INTERVIEWS and other media

Ricardo Hoineff

Here is the translation!


GLASS NEVER ENDS

The stage designer and glassmaker RICARDO HOINEFF (49) is a man with a colorful life story. Born in Rio de Janeiro. In a Jewish family. On at the beginning of the 90s he packed his suitcase and blindly flew to
Prague. He studied stage design at DAMU and became a respected creator of TV jingles for a variety of shows, including StarDance. But at forty he saw glassmaker works in Nový Bor. And he fell in love… with glass. And he started to go to school again. Today he creates glass art by his own method. “When we break down the decorations for some TV program, I almost cry because it is something ending. And I have to run quickly back to glass again.
The stage design is only now and here. Glass is forever.”

■ You have been artistic glassblower in recent years, but for twenty years you have been doing stage design for
television programs and jingles. You even played yourself in one such spot, you were a “man who winks” on CT2. How did it happen?

I did scenography for new spots of all channels of Czech Television in 2006. We shot it during a week in Kolbenec, in an old factory hall, and we had a lot of fun. There were there twelve types of people and one amazing guy, such a hipster…

■… Even before being hipster was cool…

Exactly. He had a canister of alcohol with him, and he waited for his shot for so long that then he became unusable, thanks to having had to drink it during that terrible heat. But we needed to make a jingle with someone unique like that. So the cameraman said, “Ricci (that’s me), come on, we’ll try it with you.” But I’m terribly modest and shy (loud laughs), so it took thirty seconds for me to stand ready in front of the camera. That spot was supposed to run only two months, but in the end, I was on TV for a couple of years. Such a little silliness, three seconds of blinking, and how many people recognized me because of that! I got a free pumpkin in the market because of it and, at the airport, a lady let me have priority to check-in. Three seconds on TV, and what that does!

■ You started on TV Nova, then you worked for Czech Television a long time, then you have also did scenography work for TV Barrandov. Which of your works was the most popular?

Certainly Novamba. Don’t you remember? That was real fame. It started as a summer campaign under Vladimir Zelezny, who at that time cared very much about the spots – for the building of television image and campaigns for shows there was a lot of money. we were doing thirty-second spots, which is now completely unthinkable, even the longest jingles last at the most seven seconds. The theme was “spun” summer, but I didn’t understand it, with my Czech skills, that the meaning of the word meant to shoot, I thought it meant to dance… So I invented a tiny dance in a Brazilian samba rhythm, Mr. Zelezny was excited and from it finally came the Dancing Summer campaign spots. And everybody in the country knew the spot. People sent their own videos – and beware, it was at the time
when you couldn’t just take a cell phone and record. The summer campaign became also autumn and winter campaigns, culminating in the celebration of ten years of the station. the music by Tadeáš Věrčák was the most downloaded sound for cell phones that year. Then we did a great event at Wenceslas Square… It was big and extraordinary, I gave interviews, I felt really famous for a while and I was proud that a Brazilian hit Czech culture.

■ Your first scenography work fee you got when you were only seventeen. In Rio. For
what it was?

A family friend was an advertising director. He was shooting for some special paper for children, called magic paper. I was smart at folding origami (Japanese art of folding different motifs from paper), so he invited me to do with paper something silly for the spot. So I did it and got because of this is a check for an amount that would now correspond to about ten thousand crowns. Very good for a 17-year-old boy. So I said: I want to do this! At that time I was in grammar school, there are no art secondary schools in Brazil. But I already
played theater at school. I wanted to be an actor, but it was not supposed to be…

■ Why?

I’m from a Jewish conservative family. And I had big problems with my dad, which was really very conservative –
in many ways an amazing man, but very closed, dry and strict. He would like for me to become a civil engineer like him, but most of all he was afraid I would become an artist, or that I’ll be gay.

■ And you are both. The story of your family is very convoluted, tell us at least some basic facts.

Dad’s family came from the then Bessarabia, now Moldova, in 1901, sailing from the port in Odessa. My mom’s
mother was born in Warsaw. Just that there were (anti-Jewish) pogroms. My great-grandfather was a wealthy man, a merchant of fabrics and precious stones, so had great problems in Poland. In 1922 they went to Brazil to have a new life, but they lost everything they had.
They lived on the production of marmalades. Later, my great-grandmother set up a guesthouse, but it failed because she gave to eat for people who didn’t have money, for free. Their daughter, my grandmother, died recently. At the age of 103.

