrities. New masks that attract innocent tourists to buy them regularly… this way of justifying their existence.
I can’t deny that it’s a beautiful object. It just needs a change of direction, a new use.
Let’s turn them into cameras through the pinhole technique.(Llorella, 2015)
A Matryoshka filming in a Prague street. Note the inscription:
‘Ceci ñ’est pas une Matryoshka’ – ‘This is not a Matryoshka’
The inscription draws upon the 1929 Surrealist painting ‘The Treachery of Images’ by Rene Magritte.
Magritte is saying this is not a pipe but the representation of a pipe.
Llorella is rejecting the touristic popularity of the Matryoshka in favour of the Czechoslovakian dislike of the Russian-connoted dolls by changing them into cameras. He is responding to the Matryoshka’s treacherous attraction of innocent tourists.
So what is the significance to the Boho Hotel? Well, the hotel has 57 rooms. In each room hangs an original full-size Llorella photograph. I stayed in room 202 in which hangs ‘Day 57’ (see below). All photographs together with technical details and further commentary are contained in the small book called BOHO which serves as an artwork, an advertising piece, a keepsake and, cleverly, a Prague tour guide. And a highly charged political statement of resistance.
‘The fence has a small door to place the camera through. My camera doesn’t have a lens. It’s only a perforated Coca-Cola sheet’
Llorella, J. (2015). BOHO. 1st ed. Prague: BOHO Hotel.