Martin Zet




Bitola, Macedonia, 2000

On the 21st of June 2000, Czech artist Martin Zet went to international art symposium that was organized in Bitola, Macedonia. Macedonian border authorities refused to issue him a visa in the airport of Skopje and took away his passport, although they agreed to give a visa to the other Eastern European artist coming to the same event through the same airport. Martin Zet, ignoring the fact, succeeded in entering the country without a passport. On his way back he was arrested as an illegal immigrant. It happened on the 30th of June. He was released after his friend who had some influence stepped in. On the 2nd of July, Martin Zet was again arrested on his second attempt to leave the country because his passport, returned by border authorities few days before, was missing some stamps. He was released an hour later and granted permission to leave Macedonia. Martin Zet came back home on the 3rd of July, but he does not feel free yet.

(Corrected text, which Martin Zet got from Redas Dirzys (Lithuania), July 2000)

I live as a country man, getting paralyzed by duties, still not very free. Free Martin Zet!

(From a letter to Redas Dirzys, August 2000)

Dear Redas,

Things are starting to get hotter than I ever expected.

My performance (in Lublin, Poland, October 2000) consisted of about thirty young assistants screaming, "FMZ!" in English and Polish, standing in the room with a big banner FREE MARTIN ZET! facing the audience, walking around the banner, in the house of the cultural center and on the main boulevard of the city, still screaming of course. It was not possible to stop them. The young people really enjoyed it, but some of the people around, including me, were really frightened. They really substituted me for their desire for freedom - I became, for a moment, the representation of their fight for freedom - it's so fucking easy to manipulate, man. I also made some T-shirts, and they sold them - to make it more obvious - propaganda and business always go hand in hand, don't you think? I spoke individually with intimacy to a few people throughout the whole thing, but it was just bullshit. The young people wanted to scream and, among the silent or almost silent performances, this was the only excitement for them. It was really almost impossible to explain to them afterwards that they were just being misused. They didn't want to hear it, and I was a hero for them. They lack such activities.

… So, Redas, I see that there are two (in fact one) big themes for me (for us) now: manipulation (misuse) and freedom. Very dangerous and exciting work. (Bigger and bigger problems with my conscience - but I feel, as I said to you, that I must sometimes do things I don't agree with.)


(From an email to Redas Dirzys, October 29, 2000, 9:30 a.m.)

Dear Martin,

I was thinking about something that you said to me about manipulation--in the context of the Free Martin Zet action at the performance festival in Poland. I think in some way, performance itself is about manipulation ... even your older action of marching in 1997 across the bridge with the placards of the stamps of the Czech leaders during the presidential elections. This was a group which acted together, in unison, under an idea--except that in 1997 the content of the action was something--was something directly political. It seems to me that for the performance in Poland, there was no content, and the structure of the performance itself--people joining together under a cause (really there was no cause) became its own content. In other words, it was a kind of pure performance, revealing the structure of performance. Could you write something about the two actions ... about what performance means for you?


(From an email by Joanne Richardson, January 1, 2001)


photograph by Alenka Dvorakova


Dear Joanne,

Now you know, it's a little more complicated. If I fully concentrate on the reason of my existence and stay open to what I feel I should follow, I, myself am manipulated. My half-puritanical, half-spoiled personality is also pushed to do the things I don't like. I am a slave of my message…

FREEDOM - the illusion of freedom, the magic formula of freedom - that is the leit motif of this epoch. It includes the American dream as well as the ascetic traditions. The whole phenomenon of so-called contemporary art is just a fight, struggle, longing for being independent of conventions, routines, craftmanship, patterns, repetitions, schemes and social and business mechanisms. But they always come back, stronger, fully recovered after lost battles to (again) overtake. The whole phenomenon of contemporary art is just one little part of the mania. Longing for freedom is also the backbone of the whole movement of art today. It is the power beyond searching for new styles, languages. To forget, be reborn, divorced from the past. To wake up having a shiny new genetic code.

I was wrong to think money is the new dogma, the new religion. It only represents a way to become freer. The illusion of possible freedom is the motivating God today.

It's always easy to find a crowd to support someone's fight for freedom. The more abstract the person, the better. The easier it is to project your desires onto this fight. But, look, young people today are so beautiful, that even when I honestly answered their question: "Why do you want us to fight for your freedom?" and I only said, "Because I don't feel very free," it was enough for them. They accepted it, and took it as their own problem. I also said to them that if you want to fight for someone's freedom you should first struggle to be free yourself. And also that I am fighting for my freedom as one weak individual - so weak that I need support. And a lot of it.


(from an email to Joanne Richardson, January 15, 2001)

Dear Martin,

It seems to me that you were a negligible phantom in their cause, your "fight for freedom" was a mere symbol of something against which they struggle daily but cannot name or articulate rationally. I think freedom is not a positive quality people struggle for, but a spontaneous negation of external limits, without purpose or thought. The desire seems elusive--and easily manipulated because it lacks a substance and and can be attached to any cause. The history of history? But young people are very beautiful, especially for the distance you feel towards them. Perhaps it is a distance from your own self. We are, after all, no longer so young.


(from an email to Martin Zet, January 17, 2001)

Dear Joanne,

I am not in the mood to start some theoretical shit. The only (and last) thing I want to mention is that not so long ago I decided to try being a faithful husband. Then, and those are the tricks of perception, I kissed you to say good-bye. Oh Lord, why are we dancing in the fields of visual art? I am a being of touch. I shall never forget the soft tender surprising velvet of your skin.



Zet is not yet free-

January 6, 2001

4:05 a.m.


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