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  Tiráž vydává Institut tvůrčí fotografie Slezské univerzity v Opavě, vychází od 23. 06. 2002, ISSN 1214-2913
Redakce Vladimír Birgus, Ondřej Durczak, Josef Moucha phpRS.

Identities of Young Czech Women Photographers in Lyon


Barbora Bálková, Fluffy, from the series Masks, 2005

Lyon Septembre de la photographie, September 16  – October 31, 2008, Curated by Vladimír Birgus.

    Never before have women occupied such an important place in the history of Czech photography as they do today. Besides, this place is acquired at a time when photography has left its ghetto to purchase an unprecedented visibility on the artistic scene. It is only very discreetly that women have felt valued during the first hundred years of the history of the seventh art…







Daniela Dostálková, The Town I Like 1, 2006
Barbora Žurková + Radim Žurek, Descendants, 2007
Barbora Mrázková, Filip Láb, Katowice, from the series Eastern Block, 2005
Barbora Kuklíková, Veru 2, from the series Ghost, 2005

It was not until after World War II that we began to see women photographers such as Emila Medková, Dagmar Hochová or Běla Kolářová make their mark. Their numbers increased significantly in the 1960s and 1970s with the arrival of new generations, but even then, the role they played was never as important as it is today, as they account for half of the staff in many schools of photography and fine arts and where their contribution is part of the achievements of the best and most original artistic creations in Czech photography / their achievements are among the best and most original. The situation of the Czech Republic is in this sense part of the international contemporary art scene / The Czech creation is thus in an international contemporary art scene characterised by the work of women photographers such as Sophie Calle, Cindy Sherman, Sam Taylor-Wood, Nan Goldin, Tracey Moffatt, Vanessa Beecroft, Barbara Kruger, Sandy Skoglund, Mariko Mori, Annie Leibovitz, Tina Barney, Mary Ellen Mark, Sally Mann, Rineke Dijkstra or Loretta Lux.
    Dominant during the 1990s, the theme of the body, without disappearing, has become less fundamental and less ubiquitous, and has ceded the first place to that of identity. It seems particularly attractive in the eyes of these young women photographers, who try by their self-referential works  to seize their own identity and their own metamorphoses, in dealing with the multitude of roles endorsed by women today: their relationship to men, children, society, the question of emancipation and gender differences. Identity in the creation of Czech and Slovak women photographers under 35: such is the theme of this exhibition. Although their works reflect a sensibility and a woman's look, you cannot take it all as expressions of a typically "feminine" art nor as clear manifestations of feminism.

