The kinetic sculpture ‘The Meteorological Satellite’ also called ‘The Meteorological Station’ and ‘The Celestial Sphere’ was created in 1978 by Vratislav Karel Novák, a prominent Czech sculptor and designer, who was a pioneer of kinetic sculpture in Czechoslovakia. Novák’s most famous work, The Metronome, was installed in 1991 on an ideologically exposed site – an empty pedestal left behind from the former Stalin Memorial on Letná in Prague.
An interesting quality of Novák’s installations is that whether they are large, dominating firms, or smaller intricate and playful compositions, they often incorporate motion. His installations are usually set in motion by the engine or mechanically, they also incorporate light and sounds through the use of complex mechanisms.
Various components of his designs also interact with their environment. When the sculptures take motion, shadows and projections are thrown on various surrounding surfaces. These well-considered features of his designs add a futuristic dimension to the sculptor’s installations. In some cases, the forms have emitting lights features built into the designs, or they are illuminated, transforming in relation to the natural daylight.
The present condition of The Meteorological Satellite is very poor – it is a danger to the locals in this state. According to the city representatives, the condition of the steel structure is so dilapidated that it does not allow for its repair work to be carried out. Therefore, it is imperative to restrict access to the sculpture and to dismantle it as soon as possible, for the safety of the citizens.
Researcher Barbora Slavíčková
1978Monument - Sculpture
2018 Monument - Sculpture
1978 City of Česká Lípa
2018 City of Česká Lípa
Form of government
1978 Socialist Federative Republic
2018 Parliamentary Republic
Spatial Planning Agency
Type of heritage and protection
1978 Not recognized as heritage
2018 Not recognized as heritage
Interview with Tomáš Džadoň
TD: I only know the statue from the documentation, I've never seen it live, and now, as I learned, it doesn't even exist anymore. Its uniqueness lies probably in the fact that it is a monumental kinetic sculpture by an author who is already clearly defined as a quality author. I think that's her biggest advantage. Such sculptures are minimal. While they certainly do exist, there are not many.
BS: What if the kinetic sculpture doesn't move?
TD: When the kinetic sculpture doesn't move, it's a problem. But it should be fixed to move then!
BS: And do you think it's still possible?
TD: I think we live in a time of such progress that such a subtle thing to be irreparable is nonsense. It can definitely be fixed.
TD: But of course it's a question of cost. The technologies are so advanced today that even the, say, negative effects of this sculpture could be eliminated. Even some unpleasant disturbance of the peace in the housing estate… I think that even this could be repaired, if a replica of the statue would be made, it is possible. This can be solved perhaps with some stiffer rotating bearings to avoid impacts as often.
BS: And your personal opinion is that it makes sense to make a replica?
TD: So I don't know exactly what condition the statue that is being dismantled is. Maybe some parts of the original sculpture can be incorporated into the replica, but I don't think I'd mind making a brand new piece at all. I also like the fact that it shows a kind of contemporary picture of the cosmos. In short, there is a certain proportion of looking at the world, perhaps completely different from what we would apply today. And I think it's also important that the public space is not homogenized, that not just a single current doctrine appears, but that it is as layered as possible. Therefore, I would advocate that the statue, whether as a replica or reconstructed, remain in that particular place.
Interview with Tomáš Vlček
Local historian, former politician and author
TV: I admit that I don't know exactly, because I'm not actually a native of Česká Lípa… If I were, I would probably have started acting earlier. But in any case, I perceived it in the context of all those neglected monuments. And in some way, one of the things I wanted to prove was their protection, but it wasn't in the first place… And only when the idea of removing it completely without compensation began, I made every effort… Because until then, no one really knew where it was from. I would say that is the most important thing. Such a warning against anonymization and when there is no public discussion on this topic in the city. Which, of course, didn't exist since the time they put it there. At the time, of course, I took it as a curiosity, but I had no idea what kind of work it might be. Which was later discovered relatively quickly, but at the time, no one had any idea what it was. No one from the museum, nor from local historians or intellectuals in Česká Lípa was demonstrably able to tell who it is from and what it is.
BS: And that was about when, may I ask?
TV: That was in the last election period (2014-2018), but I don't know exactly when. Could it be in 2015, 2016? At that time, I addressed an awful lot of people, but fortunately Pavel Karous reacted quickly… And by the way, his work Aliens and Herons also opened my eyes to a large extent. It's not that I miraculously awaked, but through his activities, how he wrote about those statues, I realised that even among things from this time you can find gems... Otherwise I certainly wouldn’t be so interested in it. That is undeniable, his role. In the end, he was also one of the first to know what the satellite was. Because art connoisseurs, for example, just wrote that it is a kinetic thing, interesting… But they also had no idea… Very reputable people included.
BS: So what do you think is the greatest significance of the work?
TV: Well, like this… So when I started to absorb it slowly, and I admit that my personal enlightenment took a long time… I'll put it bluntly. Because I'm from the generation that clinked the keys in high school and I'm, let's say, from an anti-communist family - to a certain extent, the prejudices were there with me. As with most people, until Karous and these people came out massively, for example. So it's one thing that I had to sort it out in myself first. And in the meantime, quite a few other works by renowned authors were found in Česká Lípa in a relatively short time. For example, Slavoj Nejdl and others who have significant realizations in Prague, not only Vratislav Karel Novák - he has three statues in Česká Lípa!
