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The Grandmas / 2010

/photograph, light-jet print, dibond, 85x85 cm/

For a long time my grandmas have only been just a hazy memory from my young childhood. I used to know both women only as some sort of a story that is usually perpetuated in families about people who are no more. The grandma Libuse was a general’s daughter, served time in a concentration camp, injected herself insulin, never did the wash-up, worked in brickworks and died of a heart attack, because the grandpa was getting on her nerves. The story of the grandma Jirina; she had a sister who wooed away her lover, she then had to marry the man’s brother, divorced him shortly after, became a black sheep of the respectful family till she eventually married my grandpa and left Moravia for Bohemia where she worked in the needle factory; she embroidered and read books, went mad, stayed mad for twenty more years and then died, because she somewhat surprisingly missed my then already dead grandpa.

Libuse died when I was only one-year-old; Jirina in my age of six, but then she had been a long time mentally ill so she never talked to me. Both women therefore were rather shadows than real beings who would have shaped me up. Nevertheless, they impact my life much more than it would seem. My world, that natural and self-evident world is created by kaleidoscopic pieces of their lives and their long-past decisions; they form an environment in which I live. Cupboards where I put the tableware, curtains by the windows, glasses from which I drink a toast, tea towels, tablecloths, pictures hanging on the walls, needles and threads, all the little home utensils. Through these things of theirs and mine I have begun looking for my grandmas. For instance, why is there a “Svatobořice” inscription* on a small copper heart? And where that peculiar and hand-made doll came from? Why Jirina wrote a three-page letter only to say that she needed a jumper and stockings...

I have longed to know my grandmas to learn more about them and me as well. I had people telling me about them, pulled out old letters, documents, curricula and photographs. At the same time the idea of a project objectifying my experience and shaping it into the part of my identity was being born. As I could not be with my grandmas, at least I replaced it by an imaginary encounter with them in the photography. I strived to empathise with them in the crucial situations of their lives in the way I read about them and how I understood it. I surrounded myself by their things and tried to symbolically present their dilemmas, feelings, anxieties. What I am aiming for is not stylized self-portraits, nor the portraits of my grandmothers. These are impressions loosely filtered and interpreted by me, “featuring” their stories.

A picture is a design, in which we have a chance to embrace complexity. For me it is literally a frame, a crate, a stage.

Grandmas are of interest to me also as part of the “big” history. Their lives were significantly affected by social and political events of the XX century. They were born between the wars, both went through the World War II and their most “productive” age they spent in the difficult era of the nineteen-fifties...

*    A small village in Moravia

záznam z vernisáže na youtube Český rozhlas Vltava, Mozaika