The romantic works of Tereza Vlčková are characterised by their indeterminate time. The author often draws on works of art of different periods, leaving us in ignorance of the precise time or place where the scenes were photographed. A major place is reserved for a nature devoid of any sign of civilization: a nature to which, in front of the lens, women and girls abandon themselves, and into which they try to melt. The nature here is a kind of ideal, made of immaculate beauty and spiritual depth. Her portraits of twins in the recent series Two show parallels with many works: paintings by Italian and Spanish old masters; photographs of August Sander, Diane Arbus, Rijneke Dijkstra or Loretta Lux, seizing the sitters for portraits as they put a bewitching look on the viewer; many films. We are unable to distinguish the cases where they are real twins from those where we are dealing with are a young girl and her computer manufactured clone; sometimes we wonder if this is not a plastic doll, and we can sometimes be afraid of it. The author explores the identity of people with the maximum likeness, that she accentuates by dressing and making their hair in the same way. By showing contrasts or similarities between the traits of their faces, holders of surprisingly adult expressions, she raises a question : are their mental worlds and their characters as close as their outward appearance? What are their relations? What is their respective alter ego? How many faces are hidden within each of us? The intensive use of Photoshop is not exploited for specific effects, but it strengthens the suggestiveness of the photographs, that seduce by their unique poetry, the world they evoke, at the limit of dream and reality and by the questions they pose to which it is difficult to find an answer.
In the series Masks, Barbora Bálková, painter and photographer, has hidden her own face, usually leaving only the eyes, under many non-traditional masks. As with many surrealist artists, or later Diane Arbus or Joel Peter-Witkin, it shows the loss of one identity to another, the possibility that the mask offers us to rid ourselves of inhibitions that we created ourselves, to hide real or imagined physical defects: the mask can symbolise feelings and moods, it is both defence and challenge. The mask hides and at the same time reveals human nature. Moreover, the masks Bálková uses are not ordinary ones, she composes them from pieces of meat, bread, flowers, feathers or dollar bills, hence obtaining attractive multimedia works.
    It is in their close environment, with their partners, children, parents and friends that a whole series of women photographers finds its inspiration. The Zuzana Blochová a Dita Lamačová couple have used a computer to compose portraits merging their faces and bodies, this cycle is entitled Persona, referring to the final scene of the film by Bergman of the same name, where the surfaces of two faces blend. Their works are first and foremost a meditation on underground human relationships, the mutual influences of family, the mixing of their characters. These themes are reflected in The Descendants series of three portraits where Barbora Žůrková, in collaboration with her husband Radim Žůrek, has, through computer modification, lent her children fictitious appearances: in their features mix genes, their own and those of others. Thus are born fascinating generational comparisons, that the authors commented like that : "We have, through computer editing, attempted to search the image of the people we are, of what we have been and could be. " Sylva Francová in her Portraits of Women series  has assembled by computer photographs made at different times, showing her mother, grandmother, sister and close friends in their intimate life, where foreigners usually have no access: scenes from everyday life and private rituals such as rest, breastfeeding, gymnastics. She therefore composes multiple and intimate views of her relatives, where reality is edited and manipulated by computer, and revealing the multiple appearances and roles endorsed by everyone.
    Most exhibited women photographers deal with different self referential modes of their feelings, of their relationships to their relatives or their quest for identity. But some focus on broader social problems related to the redistribution of roles that characterise the modern world. Daniela Dostálková, in the cycle The Town I Like, has directed, in an air conditioner factory built by a Japanese company in the Czech Republic, scenes symbolising the quest for maximum productivity in a sterile environment, revealing at the same time the magnitude of globalisation and the repression of the individual dimension among employees by multinational companies forced to change their habits and disposition. Barbora Mrázková and Filip Láb have similarly devoted a thick volume to life in the former communist countries, The Eastern Block), which shows the radical political, social and economic changes affecting Poland and the Balkans among others. The chosen photos represent Katowice, Polish heavy industry centre, plagued by massive unemployment resulting from the reduced production of mines and blast furnaces. Thanks to dark tones and contrasts, they underline the sinister and ghostly character of the city, with discreet and crafty arrangements of photos that at first glance are authentic documents. It is a look at the sociology of the mixture of races, nationalities, cultures and social classes that the suggestive portraits of Štěpánka Stein and Salim Issa offer, created in the British industrial city of Newcastle, dominated by a suggestive combination of daylight and flashes.

    In the works of Barbora Kuklíková, for example in her series Feelings in a Foreign City, devoted to immigrants living in Prague, the sociological aspect played the leading role; now it is the contrary, the author directs her work from The Ghost series towards a symbolic and decadent aspect, close to David Lynch films. By highlighting the plastic qualities of composition and psychological aspects of colours, she creates ambiguous scenes, full of tension, evoking the atmosphere of horror films where the audience mostly ignores the real identity of the heroines and their relationships with others, and where space is left to the imagination.
    We would still find in contemporary Czech creation many other young women photographers attracted by the theme of identity. Some of the exhibited artists have been able to attract attention and success on them, and they already have their imitators and successors. Fortunately, those who do not just plagiarise their works are numerous and design original contributions on  "identities", a theme central to the contemporary interest.
                                Vladimír Birgus

| Autor: Vladimír Birgus | Vydáno dne 06. 10. 2008 | 5464 přečtení |
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