■ When Brazil is mentioned, most people will be reminded of Nazi leaders who fled there after the war…

Well, that’s ridiculous. In Southern Brazil in the past and still today the families of runaway Jews and of Germans live side by side in peace. Nobody asks anyone about their past. Life goes on… But horror is that a radical right-wing former military man is now President, and some of my friends campaigned for him, which is disconcerting. We are Jew from all sides of the family, my Grandpa co-founded one of the first synagogues in Rio. But in Brazil, Umbanda is a widespread African-Brazilian spiritist religion which was also dear to my parents, so I went to a synagogue every Friday but once a month to a spiritistic session. (Umbanda unites African traditions and Christianity; believers evoke spirits, believe reincarnation and black magic, etc.) Dad’s best friend was Christian, so I also celebrated Christian traditions, especially Christmas. A mix of cultures and religions is close to me, I love Jewish family gatherings, as well as Christian Christmas, I enjoy energy spiritualistic rituals. I can pray anywhere, God is only one for me. But once I was angry with God … When died a ten-year-old niece, killed by a biker. In front of her parents’ eyes. Then I collapsed and spoke with God for a while to make amends.

■ I’m so sorry. Has your father reconciled with what you are and what became of you?

It took a long time … Dad was forty-eight when I was born. From my childhood, he said: “Don’t sit like that, that’s how the girls sit. Don’t eat like this, this is how girls eat. Don’t drink like that, like a girl. And I didn’t understand what he meant. But I did have an amazing grandmother who – even though I didn’t know myself what was that I felt sexually – she said it wouldn’t be easy for me in life, but that I should never give up and for me to be who I want to be. That was incredibly valuable. I only fully understood it later … And my dad
eventually accepted it. My life in Prague was for him for a long time a taboo. When I started living with Radek (with whom he is celebrating this year twenty years since acquaintance, now married for over 10 years), my parents came to Prague and stayed in our apartment, we visited Brazil together, but he never talked about our relationship openly,  but I think it must have been absolutely clear for him what was going on. For dad, we were officially roommates, friends, he didn’t talk about it, he didn’t ask anything. Only that one day came the turning point.

■ What happened?
We were with Radek in Brazil. He can eat an incredible amount of fruit and loves Brazilian mango. Dad came to the living room, looked at the bowl and said, “There’s no mango here, Radek won’t have his mangoes, let’s buy some immediately!” And I laughed at it and replied “So what? He ate all of them, so now he won’t have any anymore, big deal…” Dad left for half an hour and came back with a full bag of mangoes. He bought them to make Radek happy. I cried like a child, I understood that he liked him, that he accepted him and me.

■ Let’s go back to your adolescence, to Rio.

Well, I was restless since kindergarten. The school psychologist said I needed an artistic ring, my mother signed me up for art classes, then I had bad grades, so my dad again took me out from those classes, and that over and over again, according to my performance in the other subjects. While I was in high school I did an acting course but dad didn’t know. I also drew and painted. When I first got in touch with stage design, I realized it was
something between acting and art crafting. I like to play, whenever someone needs to cast a small role, I take it, but stage design has turned out to be a meaningful direction.
A relative introduced me to one of the biggest Brazilian TV set designers, to whom I then worked as an assistant
shooting commercials and soap operas. Meanwhile, I was at the Rio College of Visual Communication, and working in a group that was preparing decorations for Carnival, movies, theater. So as then, all throughout my life I was lucky,I didn’t plan anything, everything came alone…

■ And where did come from the idea of going to Czechoslovakia?

One of my bosses said that he had studied here in the ’70s. And I was having problems
in Rio, where there were strict trade union rules stating who can study and who, on the contrary, can be
working, but that would be a complicated narrative to explain. It was the year 1989, where, in Brazil, a political bunch got in power and fundamentally cut money for education, especially art schools. I then decided to go abroad. And it was clear! Czechoslovakia would be my destiny. Prague. DAMU. My mother had been a couple of years before in the Czech Republic too…

■ How?

She is a scientist, dedicated her life to studying fish parasites, and in 1988 she spent some time in Ceske Budejovice (the Parasitological Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic is located there). So
I collected documents, recommendations between 1989 and 1990, then I was in contact with the Czechoslovak embassy in Brazil, but everything was complicated, lengthy, they promised something, then, in the end, it was different, so I was already getting desperate, that nothing goes well, I cried. Then my mother gave me life a second time. She bought me a ticket and she said to me “Fly!” And I flew to Prague. On my own.

