Czech poet Jan Jindřích Karásek and Finnish digital artist Lauri Renvall come together for an exclusive collaboration in this SWARM MAG entry. Delve into this unique intermedial play where text and digital art touch on the complex topics of today’s intimacy.
Karasek Lauri uvodka

Poet’s Note: “Exploring Virtual Bodies” is a poetic cycle. The title is kind of self-explanatory. It’s a collection of six long poems about the human body, physicality and love in the age of the internet. It has a slightly dystopian atmosphere which involves paranoia, controlling systems, government surveillance and mentions of other people disappearing or dying. It’s meant as a whole, which means every poem is narratively connected. It’s an intimate fictional diary exploring what it means to be alive today and what it feels like to love somebody through computer and telephone screens today. 

Illustrator’s Note: Screen Reflections is a collection of visual artworks that was inspired by the cycle of poems Exploring Virtual Bodies by Jan Jindřich Karásek. In the poems, Karásek paints a rather cold, distressing and emotionally detached picture of life lived in interaction with virtual reality.

In the spirit of cubist painters of the early 1900s, the human bodies depicted in the present collection of artworks are heavily distanced and abstracted from their natural representation. The colour scheme is a cold monochrome, and the expressive qualities of the artworks are of machine-like shapes and rhythms. Each artwork was made digitally.

Although the artworks are abstract and they bear symbolic qualities, the viewer would be misguided if he or she tried to uncover a true subtext to the artworks. Frankly, even the artist himself could not name a single true meaning to any one of the artworks, even though he could very well analyse what they could mean. The symbolic potential, however, is present, and it is left for the viewer to approach the artworks through his or her own history of experience.




