Plotted printing on PVC, 2000 cm
Dr. Edvard Beneš bridge in Ústí nad Labem was built between 1934–1936 as a symbol of Czechoslovak significance in the Sudetenland that had been a part of Czech countries for a long time and was inhabited mostly by German speaking people. In the dramatic context of the 20th century they were drawn to the close and radicalising Germany. This bridge connected the city centre with the then independent village of Střekov, where the Schicht family significantly developed industrial production and where the city also expanded. The bridge quickly became a living artery of the city communications and a symbol of the economic potential of Ústí nad Labem. In the time period before World War II. and after it, the bridge changed names several times to reflect the political development: dedicated to Edvard Beneš first, to Hermann Göring afterwards, then shortly to Edvard Beneš, followed by a Greek communist leader Nikos Balojannis and finally back to Edvard Beneš again.
The bridge still serves its purpose today even though both banks in Ústí nad Labem and in Střekov changed radically, it is still perceived as an architectural monument of the city. It connects both parts if the city and acts as a crucial traffic connection, a place for the people to meet, and a point shrouded in mystery. There is even a tradition where generation after generation of young people pass on an initiation ritual of crossing the bridge over its concave construction.
Only a few people know that this building was in a fatal danger at the end of World War II. when the retreating German units rigged it with explosives to hinder the progress of the Red Army that moved quickly towards Prague. It was saved by a personal act of heroism of a post officer from Ústí nad Labem, a former member of wehrmacht during the war, Josef Patze, who decided to remove the explosives and triggers from the bridge at his own risk in the final days of fighting. He believed that the war was nonsensical at this stage, his patriotism and his personal relations to this building saved it. Patze lived on the Střekov bank and he crossed the bridge several times a day on his way to the city centre.
A discrete but monumental intervention by Markéta Oplištilová called Human Behaviour relates to a specific gesture of an individual who disobeyed a direct order from the supervisor and protected a bridge so important to the city. The author interprets the written memories of the events that Patze sent to Czechoslovakia in 1960 from his new home in East Germany through a linearly placed text installed in the form of a plotter print on the bridge’s railing. People crossing the river can look into the story of this building’s saviour and they can also touch the memoires if they put their hands on the side of the railing. Inconspicuous presentation of memories and the courage of a specific person and the history of the bridge commonly perceived in a political context reinforce the relationship of Ústí nad Labem and its monuments, but also to our ancestors who built this city and we use and develop it as their heritage.
Michal Koleček, curator´s text of the exhibition Topography of a Mo(nu)ment – In the Footsteps of the City