■ How did it look in Prague after arrival?

The only address I had was of a center for studying foreigners on Jindřišská.
There I enrolled in a language course. They sent me to the Kajetanka dormitory, where they were accommodating foreigners. I got scared by the whole thing right there, for it was a terrible mess. Then I went to the nearest pub. I can still see that scene: I go to the pub and order with help pantomime fish and beer. My first Prague beer. I drank it and signaled with my thumb to the waiter that it was wonderful! Thumbs up, but the waiter thought I wanted one more. So I drank another… Cut the scene and jump to the next shot: I’m drunk down the street, by the river, and say to myself: “I have a river of beer swimming inside me, and over there fish swim in the river. I laughed like crazy. It was August 18, 1991, and I was the happiest guy in the world.

■ What came next?

I started attending a language course and getting ready for DAMU, the theater school. The entrance test was
in February, and I passed it. I then went out of the dorm and moved to a sublease, that came out cheaper.
And I was lucky with people. My first Czech boyfriend, Tonda – today he has a big tattoo studio – knew a lot of people around theater and music, so I met Bara Hrzánová, Zuzana Navarová, later Radůza. We were always going to the theaters, most of all Na zábradlí. Also cinemas, at vernissages, where cheap wine and canapes reigned. And meanwhile, I studied and made my first projects.

■ How did you get to learn Czech?

I was lucky that almost nobody spoke at that time English, so I had to try a lot to understand the language because I needed it but mainly because I really wanted. You’ve probably noticed how talkative I am… (laughs, after two good hours speaking almost without interruption).
My neighbor became later a known face of TV Nova, Lenka Hornova, who had a little son, and I sometimes watched him and we talked a lot. That helped. I also did an intensive course at Charles University, then I paid myself private lessons. But most of all, people were all lenient and kind to me. And I managed to make Mr. Mašek laugh, a technician from the National the theater that taught us and was called the driest guy in the world. In one exam he asked what kinds of wood are used for the backdrops. And I said, “Death and Pine” (I meant another word that death, but my beginner’s knowledge of Czech led me to this little funny mistake). Mr. Mašek disappeared behind the door and the school secretary then said she had for the first time ever seen his teeth, as he chuckled vigorously from my mistake. Thus I got the nickname Death and Pine.

■ Do you already have dreams in Czech?

Mostly yes. I just swear and count in Portuguese. Extremely liberating for me was when I started reading in Czech.

■ How did you get used to the local winter?

When I was here for the first year, came an especially cold winter, it was minus twenty-five degrees. At the Brazilian Embassy, one person told me that in the winter we really must wear caps because somewhere
it is so cold that the ears freeze, then they fall.

■ And you believed it?

You laugh, but I’m a very trusting and naive man. It was February 1992 and I woke up and was cold. I’m looking at a thermometer, minus 24 degrees… So I went out, but I barely put my nose in the frost, I ran back to bed. I’m not going anywhere because my ears will fall! A neighbor came after a couple of days saying they called from school to find out where I am. I went to the phone: “What do you mean, from school? You go out in this frost? I wondered. They had a lot of laughs over me, so the next day I took a thick hat and went to school.

■ When did you decide to stay here?

The end of school was approaching, people asked what I will do next… whether I will go back home, or I’ll stay, but I concentrated on preparing my final diploma work. And in September 1998 I met this gentleman (smiles at Radek, who is sitting with us in the living room). Within a few days, we started living together. And then I could no longer imagine going back. I never had any big plans. And it was the 1990s. From 1993 I was the first Latin American DJ in the Czech Republic. DJ Tucano. It fed me. I played in clubs, then on weddings, congresses, private events.

■ After school, did you do stage design in a theater, or did you get an opportunity on television?

I didn’t have the right relationships and contacts like others, so I stayed after school without work. I only did a few things for the Valtice Baroque Festival, and that led me to do some operas and operettas, but for a living it was not enough. And I still felt like I was a television type. I talked a lot about this with Lenka Horn and she someday gave me a contact to Nova’s graphics department, saying they were preparing a new program called Obcanske Judo, that I could propose something to them. I told them my idea, then I was sent to an interview with the director, Vladimir Zelezny… And I got the spot. And then everything went by itself! I’ve experienced amazing television years, a great ride.
Then Mr. Zelezny finished his work on Nova, later also “my” director, the one I worked with, and I then went with him. We all went to Czech public television. The ride continued. Until it ended.

■ What happened?