BS: Well, you see, I didn't know that either ...
TV: And each is completely different. To cut a long story short, I actually consider this Meteorological Satellite to be his most significant work. It seems to me that he was the strongest here. And that as for the ones he called mobiles, the kinetic art, this one is absolutely the most original, the most special. But the other mobiles, such as the Pendulum in Prague, or even the works in front of the banks, there are more of them… So this one is far better.
BS: And what do you think will happen next, with some possible future of the sculpture?
TV: It looks like it's sleeping, but it's not sleeping. Just last week, the guys we were friends with had a production meeting like that. We don't just want to put it there again, which would be a 90% replica, but it doesn't matter at all… In addition, both the wife and daughter of V. K. Novák, with whom we are in touch, agree because the work has suffered from insufficient maintenance ever since it was installed. That's just how it was… So our dream is to make it a bit like "it came from the people''. In order not to make the same mistake made by the communists (that they paid for top works, often in fact despite the circumstances, but nothing else, there was no name anywhere… Not that they would write a sentence somewhere about it as it was not worked on anymore). To create a discussion, a fundraiser, to participate with local companies. Because we want it to be redesigned. This Novák's work is unlucky in the fact that in all his other work there are not only authorial projects, but also models, only except the Satellite. I had to tell myself about how he kept complaining in Česká Lípa that they didn't make him the pool that was supposed to be reflected, so they didn't paint it… So I think that the idea was simply lost somewhere during the complaint procedure. So it needs to be redesigned. And then built. My colleague Panáček and I, with whom we made the book, we also negotiated with the mayor to make the city perceive it in the maximum possible breadth… And we are working on it.
BS: All right, thank you.
Interview with Veronika
VR: Hello Bara, I grew up in the Holý vrch housing estate in Česká Lípa.
BS: In Holý vrch there is a very interesting place… Do you know what I mean?
VR: I know, I know. It's kind of a sculpture, a statue… We called it a UFO. I was born in December 1979, and when I was six months old, my parents brought me to one of the three tall blocks of flats that stand around the place where the statue used to stand. At that time there was still a concrete pool with a low wall around it. In fact, I still have a vivid memory of it - I even remember the sounds it made. When it was blowing, it clicked differently, it turned…
BS: There's a lot of talk about that, about those sounds… That was definitely a topic… So what do you think about it? How did you react when you looked at it?
VR: I actually enjoyed it! Honestly, I didn't quite understand why it was there, but it didn't bother me in any way, it just belonged to the scenery. As far as I remember, as it was in the pool, when they filled it, all the children from the area undressed and bathed there. And my mother always forbade me because she was afraid that the other children were doing the need there and that it wasn't the cleanest. Instead she would sit there by the sandpit, pregnant with my sister and crocheted clothes on her, so she looked after me with one eye and I sat there so sadly on the low wall and just bathed my feet and I was just terribly envious of the other children, as I wanted to join them and have fun, but I couldn’t.
BS: You see, so it was actually a type of meeting place.
VR: It was, it was, certainly. That was the center of the settlement, where we met. It was a very big part of our childhood.
BS: And when you were bigger, didn't you have a date at the Satellite, for example?
VR: I didn't, I didn't… I didn't date…
BS: That's a shame then!
VR: I went to primary school under Holák (slang for the Holý vrch housing estate), then I started going to the municipal grammar school and I actually found a bunch outside Holák, so I dropped out of the local bunch a bit. In fact, I haven't moved around there much since I was 12 years old. I just went to school, from school, to piano lessons… Over the weekends, my parents and I went to a cottage outside the city. So my teenage years didn't really belong to that space anymore… And then I actually moved out of the housing estate at the age of 19 and I never went back there, except for visits to my parents who still lived there. So I don't even know when it disappeared? I remember it fell into disrepair year after year… It was already so rusty, it stopped spinning, it stopped reacting to the wind… But when it was fully dismantled, I don't know.
BS: I think it was in 2019, if I'm not mistaken…
VR: That's so recent, right?
BS: It's so recent... And at the moment, if I'm not mistaken, it's lying disassembled in a garage…
VR: In a garage in Česká Lípa, right?
BS: In some garage in Česká Lípa, yes… And it's kinda waiting and wondering if there will be a replica or if it will be left like this… What do you think about this?
VR: I would return it there. I would definitely like, if it is no longer repairable, that someone would create a quality replica and would return it, because I honestly miss it. When I visit the area, I would like it to be there. I haven't been there in a long time, that's true, so maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised and you tell me it's already there?
BS: No, it's not… Now it's up to how and what will happen next. But a lot of people just complained about the noise, you know? So now that will change, even the sound of the scenery… So, it's interesting ...
VR: It didn't limit us, because our balconies were on the other side. Even though we had open windows, we never felt that it was noisy… But it is true that the other two blocks of flats have their balconies directly on the square with the Satellite, so it would probably have disturbed them … But I don't have this experience.