tranquility of your body makes me shiver

with the indifference to our differences

I secretly become calm with your breath

matching mine in the absence of a border

slowly embracing your limbs as mine

and losing any sort of resemblance to

the person I was in the last great war

we led against our identities relentlessly

and cold as we went for all the weapons

the system had told us to use in case of 

unexpected emergency and you emerged

beautiful and hollow in the state of a near

nervous breakdown caused by the sudden

reminder of the father of your father

beating your father in the backyard

so beautiful and full of little lights

it was almost impossible not to become

the light itself and the light beats the dark

with its artificial sunrays 


and you look at me and say I am sorry 

I was so hard on you expecting you to love me 

when clearly all you can do is wait until 

one day you’ll no longer feel the need to sell

everything beautiful inside you

to the buyer with the highest offer

financially speaking you’re begging for

an opportunity to be yourself


in the meantime you’ll have to be

satisfied with the person you are

which is nobody after all the shifts 

you worked on the construction of your 

ever-changing personality in the backyard

with fathers lighting every shade of

oneself with the rays of everybody

in order to be yourself you have to be

everybody you ever lost in the last great war

of our bodies decomposing with the smell of 

the standard oil used to lube the machines

that will take your grandfather‘s job

but politely say I am sorry when asked

for a reason and your mother will say

I wish I was a machine before she kills herself

very quietly on a live stream for a couple of her 

followers and you not being one of them 

will make you all the more guilty

at least it wasn’t loud at least it didn’t

wake your neighbors in their ongoing pursuit

of becoming strangers to you



I am slowly changing into the king of limbs 

my body becoming yours in the first great war

against anxiety induced by the presence of

another body touching mine

you’re slowly changing into the king of limbs

indulging in my fingerprints as if they were

unique despite the factory next doors

indulging in my voice as if it was irreplaceable

despite the next app they are working on

in the start-up of your ex-partners trying to

bring your mouth to life with the words

I love you repeating again and again

into their ears with algorithms you will 

never understand in your fragile humanity

I will join them once this is all over and

together we shall rise to the holy market

with you as our trophy shielding us

from our unlovable bodies and bringing us love

and if not love then money if not money then fame

but for now we are the kings of our limbs 

projecting the togetherness we created

on the walls of the system to say

you have not smothered us we are breathing

and the air is filled with our smells

sweaty and imperfect and disgusting

in a way which makes us all desire the other more

like dogs smelling other dogs for their unholiness


and despite being flawed and ugly 

in some parts of our ever-changing bodies

we can still touch and hug and kiss and fuck

each other so tight we can hardly think

of anything but the other person

breathing loudly in the same room


the system is only powerful as long

as it is still ours to embrace

what you cannot love cannot control you

the backyard is still lit with the bulbs

you left here in the last great war

against verbal communication

as long as you can touch it

you will find it hard to hate it

digital representation of his fingernails


he has hurt other people in his pumpkin-like

attire seemingly unaware of the power his

fists have on the rest of the kids in class


we politely asked him to leave the chat-group

but he keeps on returning with different nicknames

as if starting new was possible for ones like him


last time he called the teacher a whore and afterwards

shared his screen with violent pornography and then

parents had to shield their children’s eyes with their palms


I’m not saying we have to exclude him from the others

but I’m kindly asking you to exclude the others from him

he once scratched my eyes with his fingernails 


and I wasn’t quick enough to close them really tight

I can see but every object is now related to his violence

there’s simply not enough space on the internet


for kind people and those with evil urges

we decided not to investigate it any further and 

as a collective we wish to never see his avatar near ours 


we kindly recommend home-schooling


best regards




the thought of yesterday ends up in your breakfast

somehow someday everyday it seems to be harder

to chew what’s left of the food you used to swallow

whole and thorough and someday there will be an

audience to cheer you up when you’ll be having

the worst day of your life which is not today even

if you tend to think so while the sheets of your bed

tickle your thighs with the overwhelming feeling

of loss which is never close nor far enough so it’s

somewhere in-between and you have learnt the hard way

that between is the worst place to put your feelings into


but they clap and laugh as you masturbate your way

through the evening thinking about every man you‘ve

ever learnt to love just enough to not crumble as

they become fading avatars on your bright screen

and as you finish you smell your fingers and the hope

of resemblance to what you once knew is once again

little bit less there and suddenly you’ll feel it stranded

on the tiny shell of your apartment which no one visits

but everybody sees on one of your micro-cameras

which you placed everywhere just to feel a little bit

of connection to those anonymous faces they show

you in the evening news and one day they will also

learn to love you just like you did with brad and josh

and even your mother when she wasn’t having

one of her moods she called panic attacks in a shy voice 

which never resembled panic even when she tried to 

scream to her cellphone screen with another name on it


you will call her tommorow and you will say that

you’re very sorry but you won’t be able to explain

exactly what for so you’ll turn off the camera


and smile just to yourself

the picture will stay on her wall

for another year and a half

until they force her to take it down

dead people on the internet

cause anxiety to the living ones

don’t you know that these sites

are meant to calm its users down





one day I won’t be sleeping next to her

but I will be trying to fall asleep in front

of her virtual face on the giant screen in 

my living room where I don’t live anymore

but still breathe the same textures as 

my roommates do when I’m not looking


still life is not an actual life but objects merely

remaining in one place till they’re immortalized

but only for a very few people who still care

about paintings but me and her we are not one of 

these people we only care about what’s in front 

of us which is very funny if you think about it


but please don’t think about it and don’t let

her think about it because the screen is

all I have and her face in it is the only reason

I still search for ways to make my computer

incapable of losing battery it can never be turned off

while I sleep I think of it and wish for virtual reality


I turned off myself and I almost turned off the machine

but my hibernated body is not the same as its

I function on the basis of dreams as it functions

on the basis of facts and those two should 

never collide as long as I can help it

she sleeps and I don’t but it won’t be too long


till one day it will be the other way around

what is turned off will be alive once virtual bodies

move again in the rhythm of our lies

when I said I love you last time I didn’t mean it

but now when she can’t hear it

I really really do even if it’s through a microphone


parrot flies through a city of her favorite videogame

and repeats my words like a little song for children

her and I haven’t really grown we just 

got used to being half-way there

repeat the words after me when you touch your body

and it actually won’t be yours anymore


BIO Poet / Jan Jindřich Karásek is a Czech poet, writer and cultural journalist. His debut poetry collection “Measuring the Distance” was published this year. He is studying screenwriting at Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (known as FAMU). He has written articles and literary essays for Czech Television, Czech Radio or Revue Prostor. He is currently working for the design magazine 519. His work revolves around physicality, relationships, language, violence and myths.  

Bio Illustrator / Lauri Renvall is a Finnish visual artist and designer, who occasionally works as a language teacher and translator. Renvall has recently been fascinated by the possibilities of utilizing cubist and surrealist aesthetic and symbolism in digital art. He considers these styles well fitting to depict aspects of the contemporary psyche the way he experiences it in western cultures. He also thinks that the aesthetic of these styles and the digital medium can be used in a fruitful dialogue with each other.

Behind his visual language is the inspiration he draws on artists such as Fernand Léger, Kazimir Malevich, Kraftwerk and Henri Rousseau (to mention a few), as well as theories of constructivism in human psychological development. In his art, Renvall prefers to guide the viewer to a symbolic framework and let him or her interpret the artwork by coming from his or her own subjective lived experience. Thus, there are no right or wrong answers to what message his art might be bearing. 

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