We had been working together for a long time, me and the director, but because there were some betrayals and some unacceptable jokes … it wasn’t possible to collaborate together anymore. It was a bad time. My dad died, my self-confidence was at zero, StarDance IV filming ended. I sat somewhere on the stairs and looked like a pile of misfortune.
Monika Absolon, whom I did not know at all, came to me and said: “I do not know what happened to you, but do something about it, you don’t deserve this. Then Veronika Žilková added: “Fuck everything, do what you have to do… So I decided to professionally “divorce”, after 11 years with that director, with whom I spent most of my time and had the best works together. But I knew I had to make the change.

■ You were forty and you made a crucial turnover. You trained as a glassblower. How did it come about?

Three years before, Radovan Novotný, one amazing madman in Nový Bor, renewed the tradition of the local Carnival. He found a lot of people from Liberec left in the 19th century to Brazil (just as North America, South and Central America offered land, a new life for people from all over Europe who were looking for a new life across the ocean) and so he decided that his first renewed carnival will be done in the spirit of the famous Rio Carnival…
And someone gave him a tip to talk to me. I did for that Carnival an installation, a giant figure. It was a success, they treated me as a national artist. And then they took us to the glassworks. It was the first time I saw glass blowing. I was out in astonishment, in trance! But at the same time I was pissed off. Why didn’t I see this before, twenty years ago?! I can’t make it now, I’m already forty… Uff. I was so unhappy that I couldn’t
turn back time. In the following years I was in Bor a few more times, the glass school there still winking at me, but I didn’t have time. When I decided to quit TV, at once I had that time. I joined the glassmaking course for several weeks, but in the end it was three school years… When I left the TV, there was an economic crisis,
budgets were strangled everywhere, I was convinced that there wouldn’t be work for me anymore, so I gave up on it and concentrated on the glass making. But then they started calling me again, and I got new TV jobs.

■ And did you pursue both?
I divided my week between Prague and Nový Bor. To
At that time, I spent all my days together with Radek, and suddenly had to leave him every week for a few days alone at home, but he was incredibly supportive. I lived at the boarding house on the girls’ floor, to avoid problems because one friend warned me not to stay with 14-year-old boys.
“What if one, out of spite, says: Ricardo touched me. Before you explain, you’re in jail. Finally, I ended up on the girl’s floor and there I spent three beautiful years of my life. Now I’m a specialist in blowing and designing art glass. TV I still do, I still enjoy it, though the times when I had a tremendous creative freedom, no longer exist and probably won’t come back. Today, a lot of people decide about everything, everyone wants to intervene, it already doesn’t give me that much back in pleasure, if I can’t give it my full, my personality, then it’s not my best. It’s the opposite with glass. I’m just there, me and glass. It’s my idea, my story.

■ What made the glass so bewitching to you?

It’s one of the most fragile materials, but only on the mechanical side of it. On the chemical side, the material is the most durable. I always have a hard time ending filming and having to tear down the decorations. When we did StarDance, I almost wept as we tore down the decorations. They were made by so many skillful carpenters, painters… When we break down the decorations for some TV program, I almost cry because it is something ending.
The stage design is only now and here. Glass is forever.

■ You already exhibit your glass works, and you have also got the Global Teachers Prize. But you
do not blow glass. What method do you work with?

We bought a cottage in Novoborska. And we have a furnace in it. Big enough to lie down inside.

■ Do you think about lying down in the oven?

Noooo (laughs). Lying down is a method of processing of glass (at high temperatures, so-called lean, into a preformed mold). There are glass blowing ovens, the classic ones, then the furnaces that look rather like a giant toaster or grill, in which the glass is baked and sliced, pressed. Mine has 1 x 2 meters, makes 900 degrees. Glass is prepared for me by the guys from the metallurgy shops, who prepare it for me, then I’ll play with it in my furnace, where I deform, melt individual pieces, join and blend together. Blowing glass doesn’t give me the chance to play with things, arrange them, you must know exactly what you want to do about it
and then just blow. But I started at 40 years of age, so I will never have the lung strength of someone who does it from the age of fourteen. The technique I invented gives me the chance to put it together and arrange it and then furnace-close it and let it be a little to see what accidentally happens inside. But at the same time have it a little bit under control, I can open and close the furnace. I check it and decide whether it is already ready or whether it needs to stay a bit longer inside and so on. I need to catch “the” right moment to take it out. Sometimes it sears my hair… but I am happy. 

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